Loyalty Oaths Are Sprouting Up Across the U.S. Catholic Church

Loyalty oaths seem to be coming into fashion in Catholic churches, as more and more bishops are using this instrument to require that Catholics working in the church, even on a volunteer basis, pledge total fidelity to the magisterium, including official directives about LGBT people.

The issue was sparked this week by a Washington Post article on Bishop Paul LoVerde, of Arlington, Virginia, who has instituted such an oath for religious education teachers there. Four teachers have already resigned because of the requirement.  The Post report states:

“The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.

“Such oaths are not new for priests or nuns but extend now in some places to people like volunteer Sunday school teachers as well as workers at Catholic hospitals and parish offices.

“One in Baker, Ore., reiterates the sinfulness of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.” One in Oakland, Calif., requires leaders of a group doing outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, hell and chastity. [For the Bondings 2.0 report on the Oakland oath, click here.]

“The Arlington ‘profession of faith’ asks teachers to commit to “believe everything” the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage. Critics consider the mandate a violation of religious freedom.”

The article quotes Rose Zagarri, one of the resigned teachers:

“Zagarri said the oath was a “slap in the face” to Catholics who have remained active and close to the church despite controversies.

“ ‘Although I fully understand the authoritative role of the Catholic hierarchy in defining the teachings of the faith, in my view only a person who is willing to abandon her own reason and judgment, or who is willing to go against the dictates of her own conscience, can agree to sign such a document,’ she wrote to Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

“ ‘This is not in the spirit of what people go to a Catholic church for, which is community and a loving, welcoming environment. It’s exclusionary, a suppression of dissent, let’s all line up and be the army of God,’ Zagarri said in an interview for this article.”

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog reports that the loyalty oath in the Baker, Oregon, diocese (mentioned above) states that some of the teachings that the oath includes are:

“the sinfulness of contraception, the evil of extra-marital sexual relationships, the unacceptability of homosexual relationships, the wrongness of co-habitation before marriage.”

According to the Post-Intelligencer, the Baker diocese oath goes even further on the issue of abortion, with the statement:

“I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience on this matter.”

A wise warning against such loyalty oaths was raised by Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, director of the leadership program for Catholic educators,University of Notre Dame.  The Washington Post article concludes with:

“Nuzzi said he keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute.

“ ‘I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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6 Responses to Loyalty Oaths Are Sprouting Up Across the U.S. Catholic Church

  1. Richard Judkins says:

    Yet one more reason why I resigned from the Roman Catholic Church. The bishops, including the bishop of Rome, are running amok and the many of the people are running with them. Those who disagree are often silent and are vilified. I was fired by the Bishop of Sacramento when I came out as a gay man. I had worked as pastoral associate for 12 years.

  2. […] Loyalty Oaths Are Sprouting Up Across the U.S. Catholic Church Jul14 by D Gregory Smith From New Ways Ministry:  […]

  3. I am outraged! Thank you, Fr. Nuzzi, for speaking out. I want a copy of the picture of the bishops saluting the Nazis. It is an iconic image that must be shared, so that we can live with the reality that we must, “Never Forget.” Loyalty oaths, are you kidding me???? This is horrific. As a Notre Dame graduate, I am heartbroken. I feel betrayed that my alma mater joined in the lawsuit designed to deny healthcare to millions. The church is not speaking for me, and does not reflect the social justice education I received at the University. What is happening?????

  4. Vera Nugent says:

    This just takes my breath away!!!! Conscience is no longer primary!!!! How soon is the alternative Catholic Church going to be formed? One thing is clear, absolute power corrupts absolutely!!! The hierarchy seem to be running scared. Maybe if they spent a lttle time reading the Scriptures and praying they might find their way. I, too, would like a copy of that WWII photo.

  5. Charles Bolser says:

    And another reason why many are simply ignoring them – the bishops are becoming irrelevant to the average Catholic these days and making their own decisions based on their own conscience – and living their lives in peace – attending the sacraments but ignoring the condemnations and statements of anathema. Who cares is the general attitude and that is truly sad – because we as a church could make a real difference in the world plagued with war, violence, sexual exploitation, greed and unbridled capitalism, etc., etc. But sadly, Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

  6. Judy Sheldon says:

    This is just unreal to me. I cannot tell you what this is doing to the good, loving, caring catholics who want to remain in the church but will fight this power struggle that is so very wrong!!! I love my parish and hope and pray that it is not part of this outrageous dictate!

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