A New Pecking Order

new hierarchyI feel a bone weariness continuing to read stories (like this one) of people subjected to a revised hierarchy of employment (see above). Note how the tattletale (often moneyed, but not always) is boss of the bishop, bishop (or pastor) of administrator, administrator to the pink-slipped. On the surface, the prelate seems to take charge either up-front or behind the scenes. But he’s as obligated to obey orders from above as anyone else in the chain. While he can’t be fired, he can be the object of a Truth Campaign online and will probably be put on the clock somewhere. Like here.

Complainers often wrap themselves in the mantle of orthodoxy, but often enough it is a personal profession of faith, as the blogger linked confessed:

I believe they are bad bishops and I would be happy to give chapter and verse as to each bishop noted as time allows.

“I believe …” and “I would be happy …” Of course. The top of this kind of pyramid is about little more than personal beliefs and personal edification.

I don’t believe pastors do themselves any favors by kowtowing to such persons. That an offender could continue to work for several years for the Church puts a whole bunch of higher-ups under suspicion. I wouldn’t expect gratitude from the complainers for pink-slip action.

These misadventures in employment, especially in a school setting, do teach a lesson. We can all be sure of that. Anybody in the food chain care to ask students a month, a year, or a few years after a beloved teacher was fired what they think of the Church or what they learned from their experience of loss, protest, and business-as-usual?

Good catechists must be able to communicate that which they intend to impart. Otherwise, we’d have to admit the lesson was a failure, no? Refreshing a lesson for those already learned in things isn’t really the object, is it?

But let’s keep the lights turned on on the front porch.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Hermeneutic of Subtraction, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A New Pecking Order

  1. Devin says:

    If a parent of a student in public or Catholic school looks over a student’s homework and finds consistent and gross errors in a subject (for example, mathematics), the parent has a responsibility to report this to the appropriate authorities. In fact, if a parent does not do this, it could be considered negligence on his or her part. The school then has to evaluate the complaint to see if it is credible and if the teacher is incompetent in the subject area. If so, the school has the obligation to take appropriate remedial action which may include termination, even if the teacher is beloved by many students.

    This rule applies here. A catechist or director of religious education is responsible for imparting the church’s teaching on family life or at least not grossly contradicting it by words or deeds. This director of religious education was not able to full her responsibilities by the very nature of her union. Her termination was appropriate and the parent who wrote the letter instigating the whole matter did his or her duty well and it will be a credit on the day of judgment.

    While this particular case is clear cut (she was a director of religious education) I admit that that many other cases may not be (perhaps a social worker or janitor at a Catholic institution). But just because a line is blurry is not an excuse when something clearly crosses it.

    More crucially this should not have been allowed to happen in the first place. Ms. Vettori is presumably following her conscience in her views of sexual morality. And one should always follow one’s conscience, even if it is improperly formed. But that doesn’t not excuse the school administration for hiring her. They carry more of the “guilt” than she does. Although the school is operated by a religious order, I believe that is within the Archbishop’s responsibility to ensure that the administration is corrected in an appropriate fashion to ensure such hardships for all parties involved never happen again.

    • Todd says:

      Indeed. She was employed for eight years. If the administration is “more guilty,” then should they all be fired as well? If the archbishop knew and did nothing, should he be fired too? Or are we just going after people who are the low-hanging fruit, as it were? Who decides and discriminates what sins are termination offenses and what sins are not? And is a tattletale necessary to move on issues like this? What say you?

      • Devin says:

        The administration should quite possibly be fired depending on how willing (or not) they are to make amends. If the archbishop knew about the hiring with his blessing and there is no remorse, then yes. If the archbishop knew, disapproved but was juggling many balls and had to pick his fights, then I would give him a pass. Though I doubt this is the case with Archbishop Chaput.

        “And is a tattletale necessary to move on issues like this?” Well, yes. I would not classify the actions as a tattletale as the word usually implies non-serious matters and this is a serious matter. And as reported it is not gossip. It was a true fact reported to appropriate personal.

        “Who decides and discriminates what sins are termination offenses and what sins are not?” In a diocese, ultimately the bishop. Although it is often difficult to discriminate between offenses that require terminations and those that don’t doesn’t mean that decisions don’t have to be made. That is difficult to draw the line in the abstract is not necessarily an acceptable excuse for inaction in the concrete.

        Question, you are working at a parish. You see a catechist who is basically incompetent. Always unprepared, teaching blatantly wrong information constantly. Sometimes yelling too much at the kids. Would you let the pastor or DRE know, or would that be too much of a tattletale?

      • Todd says:

        I think your definition of gossip is off. When one tells lies behind a person’s back, it is detraction. When one tells the truth behind a person’s back, it is gossip. I would be inclined to disinvite such an informant from any parent leadership role with the school–tattletales are bad role models for young people of any age.

        As for the catechist in question, if I reported him or her, it wouldn’t be behind their back. But I might suggest discernment for another role. I think your instinct of dialogue with school administration and bishop really should apply to anyone. Dialogue is a gesture of respect.

      • Liam says:


        Actually, you’re wrong: detraction is telling *true* faults about another persion without a valid reason.

      • Todd says:

        Ah! Got it. Detraction and calumny are subsets of gossip.

      • Liam says:

        Correct. Calumny is what most people think of as “gossip” and most people don’t appear to realize that detraction is also sinful. So I think it’s important to catechize about detraction. I have to say that it’s a sin I’ve engaged in from time to time (especially in conversations with family members about other family members, or in the workplace, or even in church), and I try in my confessions to be honest and mindful of it, and that has helped me to be take close inventory of it. Now the finer line has to do with whether the subject matter is already known or not. It’s revealing the latter that is more properly detraction; for chewing grist of public known matter, it’s more properly uncharitable behavior and the nursing of grievance/resentment. I’ve done that, too, I confess.

        The distinctions matter; they have different causes. Calumny is a form of bearing false witness. Detraction can be a form of pride, showing that you’re in the know as it were. Other types of gossip can be simply uncharitable. Et cet.

      • Devin says:

        You are right that the issue should be first brought with the involved party or at the very least they should be aware that a complaint is going to be filed in the near future. I haven’t read any news reports detailing how Ms. Vettori’s situation was dealt with. Only that a letter was written which may be all there was or there may be more than what made it to the press. Either way, I doubt that it would have ended any other way than termination based on Ms. Vettori pubic statement’s concerning her personal situation.

  2. FrMichael says:

    I’m all for cashiering the administration of the Philly HS too, at least the ones responsible for hiring the unsuitable DRE who knew about her same sex “marriage.”

    “I don’t believe pastors do themselves any favors by kowtowing to such persons.” If a person makes a credible accusation of a serious problem in the public forum to me as a pastor, I am obliged to follow-up. I won’t use unethical means and I won’t for the accused to testify against him/herself, but if there is something discoverable in the public record than I am obliged to act to correct the wrongdoing. If it’s something financial or criminal in nature, than I follow-up with our diocesan financial ethics people or law enforcement.

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