Charles J. Reid thinks that the draconian new employment contract the archdiocese of Cincinnati is imposing on its "minster-teachers" will provoke a "tragic, needless, preventable descent into irrelevance for the Catholic Church in Cincinnati" — and, by implication, similar actions in other parts of the Catholic world are provoking a similar tragic, needless, and preventable descent into irrelevance for the Catholic church.
In fact, Reid notes, that descent into irrelevance is already in strong evidence in the diocese, after the archbishop cramming this contract down Catholic teachers' throats, Dennis Schnurr, arrived in the diocese in 2008. Reid writes,
Consider some statistics: In 2008, the year he became coadjutor, there were 6,362 infant baptisms. In 2013, there 5,523 such baptisms, a decline of 13.20 percent. In 2008, there were 7,534 First Holy Communicants in the Cincinnati Archdiocese. And in 2013, there were 6,686, a decline of 11.25 percent. At the same time, overall population in the Archdiocese inched upward from around 2,988,000 to around 3,000,000. And these numbers do not yet reflect the impact of the recent, entirely unnecessary struggle over the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese.
As Reid notes, the food on which the life of the mind thrives is questions, especially the question, Why? Stop permitting people to ask questions, and especially to ask why, and you starve their minds — along with the educational systems in which those people work. Catholic schools were once places that flourished because they encouraged critical questioning, critical thinking, the thoughtful application of Catholic values to the culture in which the church is embedded, in a respectful, dialogic way that takes seriously what the culture has to teach the church.
But the broad, open-ended contractual language [in the Cincinnati contract] reaches beyond politics or displays of friendship and support. It attacks the essence of what it means to be a teacher. Teachers must live the life of the mind. They must be free to ask questions. "Why are some people gay?" Teachers must be free to ask this question. It goes with the territory of being a teacher.
But Cincinnati Catholic school teachers dare not ask that question under the onerous terms to which they being asked to assent. Because the truth is, they don't know what that word "support" means. If it means asking questions that could point in a direction other than back to "intrinsically disordered" language of the Catholic Catechism, then they may find themselves in breach of their contract and subject to termination or discipline.
The end result of this kind of leadership in the top echelons of the Catholic church? The death of the church they claim to be intent on saving. The intent of many of the top pastoral leaders of the church today to save the power and privilege of the church's clerical elite over all the rest of the church is destroying the church itself, even as it shores up the threatened clerical club.
This is, as Charles Reid says, tragic. It's also sinful.