Commentary by Susan Matthews
In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, parishes are separate and distinct entities . The pastor is the ultimate decision-maker for the parish and parish school. However, those pastors take a vow of obedience to their Bishop. It’s confusing and very convenient for Archdiocesan finances, their legal team and the Office for Catholic Education.
Parishes and their schools are completely separate from one another and the archdiocese if you’re an elementary school teacher and you want to seek unionization. They are also separate if you’d like to hold the archdiocese accountable for negligence of its elementary school students in regard to child sex abuse.
But if you’re a pastor or a teacher whose school is closing, you must follow the rules of the Archdiocesan Office for Catholic education. Not so separate now. Hmm. See if you can figure it out based on the communications below:
1) “In all of the newly formed elementary schools the pastors will still be the employers, not the Archdiocese. That arrangement does not change even if we’re talking about a regional school that involves a number of parishes. The ultimate decision-making regarding employment would be done by the pastors. The governance model for each regional school is to be decided upon by all of the pastors involved. It would ultimately be their decision in each unique school as to how hiring takes place. The pastors would also identify who is responsible for making hiring decisions at the local level.” – statement from the Archdiocesan Office for Communication.
2) “The Office of Catholic Education (the Archdiocese) is not doing any of the interviewing or hiring of the teachers.” The Principals may apply to any school. The staff in the Office of Catholic Education will do the first round of interviews for those principals who have submitted their information for consideration. Pastors are not hiring principals now since we have not submitted any information to them and will not do this until the appeals have been heard and the Archbishop provides the final listing of school configurations.
The teachers are asked to apply to the newly formed regional school that will be born out of the current school they are in. Teachers are not free to apply to any school within these affected schools. The teacher interviews will begin once the new principal is in place.” – from an Office for Catholic Education email.
3) “What happens to the teacher (application) packets that are brought by the principals to the Transition Meetings?
OCE will simply store them until the new administrator has been selected for the regional school and then the packets will be turned over to the administrators for the interview/hiring process which will be done by the pastors and administrator.” – from an Office for Catholic Eduation Q&A communication.
So are parish schools separate or do they fall under the Archdiocesan Office for Catholic Education? Seems like the Archdiocese is having it both ways. Let’s hear from some lawyers. What do you think? From a civil vs. criminal standpoint, how does this impact victims whose abuse happened on parish or school grounds?