Archives for April 2017

Labor board rules in favor of workers at Catholic universities

Duquesne UniversityDuquesne University

Employees at two Catholic universities are a step closer to having their unions recognized, as recent rulings from the National Labor Relations Board rejected arguments from the schools that their religious affiliation freed them from federal labor oversight.

A group of adjunct faculty at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University voted in 2012 to join the Adjuncts Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers. A regional director for the N.L.R.B. found that enough votes were cast in favor of joining the union, but the school resisted, arguing that its Catholic identity meant it was exempt from N.L.R.B. oversight.

In a 2-1 decision on April 10, the N.L.R.B. rejected that argument, saying the faculty taught secular material. It did, however, rule that theology professors are in a different category and are thus ineligible to join the union, writing that they perform “a specific role in maintaining the University’s religious educational environment.”

The N.L.R.B. ruling sends the issue back to its regional office to tabulate if there are still enough votes to unionize once the theology professors are excluded.

For its part, the school says it will continue to fight.

Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne, said in a statement to Law 360, a website tracking breaking legal news,that the ruling “directly conflicts” with previous court rulings about unions and religiously affiliated schools.

“The Supreme Court and multiple U.S. courts of appeal have recognized that the broad and deep powers of the N.L.R.B. pose serious First Amendment threats when asserted over faculty unions at religious-affiliated institutions,” he said. “For that reason, Duquesne University is evaluating all of its options pursuant to the board’s rules and regulations.”

He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the issue was not whether the university supports unions, but that the university “could not risk negotiating its Catholic mission…or the faculty’s role in it with a union, much less…[leave it] to the supervision of a government agency in Washington, D.C.”

A lawyer for the Steelworkers Union, meanwhile, said the school’s position put it in conflict with its Catholic values.

“We think it’s frankly hypocritical of them to hide behind the Catholic identity to avoid doing what the Catholic Church explicitly tells them to do—that is, to honor labor unions,” Dan Kovalik told the paper.

The N.L.R.B. also ruled against another Catholic university last week, saying that housekeepers at St. Xavier University in Chicago were eligible to unionize despite protests from the school.

As at Duquesne, officials at St. Xavier argued that its religious affiliation makes it exempt from having to recognize the staff’s vote to join the Service Employees International Union.

But in a 2-1 decision, the board found that the duties of the cleaning crew are “wholly secular” and that the staff “do not have any teaching role or perform any specific religious duties or functions.”

Housekeepers asked to join the S.E.I.U. in 2012 and held an election in 2013, but the ballots were kept secret, Law 360 reported. The board’s decision sends the case to a regional director.

In both the Duquesne and St. Xavier rulings, the acting chairman of the N.L.R.B. dissented, arguing that the board was wading into thorny constitutional questions.

In his dissent on the St. Xavier case, Philip A. Miscimarra wrote that although “this case might look like an easy one—most would view housekeeping as a secular activity—cases involving nonteaching employees may present facts that lead the Board into even deeper entanglements with an institution’s religious mission.”

St. Xavier and and Duquesne are hardly alone when it comes to universities arguing that their religious identity exempts them from government oversight. The rulings are the latest salvo in a years-long battle about the role of proposed unions, often for adjunct faculty, at Catholic institutions.

In an essay published last year, Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., the president of DePaul University, said the issue is not Catholic animus toward unions, but government interference in church affairs. He wrote that a N.L.R.B. ruling in 2014, which extended labor oversight to non-religious employees at religious-based entities, is allowing the government to define religious activity rather than believers themselves.

“Several Catholic universities now find themselves in the positions of deciding whether to oppose the attempt of the N.L.R.B. to assert jurisdiction on this new legal basis,” Father Holtschneider wrote. “The freedom to determine what is or what is not religious activity inside our church is at stake.”

Labor advocates note that the Catholic Church has a long history of supporting unions and say Catholic institutions opposed to organizing efforts are acting hypocritically.

“The glaring inconsistency between Catholic social teaching and the failure of Catholic institutions to protect the right to unionize may even lead Catholics to abandon the church,” ethicist Gerald J. Beyer and lawyer Donald C. Carroll wrote in the National Catholic Reporter last year. “Catholic institutions of higher learning cannot successfully pursue their mission without practicing what they teach.”

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Council Notes from Louisville (February 2017)

The first agenda item of the February of the Louisville Council was a suggestion from the vicar for priests that the Policy Manual for the Remuneration for Priests be updated. Suggestions include:

  • Considering an annual rather than a multi-year compensation review
  • Expenses related to supply ministry
  • Reimbursement for out-of-pocket health care expenses
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Required auto insurance coverage
  • Compensation for International Priests, especially those in religious communities
  • Compensation for service beyond the age of retirement
  • Vision and dental insurance.

Members were asked to discuss the issues at regional meetings and report beck at the regular meeting

  •  The chancellor gave a report on parish budgets indicating between 55% and 80% of expenses are for personnel compensation and facilities. Other issues include:
  • Ways to reduce utility expenses was mentioned
  • Funding for planned repairs may be included in the parish budget rather than a capital campaign
  • 80% of parish income comes from regular donations and 20% from special fundraising
  • Particular attention to annual financial reporting by parishes was encouraged.
  • Archbishop Kurtz reported on his trip to Vietnam
  • The topic of Saturday evening weddings was discussed. There are few impediments to a Saturday evening wedding Mass after the anticipated Mass. Minutes note that each parish can decide if they wish to offer the option of a Saturday evening wedding balancing the effort with other obligations priests have on weekends.
  • Immigration issues were discussed. Minutes note there is much fear among undocumented Hispanics about possible deportation with the unintended effect that some may hesitate to report crimes for fear of being deported.
  • The chancellor reported the Catholic Services Appeal exceeded its goal. He remarked that that first time participants in the appeal increased 2.5%
  • The vicar for priests reported the process of matching open-listed parishes with priests called to serve them is continuing.
  • A report from the regions notes a discussion encouraging Hispanic participation in the diaconate formation program.
  • Finally, challenges in pastoral care of families wishing to receive the sacraments but not fully participating in preparation for those sacraments was brought up and discussed.

Pope Francis names bishop of Davenport and auxiliary bishop of San Diego

Bishop-elect John Dolan. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of San Diego

On Wednesday, April 19. Pope Francis named Father John Dolan auxiliary bishop of San Diego and Monsignor Thomas Zinkcula bishop of Davenport, IA.

Bishop-elect Dolan, 54, a native of San Diego, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of San Diego in 1989. He currently serves as Episcopal vicar for clergy and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish.  He holds a Master of Arts degree in Liturgy form St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, CA. In addition Bishop-elect Dolan served in a wide-array of pastoral assignments.

His episcopal ordination is scheduled for June 8, at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Therese of Carmel Church in Del Mar.


Bishop-elect Thomas Zinkula. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Dubuque

Bishop-elect Zinkula, 60, a native of Mount Vernon, IA was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 1990.  He replaces Bishop Martin Amos whose resignation was accepted due to reaching the age limit.

He attended Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he earned a master’s in Theology in 1990. In 1998, he received a licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul’s University, Ottawa, Canada.  He also earned a law degree from the University of Iowa in 1983 and he holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, economics and business from Cornell College in Mount Vernon where he played championship football during his time there.

For the USCCB News Release, click here.

For Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia blog, click here.

For the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s release, click here.

For the Diocese of San Diego News Release, click here.

 

A reflection on the vocations crisis

In the latest online edition of Commonweal (April 17, 2017), Robert Mickens reflects on the priest vocation crisis in many parts of the world.  He states that the vocation crisis is not something new, but started appearing before Vatican II got underway.

Micken’s insights appear in his Letter from Rome column titled,  “Who Will Speak Out to Solve the Vocations Crisis?”

For the entire essay, click here.

 

Syracuse priests to relinquish parish administrative duties at age 80

The Syracuse Presbyteral Council and Council of Consultors proposed and Bishop Robert Cunningham approved a recommendation that priests in the diocese who are over 75 should conclude their role as administrator at a parish at the age of 80.

The report appearing on the syracuse.com (March 31, 2017) website notes that Bishop Cunningham wrote a letter in February to the priests involved in the decision and he is now having conversations with priests who are administering parishes and are over 80.

The report notes on March 23, Father John Finnegan of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Baldwinsville, who turned 86 in October, sent a letter to parishioners announcing his retirement as of June 30.

“Retirement has never been anything I ever thought would end my serving days,” he said in the letter provided to Syracuse.com. “However, there is a new rule in the Diocese which makes clear that when one celebrates an eightieth birthday retirement will be mandatory.”

For the entire posting, click here.

 

NLRB rules in favor of Catholic university workers

NLRB rules in favor of Catholic university workers

On April 10 in a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board voted to support Catholic university workers in recognizing their right to form unions. In one of the cases with a Chicago connection, the Board ruled that housekeepers at St. Xavier University were eligible to unionize despite protests from the school.

The NLRB essentially rejected the argument from the school stating that their religious affiliation freed them from federal labor oversight.

In a case emanating from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, a group of adjunct faculty in 2012 voted to join the Adjuncts Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers. A regional director for the NLRB found that enough votes were cast in favor of joining the union, but the school resisted, arguing that its Catholic identity meant it was exempt from N.L.R.B. oversight. In the April 10 decision the Board ruled that the faculty taught secular material. It did make a distinction however ruling that theology professors are in a different category and are thus ineligible to join the union, writing that they perform “a specific role in maintaining the University’s religious educational environment.”

For the America magazine report by Michael O’Loughlin, click here.pastedGraphic.png

Convocation of Catholic Leaders to focus on unifying US church

This summer’s invitation-only Convocation of Catholic Leaders, which takes place from July 1-4 in Orlando, FL will zero in on Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the US bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development and a Convocation planner sees the gathering as a way for Catholics across the diverse spectrum of the church to unify in Christ. Evangelii Gaudium will be used as a template for this effort.

“The beauty of it for us as Catholics is it’s not just another trade meeting,” Reyes told Catholic News Service (April 17, 2017) “This is centered, as Pope Francis said again and again, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what holds us together. Even Catholics need a moment of unity these days. Not just our country, but we as Catholics need a moment of unity around Christ.”

For the entire CNS report, click here.

SLIconnect, the education resource of St. Luke Institute, presents Navigating Cultural Identity: Deepening Understanding of Ourselves and Others, May 18.

SLIconnect, the education resource of St. Luke Institute, presents Navigating Cultural Identity: Deepening Understanding of Ourselves and Others, May 18.

When – Tuesday, May 18, 1:00-2:00 pm EDT

Presenter – Crystal Taylor-Dietz, Psy.D. will explore key aspects of identity development and offers skills for navigating cross-cultural interactions in pastoral and community life. The discussion includes case studies and real-world challenges facing ministry leaders.

Cost  – $25.00 [Includes unlimited access to the on-demand recording and resource materials.]

For more information and to register, click here.