Apr 4, 2013 3:21 PM by Tonya LaCoste

Fatima's School Board Pres. resigns amid contract controversy

The President of Our Lady of Fatima School Advisory Council has resigned in response to a new morality clause the Diocese of Lafayette has asked teachers to sign. In a letter to Principal Joni Duos obtained by KATC, Jaci Russo said the morality clause is flawed.

"By listing these 'sins,' a number of teachers are forced to either lie about who they are, or deny the things they may have done in order to keep their jobs at Fatima," Russo wrote in her resignation letter. "This is a travesty, as I know there are teachers who have had children out of wedlock and are divorced and remarried without annulment, yet they signed the clause and continue to teach."

Russo added, "I cannot in good conscience stand by while we prevent great teachers from doing their jobs at Fatima."

Longtime teacher Jane Riviere, who is openly gay, said she didn't sign her contract because she couldn't "be honest to its content." The morality clause bars teachers from engaging in homosexual activity, using birth control, or being married outside the church. Riviere said Wednesday that while she does not agree with the church's position, she accepts it.

Russo, whose children have attended Fatima for the past 10 years, questions teachers who have lied or denied things to keep their jobs.

"What does this say about their moral fiber?" Russo asks. "Is adherence to the clause based on reality, or just what each individual is willing to admit?"

Russo also discusses Riviere's character in the letter. She notes Riviere has touched the lives of many in the community, which she says is evident in the number of former students and co-workers who have commented about Riviere not signing her contract.

"I don't understand how she could be such a great teacher for the past 30 years, and now be viewed as unacceptable," Russo wrote. "Isn't a woman of this quality exactly who we want to teach character to our kids?,"

While Russo admits she isn't Catholic, she points out in her letter that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, in part, says, homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and that "(e)very sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

"We are called to accept homosexuals with love, not cast them out," Russo said.

Russo's closed the letter by stating that Fatima has lost its way.

"Why not focus on the teaching of God's word and not the policing of those who the church deems unfit to educate," Russo said. "If that is how it wishes to hire, then do so at the beginning, and not after a career spent at the institution."


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