Philadelphia requires parents to sign “Memorandum of Understanding”


Parents of children attending Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools are now being required to sign a document pledging support for the schools’ “Catholic identity” and recognizing that in all questions involving church law, “the final determination rests with the archbishop.”

The archdiocese is asking all its schools to include the one-page “Memorandum of Understanding” in entrance applications and school handbooks, said spokesman Ken Gavin.

The purpose “is to simply inform parents that we are Catholic schools, that we will teach the doctrine of the church, and have them sign that they understand and are in agreement,” he said.

The document requires parents or guardians “to uphold all principles and policies that govern the Catholic school.”

Archdiocesan schools opened Tuesday.

The document is “not unprecedented” or “groundbreaking,” Gavin said. He added that he did not know if the archdiocese ever had such a requirement before. Many other Catholic dioceses have similar documents, some with almost identical wording.

Gavin said the memo had nothing to do with the upheaval at Waldron Mercy Academy, a private Main Line Catholic school, after the firing of a gay married teacher. He said it was developed well before the June dismissal of Margie Winters, the director of religious studies.

“Waldron is not under the administrative purview of the archdiocese,” Gavin said.

In addition to its pledge of support, the document notes that Catholic schooling is “a privilege, not a right,” and its primary purpose is to strengthen faith. It said schools exist “to advance the faith mission” of the parish, archdiocese, or Catholic religious community; that their “priority is fidelity to Catholic teaching and identity”; that schools and administrators have a responsibility to ensure that Catholic teaching and “moral integrity permeate every facet of the school’s life and activity”; and that the archbishop determines all matters of teaching, morals, and law.

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