Job Description Specifying That the Successful Candidate Be a Practicing Catholic
  • EvaS
    Posts: 5
    Hello everyone,

    Is it possible for a church job description to specify that the successful candidate be a practicing Roman Catholic? A pastor that I know is looking for a part-time organist. He has mentioned to me that he wanted a practicing Roman Catholic. At this time he does not want to advertise the position publicly, but may consider doing so if he still cannot find anyone in a month or so.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that this can be a publicly stated requirement. While a religion requirement would be unlawful for most jobs, Federal courts have upheld a "ministerial exception" based on the First Amendment, which guarantees that churches are free to apply religious criteria in hiring and firing ministers. In churches that consider church musicians to be liturgical ministers (and can demonstrate that they do), that applies to musicians.

    Incidentally, job announcements in the field of Catholic church music are welcome here on the Forum at no charge.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,532
    “Active Catholic in good standing” is part of so many job ads (for any position) on diocesan websites that either chonak is correct or someone had better call the USCCB ASAP.
    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    It's legal. Of course, that narrows the field, and you MAY have to settle for "less organist" than you like.
  • My question is how specific you can get and still remain within the boundaries and intent of the law.

    eg. could you fire a church musician that plays on his/her phone the entire Mass (whether in view of the congregation or not), criticizes Catholic viewpoints in public and/or online, attends pro-choice or gay pride rallies with a high degree of visibility, or has been otherwise seen to desecrate the Church, on the grounds of them not fulfilling the original obligation or the job? Or is the only requirement that they remain nominally Catholic?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    The courts aren't setting criteria: they are just recognizing that churches have freedom to choose their ministerial personnel, without restriction. The law does not interfere if a pastor fires a church musician for any reason or even with no stated reason. People who sue in such cases are probably wasting their time and money.

    On the other hand, churches are obliged to follow the non-discrimination laws for jobs if they aren't defined as ministerial: e.g., building maintenance, school food service, etc.

    Here's a story about the issue: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-ol-religion-discrimination-gay-teachers-20150206-story.html
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    criticizes Catholic viewpoints in public and/or online, attends pro-choice or gay pride rallies with a high degree of visibility, or has been otherwise seen to desecrate the Church,


    An employment agreement specifying that the employee shall 'live the Faith' and shall NOT engage in behaviors contrary to Church teaching is legal and will be upheld. There are many instances of the choir director/teacher/gym teacher (etc.) being canned for ....ahhh.,.....publicly violating Church teachings, suing the parish, and losing.

    I suspect (but I'm not a lawyer) that even "non-ministerial" slots can be required to sign such an employment agreement and live up to it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    An example of a court ruling in favor of the Church in a case of claimed discrimination:
    https://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/10/ministerial-exception-in-hostile-work.html
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,466
    I have replied, when the "practicing Catholic" subject comes up, that I no longer need to practice. I have achieved professional status.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 994
    Interesting, In my area, there has been a rash of very high profile Catholic positions being given to candidates that are not Catholic and have had little experience in the RC church. Have any of you noticed this? There are many many qualified Catholic candidates in my area.