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Unjust Discrimination? (UPDATED)

The obituary for the mother of a (Methodist) female gym teacher at a Catholic high school in Ohio mentions said gym teacher's female partner. Gym teacher is promptly fired. Maybe Cardinal Dolan should get Bishop Campbell on the horn and explain to him that Catholics are supposed to "try our darndest to make sure we're not anti-anybody." (HT Balloon Juice)UPDATE: Here's a link to the obit. It's just sad. And, to be honest, I'm sick of this stuff happening in my name as a Catholic. At some point, doesn't toothless dissent become complicity?UPDATE II: Here's a very moving interview with the teacher. I wonder what impact this firing will have on the young students' relationship with their church. I don't even know this woman and it's testing mine.

And here's Bryan Fischer, defending the termination. My mom has always said you can tell a lot about someone by who their friends are.

 

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Ann Oliver- When I was a young woman (1960s) people did lose their jobs over issues of sexual morality. A friend of mine (same age) was fired when she became pregnant out of wedlock. Gay people were certainly fired. My father, the head of a department at a public college, was frustrated for years over his inability to prove that a certain professor was gay, so as to get him fired. (There was no suggestion the man was having sex with students.) My first real job had health insurance that explicetly did NOT cover childbirth if a female employee became pregnant out of wedlock.Even today, some universities discipline female students who get pregnant out of wedlock. This came up in the wonderful blog "Experimental Theology" written by a professor at Abilene Christian university.I do not want those days back.And I see a creeping pattern of the Catholic bishops using their economic clout to try to enforce norms and beliefs on contraception, chastity and homosexuality. Especially since the bishops seem determined to get effective power to deny employees at hospitals and universities contraceptive coverage, I am really worried that this will escalate into firing people from hospitals and universities for being in a gay relationship.If I seem a little paranoid, please undertand that I live in the Diocese of Oakland (CA) which until recently had the same Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone mentioned by Jim McCrea. Bishop Cordileone made life very difficult for Catholics like myself who are prolife but vote usually Democratic because of war and poverty. Life under Bishop Cordileone tends to make one wary of the bishops over-using their power.

This is such a sad story. I feel so badly for this woman and how she was treated.

Claire -- that link is broken, but I've posted a working link as an update. Thanks for tracking it down.

I've long wondered what is included in unjust discrimination. I don't think I've ever seen a bishop say something wasn't justified. Even violence often gets a blame the victim treatment.I sometimes feel sorry for the more well-meaning bishops. The official position of the Catholic Church doesn't leave much room for good news for gays and lesbians. They can't marry someone they love, marrying someone of the opposite sex would unfair to the spouse, and gay men aren't supposed to become priests. All that's left is to live alone lying to everyone because if you tell the lady at church the real reason why you don't want to go on a date with her son or daughter, they will say that you deserve any discrimination or violence that happens as a result. Where is the Gospel in that?

And all that because Julie happens to be an exclusively female name.I always have to remind myself that Marie-Dominique Chenu is male. Indeed, querying google images confirms that every person called Marie-Dominique appears to be female, unless they're vowed religious.

Kudos to the Columbus reporter for this paragraph:"The Catholic Church considers sex between members of the same gender harmful and wrong but also urges kindness, compassion and sensitivity toward people with same-sex attractions."

At some point, doesnt toothless dissent become complicity?****************************************Exactly. This is the reason I am now sitting in the pews in an Episcopal church on Sundays. Catholics are voiceless and powerless against the hierarchy. Our money seems to be the only way to be heard and not enough Catholics are willing to speak out by withholding their "treasure" from the "princes" of the church. After years of a constant and sickening drumbeat of story after story from country after country of bishops enabling pedophiles and protecting them from the civil justice system - and a pope who did NOTHING to hold those bishops accountable, I decided that staying as a "paying" member of the church was dangerously close to enabling those who enabled the pedophiles. Complicity. Very few Catholics want to think about how they too just might be complicit in enabling too many in the hierarchy to continue unhindered on their un-Christlike way.I like Francis so far - but I will not return to the Catholic pews on Sunday unless he signals very clearly that bishops will be held accountable for protecting sexual molesters who are priests under their oversight. And the only way he can do this now is to make a very public example of at least one bishop. Ideally, Cardinal Law should be sent to pray on his knees for the rest of his life, without the luxury he enjoys in Rome. And Bishop Finn should be asked to resign - immediately.

The story has just about everything but a helpful "latae sententiae" thrown in by a well-meaning (?) outside source. I guess that doesn't apply to Methodists. But you have the anonymous denouncer. And you have to give him or her credit, because I had to re-read the obit several times before I could identify the offense, even though I was looking for it. And the sentence without a trial or a hearing or, for that matter, a how do you do? And the sentence delivered during bereavement. And the clammed-up chancery office on grounds it's all about a "personnel" matter.Wonderful, if you believe in that kind of church. But if you believe in that kind of church, why wouldn't you want to brag about it when you pull off the perfect act of sanctimony?

I am not happy whenever anyone loses a job. But it seems unlikely she was unaware that she was violating a condition of employment. What is missing from the news story is any comment from school officials or church officials. And thus the story is now being shaped by the predictable bevy of unsympathetic commenters. My first piece of advice to any administrator finding herself caught up in a story of this nature is, "When the media calls, pick up the phone." (The second is, "... and then say the right things.")One element not missing from this story is that it was instigated by a report from a concerned parent or parishioner. That triggering mechanism seems to be a pretty constant feature of these situations.

"What is missing from the news story is any comment from school officials or church officials."It seems unlikely they are unaware of the impact of news stories like this. It is also customary for an employer/immediate supervisor to make the judgment that such "violations" are ignored unless and until the Culture of Complaint kicks in.A person needs a job and is good at it. People will accept less than optimal conditions of employment, with the complicity of higher-ups all the time. It's the nature of our society. I'm something of a skeptic on Jim P's creeping blame-the-victim schtick here. But yes, people do go into these situations with eyes open.

This reminds me of Bishop Vasa and his proposed "Addendum" to the existing teachers contract which you had to sin if you wanted to be rehired for he coming yearIt caused such an upoar that he backed off and said he would take a couple of years to get input on the subject.http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/...

sin = sign

"At some point, doesnt toothless dissent become complicity?"Yes, it does.This may not be such a case because it is so particular even if so wrong. A continued widespread pattern of such cases may arise to the point.I personally believe we already passed that point in connection with the clergy sex abuse crisis, so this incident is just a match thrown into a forest fire.

I am not happy whenever anyone loses a job. But it seems unlikely she was unaware that she was violating a condition of employment.If I recall correctly, about 25% of the teachers in Bishop Vasa's diocese were non-Catholics. Skipping the issue of what rules ought to apply to Catholic teachers, one of the issues raised by opponents was the extent to which non-Catholic teachers should have to live their private lives in accordance with Catholic teachings.

"Im something of a skeptic on Jim Ps creeping blame-the-victim schtick here."To say someone took a risk with eyes wide open is not to blame the victim. It's to note that she took a risk. It is inherent to risk-taking that things may not work out in the risk-taker's favor.I'm sorry she's out of a job. I hope she finds another one quickly. I hope she lives a virtuous life, too, one that shines forth as an example to children and the larger community. In the eyes of the church, she wasn't doing that, which is why her employment by the church was deemed to be untenable.

"Heres a link to the obit. Its just sad."That her mother died is sad. Many persons' mothers have died, and thus it's something that elicits powerful emotions of sympathy in a great many people. That the death also caused an obituary to be published that in turn led to her dismissal is a mildly interesting causal chain. But the general aura of sadness around the story doesn't really have any bearing on this school's employment standards for teachers.

http://www.abc6onyourside.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/w...The principal of Bishop Watterson High School has released a letter that states: "Documents support termination. You were not terminated for being gay but for the spousal relationship publicized in the newspaper which is against church teachings."

Thanks, Claire. "Publicized in the newspaper"? Yeah, if someone was really looking. Is the obit the only "Document(s) support termination"? Or is there another document -- the unnamed source, who Jim Pauwels assumes (I don't) was a concerned parent. I'm sure he/she was a snitch; for the rest, we'd have to know who we are talking about."But the general aura of sadness around the story doesnt really have any bearing on this schools employment standards for teachers." Well, in the general aura of sadness, HOW the school notified the teacher is relevant (among Christians), and "Documents support termination" is not, I believe, anyone's idea of a good how.

" the unnamed source, who Jim Pauwels assumes (I dont) was a concerned parent. Im sure he/she was a snitch; for the rest, wed have to know who we are talking about."You're right, Tom, that we don't know who notified whom in this case and what motivated it. My "parent or parishioner" was meant to be a more general comment on how I've observed that these things tend to be brought to the authorities' attention.As to the "snitch": unless you know more than has been reported here, we don't know anything about those motives, either. It could have been through the most hateful bigotry, or a particularly malicious impish streak, or someone who actually and genuinely accepts what the church teaches and thought that something should be done.

I read somewhere that a student asked her mother to pray for her gym teacher, telling her that she had recently lost her mother. So the student's mother looked for the obituary, but when she read the obituary, she must have thought that getting her fired was a better idea than praying for her.

"To say someone took a risk with eyes wide open is not to blame the victim. Its to note that she took a risk. It is inherent to risk-taking that things may not work out in the risk-takers favor."That's well enough to say when you sit in the boss's chair. Another risk-taker here was the principal. And pastors make choices like this, too. You don't often hear of clergy getting tossed out on their ***es when they knowingly hire someone deemed unacceptable to the Temple Police. "Im sorry shes out of a job."You sure as **** should be. But thanks for the response.

I, too, think it was cruel to fire this teacher. But I also think it is completely appropriate for religious schools (or any school) to insist that teachers model the behavior they want children to emulate. What is the fair way to encourage this? (I know there are all kinds of issues about selective enforcement), but how should a school address an issue where a teacher engages in behavior that the school believes send a negative message to children?We had some public school teachers who were fired here a couple of years ago because they were arrested for smoking reefer after a rock concert. And a Catholic school teacher in Brooklyn was fired because she was pregnant and unwed.I think the school systems were perfectly within their rights, but thought in both cases, a more equitable solution would be to give the workers another job, at the same pay, within the school system, just not in the classroom.

There was a similar episode recently involving a volunteer for at least 3 ministries in his parish in the RC Diocese of Rockville Centre (Long Island in New York State). He was dismissed after an anonymous note was sent to the bishop. It seems that the Roman bishops are more willing to rely on anonymous informers than the Roman emperor Trajan, who told provincial governor Pliny the Younger not to act on anonymous complaints that certain people were Christians. The standards of your church's episcopate are now lower than those of the Roman Empire!

Nineteen years of apparently exemplary service as a teacher. Respected as a role model by her students. In a time of bereavement, includes the name of the person she loves in a list of her mother's survivors. Fired therefore for "immorality" and "serious unethical conduct."The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?And Jesus said to them, "Yeah, absolutely! Gimme one of them stones, willya?"

For those who see this termination strictly in terms of the "mean old church with outmoded, unjust, and insensitive views", just how would you propose the leaders of the church go about changing its long held conviction about sexual morality? Should Pope Francis or Cardinal Dolan just call a press conference and state that the Catholic Church has decided that henceforth all sexual acts between consenting adults (or even children of a certain age) either before or during a marriage--regardless of sexual orientation--are licit and moral. I know a great many non-Catholics and non practicing Catholics who would welcome such an announcement with great joy. Oh, and some practicing Catholics might be glad as well. What a silly notion it is that all human beings should wrestle with difficult moral choices, even actively seeking the knowledge of God's will through prayer. Perhaps while Francis and Dolan are at it they can tell priests and seminarians not to have hangups about sexual tensions in their own lives and just go ahead and enjoy themselves.Is it a requirement of liberal thinking to believe that all people who are having sex or participating in a sexual relationship are seeking moral goodness. I don't know anything about this teacher or her life with her partner other than that she didn't exercise a prudent judgment in wording the obituary in such a way as to raise concern about her employment contract. I guess some of you would be alright if the diocesan and school authorities announced that henceforth we will be teaching in our schools and parishes that what individuals choose to do sexually is not of any concern or interest to us.I'm writing this as a person who at one time in my life embraced the notion that anything goes. It didn't work out that well for me.

The issue is not be whether or not the non-Catholic teacher did not live according to Church teaching. The issue is whether or not she broke her contract with the school. The Church is not immune from the law of contract. Nor should the teacher be.What did their contract say?

Ann: there you go.http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/04/17/backers-rally-f...According to a contract between the Columbus diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, teachers can be terminated for immorality or serious unethical conduct.

"For those who see this termination strictly in terms of the mean old church with outmoded, unjust, and insensitive views, just how would you propose the leaders of the church go about changing its long held conviction about sexual morality?"How exactly did this teacher violate the church's restricitons on sexual conduct? I gave a cursory glace at the obituary and the words "sexually active" appear to be absent.

At some point, doesnt toothless dissent become complicity?Yes! how would you propose the leaders of the church go about changing its long held conviction about sexual morality?First, this isn't about giving up on sexual morality, it's about the church's belief that it is intrinsically evil for people of the same sex to love each other. The way the church could proceed on a different path is to do what other churches, like the Episcopal Church have done - re-examining the scriptural basis for their belief, taking into account the wisdom of the laity, taking into account what science and social science has to say on the subject, by admitting that they are not infallible.

" ... doesnt toothless dissent become complicity?"There's even a Latin phrase for it, so it has to be a Law of The Church: Tacitus consensus pares

"But I also think it is completely appropriate for religious schools (or any school) to insist that teachers model the behavior they want children to emulate. "What about principals and pastors and bishops? If employers know and hire the person anyway, let's discuss what that says to "impressionable" children. Let's face it: that communicates a moral impression also.

"I hope she lives a virtuous life, too, one that shines forth as an example to children and the larger community. In the eyes of the church, she wasnt doing that, which is why her employment by the church was deemed to be untenable."Good Lord, Jim: if every employee of a church institution ... including the clergy ... were held to that standard, who would be left? Darned few, particularly within the higher levels of the clergy.

John W. Feehily 04/24/2013 - 4:05 pmIn other words, if you can't persuade or convince ... fire.Yes, that'll kick off the New Evangelization with vigor!! We'll have to open some of those closed churches to accomodate the influx of converts who love that approach." .. she didnt exercise a prudent judgment in wording the obituary in such a way as to raise concern about her employment contract .."In other words, lie. Even more churches will have to be opened if that is a tenent of the New Evangelization.Mt 23: 27-28:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead mens bones and every kind of filth. 28 Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing."

I assume that Jim Pauwels agrees that few bishops currently in power should remain in power. There are many, many bishops who are guilty of duplicity in protecting sexual molesters and thus enabling pedophiles, guilty of hiding crimes from the police, and guilty of lying by "mental reservation". In addition as a group across the board, they are guilty of absolute failure to exercise "fraternal correction" when it comes to their brother bishops. These bishops certainly don't stand as shining examples of living "virtuous" lives nor do they present any kind of positive example to children about how to live a moral and virtuous life. All should be fired. But by whom?As far as the firing of the unwed pregnant teacher goes, perhaps the clergy would have preferred that she get an abortion, as long as she went to a clinic where it would be unlikely for a member of the parish to see her entering it. How about helping women who face unwed pregnancy instead of making their lives even harder? Is that too "christian" to ask of these so-called "christian leaders"?

Thanks, Claire.Now the question becomes: did the parties to the contract agree on the meaning of "immorality". I wonder how that question would fare in the Courts.My point is that *both* the school and the teacher need to respect each others' rights to conscience. If they cannot agree about what is moral, then they should not have signed the contract in the first place. This might sound heartless, but as a pluralistic nation we absolutely must respect other peoples' rights to think and sometimes to act differently, especially as regards utterly private matters, and so our contracts should not be entered into lightly if consciences are likely to be involved in carrying out the provisions of the contracts. We don't really know the ins and outs of Ms. Hale's employment -- for instance, did she discuss the contract's meaning with the other person who signed it? Who signed it? Was that person the same one who fired her? Contract law -- and, a fortiori, contract justice -- can be extraordinarily complex. We really shouldn't jump to moral conclusions about any of these people.Except perhaps the anonymous accuser. The burden of proof justifying *that* sort of behavior is on the accuser. Creep!

I assume that the diocese gets to define what constitutes "immorality". I wonder if they, the third party, directed the school principal to terminate the teacher right away, without waiting a few months to do it discreetly at the end of the school year.

Regarding the teacher who was fired for being pregnant and unmarried- every single one of her female students will realize (eventually if not immediately) that she could have kept her job if she had had an abortion and kept silent about the fact. Firing her was not only cruel, it was self-defeating to the point of absurdity.

"As far as the firing of the unwed pregnant teacher goes"Anne Chapman - I'm sorry, you've lost me ... those aren't the circumstances for the teacher under discussion, right?

"How exactly did this teacher violate the churchs restricitons on sexual conduct? I gave a cursory glace at the obituary and the words sexually active appear to be absent."A fair point. We'd hope there was some due process here. But we don't know, based on what has been presented.

While this case is being argued out, let's not forget that there are thousands of gay employees of the church who are in relationships and are not being hunted down, fired, etc. Indeed, they are invited to the church suppers and accepted just as they are, despite the official prohibition against their lifestyle and choices. Toothless? I don't think so. Those are important facts of life to those people. The fact that this one case came to the press shows that it stands out, no? Or are we to suppose that everyone else employed by the church is a heterosexual or in the closet? Ha.

Two comments: First, if one reads the letters of Dorothy Day, would one not be appalled at the treatment of this teacher. If one reads the works of Jean Vanier, hwo would any of us cast the first stone? (If a stone was not cast in this case, I don't know what a stone is? Today is the feast of St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, who worked with prostitutes. Speaking of them she said: "Love them, console and strengthen these wounded sheep; make them happy, very happy, by God's grace; THIS IS YOUR DUTY." (my emphasis). conclusion: The presumption is never that someone is to be denounced, condemned, etc. It's rebuttable, of course. But the presumption is rather that anyone,bishop, pope, etc, who condemns, etc.is in the wrong. Again, this is a rebuttable presumption, but the rebuttal has to be made.Second, with Jim McCrea, I'd say: If the actions against this teacher are souupsed to be consonant with the "new evangelization" then count me out. I know I'm not important. That is not the issue. Still, just count me out.

"A fair point."It's much more than a fair point.This conduct, repeated over and over, demostrates why the Church's claim that it condemns only homsexual acts, not the inclination, violates the Eighth Commandment....and yet, Bishop Finn remains in office. Complicity...

I can't say that this is objectively unjust, if the lesbian teacher had signed a contract that her personal life must conform to Catholic standards, but the overall pattern troubles me (the two fired teachers, the bishop who wants non-Catholic teachers to profess agreement with Catholic teaching on contraception, the bishops' apparent determnation not just to distance themselves from the contraception mandate, but to successfully deny hospital employees access to contraception). The bishops are acting like their first and default strategy is to use economic clout to bully, coerce, and punish, and that is not the spirit of Christ.

The issue is not sex (pace, John W. Feehily) nor contract law. It is hypocrisy and, worse, sanctimony. If Holy Mother really wants to act upon every allegation of sin, I can pile up enough delations of Catholics who are grievously raving bigots and incorrigibly craven war mongers to cause job-related medical issues to the spine and knees of the bishop's mail carrier. But such reports will not be acted upon.I think Rita Ferrone has it exactly right about sex. It isn't an issue in the church until and unless it threatens to become public. And if it isn't about sex, it never will be an issue. But when church authorities decide they have to duck and cover, they could handle the situation with much more compassion than they handled this one, and they would if they took to heart the basics taught by the Founder. It didn't have to be, "Sorry about your mom; you're fired."

To accept this woman's sexual attraction and lifestyle as normal and valid, and to allow her to continue teaching in a Catholic school would indicate that the Catholic authorities at said school do not really believe in the Catholic faith, and that being gay and participating in gay sexual activities is just fine, thank you very much.To cave on this issue would be another betrayal of our Lord, another lash of the whip, another nail through His hands. Just saying...

Every time a gay teacher gets fired, Jesus gets a boo-boo kissed.

Todays gospel reading seems apropos. Observe Jesus word or you are condemning yourself. He does not need to condemn us, we are doing it to ourselves. So while He doesn't cast a stone, it does not mean the actions are acceptable. And we should not pretend that they are.And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,I do not condemn him,for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my wordshas something to judge him: the word that I spoke,it will condemn him on the last day,because I did not speak on my own,but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.

"To accept this womans sexual attraction and lifestyle as normal and valid..."The Church acknowledges that the attraction itself is not sinful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mychal_JudgeTherefore sexual orentation alone is not a Christian basis for employment termination.Those who then go on to speculate on so called lifestyle and the individual sexual practices that other people *may possibly have* engaged in, without very specific evidence of such acts, have their minds in the gutter.Suppose a man shared a house with another man for decades, publicly displaying effusive affection to that man and and upon that man's death, exclaimed, "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine." and later asked to be buried in the same tomb with a joint inscription reading, "Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth."What would we call that man? "Disordered lifestyle practitioner?" Or, perhaps, "Cardinal" or even, "Blessed?"

"A fair point. Wed hope there was some due process here."To the extent that we're dealing with this as a question of whether it was right for the school to terminate the teacher at some point, I think the school hierarchy has already won a big PR victory. It means we're not asking a prior question, which is what kind of human being finds out about something like this from an obituary and then fires the deceased person's daughter in less that two months? On its face, it's like a parody of draconian lack of compassion. Why not take this up at the end of the school year?

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.