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How about NOT Firing Her?

Over on the Deacon’s Bench, Greg Kandra develops a public relations strategy on how to fire a pregnant unwed teacher at a Catholic school in a kindler, gentler way, so as to avoid bad publicity for the Catholic church.

I have another suggestion: you could just NOT fire her.  The school has the option of not enforcing the contractual term in this particular case.  It should consider exercising that option.

Everyone knows that St. Thomas Aquinas says that an unjust law is no law at all, but rather an act of violence (actually, Aquinas’s reasoning  is much more subtle on this question, but that is for another day).  But he also says something that gets far less attention: a law that imposes a burden unequally upon members of the community is also an act of violence–even if it furthers the common good.

Contract law is private law, not public law, but I think that Thomas’s insights are applicable by analogy here.  The pregnant, unwed mother is no more guilty than the father–who cannot be as easily identified as she can. Nor is she more guilty than the more than 90 percent of people who have premarital sex, most of whom don’t get “caught” by getting pregnant, and many of whom might be members of that school community. In fact, if statistics are correct, we are in a situation in which there is massive disregard for the principle that all sexual intimacy outside of marriage is seriously wrong. She is also more vulnerable than other people, since getting another job while dealing with the stress of a pregnancy, much less an unplanned pregnancy, is significant. So the burden of the moral law against fornication is applied unequally.  Moreover, the Church should consider that it is arguably against the common good, since it will likely encourage people, not to refrain from premarital sex, but to obtain an abortion if they get pregnant.

My guess is that the contractual provision at issue is a general morals clause–saying that the teacher is obliged to conduct herself in accordance with Catholic moral teaching. Aquinas tells us that prudence is required in the interpretation and application of general laws.  It’s one thing to fire the Spanish and the French teacher, each married to other people, caught canoodling in the broom closet at school. It’s another thing entirely to fire a single teacher, who presumably did not behave inappropriately at school, and whose only evidence of sexual impropriety is her pregnancy–which in our culture, should also be seen as evidence of moral courage.  Rather than obtaining an abortion, which would have allowed her to keep her job by hiding evidence of sexual activity, she is going through with the pregnancy.

Some would say that the firing is necessary for pedagogical reasons: to “teach” the importance of Catholic teaching on sexual morality. But it would be good to ask a) is this the most effective way to communicate this message to young people; and b) is this line of action communicating other lessons that are inconsistent with other aspects of a Catholic worldview? My own view is this: in a world in which Catholic teaching on sexual matters is so widely dismissed, even by Catholics, this kind of necessarily selective enforcement is going to make Catholic teaching seem arbitrary and cruel.  I appreciate Kandra’s attempts to blunt the effects, but I still think they are there.

My second point is a bit more difficult to state. Catholic schools say they exist to support a total Catholic worldview.  Well, Catholicism is a religion of “being,” not a religion of “willing.” Membership in the community depends upon, in most cases, baptism as an infant. The sacramental framework talks about ontological changes.  You are part of the Catholic family–no matter what.  That is the most deeply countercultural message the Church can convey in American culture, which has a deeply voluntarist strain–you say something wrong, you do something wrong, you’re out of the club : we choose to exclude you or you choose to exclude yourself.  (That’s also why I’m so worried about the spread of evangelical Catholicism, which I think tends to turn Catholicism into one more American Christian sect.)

I think the message that firing this teacher conveys to the students is that they, too, are subject to being “fired” from the Catholic community if they misbehave in any way. After all, the little school is probably the main Catholic community they’ve known.  For all the talk of love and understanding and forgiveness, in the end, it is a hard and abstract contractual provision–a sign of willing, not being–that counts the most. For all the talk of a rich and humble inner life, it is a wholesome appearance that matters most. (And they all know–we all know–people who appear beautiful and holy who are in fact deeply corrupt–c.f. Legion of Christ.)

And I would think that many students, and even many parents, might exercise their own wills and walk away from all this--not necessarily the morality, but the perceived meanness.  Eduardo recently raised a similar issue, involving the firing of a vice principal of a Catholic school, who married another man. generating a firestorm of protest from the students.  

It's probably not lost on the students or parents that sexual issues are the only issues that are enforced under the morals clause.  Now, I'm not saying that you should fire a teacher for driving a Mercedes.  But part of the message that the firings may be communicating is that sexual morality is important (a firing offense) and everything else, well, not so much. Is that really the message that these dioceses wish to convey?

I don't think the future of Catholic schools in the U.S. can be considered apart from these questions, at least in this era and context.

About the Author

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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Excellent commentary as usual and I appreciate the Thomistic insights as well. All of us need a crash course-if there is such a creature!- on some of that wisdom even though it has been superceded in some areas.

This suggestion seems most appropriate with the timely news of Pope Francis meeting with Philomena Lee and the Vatican staff viewing the movie. Ms. Lee's own words of forgiveness for what happened to her could be the subject of many a homily.  How better to show that there is a larger dimension to these thorny issues.

I'm curious how other parents would manage the conversation with thier children about a visibly pregnant unwed teacher. (Assuming the parents share the Catholic values of the Catholic school the children are attending).

I think I would tell my daughters that Miss Jones made a mistake, but this happens sometimes. Depending on the age of my daughters, I would with varying degrees of specificity tell them that  they themselves don't want to have children until they're married; that  being an unmarried mother isn't something they should aspire to.

But does this situation undermine the authority of the teacher? 

What would you say about a visibly pregnant unwed aunt or cousin?

Louis CK has a brilliant standup bit where he lambasts the idea that parents' anxieties over talking about awkward situations with their children should not be the basis for restricting the freedoms of others. He was talking about gay marriage, but the same point holds, I should think.

Visibly pregnant aunt or cousin:

I would say the same thing.  I'm wondering though if it undemrines the teacher in the classroom.

 

If one's kids live in the real world and not in some strange traditionalist Catholic world, then they don't need to have an unmarried pregnant person explained to them  More children are now born to unwed parents than weeded ones.  There's  not necessarily any "mistake" in this scenarion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occu...

Irene,

It does somewhat undermine her authority, but firing her because of that does a much greater harm to the authority and integrity of the school. Authority recovers from admitted mistakes.

Abe: I absolutely agree, but don't you think there's difference between restricting others behaviors and validating that behavior with your children?  And also a difference in the appropriateness of weighing in on a stranger's behavior vs the behavior of an adult who is a role model for your children?

I guess I don't think it is unreasonable that at least some parents who send their children to a Catholic school might be  compelled to tell their children that as part of their fatih they do not believe in sex outside of marriage.

 

Ryan: I'm with you that firing her would not be appropriate.  Depriving a pregnant woman of her livelihood is not only un-Christian, but not very pro-life.

 

The whole topic of teachers' values  morality vis a vis tradtional Catholic values in education is obviously in the wind these days. And these are only offshoots of the societal discussions and the issues that Pope Francis has somewhat invited raising in upcoming conferences. Are we really on the edge of some new thoughts about how the Church will appreciate and teach about human sexuality with these issues being the early skirmishes?

Irene,

Reminicient of Barney Frank's comment that the pro life side believes lif begins at conception and ends at birth, no?  There is a tendency among some Catholics to think that things related to sex are the only area that matters.  Yet it is probably the area where the Church has the least ability to actually speak with any true authority. The Church has simply lost this battle, and it was largely but not entirely a self inflicted wound.  Pope Francis is trying mightily to move us to a very different place, I think, but actions like firing a teacher who is pregnant don't contribute to that movement.

Cathleen and the commentary presented here is consistent with a view of our humaness as creatures of a compassionate God.

The story doesnot however, tell us the grade level(s) of the teacher. As a Board superintendent , Cathoic or Public, Irene comes closest to asking the right question. Has the teacher by her behaviour undermined her own ability to teach the children. 

And the only way to find this out is to put the teacher in the classroom and monitor her teaching and how the children inteact with her. Even before that however, it is necessary to interview the students, (especially if they are of an age where they can understand both the legal and moral dilemma the teacher may have created) as to how they view the teacher and whether they can still accept her as a teacher.

Jumping on the holier-than-thou denomination right band wagon as recent examples have demonstrated even in so called Catholic communities is likely to be a generate a bigger problem than the original problem in the first place.

 

Visibly pregnant aunt: I had an aunt who missed her father's funeral because she was visibly pregnant then. She called and said that she could not be present because she had the flu and a high fever, but in reality it was because she was 8 months pregnant. I didn't even know about the existence of her son, my cousin, until six months after the birth, and was asked to keep it a secret from my siblings. She stopped coming to family events for a number of years after that: one might say that she was "fired" from the family for being an unwed mother. In the 1980s!

The take-away message: if you get pregnant outside marriage, you must have an abortion, or else, be ready to be disowned by your folks. 

 

The Catholic ideal is so different from reality.  About 95% of people have premarital sex, and most people do use contraception, and about a third to a half of people get divorced and most of them get remarried without annulments.

"Reports from bishops' conferences in Germany and Switzerland show a clear divergence between what the church teaches on marriage, sexuality and family life and what Catholics -- even those active in parish life -- personally believe." ... http://ncronline.org/news/global/surveys-german-swiss-catholics-reject-m...

Without getting into a more detailed analysis of Cathleen's arguments, a good deal of which I agree with - especially the point that firing the teacher seems to send the message that people can be "fired" from the Catholic religion - I just want to note that Greg Kandra's blog post more or less assumes that all of the analysis already has taken place, and that, wisely or not, the school has decided to fire the teacher.  His post focuses on how to 'handle' that situation.  His advice seems to be directed toward helping the school leaders explain the decision to the public, but some of his advice - going out of its way to help a woman in this situation - would be applicable whether not the incident is publicized.

For the record: I don't think teachers should be fired for getting pregnant. (Nor do I think that pregnant students should be expelled.)   It's something that each school would need to discern, but my advice would be: don't fire her.

 

Eduardo recently raised a similar issue, involving the firing of a vice principal of a Catholic school, who married another man. generating a firestorm of protest from the students. 

The difference, I suppose, is that the woman presumably did not wish to become pregnant, whereas the fired vice principal presumably did wish to become married.  In both cases, their life situations were made public, perhaps against their wishes, and the respective schools were put in the position of deciding how to handle situations that would become publicly known within the school community.

JP - agree

Crystal - thanks for the link - yep, speaks volumes and then couple that with any reputable study or history of the Humanae Vitae decision......it wasn't on the merits of birth control; rather it was about *imagined* threats to papal authority.  This has morphed now into a belief that anti-contraception is a literal truth??  with complete certainty??  (sounds like Prof. Kaveny's sect or cult)

In terms of Prof. Kaveny's post and her prior excellent analyses of *virtue* - our faith starts with a relationship......relationships are not private or public laws - whether church or civil.  To posit things such as being against contraception, unwed pregnancy, etc. as the core of the faith journey corrupts our communal relationships - it turns it upside down.  Think of the gospel stories of Jesus and various folks caught in Jewish/Roman *sins* and how he acted.  (which seems to be what we want to impart to our kids - understand the meaning; not just rules.  Sorry, Joe, the question is not whether the kids will or will not respect the teacher - then, you have a different issue and to fire based upon that?  well?)

Interesting article from Down Under which links to this discussion:

"Theologians (or church/school administrators) must analyze, weigh and judge all these terms used to define elements of religious experience. It hardly needs saying that much of what is most sordid and shameful in the history of humankind is directly traceable to the unwarranted ascription of literal scientific objectivity to locally conditioned religious experience and the metaphors used to evoke them. The conviction that one has the absolute truth about "God" and how one should live has provoked and excused wars, pogroms, conquests, slavery, persecutions and xenophobic hatred of all kinds. What's at stake, as we've unfortunately come to realize in these times, is nothing less than genocide carried out in the name of "God".  (or, if not wars, pogroms, etc. firing pregnant teachers or gay married teachers, etc.)

For some hypotheticals...

Suppose she were now to get married and have a baby "early"... would the school board think that a better outcome? Certainly has happened in the past...

Or perhaps she could say that she had been married ina civil ceremony and hoped to keep it quiet until her hhusband's annulment had been granted and they could be wed canonically, but nature intervened...? Far fetched, I suppose, but it would make for some intersting conversations!
 

But does this situation undermine the authority of the teacher?

Is the presumption we engender to our children that our teachers (or we ourselves) are infallible?  I am madly devoted to allowing my children to have a "childhood,"  but I am also madly devoted to raising humble, empathetic, courageous, and compassionate kids.

It certainly is demanding; short, black-white answers do not suffice (save, perhaps, "the stove is hot" and "don't get into a stranger's car").  But I think the payoff is worth it - children that are analytical, compassionate, moral, forgiving, apologetic, and brave.

In a more direct response to your comment, I think it should not undermine the teacher's authority whatsoever - it in fact offers a profound teaching moment - whether that moment is at home or in the school (perhaps it should be both).  The important take-away is that of redemption, forgiveness, the frailty of the human condition, that none of us alone is so strong.  That in Church and with Christ we find strength.

Crystal I agree with you.  I know it is anecdotal, but for the past several years my wife and I have been involved in our parish marriage preparation program.  I cannot remember the last time we had a couple who didn't already live together. That is simply the real world. the ones who don't live a good distance apart and typically one "stays over" when (usually) he is in town for the marriage prep meetings.    The idea that couples enter into marriage with no sexual experience, and none with each other simply doesn't reflect reality.  One can say it is wrong.  One can say it is sinful, but the facts on the ground say it is reality regarless of what the Church teaches.  If the Church is a field hospital, that takes the world as it finds it, that is what it finds.  I'm not sure shooting the wounded is the concept Pope Francis had in mind when he used that analagy. 

JIm P, I suppose the reason Kandra's piece got me riled up enough to write a blog post is that it, too, is about appearances--how to make the the Church look good, or at last not terribly bad. I didn't see a whole lot of interest in the analysis of the underlying decision.  He lamented mainly the bad pr consequences.

What I tried to do was give a substantive account of how one could justify, consistent with a Catholic view of the role of law, not firing her.

 

Cathleen - sure.  His career is in the media so I think he approached it from a media-messaging angle.  

Your post is terrific, and I hope school administrators all over the country read it.  A lot of church decisions get made via the template of how the church always has handled things in the past, and I hope your post prompts reconsideration.

 

The morals clause in the contract makes no sense at all.  The employee promises to abide by all the teachings of the Catholic church 100% of the time.  Is the promise to commit no sins ever?  By that standard an employee should be fired if they are seen heading into a confessional:  if they hadn't committed a sin, why does he/she need to go to confession? 

I've said this before but I'll risk repeating myself:  middle class women in their twenties or older who become pregnant out of wedlock are disproportionately likely to be making a serious effort to live by Catholic teaching.  A woman whose life plan includes the idea "of course I'm going to have sex on a regular basis with the guy(s) that I date" is going to be on the pill or use other reliable forms of contraception.  A woman who is seriously attempting chastity will not be on the pill, and if she fails in the chastity department will have no contraception or just a condom, making pregnancy likely.  All but one of the middle class women that I've known who became unwillingly pregnant  after age 20 were in this category.  The church is preferentially punishing those who are seriously committed Christians/Catholics. 

The Catholic church, like individual Catholics, has a responsibility to conduct her life in a way that disincentivizes abortions.  If a Catholic school feels the pregnant teacher cannot continue teaching, they absolutely should find her another job (e.g. with the diocese or Catholic Charities).  Otherwise, the de facto lesson will be "abortion or else".

One more thing that grosses me out- the firing was initiated because the diocese received an anonymous letter about the teacher's pregnancy.  I have heard of other occasions in which the Catholic hierarchy disciplined a person due to an anonymous letter.  Anonymous letters are dirty things and I hate to see them become standard operating procedure in the church.

Finally, here is a quote from the martyr Dietrich Bonnhoeffer which seems to me very applicable to this situation:  "For the pious community permits no one to be a sinner.  We are not allowed to be sinners.  Many Christians would be unimaginably horrified if a real sinner were to turn up among the pious.  So we remain alone with our sin, trapped in lies and hypocrasy.....  However, the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to comprehend, confronts us with the truth.  It says to us, you are a sinner, a great, unholy sinner.  Now come, as the sinner that you are, to the God who loves you.  For God wants you as you are, not desiring anything from you- a sacrifice, a good deed-  but rather desiring you alone.  God has come to make the sinner blessed."  (from Living Together, 1939)

 

CK says she doesn't abide "--how to make the the Church look good'

that's the meme to drop out the window for good.

since Matthew 1 tells us that JC came to be from an unwed mother =Mary, the "church' ought to stop obsessiing about 'looking good'... we should relish 'not looking good' .

When even the UN, which seems to tolerate a lot of slimey behavior condemns the Vatican for "the' coverup... , it's time to ordain only the most humble mouthed prelate in every terna .... for about a hundred years ,

Anne Evans,

That is a wonderful quote from Bonnhoeffer.  Sexual behavior is one are where the Church has virtually no credibility at all, yet it is where some choose to make their "last stand."  On virtually every major issue in this realm, the Church is at best ignored and at worst, a cause of suffering and pain.  My own view is that it can be traced back to Paul VI's encyclical, which pretty much taught Catholics that they can ignore the Church's teachings on sexual matters since they are given in a context which doesn't apply to anyone's real life.  The purpose of marriage is many things.  In the Church's eye it has a single purpose.  The sex abuse scandal played into the same narrative from a different angle.  On gay rights the same narrative is underlying things, from yet a different angle.  Just stop, already.  The primary teachers of children on sexual behavior are't their social studies or algebra teachers.  It isn't the swim coach.  It isn't the pastor.  to the extent they have any impact at all it is at the margins.  Parents have far more impact than all the teachers ever. 

Finally, I wonder if the school would fire a male teacher if they got an anonomous letter that he cheated on his taxes year after year? 

 

What would Francis say? I think he'd be overjoyed that she is bringing new life into the world, despite tough circumnstances, and furthermore, would welcome both her and her child at church.

Firing someone over a morality clause is exactly the kind of thing that makes people hate the church.

 

Btw, here is the NY Daily News' story on the firing.

 

They are like the Pharisees who strictly followed the law.  The Bishop's Dallas Charter falls into this type of evangelizal Catholicism.  Some will not agree but when priests are removed before proven guilty,  we have ostracized them and proclaimed them evil.  Before proving a wrong doing, we treat them like sinners and throw them out of the club into the wrath of the media and public at large. Then those 95% go back to their cohabitating and contraception mentality.  How Christ-like is that?

Was anyone beside me appalled at the NY Daily News "news" story on the incident? (Thanks for the link, Jim Pauwels.) It did eveything but give the bishop's phone number and the spokesman's home address and the make, model and color of the car he drives (for readers who prefer the anonymity of car bombs).

I like the photo at the head of this post—the woman's clear-eyed, unwavering gaze; the tender and protective way she holds the baby; the ringless finger; no attempt to conceal the letter. It says, "I am a sinner in your eyes; in mine I am a mother."

I think she might be an icon for many women today, and perhaps even for some men. Not a recommendation for sin, but a testament to courage and resilience, the ability to rise above one's mistakes and carry on. I would want to keep her within any community I was a part of.

It's a good post.

 

Jim, likewise thanks for the link. 

Folks, you are all missing an important part of this situation. Every country and state has employment laws. it is a responsibility of a superintendent to ensure that an employee is "fired" within the meaning of the law and where it exists the terms of the personal contract or if a union the terms of the collective agreement.

This usually involves a degree of incompetancy or a situation where as I stated earlier the teacher by his/her behaviour compromised their ability to teach often on moral or legal grounds...a charge of sexual molestation would be a good example. ( In that case a teacher would be removed from the classroom and given an office job in another location until proven guilty in a court of law at which time his contract would be terminated. )

The superintendent has another responsibilty and that is to avoid lawsuits because it is extremely costly both in $, something this bankrupt diocese seems to have in short supply and the amount of unproductive time the superintendent, principal & bishop will spend away from more educationally valuable leadership activity.

So what is the outcome of this little problem

Evenson is planning to take legal action against Butte Central. Cincinnati-based lawyer Brian Butler said the woman will file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/montana-catholic-school-fires-unwed-pregnant-teacher-article-1.1603327#ixzz2saJbLlXv

The use of the separation of church and state provision (ie. denominational grounds) is what is in play in this case.

We can bemoan the decision all we want and discuss it on "religious" grounds but should this suit proceed up the ladder and the teacher win, it will impact all Catholic teachers/employees nation wide.  

Way to go Mr. Superintendent!

This gets to the Hosanna Tabor ruling which many applaud.  Basically, that ruling determined that if a teacher in a religious school teaches religion or is a *minister*, then the religious denomination can set their own rules including moral clauses.  This ruling came about because a teacher (designated as minister or religion teacher with the EEOC filed suit upon discharge.  SCOTUS found for the religious school and its actions.

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/01/11/supreme-court-decision-in-hosanna-tabor-a-major-win-for-religious-freedom/

But, per the links that you guys gave above - we have the usual catholic elementary school teacher who would teach all subjects including religion and thus (per Hosanna Tabor) not have recourse if fired for unwed pregnancy.

My two cents - rulings such as Hosanna Tabor (in a veiled attempt to protect religious liberty) negate other rights and protections which US workers have today.  And it sets up a tension so that those who see things through a narrow lense (protecting the religious denomination via moral clauses) negate other *common good* laws - equal protection; treating all in a consistent manner; job security vs. fundamentalism, sect like behaviors, narrow applications of Hosanna Tabor, etc.  The dignity of an individual to hold a job especially when the behaviors sanctioned are not criminal or against civil law. 

Sorry - think the links to the alleged priest abuser and this case are mixing apples and oranges.

 

Perhaps some who are concerned about her "authority as a teacher" could explain what they believe that to be, how it is established, and how these circumstances would touch on that.

I a quite sure that when I was a boy, teachers had authority because they were adults and I was a child; I had been taught by my parents, and the rest of society seconded this, that it was a matter of common sense.

At the next level, the teacher had authority arising out our respect for her/his ability to help us learn.  This represented both authority with respect the content of the material studied and the authoritative, fair, and effective manner in which it was transmitted to us. 

I was aware, I think from kindergarten, that teachers were people, male and female.  And I knew that people had families and friends.  I had seen pregnant women, and did not think it odd; I am quite sure that I had teachers who took maternity leave, and this was no mystery.  But the private lives of teachers?  That had nothing to do with my relationship as pupil to teacher, and certainly nothing to do with the teacher's authority.

Now if a priest broke his vow of chastity (much less molested a child), and there ere physical evidence of this, that would certainly lead to a crisis of authority.  And, by the way, does it seem ironic to anyone elsethat is the Diocese of Helena, MT that finds this an intolerable moral lapse?

Mark L.

Maybe things are different in Montana (it's not on the beaten path, exactly), but I would be very surprised if the teenagers in that school don't know the facts of life, as we use to call them, and that they don't know that teachers have sex outside of marriage.  So keeping the poor woman in her job is not going to teach them anything they don't already know, *except* maybe, just maybe, they'll come to realize that  treating the teacher with kindess and understanding, is the Christian thing to do.  They might even learn that people who are less than perfect still deserve our love and help.  And maybe someday they'll realize that they too aren't perfect, a highly important lesson to learn on the way to Heaven.

I'm old-fashioned enough to think that risking pregnancy without a husband is indeed a very serious sin (and that goes for the possible father too), so I agree with the administration on that score.  But to  fire someone who was weak or mistaken about the morality and who became pregnant without a husband merely compounds the problems for the unborn child.   Yes, that child has a right to life.  It also has a right to a mother with a job. 

Yes, Mark. It is ironic, considering the source. But if priests who molested children had begun "showing" in some way -- maybe, say, hair grew on their hands, as we were once warned about -- we would not be in the position we are in today.

Btw, does anyone know if the identity of the father in that Montana case has turned up? I mean, could he possibly have been, and still be, on the faculty of the same school?

Additional takeaway---be ready to be fired from your Catholic job.

John Borst - good to see you commenting here again.  

 

Firing someone over a morality clause is exactly the kind of thing that makes people hate the church.

I don't know that I object to a school setting a standard for moral behavior.  I think one of the things that Cathleen is doing is bringing forth an alternative set of considerations, fully consonant with the Catholic faith and tradition, that could be the basis for a different "morality clause".

I suspect that the traditional way that the church in the US has thought about a teacher pregnant out of wedlock is not that much different than the way that US civil society traditionally has thought about it.  Clearly, there has been a tremendous shift, both in civil society and within the church, in no small part because so many of us have seen women who are in our families or are close to us experience unmarried pregnancies.  I would think that mercy, love, tolerance and life, and taking people where they are, seem more important values to most of us at this particular moment than the risk of shame or tarnishing the good name of the church.

 

I was indeed lucky in my situation. In 1979, when I discovered I was pregnant, I was working for 2 Catholic churches and a Catholic school. The pricipal of the school told me she was happy I had chosen to have the baby and that she and the other sisters would support me in any way possible. She also said that if any parents gave me trouble, I should send them to her. As for the 2 churches that I played piano for, the pastor of one said there would be no problems for me from him. The other church had a senile pastor with major memory pronlems. The associate pastor said, "Don't worry. You could have the baby in the middle of mass, and he'd never notice."

Hi Jim, thanks for the welcome.

In my previous analysis, I have not referred to authority but rather ability to teach. Although there is an interrelationship they are not the same thing.

Here are a couple of examples which are at least a couple of decades old.

Here is an actual case where a public school teacher was actually fired from a public school board because the actions of her husband undermined her authority to teach and hence there was an assumption that her ability to transmit knowledge and skill to students was compromised. It also caused scandal to the community. The husband in the privacy of their home took nude photographs of his wife and without her knowledge sent them to I believe Penthouse magazine and they got published. When they became public to the community she was fired and her union appealed the action on the grounds that she was a victim and not a partner in this case. The courts upheld the decision as just as a teacher must maintain a standard above the norm of the community. 

In another public school case a teacher/coach borrowed a video camera, tape cassette and stand to preview some kind of move he wanted to instill in his football players. While having the equipment home he could not resist making a video of himself and his wife during intercourse. When he returned the equipment, you guessed it, he put the wrong cassette back onto the shelf. And yes the whole football team got to see it in private. The students aware of what this meant to the teacher's career attempted to destroy the tape, but then took the destroyed tape to the principal. 

The teacher/coach was immediately relieved of his duties. At the subequent board meeting  the board lawyer after reviewing case law encouraged the trustees not to summarily fire him but to determine if he was capable of continuing to teach. Each football player who saw the video was interviewed, and then after a three day suspension without pay, the teacher was brought back and the administration monitored his teaching and ability to interact with the students. In other words could he be an effective teacher under this cloud. The answer was yes and he went on to have a distinguished career in education. 

As an aside to this story, as you might expect the board of trustees were very split between those who wanted his immediate dismissal and those who were prepared to follow the lawyer and superintendent''s advice. It was a locally renowned Catholic woman and a professional nurse who resolved the split, when she looked across the table and said to the men who wanted to hang the teacher: "Which one of you in your wildest dreams haven't thought of doing the same thing? And after the laughted subsided, the trustees voted to follow the superintendent's & lawyer's advice.

An unwed mother's pregnancy seems small potatoes in comparison.

I'm old-fashioned enough to think that risking pregnancy without a husband is indeed a very serious sin (and that goes for the possible father too).

I have a friend who, reaching the age when the fertility rate starts dropping without having met a life mate, got pregnant on purpose in order to become a single parent. She was met with mixed reactions. Choosing to bring a child to life with the advance knowledge that he or she would grow up without a father is an unusual decision... She told me once that it was "the best decision she ever made". It's not clear to me why it is a "very serious sin".

 

John Borst - see this column by Michael Sean Winters - this is what I am talking about:

http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/judgment-or-mercy-montana

 

Check out paragraph 4

She told me once that it was "the best decision she ever made". It's not clear to me why it is a "very serious sin".

The extramarital sex was the sin. Sin is not nothing, but the good news is that the church has sacramental remedies for sin.  Keeping the baby seems to me an act of grace*.  As the fellow once said, where sin abounds, grace abounds the more.

What Cathleen wrote above can't be emphasized enough: being a sinner doesn't get me fired from the Catholic church.  It is through the church that I find (or should find, if the church is being the church) forgiveness and healing.  I really think it is incumbent on the church, in its local church community - the school - to model the church's forgiveness, to accept this woman and her baby, to support her, to say, "You're one of us; we're not more virtuous than you; we stand by you".  

* Ironically, there has been a strand of thought at large in our society, for a century or more, that it is somehow sinful to bring a child into the world, particularly if the child is going to be poor, or of an undesirable race or ethnicity, or because the world can't sustain another child.  This emphatically is not the church's point of view.

 

Jim, what she decided was not to "keep" the baby but to get pregnant in the first place, in spite of not being married. She had (extramarital) sex in order to get pregnant in order to have and raise a child.

When I read about this kind of stories, sometimes I feel like I live on a different planet.

On one side, there is the world of "the Scarlet letter", of the Montana school discussed in this thread, of HV, of how the family I grew up in used to be. On the other side, there is the world I live in, a world of people who struggle with a variety of complex ethical problems; but those problems are so different that it's hard to even understand, for one side, how a single pregnant woman poses a moral problem, and, for the other side, how well-meaning people could land in the kind of situations they get into. Both sides are bewildered by the other side. There's something almost unreal about it. I mean, who in their right mind, in the US in 2014, would think that the morally correct reaction to a single woman getting pregnant is to fire her?? Crazy. Maybe I should stop reading those Catholic websites, or else the craziness might be contagious and I might start believing it. Whatever pretense of rationality people might try to land to this, it's a game, it's just make-believe.

It's like rabbis claiming that the world was created a few thousand years ago and rationalizing the presence of dinosaur bones by saying that God could have chosen to plant dinosaur bones into the ground, that nothing is impossible to God. Listening to them, you'd think they actually believe what they're saying, they're in earnest, they even try to convince you and you can't make them budge in their opinion. If you make a huge effort to listen to them with an open mind, you're taken by a kind of vertigo, like you're going crazy.

It's like the whole hullabaloo in the US about contraception. Nuns suing Obama because they don't want to sign a piece of paper saying they don't want contraception to be covered, or something like that. Crazy. It's an alternate, twisted universe. 

 It's like, in the 20th century, discussing the validity of Galilee's science. It makes no sense.

Usually when I read threads on Catholicism and sex-related questions, I try to suspend disbelief in order to be able to engage the discussion. But when I remember that (unlike the rabbis' explanation of dinosaur bones) it's not an abstract discussion, not a theoretical construct, but about things that have real impact on real people, then the whole thing seems evil or pathological. 

For sanity, I've got to remember to ignore everything the Catholic church institution says about sex. 

 

WHY NOT BE PRO-LIFE!!! Why not make her the example that Jesus said "Neither do I condemn you!" Really the Catholic Church would walk the talk if they had billboards all over that said, "Pregnant-Come ot the Catholic Church!" If we did there would be less abortions. How can the Catholic Church after the sexual abuse crisis ever condemn and judege someone else. How many priests have made women pregnant and continue to pay child support yet is a "Father" in the church. This is a disgrace. The school probably takes up collections for shelters, unwed mother homes and everything else, but when it comes to being real, the church gives mixed messages. She could  have gotten an abortion really easily and didn't. She choose life. It is a shame that the school did not choose life.

Is it also an issue that some of us might think  that  the religious belief that is being upheld- chastity- is quaint/stupid/harmful?  And if we think the latter, than of course we should object to anyone being sanctioned for not conforming to the expected standard.

I'm not being an apologist for the school; I disagree with the action.  But a lot of us are raising our children accordng to religious principles that others think are bad or ridiculous, whether its discouraging sex outside of marriage, encouraging our adolescent girls to wear headcoverings, circumcising our baby boys or  taking our children out of school after sixth grade to go work on the farm.

Maybe the people who object to these various practices are the ones who are in the right, but what's the line in the sand- at what point is it appropriate to override how other people raise their children, even when it involves deeply held religious beliefs? And who gets to decide that?

 

Irene, it wouldn't drive me crazy if it were another religion that I don't care about, or if it was some kind of harmless idea. But that people from my own religion somehow argue that it follows from the tenets of my own faith that the correct reaction to an unwed pregnant woman is to fire her, that just drives me nuts. It means doing wrong while claiming righteousness, in the very name of Christianity, that is, of Truth itself! It's evil.

It's not about chastity - I have nothing against chastity. It's what Cathy described in her post. It's about hitting someone when she is in a vulnerable situation, in a setting where only women (not men) are possible victims, and encouraging abortion, and all that in the name of Christianity, for God's sake! It's Satan's way of trying to give the Church a bad name.

It makes me angry.

I think if a parent sends their child to a Catholic school there is the overt, or implied, understanding that the school will both in religious teaching and example of the staff reinforce the moral teachings of the Church. There doesn't seem to be enough detail about how and why this pregnancy (ie., sex outside of marriage) occured (rape, incest, co-habiting, just a deisre to have a child, ????), in clear violation of Catholic moral teaching (however ignored in society today), should be reacted to by the administration of this Catholic school. However, they cannot simply ignore it. A better reaction would be to suspend the teacher (with pay) and help her, if needed, through the months of pregnancy and thereafter. There could then be dialogue with the school administrators, the local pastor and the woman, with a final resolution of the situation delayed until after these outreaches.

 

 

I have heard the argument made, and there is certainly some truth to it, that a combination of cultural and technilogical if that is the correct term, changes have created a world were we simply need to look at sex and sexual morality and marriage in a whole new light. Just to highlight some, in the early Middle Ages, life expectancy was 30 or so, though that number would be higher accounting for those who survived past childhood.  Childhood mortality was exceptionally high.  Women married essentially at puberty. Even until the mid-20th Centruy it was only around 60. Further, until pretty recently, effective birth control was virtually unknown.  Now people live until almost 80, birth control is readily available and very effective. Twelve year olds don't marry these days, at least in the west.  Heck, in my group of friends from college, roughly half married within a year of graduation.  Among my daughter's group of friends, exactly 2 have married 5 years after graduation and they married each other.  Given these and other social and medical science changes, one could make a case that the whole basis for traditional sexual morality is no longer applicable.  What made sense when people began engaging in sexual activity at 14 or 16 or 18, might not apply when the average age of marriage is 27 for women and 28 for men. Is demanding celibacy for an additional 5-10 years really a reasonable expectation? And given that effective contraception is now available, it is possible to separate sexual activity from both marriage and procreation.  Life expectancy changes also come into play.  Given the great increases in life expectency, it is at least reasonable to ask whether life long marriage is still a logical concept.  In 1900, when life expectancy was 46 for men and 48 for women, if you married at 21 or 22 (slightly later than average), the typical couple would barely survive until their 25th anniversary.  I think these are the kind of factors that are really underlying the current life style changes we see in the real world.  It might be time to look at how we look at these things in a religious context and look to rethink what constitutes morality. 

Claire --

The course of evolution does have its wisdom.  Children need both mother and father, so the child has a right to both.  To choose ahead of time that my child would not have a father would be to deprive it of one of life's greatest goods.  And that is very, very wrong.  

Claire- I feel the same way you do, I think I would have to take my children out of a school that did this.

But in cases like this,  I hear a lot of strong comments about what is the wrong thing to do- its wrong to fire the teacher.   Ok, so that's what not to do'; then what to do? I don't think it works to say the school is wrong to have these values, or to claim that the people who send their children to the school don't really embrace these values. I think we need to figure out a way to respect everyone involved and the difficulties they're presented with - the teacher, the school administrator, the parents, and most of all, as John Borst's comments emphasized, the children.

 

Given these and other social and medical science changes, one could make a case that the whole basis for traditional sexual morality is no longer applicable

Or that there is more than ever a need for the sanity and holiness of traditional sexual morality.

What made sense when people began engaging in sexual activity at 14 or 16 or 18, might not apply when the average age of marriage is 27 for women and 28 for men. Is demanding celibacy for an additional 5-10 years really a reasonable expectation? 

It's a hard demand, but I doubt it's harder for us or our children than it was for our grandparents.  For us as for them, if we don't get a 100 on the exam, as is the case in so many areas of our lives, forgiveness is abundantly available.  This seems to me a better approach to living than to settle for promiscuity as a norm.  

That's what I'm trying to teach my children.  Pretty sure I'm not alone. 

 

And I agree with Jim Dunn, we need to re-examine our standards of sexual morality.

I agree with Claire  - it does especially bother me that the Catholic church teaches this stuff because it's my religion.  If it was some other religion, I'd probably find it quaint.  But it's not just that - it's also that the Catholic church also seems bent on pushing its beliefs on everuone else as well.  How would we feel, for instance, if Jehovah's Witnesses ran a quarter of the countries hospitals and the rest of us couldn't get blood transfusions?

Children need loving parents.  If that's a mother and father: good.  If it's a mother and mother:  good.  If a father and father:  good.  If a mother or father only:  it depends on the situation and access to other support.

But what the children need is being raised in a healthy and loving environment, not just by a man and a woman.  With the success rate of traditional marriages (about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher ... http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/), the incidences of child and spousal abuse, alcoholism, drug use, ad nauseum, having a mother and a father is no guarantee of being raised any better or healthier than in healthier and more supportive alternative situations.

A situation like this is made more difficult in that it involves a civil "contract" and the church and how it treats sinners, which everyone is. Yes, there is a contract but in civil society there are things than can affect the performance of the contract's provisions, unanticipated at the time of signing. To make matters harder, this is the CHURCH putting a pregnant women out on the street--no job, no income (and the difficulty of finding other employment while pregnant) and very likely no health insurance. As many commenters have said, would we want her to have an abortion in order to keep her job?

And let's face it, this discriminates against women, who carry the visible pregnancy, and protects the father because he is able to keep having impregnated a woman private.

I don't have the perfect solution.

Jim Pawels,

I don't think "promiscuity needs to be the norm."  I'm suggesting though that we need to re-examine the whole ethic and see where it fits given the massive changes in how we live.  A different sexual ethic, somewhere between celebacy until married and promiscuity seems to me to be worth examining.  My sense is that it is what is now emerging, whether we like it or not. 

And while I agree with you that the demands are just as hard between our grandparents and our children, the differences are that many, too.  My grandparents were married 20 and 18, and 21 and 19.  Before they married none of them lived outside their parents homes.  My daughter is 26 and lives on her own 6 states away. By the time they reached her age, both sets of grandparents had been married for almost a decade and had multiple children.   And safe, effective birth control was simply not an option for my grandparents.  Wasn't just not available.  It didn't exist.  Hadn't been invented.  For the first ime in history, it is possible to separate sex from procreation.  That might be a gamechanger.  I would argue that it certainly changes the way you analyze the problem.  I don't know if you come to a different end result, but I think it is a discussion worth having.  Now it is just happening. 

The course of evolution does have its wisdom.  Children need both mother and father, so the child has a right to both.  To choose ahead of time that my child would not have a father would be to deprive it of one of life's greatest goods.  And that is very, very wrong.

So I take it, Ann, that you do not think same-sex couple should have children?

Jim P

I don't know what the answer is, for what it is worth. But I have given this a lot of thought and it is pretty clear to me that the existing moral code is not longer applicable.  I think we need to look at a new sexual ethic that works in a very different world. 

Has any commentator or authority of note (or soemthing akin to note) come forward to say that they support the firing and its terms? Normally, there is side rejecting the outrage, but I just haven't seen it here.

And, though I'm no big city lawyer, isn't the school going to get wrecked in any civil suit?

then what to do?

There are plenty of natural negative consequences for the teacher, which the school or parents could point out to the students: She'll have less money (think about the cost of daycare). She'll have more constraints (no more going out on the spur of the moment). She'll be less desirable for dates (who wants to date a woman with a little kid in tow?). She'll be spending a lot of her time off work taking the child to the playground, to playdates, to birthday parties. She'll have to spend a lot less time reading, sleeping, exercising, or whatever else she likes to do for herself. In short, she'll be parenting, sacrificing part of her life for her child's well-being. Because of the absence of another adult in charge of parenting, she won't have any time off from it. The responsibility will be entirely hers: she won't be able to be sick, for example. She may have to turn down job opportunities, if they conflict with her child's schedule, and she won't have the flexibility that comes from sharing the parenting. Being a single parent is no picnic, and it shouldn't be hard to show that to the students. I'm not sure why additional action is needed to drive the point home.

As to what to do, the school might: encourage the teacher to try to get child support from the father; give her a generous maternity leave; give her a favorable teaching schedule as much as possible while the child is a baby. If they do some anti-abortion stuff, they might choose her to represent them at some event. The parents might: give her some of their leftover baby stuff. The students might: offer babysitting services.

Do we have any more details? On the pregnancy? On the 'firing?'

What were the terms of the firing? Was there severance pay? Was there an offer to help her in this vulnerable position?

 

Abe, without seeing the terms of the contract, it is hard to tell the possible outcome of the civil suit. But,precedent legally is on the school's side. The moral question is less clear cut.

Has any commentator or authority of note (or soemthing akin to note) come forward to say that they support the firing and its terms?

 

Yesterday, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools defended the decision. Talks about a "contractual obligation with our teachers" as if they had no choice. 

 

He doesn't convince me

 

BUTTE – The Diocese of Helena is defending its decision to fire an unwed Butte Central Catholic Schools teacher because she is pregnant....

 

Shaela Evenson taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade literature and physical education at the school for the past nine years. She was dismissed Jan. 10 after the Helena diocese received an anonymous letter about her pregnancy.

 

Superintendent of Catholic schools Patrick Haggarty defended the decision in a Wednesday interview with the Montana Standard.

 

“It’s not easy being a Christian or a Catholic in today’s world,” Haggarty said in a phone interview. “Our faith asks us to do things that right now are not popular with society. I’m really OK, I’m not comfortable, but I’m OK with what’s transpired. Being a Christian is this way; we’re asked to do things that are not popular with our society.”

When asked about how Francis has handled cases of unwed mothers:

“The Holy Father certainly understands the sacrament of marriage and certainly is compassionate and understanding, and so is the diocese in Helena,” the superintendent said. “... I think that the connection between what the Holy Father has done, which is an incredible act of kindness, is not the same as what we face with a contractual obligation with our teachers. I’m sure that the woman that he blessed is a wonderful person, as is Shaela, but the woman just didn’t agree to teach in a Catholic school.”

 

 

Jim D - I guess my view is that the traditional Christian moral code for unmarrieds always has been an ideal, one that never has been universally abided by.  Traditionally, failing to abide by it - particularly for women - meant taking on two risks, one spiritual, the other social.  The church, concerned with the spiritual aspect, offers sacramental forgiveness as a remedy.  From a spiritual aspect, this dynamic of a difficult ideal, coupled with forgiveness for those who don't abide by it, still seems workable to me.

I agree with you that advances in technology have changed things considerably for the social risk, in that the social penalties for not abiding by the code, particularly for women, are considerably reduced, and so many fewer abide by it now.   Whether women and men also don't fear the spiritual penalties as as much as was the case a few generations ago, is an interesting question to which I don't really know the answer.

I think the church should continue to put forth its traditional moral code for unmarrieds, as one component of a holistic approach to marriage and sex, as an ideal that is achievable (even if not everyone abides by it all the time), and that brings about both spiritual and social goods. Ideally, unmarried people will stay chaste, and there will be no reason for such people who are achieving that ideal to contracept or abort.  Because not everyone will abide by the church's code, even among the church's own disciples, and because technology reduces the social pressures to abide by the code, it's equally important that the church takes people 'as they are'.  My original entry into this discussion was to note that there are a lot of practical, pragmatic benefits both for individuals and for society if young unmarrieds try to abide by the traditional moral code.  Fewer abortions certainly is one.  It's not difficult to think of others.

 

What Ann Landers and Dear Abby (plagiarizing from each other) used to say: a church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

Somehow this brings to mind Joseph staying with Mary. He recognized what he thought should be done and did it. And then they got on with their lives. Thankfully.

Wisdom from the blogsite of one of the periodic commenters here:  http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/montana-teaching/

A general comment about mercy, overlooking certain situations, effects on children, the compassion of pre-Vatican II nuns and how sexual issues are NOT all that defines us. My mother never married in the church, had 4 children whom she sent to Catholic schools at great expense and personal sacrifice. She taught us that being Catholic was more important that anything else, and she did this primarily by example , then by insisting that we follow the tenets of our faith. 

The good nuns knew my mother was not only married civilly but then divorced. So, for all intent and purposes, in the 1950s she was an unwed mother. 12 years of Catholic school with nuns for my 2 sisters and me and 8 years of nuns and 4 years of Jesuits for my brother and my mother's sex life never came into play. I believe that it's the people at the top that get caught up with sex and its consequences and can't see past that except when it comes to the sex abuse issue. Morals overs more than sex and those other issues can sometimes cause more harm.

Elia:  one does have to wonder about those who obsess about that in which they (theoretically) are not allowed to partake.

Jim Pauwels, the problem with that approach is that it worked for the legendary high school boy who had sex Friday night, confessed on Saturday and received Communion with his family on Sunday - then did it all over the next week.

it doesn't work for people who are cohabiting, remarried without an annument, taking contraceptives daily or who just don't feel they believe what they did was wrong and can express a "firm purpose of amendment". 

I have a friend who says she left the Church years ago because, as she says, she "felt she was going to hell" even though she kept going to retreats. Later she joined an evangelical church that teaches "once saved, always saved" and now she is at peace with herself. 

Maybe we need to think a bit about what is a mortal sin versus a venial sin and be clearer about subjective sin versus objective sin. 

When I first saw this headline yesterday, I went directly to a video of a reporter at the school.  A section of the video included a short portion of a phone interview  with the superintendent of the Catholic Schools for the diocese.  I was so shocked by what he said, I replayed the video several time to "transcribe" exactly what he said.

"We as Catholic School employees have the obligation to teach the moral  and religious teaching of the Catholic Church.

We want all our children to get to heaven, and they've gotta be dog gone smart when they get there.

The reality is that we believe that we get to heaven by following the moral teaching standards of the Catholic Faith."

http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/unwed-butte-central-teacher-fired-for-pregnancy/24296934?utm_

 

John Hayes - thanks for the follow up to the link and article quoting the superintendent (of course, assuming that the news report is accurate in terms of his statement)

Here is my two cents again:

Superintendent is operating in the *orthodox* church mode - unilateral power blessed by thinking that God speaks through church laws, bishops, etc. with complete certainty.  Unilateral power is always:

Top Down

Unaccountable

Power Over (rather than power with)

Subject to Object

Communicator Supreme

Zero Sum

Contrast this with the gospel narratives and the relational power of Jesus:

Collegial (not top down)

Accountable

Subject to Subject

Conversation that at its core has listening

IMO, we should be experiencing the power of the gospel - not the power of unilateral control. 

What do we teach children, the local community, parents if the law of the ruler takes precedence over our gospel imperative to treat the other with dignity, love, and mercy.

From Francis:

http://ncronline.org/news/global/cardinal-sch-nborn-pope-francis-has-already-changed-church

Key phrases that impact this incident:

"It is important to realize that today many couples live together without getting married and have children, then later marry in a registry office, with some opting for a church marriage, the pope explained. The church must take this way of life seriously and accompany the couples on their way, Francis underlined. His basic message was "Don't judge, but look closely and listen very carefully," Schönborn said."

"For the most part, the church approaches the [family] issue unhistorically," he said. "People have always lived together in various ways. And today, we in the church tacitly live with the fact that the majority of our young people, including those with close ties to the Catholic church, quite naturally live together. The simple fact is that the environment has changed."

"..... real life told a different story, the cardinal said. "The great challenge is to span a bridge between what we long for and what we succeed in achieving." It was a case of bringing truth and mercy together, he said."

Just to let you know, it was a recording.  It was his voice you heard.  Even the attitude came through.

"It is important to realize that today many couples live together without getting married and have children, then later marry in a registry office, with some opting for a church marriage, the pope explained. The church must take this way of life seriously and accompany the couples on their way, Francis underlined.

 

I'm glad to hear that from the Pope.

 

"Accompanying people on their way" is what we need to work on. 

 

 

 

Abe --

 

I think that there is no settled answer yet to the question of homosexual parents because there have been so few examples.  We just don't know what the consequences are likely to be. I suspect that it is better to have a mother and a father because it seems that a people need models of both as they grow.  But who knows, two of the same kind might also have some other advantage to compensate.

 

I would expect that two parents of any combination would be better for a child than only one, not to mention the difficulties the single parent her/himslef has because of raising a child alone.

 

I agree with John Hayes that the whole question of sin -- its kinds, degrees, whatever -- needs to be throught through again, particularly sexual morality.  But I don't see any evidence that human nature has changed enough to make us revise our views of what the basic human goals and problems reaching them.  Yes, contexts change, but human nature?  I'll believe it when I see it.

 

 

Claire --

You say this isn't about chastity.  We maybe it shouldn't be, but in this Puritan land where The Scarlet Letter reinforces everyone's notion that sex outside of marriage should result in serious shunning, it is for many people exactly about chastity.  Maybe The Scarlet Letter should be banned from the high schools.

Ann Oliver, Apparently The Scarlet Letter is banned pretty often. The National Council of Teachers of English put together a list of books that are often banned, even though they are on the Library of Congress list of "Books that Made America," and The Scarlet Letter appears there in alphabetical order. Said the National Council:

According to many critics, Hawthorne should have been less friendly toward his main character, Hester Prynne (in fairness, so should have minister Arthur Dimmesdale). One isn’t surprised by the moralist outrage the book caused in 1852. But when, one hundred and forty years later, the book is still being banned because it is sinful and conflicts with community values, you have to raise your eyebrows. Parents in one school district called the book “pornographic and obscene” in 1977. Clearly this was before the days of the World Wide Web.

If I repeat what others have said, please excuse the repitition.

 

It is evident that the teaher in question was following Church teachings on contraception. It is said we teach better by what we do, than by what we say. Words are cheap, actions are final. Her being pregnant at school and taking leave, possibly in the middle of class, to adjourn to the delivery room, would speak in context to the unnecessary nature of abortion, and contraception would be repudiated, not by words, but by deed.

 

The school, oddly enough, has just encouraged this young woman to get an abortion. Childbirth is not inexpensive, and her income has just tanked. This too is not words of the school, but deed. We do not know what her circumstances are, what other support she may or may not have. But as at least one other has noted, her finding a job while pregnant will be even more difficult than it already is in the present day of high unemployment and few jobs.

 

We also do not know the circumstances of her getting pregnant, which can range anywhere from another of many one-night stands; through a boyfriend who is a soldier who just died in Afghanistan, ending their plans for a marriage during his next leave; to a forceable rape.

 

Absent facts, we are left to speculate how severe the consequences for this young woman are. Were she my daughter or granddaugher, she would be welcome in my home. But she is not, nor do we live near each other at all.

 

I remember the words of our Holy Father respecting another issue: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” 

 

If a young women is with child arising from to-us unknown circumstances, who are we to judge?

Ann: yes. I meant that my own outrage is not about chastity. I don't get riled up because some people are chaste, and I don't disapprove of chastity. That is one more step in the sex-saturated culture that I'm not willing to take.

 

Until the Boston Globe blew the lid off the clergy sex-abuse scandal, the Church always managed to find another job for any priest, even one who was known to be a predator, as long as he wanted to stay in ministry.  The typical explanation, culled from various bishops' depositions: the Church is in the business of forgiving sin.

But the Montana teacher is fired, even though for all we know she had sex only once, never took a vow of celibacy, and didn't force herself on a minor.  The double standard is alive and well.  

John Hayes, thank you for sharing the quotes from Superintendent Haggarty. He doesn't convince me either; in fact it is very clear that he is simply hidding behind the contract, one incidently that has not been revealed.

But from an administrative perspective there is much more that smells about this dismissal. Prime among the smelly aspects is the simple fact that the superintendent acted on an anonymous complaint. The standard practice, except in a very narrow range of circumstances,is to take anonymous complaints and simply throw them in the basket. 

A common characteristic of anonymous complaints is that they usually come from third parties. I have not been able to find out if that happened in this case. I make this assumption because sufficient time has passed for the the teacher Shaela Evenson to become visibly pregnant. It is reasonable to assume then that, had the complaintant not come forward, that neither the principal nor the superintendent were planning to take any action. No doubt the principal was well aware of her condition long before the complaint surfaced and either didnot report her to the superintendent and if he did, neither took action.

The principal describes Evenson as an "excellent teacher". Now he has to find a new teacher to teach grade 6, 7 & 8.  That is not as easy as it sounds. I learned that lesson as a Grade seven student. In Grade seven, my 'excellent teacher" contracted TB and never came back after Christmas. We then went through 4 teachers in the next 2 months. The one that stuck it out was not a good teacher, just determined that we were not going to defeat her. [I know that because 9 years later I walked into a staff room during recess and a supply/replacement teacher was regaling the staff with this story about how she had had this terrible class and she didn't them defeat her....as I listened I realized she was talking about my class so I interrupted and asked her if such and such a boy was in that class, and then other and an other and everyone clued in] The point I'm making obviously is that the real loosers in this little morality game 9 times out of 10 are the children. 

This also smells because the superintendent had other options open to him which he did not use. He could have arranged for her to take a leave of absence (preferably with pay) for 2 or 3 months to have the baby. The anonymous complainer would have seen her gone and by the time she returned the whole thing would have blown over.

Alternatively, the superintendent could have provided  an alternative assignment, in head office away from public view and achieved the same result. 

You have all provided sound reasons from a Catholic perspective on why this decision failed on Christian grounds. I've simply been trying to show that it has failed on educational and adminsitrative grounds as well. 

[The ideal of the church's moral code] doesn't work for people who are cohabiting, remarried without an annument, taking contraceptives daily or who just don't feel they believe what they did was wrong and can express a "firm purpose of amendment".

People who are cohabiting, remarried without an annulment or taking contraceptives daily are not abiding by the church's moral code.  It's not that the code "doesn't work", it's that they've chosen not to follow it.  To note this isn't to condemn people in these situations; it's just a factual description.

That some, even many, people choose not to follow the ideal of the moral code doesn't mean that the moral code has no validity or is unrealistic for everyone. 

The church must meet such people where they are.  Not condemn them, not set preconditions for membership - it must meet them where they are.  

 The church has life-giving remedies for those situations, to realign those folks with the moral code e.g. get married, stop cohabiting, get an annulment, stop taking contraception.  People get married,  stop cohabiting, get annulments, and stop taking contraception all the time - it is no exaggeration to say that these things happen every day.  There is nothing unrealistic about any of these things.  

However, these things do require that people re-examine their lives, their assumptions, their values.  It requires that they change.  This is, in fact, part and parcel of "accompanying them on their journey" - meeting them where they are, and then inviting them to direct their journey toward deeper discipleship.  In my view, "accompanying them on their journey" doesn't mean " blessing, praising and promoting their sinful choices".

 

Having followed the comment thread and rereading Greg Kandra's piece cited in the article, I believe Kandra's advice is just right, not just as "public relations," but also as the right Catholic Christian moral approach to this vexing situation. Just "not firing her" is not a viable response. The Catholic moral teaching on sex outside of marriage, at least until when and if it is changed, must be upheld by a Catholic school; so, dismissal is fully justified. However, how that dismissal takes place, with support and compassion for the pregnant woman, is also essential in upholding a total Catholic Christian response: severance pay, continuation of medical benefits, counseling if requested, etc., as Kendra recommends.

In terms of public relations, I think the Church should set up a sort of assembly line of cute kids, animals, and disabled people for the pope to kiss--keep 'em coming, and the good will generated might be able to keep up with the bad stuff.

Thank you, Angela for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.  

And it seems very likely that there is more hypocrisy going on in this situation besides the unwarranted righteousness of those who continuously give a pass to bishops who protected child molesters. Is there hypocrisy in action in the school itself?  How many of the faculty are breaking the "morals" clause and living as Catholics "should"? Are polygraphs going to become standard operating procedure to weed out all of those staff members who violate the "morals" clause in the contract?

How many have engaged in extra-marital sex, whether married or single? Do any of the men watch or buy porn? Is sex the only "morals" factor that "counts'?  Do they inquire as to whether anyone abuses a family member,  physically or emotionally?  Do they ask if anyone cheats on their income taxes? Do they check to see how many give to charity?   How many drink too much or smoke pot or abuse  prescription painkillers or other substances? Are any members of the faculty obese and perhaps guilty of gluttony, a capital sin? How about those who judge, who throw stones, who paint the scarlet letter on a single pregnant woman?  Any capital sins involved with the judgment and condemnation of another for her "sin"?  Does "pride" come to mind?

Plus ça change...  

Decades ago, when I was a teen-ager in a very small, public school (300 students), one of the young female teachers suddenly vanished.  She was pregnant.  She vanished, but her boyfriend, another young teacher, remained.  This was a public school, she was a Southern Baptist, and the teacher who was the father of her baby was a Catholic, a recent graduate of a Jesuit university in a nearby city. But this was the 60s and even though this was a public school, she was forced to leave (I don't know if it was her own decision or if the school fired her), while he was free to continue his life as always. When the girlfriend of the high school's hero quarterback got pregnant, her father quit his job, the family sold their house, and they moved hundreds of miles away because of the condemnation and judgment they faced for their daughter's "immorality".  The boyfriend continued to be cheered at Friday night games and was honored at the sports banquet.

It's still Hester who pays the price while Dimmesdale gets off.  

....plus c'est le même chose.

What does "pro-life" actually mean to Catholics who would fire a single pregnant woman?

Are they going to continue to pay her?  Will her health care benefit continue to be susidized?  I really would like to know the answers to these questions, because it is important knowing how to "judge" the decision of the Judges in this case.

What a "teaching moment"!  What will the young students remember down the road in 4-6 years? Will some be frightened away from pre-marital sex because of what happened to their teacher? Probably some will, especially while still in high school. But, govt data indicates that at least 95% will become sexually active within about 2 years after high school. Perhaps, remembering this teacher, most will use reliable birth control.  

But what of those some who do slip up and get pregnant? Will any young woman who finds herself pregnant and single, remembering what happened to her teacher when she was in middle school,  decide that she may have little choice but to keep quiet and have an abortion?  Will she think that an abortion is the only option because she would not then have to face judgment and condemnation within her Catholic community, risk becoming an outcast, and perhaps also have to deal with derailing her education, her job, her life. Will she  be be able to support herself or will she be looking at a lifetime of poverty for herself and her child?

So, one lesson may have been learned by the students in the school and community  - if you're going to have sex while single, make sure you are using reliable birth control every single time!  And if you get pregnant while single, don't expect any compassion, support or help from the Catholic community - there is a better chance that these will be found in the secular world instead.

What other lessons are being internalized?  In a few more years, even the 6th graders will be out of high school.  How many will become "nones'?  Studies of the skyrocketing numbers of "nones" and "spiritual but not religious"  have discovered that while most do believe in God, and in "morality", they refuse to have anything to do with what they see as the institutionalized hypocrisy of organized religion.  How many future "nones" have been created by this decision?  Young people's understanding of 'morality" has less to do with sexual behavior than with how one treats other human beings.  These students will always remember how the Catholic authorities treated this young woman.

A Christ-like response would have been to find a way to preserve the woman's livelihood, ensure her health and welfare as well as that of her coming child, and model true compassion. A couple of people suggested that she begin maternity leave now, with full pay and benefits.  A good idea.  And maybe the school could also throw her a shower.

 

Abe: ... and pregant women! See picture number 10 on http://www.who2.com/blog/2013/07/pope-francis-on-gay-people-who-am-i-to-judge

 

Anne C, good response except for this little onesided view. "Do any of the men watch or buy porn?" In this era I think it fair to ask Do any of the men or women watch or buy porn? 

I have another question for this group? Do you think the same complaint would have occurred if the person had been the school secretary or custodian? Hmmmm.....I doubt it. 

Hypocrisy abounds. The land of the 'nones' looks awfully inviting.

John B, you are right - I stand corrected. From what I have read in the press, about 30% of those who use  porn are women.

As far as becoming a "none" or SBNR goes, why would anyone be surprised that this is becoming the spirituality of choice for so many, especially for the young who have grown up with no escape from the assaults of the culture wars"?  I am a woman in my 60s and I'm so turned off by the culture wars, especially those within the Catholic church and also outside of it, promulgated mostly by the bishops , that I can barely stay "churched".  I finally sought a (perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent) haven in the Episcopal church because I could no longer live with my conscience in supporting the Catholic church in so many things, but especially because of this - it is a church whose top leadership has STILL refused to hold a single bishop accountable for enabling the sexual abuse of young people. It is a church whose top leadership STILL permits Bishop Finn to retain his position, and still has failed to honor the request of the Dominican Republic to extradite the Papal Nuncio to face charges there of procuring boys for sex - hiding behind the Vatican's "diplomatic immunity".  

But, there is no outrage about this among Catholics in everyday life it seems, nor among those in postitions of "leadership".  Instead, they fire teachers who are pregnant while single, who marry their gay partners, who dare express an opinion not in conformity with the "magisterium" such as the notion that women are fully made in God's image and to deny them a sacrament because of gender is a sin.  Daring to speak out about this and similar matters means risking one's job. But if you are a bishop and you hid the crimes of your priests by transferring them from parish to parish and school to school, it's just fine.  The job is secure for bishops UNLESS they too dare suggest that women should have access to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Then they may be gone - just ask Bishop Morris of Australia.

But I'm getting off subject - except that all of these situations - firing the teacher, firing the Bishop in Australia, and failing to hold accountable bishops who facilitated sexual abuse -  have one thing in common - they are unchristian examples of sheer hypocrisy.

it really is too bad that teachers in Catholic schools in the U.S. have not organized themselves into a National Catholic Teachers' Union. Then maybe Superintendent's would think twice about  taking such action. 

And Wayne Sheridan, as most here understand firing was NOT the ONLY option. It is only in the mind of those who see the world in black and white terms. 

Anne, we are birds of a feather, or should I say Catholic birds of a feather! 

I agree with clare free.  Why not be pro-life?  Show support for this teacher by keeping her in her current poistion and send the students a message.  Not only would the young women and men hear that staetment, but they would have a very real example of difficulties of pregnancy and of single household parenting.  The younger students may also get to experience some of the joy one receives by caring for infants and toddlers with mother and child close by.

Jim Pauwels wrote, quoting me, [The ideal of the church's moral code] doesn't work for....

 

Jim, I'm sorry I wasn't clear and you misunderstood what I wrote, but the bit you added in brackets isn't what I was referring to. 

 

What I was trying to get across is that saying that confession is always available doesn't work for people who are in situations that they feel unable to change.

 

My sense of Francis statement was that we should accompany those people on their way and welcome them rather than pushing them away.

 

i can see from your post that you are doing that accompanying, 

 

i do worry about the attitude that we should set very high goals that we know you will often not be able to meet - and will commit you to Hell when you do - but it's OK because you can always go to confession. 

 

That's what I was trying to say doesn't work for everyone

 

That's why I said "Maybe we need to think a bit about what is [objectively] a mortal sin versus a venial sin and be clearer about subjective sin versus objective sin."

 

 

 

 

 

 

"it is a church whose top leadership has STILL refused to hold a single bishop accountable for enabling the sexual abuse of young people. It is a church whose top leadership STILL permits Bishop Finn to retain his position,"

The bishop should retain his position, the teacher should not.

Complexity . . .

I have another question for this group? Do you think the same complaint would have occurred if the person had been the school secretary or custodian? Hmmmm.....I doubt it. 

 

Fontbonne Academy (Catholic girls school), in Boston, has had a discrimination complaint filed against it because they hired a new food services manager after several interviews, and then fired him (or "withdrew the job offer") two days later, when he listed his husband as his emergency contact. 

“She said the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, and that was her excuse. She said, ‘We cannot hire you,’ ” Barrett said in an interview in the Boston offices of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which is representing him.

 

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/01/29/dorchester-man-files-discrim...

Ann O said  "Complexity . . ."

You did mean hypocrisy, didn't you?  Or clerical privilige, or "good old boy network" self-protection, or any number of other terms.

We don't need Aquinas when we have the gospels. Let those without sin fill out the pink slip.

Jim McCrea: speaking of hypocrisy, what I wouldn't give to be the teacher's attorney if she sues and the bishop can be forced to give a deposition:  

Q.  Bishop X, is it your position that a teacher in a Catholic school functions as a minister of the church?

A.  It is.  (Isn't that how he'd answer?)

Q.  Then, Bishop X, if a woman is fit to be a minister of the church by virtue of holding the position of schoolteacher, why is she not fit to be a minister by ordination? 

My parish church runs a home for unwed mothers.  It was an extraordinary challenge to see them to self-sufficiency -- the maximum period in the house was supposed to be 21 months.  It was almost always extended because of overwhelming difficulty of finding a job that would accommodate housing and daycare costs.  Presumably, someone was expected to hire these women -- during or after their pregnancies.  

I don't have so much zeal to get to heaven that I would be willing to trample other sinners underneath my feet.  If the issue here is being pregnant in front of a class, then provide her with paid leave, or put her in a non-teaching administrative post until she is ready to come back. But if firing her is considered to be not just appropriate but the MOST appropriate or even NECESSARY step, then we might as well disband all that unwed mother outreach because it's just a lie about what we truly value, and we aren't worthy witnesses. 

John Borst - in the US, bishops do not support catholic teachers in a union in most dioceses.  Bishops have taken teachers to the courts to stop unionizing and have won given the precedents such as Hosanna Tabor.

Another reason why court decisions such as Hosanna Tabor ignore human dignity and the rights of workers whether they teach religion or not; are ministers or not.  The bishops want it both ways - they proclaim pro-life but then deny that unions have any part to play in comprehensive pro-life campaigns.

It really is insidious.

Jim McC. --

I just meant to contrast the Church's official positions -- which are 1) he should not be fired, but 2) [ironically] she should.  In other words, although both have done wrong, the official positions are that the bishop should not being held responsible while the lay person should. 

I didn't mean that she should lose her job but the bishop shouldn't.  I think exactly the opposite.  And, yes, there are many (complex) reasons why the bishop is getting away with his misbehavior.

And, yes, there are many (complex) reasons why the bishop is getting away with his misbehavior.

A few complex reasons why a bishop skates:

  1. He's a powerful male in an organization run entirely by and largely for powerful males. (Compare the US Gum Mint, in which no one above the rank of sergeant has been brought to account for years of torture.)
  2. It's easier to shuffle papers, whisper instructions, and move Father Predator from Sacred Heart to St. Lucy's than it is to conceal a pregnancy.
  3. As a "successor to the Apostles," he has an aura of wisdom and holiness attached to him, however little it may have been earned. Cf. "The Most Reverend...," "Your Excellency...," and the canonization-in-life of "Your Holiness."
  4. And the complexest of 'em all: Let's not ruin a man's reputation and cause a scandal over a little "horseplay."

With complexity like that, who needs simplicity?

Bill deHass, thanks for inspiring me to look up the Hosanna Tabor case. I have stopped following education issues over the past year until this topic came forward.

All I can say is "Oh my god!  Since it was unanimous, my only conclusion is your constitution is flawed and needs to be revised. It doesn't recognize the large volume of employment law which has occurred since the constitution was written, when it comes to denominational employers. 

Why would anyone work for Church based organization (hospital, dioceses, school etc.), especially a teacher. They have no rights what so ever. They not only can be fired for behavior not in accord with Church doctrine or incompetence but simply at the whim of their superior because the state employment laws can't intervene.

That is appalling. Anyone of faith working for a faith based institution are all second class citizens; they are vassals of their faith. 

But aren't most employees "at will" employees? That is, if they have no contract with the employer, they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, except that they cannot be fired for being a member of a group protected by anti-discrimination laws. So if a school employee did not have a contract which the school alleges the employee violated, the school would not have to offer the "pregnant in violation of Church teachings and values" reason. It could just say, "Poof! You're fired!" It's a close call, but I think I might prefer to be fired for a bad reason than for no reason.

John Prior, there is a federal law against firing a person simply because she is pregnant:

http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/pregnancy.cfm

the question is whether Hosanna-Tabor will override that.

but those are all legal issues.

the real issue is should the school fire her even if they can

John Hayes - thanks for that reply to my most recent comment.  I'm sorry I misunderstood your comment to which I replied.

 

John Hayes develops this line of thought further:

There was a case in Ohio last year in which a catholic school fired a teacher (religion teacher) based upon a morals clause because she was pregnant.

Her defense tawyer argued that she has a constitutional right to get pregnant and thus firing her for that *right* was unconstitutional.  The catholic school lost and paid her damages to the tune of a quarter million dollars.

Legal folks are waging that this will be ths same avenue that this teacher can use in Butte, Montana.

It seems to me that there is a difference between the child's right to life and a mother's right to remain pregnant -- there are two different rights involved though they're closely related.

It also seems to me that one does not have a right to get pregnant in the first place if one has no means of supporting a child.  Having a child one cannot support unfairly makes others do what the parents out to be doing.  And that is part of why the government has an interest in such matters.

True, once a child is conceived it's a different moral ball game, and  the child's right to life is more important than the parents' prior irresponsibility, so unlike what happens in China, there should not be an abortion.

So I think this is my last comment here for a long time, because it just drives me too crazy.  Ann and others, your discussion makes it seem as if the pregnant female is the ball in a game of ping pong -- getting batted back and forth while you consider the various properties that make it an interesting exercise.  Why should she care what any of us thinks?  If the Catholic Church wants to draw a line in the sand that makes the continuation of every pregnancy under whatever baleful circumstances it was  conceived a nonnegotiable moral imperative then it has to come up with a "third way" to treat unmarried pregnant women -- neither saints nor pariahs -- and if it can't, it will have lost any moral authority on the subject.  Sure, it seems easy to start some outreach for unmarried women who aren't part of your community, but the real challenge is how you treat the members of your own family.  A church school that washes its hands of such a woman hiding variously behind a contract and setting an example of how to get to heaven just lost its moral grounding, lock stock and barrel.   Its words on this subject are henceforth, as the good man said, no more than clanging cymbals and all the PR tricks in the book won't change that. 

Ann, I have no idea how what you said applies to the situation in Montana. More than that, though, I'm not sure that I even have any idea what you're saying at all: do you think fertility should be policed? Because if you don't, then it's pointless to talk about who does and doesn't "have a right to get pregnant in the first place." The implications of that line of thinking are terrifying.

Why would anyone work for Church based organization (hospital, dioceses, school etc.), especially a teacher.

Not to be snarky, but now that corporations are persons -- soon to have their religious rights affirmed by the Little Sisters of the Poor and/or Hobby Lobby -- why would anyone work for anyone in the United States of America? And the justices of the Roberts court are still young and just getting started.

To paraphrase the great Justice Taney, ther American has no rights which employers are obliged to recognize.

Barbara - bravo!!!

 Especially for this ".....but the real challenge is how you treat the members of your own family.  A church school that washes its hands of such a woman hiding variously behind a contract and setting an example of how to get to heaven just lost its moral grounding, lock stock and barrel.   Its words on this subject are henceforth, as the good man said, no more than clanging cymbals and all the PR tricks in the book won't change that. 

Too many in the Catholic church treat too many real life challenges as though they are simply theological/philosophic academic head games. It's the one of the biggest problems afflicting the church and it too often causes harm to many, both directly and indirectly. 

I think Pope Francis got it right at his morning Mass on 25th May 2013 at   http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/cotidie/2013/en/papa-frances...

The report stated:

"The Pope gave another example. A single mother goes to the parish to ask for Baptism for her child and hears “a Christian” say: “no, you can't have it, you’re not married”. “Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term” and not to have an abortion. “What does she find? A closed door”, as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path... we are not doing good to people, the People of God”. Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office”.

Finally Pope Francis explained that Jesus wants everyone to be close to him. “Let us think of all Christians of good will who err and shut the door instead of opening it”. Let us ask the Lord to grant that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus' love”."

 

In Montana they would appear to have thrown the unfortunate lady out of the door and slammed it hard shut behind her and then locked and bolted it for good measure

"

"

Ann Oliver:  I would agree that a person should not intentionally bring a child into a bad situation -for example, a woman married to a violent man who abuses the children they already have should not voluntarily start another pregnancy.   Andrea Yates, who knew that after each birth she went into a psychotic state in which she was tempted to kill her children, should not have intentionally gotten pregnant again.  (When I say "should" I'm speaking morally, not legally- I would never trust the government with that kind of power.)

But poverty is an entirely different matter!  According to Catholic social teaching it is not unjust- it is a priviledge to have enough money to pay the taxes that support programs that assist the less fortunate.  It's a priviledge to donate to charity to assist the poor.  If we have more than we need- and most Americans do- it's a serious sin to keep it all for ourselves.

Also, another enthusiastic "Bravo!" for Barbara's posts.

Anne C. --

 

Yes, if a girl or woman gets pregnant we ought to offer her kindly support, but out of charity, not out of justice.  This discussion reminds me of an old TV show (I forget the name) about an admirable black single mother who was raising several children without a father at great sacrifice to herself.  Her daughter gets pregnant out-of-wedlock.  What is her initial reaction?  Fury.  Was that so unfair?  Sure she forgives the daughter, but was the daughter fair to her own child?

 

Having a right does not imply that it's always just to exercise that right.  I have a right to drive my car, but not into my neighbor's garage, nor, more obviously, not fast in a school zone. 

 

In sum, it is unfair to injure others just for the sake of our own fun and games.

 

Ann O. -- I doubt if these parents are worried about whether this pregnancy arose as a "right" or whether they should react with charity or with justice.  What they worry about is that she is setting an example they don't want their kids to follow.  I get that.  My daughter's kindergarten teacher was single and pregnant during the school year and I felt that ambivalence -- because it was a public school there was no "discussion" at all about what to do and I would not have had it any differently.  But I can hear the thought process: "It's hard enough to raise a kid even when teachers and parents are on the right track, why does she have to make my job as a parent harder by espousing a lifestyle I really don't want my kids to follow?  Why should I have to put up with that?"  Well, for one thing, if it isn't the teacher it will be some other adult she knows and likes.  It's no longer an oddity, as it was when my aunt gave birth as a single woman more than 60 years ago (and was treated very well by her own family, by the way).

And this is the irony of the pro-life stance.  Maybe 40 years ago when it started hardening into its current form it was lost on people that the result would be a real rise in the number of single mothers choosing to bear and raise children.  But there you have it and it's no longer good enough to huff and puff about how women don't have "the right" to get pregnant.  From the perspective of the Catholic Church, it doesn't matter whether she is pregnant by right or otherwise, only that she is pregnant.  The social fallout that has resulted is attributable in no small part to that ethos, which can be summed up as "anything is better than abortion."  So this teacher is one manifestation of that "anything" and it's no small task to respond ethically.  Firing her just should not even be on the table. 

This situation would present a "teachable moment" for parents. The greatest lesson children can be taught is compassion.

As a traditional Catholic who lives in this world alongside people of all stripes, I don't find it necessary to retreat from the world to raise a family. The example my wife and I give to our kids will pay off in the future when the effects of the broken families and fatherless homes are more acutely felt, compared to the love, security and trust my kids have received from their mother and me. The world is not better off today than it was half a century ago. Pope Paul VI was prophetic when he spoke against the evil of sex, divorced from procreation.

The hoped for question to the Bishop would no doubt be answered in the negative. So much for that weak scenario.

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