Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another look at the pregnant teacher story

I've continued to be a bit under the weather (which is code for: up all night again with this stupid winter crud cold thing), but since I missed Mary DeTurris Poust's piece on the Montana teacher, I wanted to share some of it here:
Either we’re pro-life or we’re not pro-life, and firing an unwed pregnant Catholic school teacher is not pro-life no matter how you slice it. I don’t care what her contract said. I don’t buy the notion that children will be scandalized. None of it washes. Let’s face facts. We are all sinners. Some of us, unfortunately, sin in ways that are much more public than others, and so we are called out while everyone else slides by with their private sins rolling merrily along.


Let’s look at one single aspect of this case: Okay, a single woman becomes pregnant, tells her superiors at her Catholic school that she plans to keep her baby, and is subsequently fired by “higher ups” in the Diocese of Helena after officials receive an anonymous letter, according to news reports. What do you think happens the next time a single Catholic school teacher finds herself pregnant with no husband? Yeah, abortion might be the obvious choice if she thinks she might lose her job otherwise. So much for that pro-life thing.

Read the rest here.

Every time this topic comes up, I find some of the most frustrating comments and perspectives coming from certain types of Catholic laymen, who think that unwed pregnancy is always solely the woman's fault and that she (and her child) should have to pay any price, including homelessness and lifelong poverty, for her grave sin of fornication--and meanwhile, it's just "biology" that her male partner in grave sin is totally off the hook after a good confession which does not have to include any promise on his part to help pay for the child's care or anything (because she can't even prove the kid is his until after the baby is born, and only then if she pays for a paternity test, so why should he worry when for all he knows she's a lying wanton who has been with dozens of men during their dating relationship?).  But, of course, these same men are quite vocally pro-life (though some of them have claimed at times that women's suffrage inevitably led to the legalization of abortion, and that if we want a truly just, pro-life society where no man is ever tricked by some evil temptress into impregnating her out of wedlock all we have to do is end women's voting rights--a pretty bizarre reach, if you ask me).

Mary DeTurris Poust isn't buying that kind of thing at all.  If we're really pro-life, she says, we'll stop firing unwed pregnant women for the sin of being unwed and pregnant.  I couldn't agree more.


21 comments:

Chris-2-4 said...

Well. It seems quite clear that our Bishops must address this by reaching out to Public School Superintendents across the country and finding ways to place these teachers in public schools. I agree that it is problematic to leave teachers in positions at the Catholic Schools once they've "married" their same-sex partner or other such incompatible behavior. But the church should also be moving Heaven and Earth (or at least a telephone) to work to find the teachers alternate positions.

Paul C. said...

"stop firing unwed pregnant women for the sin of being unwed and pregnant"

I notice that her school superintendent said that she: "made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract". The word 'willful' made me wonder exactly what the superintendent knew, as opposed to what he was able to say. A little searching on the web for what the newspaper stories have chosen to leave out (or refer to only very obliquely) suggests that it was not simply the fact that she was pregnant and unwed that led to her firing.

David Sharples said...

In comparison, I doubt a man would be fired for having sex with another man, one time, contracting AIDS.

Unfortunately an expectant mother who may have had a moment of weakness with a (unmanly) man who has deserted her, is a target to show some kind of weird solidarity with the firing for same sex marriage.

This may very well backfire.

David Sharples said...

I doubt that a man, who had sex with another man, one time, and contracted AIDS would be fired.

Unfortunately, an expectant mother, who had a moment of weakness and was deserted by the father, is fired, for some kind of weird solidarity with firing for same sex marriage.

This could very well backfire.

Shadowfax said...

You are preaching to the choir on this one, Erin.

I am no legal expert, but it seems to me that I have read elsewhere that Churches are legally in the clear enforcing morality clauses, but generally ONLY when those clauses are enforced across the board. Once they start making exceptions, they don't have a legal leg to stand on and are liable to lawsuit.

So if the Church doesn't fire an unwed mother for getting pregnant (barring proven rape, of course), but does fire a gay teacher who marries, they could get nailed financially.

Pure speculation, but that might play into some of the decision-making going on.

Most of the time, it's all about the money.

Legobelt said...

If the father also works for the same Catholic school, would it be okay to fire him because he's not at risk to have an abortion? What if some of the girls at the school who look up to this teacher end up pregnant out of wedlock as well? Does the school have any moral responsibility in that? If a student cheats on a test in a class he needs to graduate, would it be wrong to punish him because he might drop out and not finish high school instead of re-taking the class?

It just doesn't seem so cut-and-dried to me.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Paul's right... I googled at his suggestion, and this case is actually more like the one in Washington State than 'poor unwed mother screws up.'

eulogos said...

Deirdre, what did you find out? I could not find anything more of substance about this.
Susan P

Pat said...

What if the man who teaches in the classroom next to hers commits the sin of marrying his gay life partner and adopting a baby? Does the same standard apply? Or should he be fired while the unwed mother keeps her?

Deirdre Mundy said...

http://registry.thebump.com/shaela-evenson-marilyn-tobin-march-2014/7207339

is the baby registry for the fired teacher and her partner. More googling turns up more stuff. But... this was another 'teacher living with same sex partner' case, obviously...

Deirdre Mundy said...

Then, if you google her name with her partner's, you find that they used to coach volleyball together, until a sudden shakeup that led to both of them being fired. Before that, she was a college student and her partner was her coach.

It seems like this might be the big issue, not 'pregnant out of wedlock', but 'took deliberate steps to become pregnant, and is in a relationship that does not conform to the Church's moral teachings...

Red Cardigan said...

Deirdre, that's interesting. I'm not doubting what you turned up, but I wonder why the diocese didn't mention this if it's the case. To me, there is no comparison--none at all--between a natural pregnancy that results from sexual activity (even if that activity was itself immoral) and an unnatural pregnancy that results from IVF or a turkey baster full of a Craigslist donor's sperm or something.

Same-sex cases don't AT ALL bring about my same sympathy, because you can only acquire a child (via pregnancy or adoption) by going to great lengths to do so. There's no such thing as a crisis pregnancy for a same-sex person (bisexual, maybe, but that's a whole different can of worms).

While I see it as unjust for an unmarried woman to be fired for a *crisis* pregnancy, the same can't be said for a fully-intentional one, especially if immoral means to achieve the pregnancy were used. And that would apply to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals--that is, a heterosexual unmarried woman who used IVF to become pregnant would be fine to fire, in my opinion.

Why the distinction? Simple--as a prolife people we shouldn't punish women for crisis pregnancies. If the pregnancy wasn't a crisis pregnancy, then the woman can't complain about being punished for it.

Deirdre Mundy said...

It makes me think that the media is DELIBERATELY leaving this info out in order to attack the church as hypocritical...

I'm not sure why the school doesn't defend itself, though. Charity, or would Butte parents be skeeved out by the fact that she lives with a partner and is a gym teacher?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Erin--- more googling:
http://mtstandard.com/sports/college/tech-fires-tobin/article_7949c35e-2162-11e1-ab7c-0019bb2963f4.html

http://www.havredailynews.com/story/2000/01/07/testlocal-headlines/evenson-graduates-with-highest-honors-from-montana-tech/119657.html



Chris-2-4 said...

Deirdre's information definitely would seem to change the entire conversation. I wonder why this information hasn't "come out". And I wonder if Ms. Poust knows this new information and would like to comment on it.

Red Cardigan said...

Chris, I'm guessing Poust doesn't know. But here's the problem--and it's a problem for me, too:

We have a baby registry listing both women.

We have information that one was a student at a school where the other was coaching, and then that the student became an assistant coach under her former coach.

We do not, so far (and I'm still looking) have a news source which lists them as lesbian partners. And we don't have information as to how Evanson became pregnant (e.g., is she bisexual and in two different relationships? Did they use IVF or buy donor sperm from Craigslist? etc.).

More information is needed before anyone can put up a definitive post--because without that information you might be opening yourself to legal action. Even though it is *massively* unlikely, for instance, what if Tobin's relationship to Evanson is that of a substitute mother/mentor for a troubled student who makes bad choices in her relationships with men, or something?

Again: highly unlikely, but until the lesbian partnership is a matter of record it's hard to start this particular conversation. Which is why I wish the diocese had been more forthcoming--but Evanson's lawsuit may make those matters public, at which time it will be perfectly appropriate (and clearly legal) to comment on them.

Deirdre Mundy said...

If you google further, they do share an address.

Again, though, I am curious about why the principal (who did comment about the pregnancy being a deliberate act) hasn't brought this up. Unless they've known for a while, but are only taking action b/c someone made it into something they couldn't ignore? Based on the due date on the registry and the date of firing, they let things go for a looooooooooong time......

So... maybe it has more to do with the note, the note writer, and who recieved the note?

Chris-2-4 said...

Oh, I definitely agree that the information is foggy. But Ms. Poust's words were quite unequivocal.

"firing an unwed pregnant Catholic school teacher is not pro-life no matter how you slice it"

"but the bottom line is that there is no scenario where firing this woman is right."

"I keep trying to look at this from all sides, but I can’t see any side of this that makes firing the best answer."

Chris-2-4 said...

To finish my thought from the previous post. It shouldn't be "a problem" for her to say, "You know what? Maybe there is more to the story than I know".

You've done as much, I would think she could as well.


L. said...

"There's no such thing as a crisis pregnancy for a same-sex person..." ---> Rape? I don't know if it happened in this case, but it does happen.

Red Cardigan said...

L., thanks for catching that; I worded it so poorly. I meant that a same-sex couple will not experience a crisis pregnancy the way a heterosexual couple can, of course. But you're right; sexual orientation doesn't protect you from being raped, and pregnancy can result from that.