Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Avoiding a new scarlet letter

I'm a bit under the weather today, so this will be brief: a diocese in Montana has fired an unwed pregnant teacher from a Catholic school:
BUTTE - The Diocese of Helena is defending its decision to fire an unwed Butte Central teacher because she is pregnant.

Shaela Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,” which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life, Superintendent Patrick Haggarty said Tuesday. “It’s a sensitive issue, and it’s unfortunate all around.”

This morning, Haggarty defended the decision in a new interview with The Montana Standard.

"It’s not easy being a Christian or a Catholic in today’s world," Haggarty said. "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."

I think that my opinions on this topic are already known.  But here's my basic problem with this: yes, engaging in premarital sex is a violation of a Catholic school teacher's contract, and if Shaela Evenson is living with her boyfriend or otherwise committed to a lifestyle of grave sin, then the school likely has no choice here.

However, we MUST stop acting like it is the pregnancy that is the sin.  The way these cases have played out, nobody in any Catholic school district seems to care at all if their teachers are fornicating regularly, committing adultery, using contraception, or even having abortions--but if an unmarried female teacher is pregnant and does not keep her pregnancy a secret by killing the child via abortion and quietly showing back up at work after her "sick day," she must be fired.

As I see it, justice, to be justice, has to be equitably applied.  How is it even possible to apply justice equitably when every unmarried male Catholic schoolteacher could be fornicating regularly without ever risking his job, while an unmarried female teacher could make an error of judgment and fornicate just once, end up pregnant, and be kicked to the curb for that error?

The risk, as I see it, is that pregnancy--not fornication, but pregnancy--is going to become a new "scarlet letter," with the letter P--pregnant--standing for "conduct unbecoming of a Catholic schoolteacher," and the choice not to kill an unborn child costing women in a crisis pregnancy their jobs in Catholic schools.

There's a different "P" I'd like to see Catholic schools stand for: Pro-life.  And sometimes being pro-life in our society means that we have to do, as Superintendent Haggerty said, "...things that right now are not popular with society..."  Like refusing to pit a mother against her unborn child as the cost of keeping her job, for instance. 


8 comments:

David Sharples said...

"However, we MUST stop acting like it is the pregnancy that is the sin. The way these cases have played out, nobody in any Catholic school district seems to care at all if their teachers are -- --but if an unmarried female teacher is pregnant -- -- she must be fired"

My thoughts exactly; I could not agree more. Forgive me for being cynical, but I wonder if this is all for show for the same sex marriage supporter’s crowd. These are very different things.

David Sharples said...

My thoughts exactly; I could not agree more. Forgive me for being cynical, but I wonder if this is all for show for the same sex marriage supporter’s crowd. These are very different things.

John Henry said...

Does that mean the principal will now be fired for violating Jesus' command to forgive seventy times seven times?

L. said...

You know, Erin, it's no surprise that I disagree with you much of the time. What's amazing is that the times I DO agree with you, I agree with you so strongly.

Shadowfax said...

It's not like this is new--women have always paid the heavier price for fornication and always will; the biology of it simply isn't "fair."

You can't prove that any of the single men working for the Catholic schools are fornicating. Pregnancy is public and proof of the sin.

I think it is completely unfair, too, but good luck changing it.

I do agree that it's going to be hard for Catholic schools to hold the line on firing gays once a same-sex relationship is made public yet allow the unwed pregnant woman keep her job. After all, the gays might be celibate and living practically as brothers or sisters for all we know (even lots of marriages are virtually sexless), but the pregnant woman fornicated, and there is no denying it.

Pregnancy proves the sin in a way no ceremony or legal contract ever can.

Red Cardigan said...

Just a quick note: I've been away from my computer, and apologize for the delay in approving comments.

Carry on!

Red Cardigan said...

Shadowfax, to be totally fair, pregnancy isn't proof of fornication either. I knew a girl in grade school whose mother was kicked out of her grandparents' home when her mother was pregnant with my friend: turned out the mother had secretly married (several months before the pregnancy, btw) the guy her parents didn't approve of (my friend's dad)--who turned out to be a terrific husband and father.

True, most apparently unmarried schoolteachers aren't secretly married. But what if one of them was date-raped, and didn't file charges knowing that date rape is hard to prove and that she was unlikely to succeed in proving the sex was non-consensual? If such a situation happens, and the teacher tells her Catholic school principal in confidence that she was raped by a boyfriend, will they still fire her? She's still unmarried and pregnant, after all..

It's a mess, isn't it?

eulogos said...

I want to see a case where it is a male teacher at the school who is the father-will they fire him too?
I want to see ONE case of this rule being applied against a man.

Now if this woman used some form of technology to get pregnant deliberately, whether a turkey baster or in vitro, then we have a different story.

Susan Peterson