The Personalist Project

Comments (10)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Feb 15, 2014 9:19am

A few thoughts to get the conversation going.

1. I don't think it's right to say that she was fired for was pregnancy. She was fired for her failure to live by the moral teaching of the Church.

2. There's an important difference, in terms of responsibility to uphold and honor a school's values, between students and teachers.  

3. The parents who pay to send their children to a Catholic school have a right to expect that its teachers are believing Catholics leading morally and religiously committed lives.

4. There is no objective incompatibility between upholding moral standards and showing compassion and charity. (Perhaps, for instance, the associated parish are supporting her in other ways, like helping her find a new job.)

5. We don't know enough about the case to determine whether or not it was prudential.  (For instance, did she express remorse or defiance? Was she pregnant because she had a weak moment, or because she's living with her boyfriend?)

I'm very glad she's not aborting her baby. But, if she thinks the Catholic Church's moral teaching isn't binding, I wouldn't want her teaching my children.

But it's a sad situation.

Rhett Segall

#2, Feb 15, 2014 10:04am


Your distinctions are clarifying and make sense.

I suppose that not firing her for fear that the threat of firing might lead to abortion is a kind of blackmail.

I can't help but think of Hester Prynne in this situation!


Jules van Schaijik

#3, Feb 16, 2014 5:04pm

I agree that Katie's distinctions are helpful.  But my gut response to the case (knowing nothing besides what you wrote) is more like yours, Rhett.

All of us fall short of the moral teachings of the Church.  Some more obviously so than others.  Unless the teacher in question makes it clear that she thinks she did nothing wrong, I don't see why she should be fired.  There are plenty of women like her whose witness is enlightening and inspiring.

But obviously, in a case like this all depends on the particulars.

Matt D

#4, Feb 23, 2014 11:37am

The teacher broke the conditions of her employment. Her employment contract included a "morality clause". I won't get into the definition of morality but will say the teacher should have had an understanding of catholic moral teaching.  Teachers, as well as others, are held to a higher standard. I wonder if my parents would have sent me to Catholic school if one of the Nuns there had a bun in the oven??  The students, on the otherhand, are not held to the same standards as a teacher. Students are not paid employees subject to employment conditions.

Katie van Schaijik

#5, Feb 23, 2014 2:48pm

Matt, would you agree with Jules that it matters whether the teacher in question is penitent or not?

I mean, don't all of us fall short of the demands of the teachings of the Church?

Matt D

#6, Feb 23, 2014 4:16pm

Katie, I would agree with Jules in that we know nothing about this case. Rhett's post has at least three issues: 1) The termination of a pregnant, un-wed teacher. 2) The prudence of the firing. 3) The comparison of similar situations with regards to the pregnant un-wed students. Based on what we know, it is prudent to fire employees that breach their working conditions. It is easy to go off on a rant about "what if's...". What if she was a Nun?. What if the father was another teacher? Would he be disiplined? What if she was married... but to another woman? It's legal these days but is it morally acceptable? What if she was penitent? Yes, we all fall short. I do not judge her as a person. All persons have worth, including the unborn child. But as an employee in a catholic school, she is unfit to be a teacher.

Jules van Schaijik

#7, Feb 25, 2014 12:27am

So we agree then, Matt, that we do not know enough about the situation in question. Still, there is an important difference between us.  Whereas you think that, based on what we know, it is prudent to fire the pregnant teacher, I think that absent any further information there is no reason to fire her.  Our presumptive judgment should be to let her stay.

Pregnancy is not a sin.  No one should be fired for it, least of all by a Catholic institution.  Having sinned in the past—i.e., having failed to live up to the moral standards you uphold and want to live by—is also no reason for being fired. Why then, should the pregnant teacher be fired?

The likely answer is that her situation gives scandal.  But in todays circumstances I can't agree that it does.  On the contrary, I think the school's action is much more likely to give scandal.  The firing may well be justified by the particulars of the case, but based only on what we know it looks hard-hearted and pharisaical.

Matt D

#8, Feb 25, 2014 10:15am

Jules, Based on what we know the teacher is unfit for two reasons. 1) She broke the Morality Clause.2) She hid her pregnancy. Rhett tells us this became a displinary issue when she began to"show". In loco perentis gives all schools the right to decide what is in the best interest of the students. I understand this right is not absolute. If this was a public school I would say she is fit to teach in a public school. If this was a large Catholic University I would lean more to letting her teach. University students are adults. The pregnancy is not a sin. The administration must decide what is in the BEST interest of the student. In a regular, average Catholic school it would not be in the best interest of the students to have a unwed pregnant teacher as a role model.

Rhett Segall

#9, Feb 25, 2014 12:38pm

I feel like I'm in the presence of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas! When one speaks I say "Of course." Then another speaks and I say "Of course." But then I realize I've been "of coursing" to opposite things!

A clarification: I did say she was let go when her pregnancy "becomes evident." Actually, it was an anonymous letter to the principal that brought the situation to light. Here again is the link.

Matt's point about the students being in high school is relevant in this way: In the proper context the students should be instructed as to the Christian Morality connected with the situation. It can be a very teachable moment.

Unless the teacher was presenting non-marital sex as acceptable I do not think that justice calls for her firing.

By the way, I have worked with my high school students on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. They are capable of handling such issues if dealt with in both a factual and reverential manner.

We all seem to be freer and at peace because of it.



Matt D

#10, Feb 25, 2014 5:07pm

Thanks Rhett, After this we can move on to something easy like defining the Trinity. I read the news story...

"A Montana Catholic school gave a mom-to-be the boot after learning she was pregnant out of wedlock. Shaela Evenson must find another way to pay the bills after Butte Central Catholic Schools, where she’s worked for the past nine years, kicked her to the curb for defying church doctrine...." 

The language bias tells the real story. This situation has many perspectives: the teacher, the administration, the students, the parents...the general public. I was please with the news stories public comments. Most agree with upholding the morality clause. Still, it's a sad situation for all except those that will use this cause celeb for another attack on the church. 


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