Butte Central teacher Shaela Evenson says she is planning on suing the Montana Catholic middle school that fired her for getting pregnant without the benefit of a husband. Whatever it is she is thinking (and whatever it is her lawyer is encouraging to keep thinking), it’s unethical, and I doubt the law will have much sympathy with it either.
- She signed a contract promising “to respect the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church in both her professional and personal life”—a bit broad for my tastes, but this episode was pretty obviously exactly the kind of thing such a clause was designed to forbid, and nobody forced her to agree to it.
As Patrick Haggarty, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, said, Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract.” It’s hard to argue that getting pregnant before marriage isn’t a willful decision, if she wasn’t raped.
Haggarty also notes, “The Catholic moral teaching is that the sacrament of marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman.” That sounds about right.
- Is a Catholic school obligated to allow a teacher, as a role model, authority figure and exemplar, stand in front of impressionable student advertising the glories of unwed motherhood? It is obligated NOT to allow it. If I were a parent of one of her middle school students—exactly the age where such a message would be most persuasive and dangerous—I’d pull my kid out of class.
Are people really going to be foolish about this? I read about the story initially on Fark, which gave it the site’s “FAIL” tag, and snarked (all Fark does is snark, often hilariously) “Unmarried Catholic school teacher fired after she becomes pregnant. Wait, didn’t an unwed single mother feature rather prominently in the ‘”origin story” of this religion??” Heh, funny. Well, they can’t all be gems. Unfortunately, I forsee some women’s advocacy groups, teachers and “Hey, what’s the matter with unwed motherhood?’ groups taking that line seriously.
Teachers must not model irresponsible and destructive behavior for their students, and school administrators must step in when they do. Getting pregnant as a single women is officially wrongful conduct in the Catholic church, and thus a Catholic school. If Shaela Evenson wanted to emulate all the rich Hollywood stars and be a baby mama to her main squeeze without the benefit or security of marriage, she should have scratched “Catholic school teacher” off her possible career choices. I don’t think this is even a close call.
Two final observations that may be a bit more contentious:
- I think the same principle should apply to any secondary or primary school teacher, Catholic or not.
- If Evenson’s pregnancy were the result of a rape, the Catholic school would be ethically obligated to let her continue teaching. To do otherwise would encourage abortion, the wrongfulness of which is also a moral tenet of the Church.