The reason I want to say anything further at all is that I think that something has gotten lost in all the shouting, which is this: I think we're arguing about two entirely different things.
If you were to frame what we're arguing about in debate-style terms, Zippy's terms would probably go something like this (and he's welcome to correct me if I'm wrong): A Catholic school has the right to require lay teachers to live up to Catholic teaching and has the right to fire them for failing to do so; further, the school exercises this right at their discretion such that no scandal whatsoever is created by allowing married contraceptors (for example) to work openly at the school but by immediately firing any and all unwed pregnant employees. It is, in fact, morally laudable for a Catholic school to fire an unwed pregnant teacher for the sin of fornication and the fact of visible pregnancy, and the fact that she loses her ability to support her children, her health insurance in the middle of her pregnancy, etc. is her own damned (literally) fault.
But my argument all along has been about this: A Catholic school is not acting in the wisest, kindest, most merciful, or most loving way when they fire an unwed pregnant teacher and cut her off of her health insurance for the sin of fornication as revealed by visible pregnancy. While they may have the right to do so (and as far as the secular legal right--well, that's what the lawsuit is about, and given the conflict between laws forbidding firing a woman because she is pregnant and laws permitting a ministerial exemption to some civil employment laws in regard to some religious employees, I doubt whether any non-lawyers have really valuable opinions to offer!), that does not make it the right thing to do.
I realize that some people will object here that whatever we have the moral right to do is by definition the right thing to do, but that's not really true. Joseph, as some people have pointed out in the conversation so far, had the moral right to expose Mary to the law (as the Bible puts it) which in fact would mean handing her over as an adulteress to be stoned. But the Bible also tells us that Joseph, an upright man, was unwilling to do this. Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly. This would quite likely have made him look rather bad, because to divorce her while saying nothing about the child would lead some people to believe that Joseph had simply gotten cold feet about the whole marriage/child thing, and had decided to shirk any responsibility for a child that would be presumed to be his (because if the child weren't his, he would have exposed her to the law, right?--at least, that's what all the virtuous people would say). But Joseph was apparently willing to put up with wagging tongues and a loss of reputation rather than hand Mary over to the law, an abundance of mercy which was probably as rare in their times as it is in ours. When the angel made all clear to this dear saint, he welcomed the Blessed Mother into his home without delay, and probably with a mixture of joy and fear at the great role God was calling him to play.
Or, to consider a modern totally fictional hypothetical situation, suppose that I am shopping in a local big-box grocery 'n everything store, and I set my purse on the floor for a moment to try on a sweater, and a thief runs off with my purse. I raise the hue and cry, the thief is immediately caught, I get my purse back intact, and the thief goes off to the police station--but then I get a call, and I go there, and I find out that if I press theft charges against this man it will trigger one of those "three strikes" laws and he'll go to jail for at least five years. He's been trying to get his life back together. He hasn't been arrested in a decade. He's married, and his wife just gave birth to twins--and he was laid off from his job a week after they were born. Desperation and the temptation of old habits led him to grab my unguarded bag.
Now, in this totally hypothetical situation, we can take for granted that I don't know for sure that the thief is really repentant. I don't know if getting off without consequences (or maybe a plea of disorderly conduct and a fine, or something) is really going to help him reform. I do know that taking him, his potential future income and insurance, etc. away from his wife and their two infants is going to hurt the innocent--but that's not my fault; it's his. I have the moral right to insist that he be charged with theft. But is that the wisest, kindest, most merciful, most loving thing to do to this little group of neighbors I never knew?
Getting back to the actual case, Zippy has been making (from what I can decipher) a sort of circular argument: the unwed teacher has proved she wasn't worthy of any mercy by suing the school for not offering her any mercy. But I can't help but wonder if the lawsuit itself would ever have happened if the school and the parish and the pastor and anybody else in a situation to help would have done something besides kick her out and wash their hands of her? She asked to be allowed to take a non-classroom position: was there really not one such job in the whole of Ascension School or Ascension Parish (let alone the Archdiocese of Cincinnati) that she could do? Is there not a single parishioner at Ascension Parish who owns and operates a business who could have offered her a job? Did anybody suggest a fundraiser to help her pay her medical bills (and the cost for hospital delivery of twins for someone without health insurance will range from $10,000 to about $18,000--and that's for a delivery with no complications and a quick release; add an additional $2,000 for uninsured prenatal care)? Did anybody--her former colleagues at the school, the parishioners at Ascension, anybody--throw a baby shower to provide some diapers and baby supplies, at the very least? Maybe all of that and more was done for her, at which point the lawsuit does, indeed, become a head-scratcher, but somehow I think that when this woman implies that she was pretty much abandoned by Ascension School and parish, she means it.
Is the unwed fornicator--to us a term that keeps cropping up on Zippy's blog--not my neighbor? Does her sin of fornication absolve me of any duty whatsoever, even the common duties of offering mercy, love, dignity and respect I owe to my brothers and sisters? Are her innocent children justly treated as invisible and unworthy as the right and just consequence of their mother's (and their father's--let us not forget their father's) sin?
The Golden Rule compels me to say that as I would wish to be treated with great love and mercy in a crisis pregnancy situation, so ought I to treat anybody else in that situation, and the rest is just a matter of detail. If Zippy and his commenters can say with full honesty and truthfulness that they sincerely hope that they would be summarily fired if they were caught committing a grave sin of any kind, regardless of the impact their loss of income would have on their dependents, then they are in the clear to insist that this is how this Catholic school should treat unwed mothers. If I said any such thing myself, though, I would be lying, because I always hope for mercy beyond my deserts, and try my best to offer it to others. When I fail it's because I'm a sinner who fails to live up to her principles, not because attempting to offer mercy to my neighbor is ever, in my way of looking at things, the wrong choice for a sincere follower of Christ.
UPDATE: A reader who is also a family member of mine has sent this link to an article about this case in the Dayton Daily News. If the newspaper quotes the archdiocesan spokesman correctly, he is saying that Kathleen Quinlan's out-of-wedlock pregnancy (note: not her sin of fornication) was the problem here:
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Thursday it’s “very unfortunate” a pregnant, unwed first-grade teacher at Kettering’s Ascension School lost her job and medical benefits when church officials fired her. But Dan Andriacco said the archdiocese did the right thing because Kathleen Quinlan’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy would set “a horrible example to the children.”
Read the rest here.
I notice in the article that the lawsuit is claimed to be because, according to Miss Quinlan's lawyer, the school takes no steps to make sure that male employees aren't fornicating, which makes the situation run afoul of federal pregnancy discrimination laws. Zippy and others have characterized this as Miss Quinlan herself claiming that she should get away with sin because others do, but I see this as simply pointing out that federal laws against pregnancy discrimination make it illegal to fire pregnant women for the fact of their pregnancy, and federal laws are not the same thing as moral policies enacted by the Church. If it is somehow against Church teaching for Catholics to request legal clarification about whether or not federal anti-discrimination laws apply to lay employees in a Church school which employs both Catholics and non-Catholics, this is the first I've ever heard of it.
UPDATE 2: I've closed comments on this post. Since I posted it yesterday, Zippy has posted no less than three posts attempting to tear this post and some of my comments to shreds; my continued "intransigence" on the subject apparently annoys him. How he can call it "intransigence" is beyond me since we're not arguing about moral principles but about the practical application of things like "love" and "mercy;" we disagree about that, and I respect that Zippy himself and some of his and my commenters (Scott W.) prefer the love and mercy of being fired for a mortal sin and would wish for that for themselves and for their loved ones as the only sort of love and mercy, but I fail to see how that specific practical application of "love" and "mercy" is the only kind available for Catholics to offer each other in all circumstances.
More to the point, I'm tired of being called a man-hater and an evil feminist for thinking that it's sort of a nice idea to treat pregnant women kindly regardless of their marital status, so I'm done with this discussion. Of course, the fact that I'm retreating from the lists means that his cadre of yes-men and women can now claim victory, which I fully expect they will do. Silly, really, because arguing about what love and mercy means isn't really the sort of thing about which one claims victory; all I know is that I prefer the kind of love and mercy I've talked about, and wish those who can only imagine or appreciate a sterner, harsher, colder sort of love nothing but the best of what they wish for.