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.