Another Pregnant Catholic School Teacher in Trouble

Yet another pregnant Catholic school teacher in the mid-West has been fired.   I’ve written about a couple of similar cases (noted at the end of the news article) in the past.   This one is a bit different because, as far as we can tell, there’s no ART angle.

Kathleen Quinlan was a first grade teacher in Cincinnati.  She was unmarried.   She became pregnant with twins.

Now the Archdiocese has a policy against non-marital sex.  This is clearly consistent with Church doctrine.  And since there’s no assertion that Quinlan used ART (which is itself contrary to Church teaching), it’s pretty clear that she violated that policy.   And on that basis they fired her.

In fact, it isn’t just that she violated the policy.  The problem is that it is obvious to everyone that she did so.  

Quinlan has sued the diocese in federal court asserting discrimination based on pregnancy and also sex discrimination.  I want to focus first on the sex discrimination claim.

It does seem quite possible that there are male teachers somewhere in the archdiocese who have also engaged in non-marital sex.   If there are and if they are not fired, then you can see why someone would call this sex discrimination.    Men and women engage in the same conduct, women get fired and men don’t–looks pretty simple?

But notice the archdiocese’s response:

archdiocesan officials recognize they employ and teach non-Catholics in their schools, but “that said, we are a Catholic institution, (and) we expect our teachers not to be in open violation of Catholic teachings. If we are aware of anyone violating Catholic teachings, we will enforce the contract, male or female.”

[Emphasis mine.]

It’s a bit reminiscent (to me, anyway) of don’t ask, don’t tell.  You can engage in non-marital sex as long as you are not in open violation, as long as the Archdiocese isn’t confronted with evidence.   That means, of course, if you get pregnant you’re in trouble.  Being pregnant is essentially flaunting your bad behavior when you think about it this way.

Perhaps the strongest way to argue it is not sex discrimination is to point to women who engage in non-marital sex aren’t necessarily fired.   Only some women (those who get pregnant) are fired.

Of course, this makes it look more like pregnancy discrimination.   Pregnant women who engage in non-marital sex are fired while others who engage in non-marital sex are not fired.  Still, the archdiocese will argue that that’s okay because pregnant women are in obvious violation in a way that no one else is–by virtue of being pregnant.

There seem to me to be so many ironies here.    The policy creates incentives to use birth control (against Church teaching), to engage in non-procreative sex (against Church teaching) and to seek abortion (against Church teaching.)    I am fairly confident I can anticipate what the archdiocese’s response would be:   It also encourages people not to engage in non-marital sex.   Perhaps I’m just less sanguine than the archdiocese about the possibility that all the unmarried teachers on its staff will agree to celibacy.

It seems to me that this case highlights one of those areas where men and women are genuinely different.  Women who engage in intercourse run a risk of becoming pregnant–and therefore being fired.  Men do not.   It’s not that I don’t see the point the archdiocese is offering–I do.   A pregnant teacher has quite obviously disregarded the policy.  The problem for me is that the equally responsible man can just quietly slide beneath the radar.

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12 responses to “Another Pregnant Catholic School Teacher in Trouble

  1. They are an employer subject to Federal Employment Guidelines. They don’t get to invoke special rights to treat people unfairly. If they want the ability to kick out single pregnant women they’d better be operating on an entirely volunteer faculty. Too bad paple dispensation does not work. She wins boo hoo for them. If they were that worried about people in flagrant violation of their teachings they’d have to acknowledge that for CENTURIES the convent and the priesthood is where good catholic gay people go to make their families proud and live with members of the same gender and sexual orientation without people making fun of them. Its like a big gay club for pete sake ALL the sisters who were my teachers were totally gay looking back on it it was totally obvious. That was the only place they could go probably to not make their families turn their backs on them. Anyway they should fire their volunteers and treat their staff in accordance with the law.

  2. Being pregnant is not evidence of engaging in sex because a woman could have been raped.
    Talking about her continuing sexual activities could be considered flaunting it.

    • True. Perhaps they view that as a defense she could offer? (And as I noted, she could have used ART and become pregnant without sex, but that too would run afoul church teachings.)

  3. Wrong! they are paid

  4. This one is chewy Ki

  5. “Still, the archdiocese will argue that that’s okay because pregnant women are in obvious violation in a way that no one else is–by virtue of being pregnant.”

    Wouldn’t that be discrimination based on what someone “is” (i.e. pregnant) rather than what someone “does”? People who have non-marital sex without being pregnant are discriminated in favor of, and people who have non-marital sex and become pregnant are discriminated against. The action (non-marital sex) is the same in both. The only difference is in the state of being – pregnant or non-pregnant. Since the critical difference is in the state of being pregnant, rather than in the action leading to the pregnancy, shouldn’t it be recognized as pregnancy discrimination?

    Also, isn’t it gender discrimination if a workplace rule is designed to allow men to meet it more easily than women, if that rule is not necessary in performing the job?

    • I think these are all arguments that the plaintiff will offer and I think they are pretty persuasive. But that’s no guarantee as I’m not the judge.

      There’s a case about whether the boy scouts can exclude an out gay man in violation of anti-discrimination law. The Supeme Court said they could because insisting on his inclusion amounts to forcing the boy scouts to say they think it is okay to be gay and they don’t think that. Further, they cannot be forced to say that. I would expect that the defendants will argue that it is the same.

      I wonder if they’ll also say that being pregnant is a choice and therefore you can be held responsible. There’s a certain element of irony there, but still, except in the cases of rape (and there’s no suggestion that this is that) pregnancy is the result of a choice to engage in intercourse.

      • no one knows how someone got pregnant unless they specifically say so. perhaps it can be reasonably assumed if they are in a public continuing relationship with the person identified as the baby’s father. but i don’t think consensual sex can or should always be assumed, and is it their business to ask?

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