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.”
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.