• Wed, Feb 5 - 4:00 pm ET

Single Motherhood Trumps Abortion As Catholics Fire Unwed Mother

catholic-school

An unmarried female teacher at a Catholic middle school in Montana has been fired after getting pregnant. Shaela Evenson, the teacher in question, is of course going to sue, but it seems the archdiocese is going to stick to its guns. I can’t say I’m surprised by this news, but I certainly don’t think it’s a good decision on the part of the school or the diocese.

Patrick Haggarty, the superintendent, said that she ”made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract.” He added:

“The Catholic moral teaching is that the sacrament of marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman. And we certainly believe and we teach our children who attend our schools about the sacrament of marriage. That’s as old as our church. Not only do we teach that to the children kindergarten through 12th grade, but we’re held to that standard as well.”

I respect the Catholic church’s teachings, I do. I was raised Catholic. I understand that they want to teach a certain set of morals to their students. But firing a dedicated teacher who’d been teaching for eight years just because she got pregnant? That seems overly prescriptive, considering that Evenson’s life choices are certainly not the business of her employer, regardless of whether or not her contract required her ”to respect the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church in both her professional and personal life,” as USA Today says.

Shouldn’t this Catholic school be happy that this woman is presumably choosing to keep her immoral, conceived-out-of-wedlock baby rather than abort it? They should be holding her up as a paragon of pro-life values, not terminating her contract. Giving birth to a baby that was conceived in less-than-ideal (by their standards) circumstances certainly seems to be in alignment with the “moral and religious teachings of the Catholic church,” at least in my mind.

Would the Archdiocese take the same action if this were a man who had gotten someone pregnant out of wedlock? I doubt it. I sincerely, sincerely doubt it. After all, men don’t happen to have pregnant bellies that might shock the innocent sensibilities of Catholic school children. When men are about to become fathers, it’s not showing indecently on their bodies.

Of course, this diocese in Butte is an independent school district that has the right to make whatever rules they want, no matter how backwards they might be. At least they’re not firing her for being a victim of abuse, like one diocese did to another female teacher. But I still hope that Shaela Evenson sues the vestments off them and uses the money to put her kid through Georgetown.

Photo: David E. Scherman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

What We're Reading:
Share This Post:
  • Mystik Spiral

    Ugh, I hate the Catholic Church.

    • jack_sprat2

      You might as well hate the human race, then. The Church isn’t a monolith.

    • meteor_echo

      No, we just hate religions and those who follow them blindly.

    • Mystik Spiral

      Not a monolith? lol. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “I hate Catholics.”

      I was raised Catholic, I believe I have a right to hate the organization that played a hand in fucking me up.

  • Guest

    She signed a contract. She did not follow the terms of the contract. She was fired. End of story. Don’t make it an attack on the Catholic church.

    • Samantha

      The Catholic Church also teaches unlimited forgiveness for sins. They’re not following their own rules either here, are they?

    • chickadee

      Actually, forgiveness follows repentance and the understanding that you will try to stop sinning. That’s why the RC tends to frown on situations that appear to be persistent sinning in their eyes, like gay marriage, premarital sex, cohabitation…

    • CMJ

      While I unfortunately agree with you that is their right to fire her (I also don’t think she will win her lawsuit)…it still doesn’t make the reason for the firing any more palatable. It’s stupid that they aren’t supporting this woman who chose to keep her baby.

      It’s doesn’t seem very Catholic of them, does it?

    • Robotic Arms Dealer

      What makes you say she’s going to win her lawsuit?

      The school is a private religious institution and they have a signed contract.

    • CMJ

      I said I don’t think she will win….

    • Robotic Arms Dealer

      My bad

    • K.

      Would you like to defend the Catholic church’s position, then?

      To me, any organization that could come up with a contract that penalizes women for pregnancy is anti-woman, and frankly, I have a beef with the Catholic Church for that.

      Not to mention that firing a woman for being pregnant does nothing for her or her baby.

    • jasonburnstein

      “Not to mention that firing a woman for being pregnant does nothing for her or her baby.”…..no, but it shields the students from sinful woman. Keeping her on would only be rewarding bad behavior.

  • Tea

    As a catholic (Yes, really. Really.) I think this would be a great moment for forgiveness and love. But, she did sign, and violate a contract, and are perfectly allowed to fire her, I just feel that their actions are being very unlike the teachings at hand.

    • Sara610

      I agree. If her contract states that she has to live by a certain set of rules, and she violated one of those rules, yes, the school can fire her.

      But–and granted, I’m not a scholar of Catholic theology–doesn’t Catholicism also advocate for a lot of other values, like forgiveness and charity? How about realizing that firing this teacher, who is expecting a baby and presumably does not plan to have an abortion, will make it more difficult for her to support herself and her baby? And using this as an example of still welcoming people and treating them with love, even when they make choices with which we disagree?

      I get that they don’t want her setting a “bad example” for the children (and clearly, the accuracy of that phrase is up for significant debate), but it seems like they’re trading one poor example for another.

    • Tea

      I agree completely, actually, that was the point I was trying to make but evidently flopped at.

    • Sara610

      No, you didn’t flop at all. We’re basically saying the same thing. :)

    • Brainspace

      I have to wonder what the Pope would say to this, what with advocating that we focus less on punitive measures and more on social justice.

    • anonymous

      Like many a hypocrite in the past, charity is to be directed towards the “thems” of this world and not the “us”; a prerequistite of charity apparently being an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward your benefactors and an undeniable acceptance that you are somehow less than them for needing it.

    • Paul White

      I know you’re being sarcastic, but as an employee of a non profit your5 post made me need a lie-down

    • jasonburnstein

      You must be a democrat at heart, placing the blame on the offended party, that being the school who upheld their contract for the good of shielding their students from this immoral behavior…. It is said that liberals think with their HEARTS until they marry, buy a house, pay substantial tax’s, mature, have children,and become moral, responsible people,…. then they begin to think with their BRAINS

    • EX

      I’m not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that Sara610, and anyone who shares her opinion, must be young, irresponsible, amoral and immature? I don’t get it. I’m married, own a house, work, pay taxes, have kids and like to think I’m a “moral, responsible” person (I intentionally left out mature because that one’s debatable) and I am proud to call myself a liberal. So what’s your point?

    • Sara610

      Yeah, weird. I’m married and a mother, I work full time, own a home and pay taxes, and I’m quite moral and responsible.
      Then again, if you click on this guy’s profile and read some of the comments he’s left on other threads, you’ll see that he’s probably not the kind of person whose opinion you want to be putting much stock into.

    • meteor_echo

      Ooooh, so obviously a person can’t be ~responsible and mature~ until they take up a lifetime financial obligation of a mortgage, sign a paper that somehow makes their relationship “legit”, then have unprotected sex and, after 9 months of torture, pop out a little crotchfruit or two? Can you even think out of the box, or is your skull square-shaped and with flaps at the top?

      http://i.imgur.com/Oc5BO6o.gif

    • Givemeabreak

      crotchfruit! LMFAO!!! That’s going down in my book of words to use!

    • meteor_echo

      If the kid in question is unruly and generally a little hellion, you can also use “crotch goblin” :)

    • jasonburnstein

      Get over your hang up of having been born female. Find a guy and settle down, have a few kids and then you will understand the issue and how the school made the correct choice .
      PS – I love your chubby rosy cheeks. They go well with the earmuffs.

    • meteor_echo

      Aww, you’re such a cute stalker. How about I message the local mods so that they could block you?

      Also, go choke, douche – I’ve already found a guy but we’re not “settling down” or having kids EVER. I’d rather go to a vocational school and become an electrician or a carpenter, and volunteer to work with raped and abused kids, while you sit in front of the screen and stalk random girls on the internet.

    • Gangle

      Yep, absolutely they had the right to fire her, but as you said they did have the option of forgiveness. I also think too in a way, how far do you go to hide the reality of the world from the kids? I mean, it is likely that half of them come from single parent or blended families, or are directly related to such a family. I think most kids could handle the truth of a single parent teacher, and could also handle a message of tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.

    • Momma425

      Agreed.
      They could have taken this and taught the students at their school about love and acceptance- after all, wasn’t Jesus’ own mother unwed when she got pregnant with him?
      Instead, these kids learned a great lesson about judgment.

  • K.

    Wait–I’m confused. CAN the arch fire her? Isn’t pregnancy protected under equal opportunity laws for employment in the US?

    • Kheldarson

      She wasn’t fired for being pregnant. She was fired for violation of contract, in this case, having premarital sex. Most church run schools (Catholic or other denominations) have a moral clause in their contracts stating you will lead a public life that is in accordance to the group’s teachings.

    • K.

      Huh. I still wonder, though, if she could have a case–ie, they are going to claim that they fired her because of premarital sex, but how would they know if she hadn’t gotten pregnant? In other words, could she claim that the pregnancy is what precipitated the firing, even though the violation in the contract is about premarital sex, and the standard also discriminates disproportionately against women for that reason. Hmmm….

    • Kheldarson

      It’s possible she does have a case, but they can also claim that they’d fire a single male who got hit with child support. And if they actually have, then they have proof that it’s not because of protected class but instead contact violation. But we’ll see if it even goes to trial.

      Honestly I’d say for fairness and charity they should’ve given her an amazing severance package. You know, comparable to what they might have to pay in legal fees anyway.

    • K.

      The question though is did this particular school fire a man because of child support payments? IF so, then yes, but if
      not, then I don’t think a hypothetical is a sufficient response. I’m also wondering if it’s a given than an employer would know about an employee’s child support payments. Sometimes the State arranges for payment out of a government fund (if
      the parties cannot transact payment between themselves) and the State will also garnish wages if someone is delinquent, but I don’t know if an employer has the right to know about an employee’s child support payments.

      I mean, in the end, I think it’d be a hard, expensive road for her to sue, so I’m not really advocating that. I just like musing about this stuff.

      Oh well. Nuts to the Catholic Church.

    • Mystik Spiral

      I think she should claim immaculate conception.

    • Paul White

      I don’t exactly like it but yeah. You’d think the Catholics would pull their heads out of thier asses though

    • Kheldarson

      We follow the teachings of the Culture of Life, which puts all life as equal, no matter what stage. But we also still have some very strict rules on sinful behavior. I wish the former would trump the latter more often but that’s where bureaucracy gets in the way…

    • K Jones

      Why is it that the sexual sins (premarital sex, homosexuality) seem to be more important than other sins? Do they fire someone who shows too much vanity or is boastful? I’m not trying to argue, I really am interested in the answer. Christians seem obsessed with people’s sex lives.

    • Kheldarson

      Well, it has to do with Biblical interpretation. Sexual sins are placed under the “Thou shalt not commit adultery” commandment. This, plus verses in Leviticus and elsewhere on the state of marriage (like a man and woman shall leave their families and cleave to one another) teach us that chastity is important.

      It should be noted that chastity means living in accordance to your lifestyle, so married couples can have sex, unmarried cannot.

      As to why it’s important, it’s because this area, unlike greed or pride (which are harder sins to prove anyway), is completely tied to the continuation of life and culture. And both are very important in Abrahamic religions.

    • K Jones

      Thank you for explaining this. It’s nice to be able to ask questions openly and get a thoughtful answer. It helps me understand the issue better.

    • Kheldarson

      You’re quite welcome :)

    • Paul White

      eh, in the Bible sin = sin, regardless. Something about all falling short.

      In reality, it’s a hell of a lot easier to show premarital sex than vanity.

    • jack_sprat2

      “It should be noted that chastity means living in accordance to your
      lifestyle, so married couples can have sex, unmarried cannot.”

      If so, then the popular and fetish meanings of the word badly wont correction.

    • Momma425

      Let’s clarify further.

      Catholics don’t believe in using birth control.
      Catholics don’t believe in abortions or support the right to choose.
      Catholics also do not believe in premarital sex.

      So…if you have sex outside of marriage you sin. If you use a condom too…double sin!
      Say you get pregnant. Abortion is a sin- and yet if you work for a catholic institution, you get fired for choosing to keep your baby.

      All this is apparantly “God’s” idea- same God who chose an unwed teenager to impregnate with his son, Jesus. Who I’m sure is highly impressed with the way the Catholic Church has decided to treat this woman, and so many others.

      Jesus teaches people to love each other. It’s actually pretty freaking clear. He doesn’t say, “love people who live their life the way the church says,” or “love people who don’t commit sin.” Love people.

      How is firing a woman who is unwed and pregnant loving? How can someone do this, while quoting biblical verses about values? It is so messed up and so opposite of what Jesus taught. Legal? Probably. Moral? In line with anything biblical? Absolutely freaking not.

    • jack_sprat2

      All primates are obsessed with the sex lives of others. Except orangutans.

    • K Jones

      so if her partner was also employed at the school, he would be fired too, right?

    • Kheldarson

      If they know who he is, then yes he should be. If he’s known and they don’t, then she has a great case.

  • chickadee

    As someone who once worked for a Catholic institution, I can tell you that such contracts basically mean you’ll be fired if you publicly demonstrate a violation of Catholic morality. Get arrested? Fired. Post pictures of you nekkid on the internet? Fired. Get pregnant with no husband? Fired. Get someone pregnant and people know it was you? Fired. Have an affair and someone takes it public? Fired.

    They care about the way it makes them look if you demonstrably had premarital sex. And believe me, many parents are probably lining up to applaud the teacher’s firing because they don’t want a Catholic institution condoning premarital sex by someone who was hired to teach and guide their children.

    This isn’t the moral or kind thing to do, of course. But it is legal, and until things change, don’t sign a contract with a morals clause unless you’re prepared to get fired for violating it.

  • K Jones

    Is this what Jesus would do? Banish the unwed mother from the society of righteous, apparently sinless people who make up the school community? What a great lesson for the kids on tolerance and forgiveness.

    • Paul White

      Mary was an unwed teen mother.

    • jasonburnstein

      But she didn’t sign and violate a contract you idiot….

  • Tisa Berry

    I attended a Christian school when I was younger, the school taught abstinence). We had a teacher who got pregnant out of marriage. Ironically, this teacher was our health/sex ed teacher. My school did not fire her and it pissed a lot if parents off. But my school held their ground and later on , the teacher spoke at my church and I found out she was raped. I was so proud of my school for standing their ground. (Even though I hated my school).

  • tSubh Dearg

    I find this kind of amusing, as when my mum was a teacher her in Ireland during the 70′s (in a Catholic school of course) you didn’t get fired unless you were guilty of “gross moral turpitude” which was apparently having 3 babies outside of marriage. My mum knew this because one of her fellow teachers was a bit of a hippy, was “living in sin” with a man but not married to him and had 2 children. Apparently the Mother Superior had a little word with her when she got pregnant a third time, but she still wasn’t fired.

    Who would’ve thought American Catholics would be more conservative than 1970′s Irish Catholics!

    • Paul White

      eh, we’ve never had the Magdalene Schools (our great fortune). So I’d give the edge in nastiness to the Catholic Irish

    • tSubh Dearg

      Not to mention Industrial Schools, our history in this regard disgusts me. I do realise this is a pot calling kettle black situation.

      Thankfully things have gotten so much better here in the last 20 years, we’re a much more secular society now but the (extremely vocal) silent majority is kicking up quite the fuss to try and hold us back from progressing.

      Check out the latest nonsense of not being able to call homophobes, homophobes on our national broadcaster without paying them outrageous compensation. Here’s quite a good piece about the controversy:
      http://www.thejournal.ie/panti-abbey-theatre-speech-1296471-Feb2014/

  • jasonburnstein

    Writer Carrie Murphy wrote: “I don’t think it’s a good decision on the part of the school or the diocese.” …..And you probably wouldn’t because you are one of the secular progressive liberal that have dragged this country and it’s morals and family values into the sewer. Perhaps this bimbo should have read her contract before hopping into bed with someone she is not married to. Would it be right to make all her students think this life style is OK ? I would NOT want this woman being a teacher/ roll model for my children.

    • candyvines

      The Pillsbury Doughboy is my roll model.

    • jane

      candyvines wins the internet!

    • EX

      Hopefully you can find a teacher who will teach your children the difference between “roll” and “role,” since it doesn’t appear you would be capable of doing so. Also, if you think anyone here would be offended by the description “secular progressive liberal” you are in the wrong place my friend.

    • Paul White

      Eh. I’m not secular, nor am I particularly liberal. But jason’s just posting general jackassery

    • EX

      Understood. And I didn’t mean to imply that everyone here is those things. I just find it funny when people use those words as insults. And, I know, I should stop feeding the troll,
      But I was in the mood…

    • jack_sprat2

      Wow, dude, the word play just sailed clean over your head. LOL Maybe someone will take the time to explain it to you. I’ll just leave a single word as clue: BAKER.

    • EX

      Heh? My response was to jasonburnstein not to candyvines.

  • C.J.

    It would not be legal to have someone sign a contract like that here no matter where they worked. It’s against our human rights code.We have divorced teachers and single parent teachers working in our Catholic schools. I really don’t care what my children’s teachers do in their private lives. It isn’t any of our business. Teachers are there to teach the children the curriculum the board sets out not to discuss their private lives with the children. I’m pretty sure one of the teachers at my kids Catholic school is gay, nobody cares. I can understand firing a teacher for criminal conduct or job performance issues but not how they legally live their private lives.

  • jack_sprat2

    So, the Church prefers to fire the fornicators and keep the kiddie diddlers. More clear, concise moral teaching from our bishops. (Deep, d-e-e-p, DEEP sarcasm alert.)

  • ShanLea

    To be a little facetious for a moment on a very serious topic, Montana’s new motto should be “All of Florida’s headlines, 1/20th the people”

  • meteor_echo

    And here’s the proof that the religious zealots and pro-lifers (same people, basically) don’t actually give a writhing fuck about the fetuses they pretend to care so much about. Instead of providing this woman with money for food and shelter and prenatal care, they’re firing her. How…. caring and pro-life.

    • jasonburnstein

      I read into your responses and sense a deep sense of anger and self loathing.
      Keeping her on would show other employees that the contract is meaningless.
      Don’t make the woman the victim here, That role belongs to the school. And yes the church is pro-life. Imagine how many millions of other murders would be committed if not for their efforts in saving children. This fired woman will be fine, she will either get another job, the father of the child will support her, or us hard working taxpayers will…..

    • meteor_echo

      So you’re a stalker who likes to paint pretty pictures in his head. Flagged and reported.

  • Alexandra

    I also don’t get it – as a child I never would have even known if one of my teachers was married or not (until about maybe high school). Why did anyone have to say anything? The kids wouldn’t have known the difference or cared.
    That being said, she did violate a contract and as such can be fired. Morals clauses can be such pesky things…

  • Rachel Sea

    I’m pretty sure the current pope would disagree with this decision.