Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Again on Miscompassion

I've been meaning to say something more about the recent case of a single pregnant teacher being fired from a Catholic school, but on reflection I don't have much to say, since I basically agree with Jack Perry on this point. Just the following:

(1) There is not, and cannot be, anything morally problematic about being pregnant. It does not matter whether it occurs inside or outside marriage; whatever the ethics of extramarital sex, there is nothing morally problematic about extramarital pregnancy. Yet there is a shocking and shameful tendency to treat pregnancy as the problem. It has been asked about this case whether a man whose extramarital affair had come to light would also have been fired; and it is a serious question.

(2) But it is not the only question. For, more seriously, we need to ask what example the school is setting. Note that I emphasize the example of the school, which tends to be overlooked. An ostensible defense of the school's actions might go something like this: As a Catholic school, the school has certain responsibilities to guarantee that those in positions of authority over children should publically act in conformity with Catholic doctrine; McCusker has acted in a way that cannot be condoned by the school; so the firing was necessary. But this, I think, is a poor defense. For if the school is really in the business of teaching by example, it must consider what example it is setting by firing pregnant women. As a teacher, McCusker inevitably would have difficulty finding employment in the middle of the school year; effectively the school turned her and her baby out on the street -- not literally, perhaps, but they might as well have. What sort of charity is that? What sort of mercy?

I also must confess that I am rarely impressed by arguments from what would or would not be construed as condoning something. If Jesus could associate with prostitutes and publicans, I think it shouldn't be so very difficult for us to associate with more reputable people. Thus saith the Preacher: be not overly righteous. If you spend too much time trying not to condone sin, you will never have the time to be charitable to sinners. We should all try to act as if the old toast might come true: May you yourself be treated as mercifully and charitably in your failings as you treat others in theirs.

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