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“Ask a Priest: Is It Justified That a Pregnant, Single Teacher Was Fired?”
Q: My daughter told me that her friend’s husband, who is principal in a Catholic school, had to fire a teacher. The reason he had to fire her was because she became pregnant and was not married. My daughter was completely upset by this. How can I help her and answer this? – S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about the situation. I can’t speak about the specifics of how this case might have been handled, since I don’t know all the details.
But let’s accept the basic facts: A teacher at a Catholic school became pregnant out of wedlock and was fired.
While the woman and her baby obviously need to be supported (by the father of the child, primarily), another issue that comes to the fore is scandal.
A teacher in a Catholic school is, by nature, a role model for young people. The students might have looked up to this teacher and admired her. For this reason she had a special responsibility to live a life in accord with the Catholic beliefs that she presumably espoused.
This isn’t to say that she should be condemned. One hopes that she gets to confession and rededicates her life to following her Christian calling.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that she has a right to remain in the school, since her presence (and obvious physical condition) would be a constant reminder to the children of the fall in her private life.
Her example – and the school’s acceptance of her condition – could leave students thinking that Church teaching about chastity is a sham and that the adults in their life (at least their teachers) don’t really buy it. “Miss Smith got pregnant, and nothing happened to her, so maybe this stuff we hear about saving sex for marriage is just talk.”
In other words, the teacher’s continued presence in the school could amplify the effects of the error that led her to get pregnant. She had a grave fall in chastity, and now the risk was that her personal mistake would become a source of scandal for impressionable youth.
Again, I can’t speak to the details of how the teacher was fired. One hopes that it was handled sensitively. And one hopes only for the best for her and her partner and the baby.
For various reasons, though, it is understandable that the next chapter in their lives would best unfold apart from the school.
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