Life v. Dogma: Lay Teachers and Catholic Schools

By Christine |

Cynthia L. Cooper has written an excellent article for Women’s eNews about teachers running up against dogma and discrimination at Catholic schools.

The story opens with Kelly Romenesko of Appleton, Wis., a French teacher who was fired by the ACES/Xavier Educational System in Appleton for violating a “morals clause” in her contract to “teach and act in accordance with Catholic doctrine and Catholic moral and social teachings.”

Her crime? Her twin daughters were conceived through in vitro fertilization.

“Romenesko argued that a male teacher whose wife gave birth after in vitro fertilization had not been similarly disciplined, and that she was fired after the pregnancy, not after the fertilization treatment,” writes Cooper.

An administrative law judge from the state’s Department of Workforce Development issued a finding of probable cause that the Catholic school system had engaged in pregnancy discrimination back in February, and Romenesko’s case will be heard this spring before the state’s Equal Rights Division.

There are more examples, of course, of women being dismissed for their pro-choice views or stances on reproductive technology. It’s impossible for there not be conflicts, when you consider that there are 150,502 lay teachers at Catholic schools throughout the United States, and 75 percent of them are women, according to the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington, D.C.

Yet teacher retention is hard enough already, and with Catholic schools traditionally paying less than the local public school system, you’d think that private decisions that have no effect on students would not be grounds for dismissal.

According to a survey by Catholics for a Free Choice, 97 percent of Catholic women use artificial birth control, writes Cooper, and Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as non-Catholics.

“The sad thing about a crackdown on teachers is that it is part of day-to-day living in a hypocritical situation,”
said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

Also frustrating is the level of scrutiny directed at Catholic colleges with regard to invited speakers an on-campus student performances. Cooper writes:

The Cardinal Newman Society, headquartered in Manassas, Va., monitors the nation’s 224 Catholic college campuses and issues condemnations on speakers or activities that take positive positions on reproductive freedom, gays or sexuality, including performances of Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

In February, the group protested a lecture at Loyola University in New Orleans by Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. In March, it objected to a film festival at the University of San Francisco for screening “Rosita,” which shows the difficulties of Nicaraguan parents in seeking an abortion for their 9-year-old daughter after she was raped.

The group is also releasing a list of 2007 commencement speakers to whom it objects. Some university presidents and politicians are named because they support stem-cell research, or are “pro-gay.”

Dr. Daniel Maguire, a tenured professor at Marquette University, is a popular target of the Cardinal Newman Society because of a 2001 book he wrote: “Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions.” As you could imagine, that didn’t go over so well with the U.S. Conference of Bishops

“They are impaled on pelvic orthodoxy, fixating on all sexual reproductive issues,” Maguire told Women’s eNews. “Eight-five percent of all the calls I get concern only one issue: abortion. Not peace, not poverty, not racism, not sexism. And I think that is an unwholesome fixation.”

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One Comment

  1. Maggie says:

    Interesting that the Cardinal Newman Society has not chosen to censure Catholic colleges and universities for engaging commencement speakers who violate other traditional tenets of Catholic politics, e.g. support of capital punishment, or war.