Shaela Evenson, an unmarried teacher at a Roman Catholic middle school in Montana, has been fired after getting pregnant. According to the middle school Principal Kerrie Hellyer, she was an “excellent teacher” and taught sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade literature and physical education for just over eight years.
Wonderfully pro-life that Catholic school. What a strong and lasting teaching moment for those young boys and girls. I wonder what they would have done with a pregnant and unwed Virgin Mary.
Patrick Haggarty, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Helena, fired Evenson on January 10, after learning about her pregnancy. It takes years to dismiss a sexually abusive priest, with a history of raping boys and girls. But just a matter of days to dump an exemplary teacher because she is unmarried and pregnant.
It is a strange kind of Catholic conscience. The children at that school and their parents will long remember this.
A couple weeks after the firing of Shaela Evenson, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an effort to resolve more than 350 sexual-abuse claims.
Bankruptcy, of course, comes in two styles: financial and moral.
While Bishop George Thomas up in Montana was working on his bankruptcy papers, down in the Midwest, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was finishing his diocesan newspaper column condemning the National Catholic Reporter.
Bishop Finn noted in his column,”The Bishop’s Role In Fostering The Mission Of The Catholic Media,” that, as Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph, he has the canonical duty to “call the media to fidelity.” Fidelity is an important Catholic word…..Specifically, the Missouri bishop condemns NCR for editorial positions “officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.”
In September 2012, please recall, Bishop Robert W. Finn became the first American prelate convicted of failing to report a pedophile priest; and priests, lay people, and victims’ advocates have repeatedly called for his resignation.
As the New York Times reported, at that time, the Bishop Finn case began when Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest, who had previously been known for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs. A technician reported to church authorities that the laptop contained pornographic photos of young girls’ genitals, naked, and clothed.
Ratigan attempted suicide. He survived and was sent for treatment. Bishop Finn assigned him to a convent and ordered him to stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval. A silent Bishop Finn….
Another case of a strange Catholic conscience. Why is Robert Finn still the Bishop of Kansas City -St. Joseph? And what about all the other Bishop Finns scattered around the country and across the globe?
Robert Mickens, the respected Catholic journalist, observed recently: “The Holy See has never removed a bishop – not one – for covering up clergy sex abuse. Cardinal Law was removed, not to punish him, but to protect him. And arguably the worst priest offender, Marcial Maciel, was never laicised. He was merely sent away in his old age in order to protect his Legion of Christ, not his victims.”
For conscience sake, we need to re-examine the very strange case of contemporary Catholic conscience. Otherwise — the last person out of the church, please turn off the lights.
PS I do suspect the UN report on the Vatican and sex abuse may indeed hurt the reform cause. It raises questions.