How not to handle a hostage crisis

January 24, 2013 § 31 Comments

A fairly common notion among right-leaning American Catholics has been colorfully characterized as “vote Republican or the babies get it”.   Capitulation in hostage situations is rarely a good idea, though, which is why I have to  dissent from the suggestion of some of my Catholic friends that capitulation to the hostage-taker is the right approach in a different situation.

To make a long story short, a Catholic school hired an unwed first grade teacher.  The unwed teacher became pregnant, in violation of her contract which has a morals clause prohibiting fornication.  The school let her go – really she let herself go – in compliance with her contract terms.

I’m with the school on this one.

I know all the arguments – we’ve argued about similar situations before. But I can’t get to where the right choice is to condone manifest grave sin and scandal around children because there are hostages involved. And to offer her a different, low profile, “back office” job for which she was not hired, so the school now has to figure out how to carry an extra salary for someone they don’t need and didn’t hire and go hire another teacher, is just capitulation to extortion because there is a hostage – her unborn child – involved.

Giving an unmarried pregnant woman a make-work job is not appropriate and likely not financially feasible.  Referring her to a crisis pregnancy center is the right, merciful, and just response. Would the school’s detractors suggest that the diocese hire all the unmarried pregnant women in the diocese?

If there happened to be a different, low profile, back office job opening for which she was qualified, permitting her to interview for that position – if she was interested and had a good attitude about it, and was willing to peacefully accept the result of not being hired, if that was the outcome – would be a mercy. Giving her even just an interview as a matter of entitlement or fear of what she might do if she isn’t given one isn’t just wrong. It infantilizes her.

On a cursory read, unless there are facts of which I am unaware, I think the school chose wisely, mercifully, and correctly. Furthermore the school treated her like an adult, a moral agent capable of making moral choices and being responsible for their consequences.

Some of the commentary expresses outrage that only a woman can manifest fornication in visible outward changes to her body.  Apparently in some quarters it is outrageous that some people can get away with fornication and breaking their contracts, while others, specifically women who become pregnant, cannot.

I guess the only solution to the unfair distribution of the natural consequences of sin is to make sure that no sins have any natural consequences.

§ 31 Responses to How not to handle a hostage crisis

  • […] the incident discussed in the previous post, we learn […]

  • Karl says:

    Why doesn’t the Catholic Church act to bring justice to adulterers who impregnate their lovers, rather than welcome them with open arms while
    both destroy the lives of preexisting children and spouse?

    Humbug, Zipster.

    Are not the innocent uncared for therein?

  • Erin Manning says:

    Got to disagree on this one, Zippy (well, you knew I would, right?).

    What about the reality that she lost her health insurance as well, for herself and her then-unborn, now-born twins? Does that not matter, either? Is the right and best response a Catholic employer can come up with, “Too bad, babe–you shouldn’t have screwed around, so you can thank yourself for plunging your kids into poverty.”

    And another question: given the various debates regarding the HHS mandate as to what constitutes a Catholic employer, would a Catholic retail store owner, Catholic restaurant owner, etc. be equally justified for firing any single female employee who turns up pregnant, or does the appearance of morally upright employees (and we’re talking about appearances, not reality, are we not?) justify firing single pregnant women *only* when the purpose of the employer’s business is directly involved with spreading the faith (as the govt. argues re: HHS)?

  • Zippy says:

    What about the reality that she lost her health insurance as well, for herself and her then-unborn, now-born twins? Does that not matter, either?

    “Does that not matter?” is a very vague and open-ended question.

    As far as specific moral obligations go, the school has no additional moral obligation when she resigns by choosing to violate her contract than it does when she resigns without giving a reason.

    So I’d put the question back to you: if she had simply resigned without giving a reason what specific moral obligations would the school have toward her?

    and we’re talking about appearances, not reality, are we not?

    No, we are talking about manifest realities, not appearances.

    Appearances do also count though. All sorts of aspects of the moral Tradition hinge on appearances: the sins of detraction and scandal are all about appearances, for example.

    But in this case we are talking not only about appearance but also about demonstrated reality.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Good for the school. That’s an unpopular decision to make in these times.

    Mark Shea is a friend of yours, Zippy?

  • Zippy says:

    Yes, Mark and I are friends. He has stayed at my Secret Fortress of Solitude a couple of times, and even took an aerial tour in my SR22 back when I used to own one.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I used to such a military geek: I saw “SR” and immediately appended “71”.

    The link a bit of a relief, and a letdown.

    Mark Shea is on my hit list (blog posts). I look forward to your comments.

  • Zippy says:

    Hah, no, never owned a Blackbird. Or a mid-sized country. That would be something. IIRC it has to be fueled (main tanks) at altitude because at sea level the seams are too leaky.

    I’ve mostly flown little civvy toys: I have single engine land, airplane instrument, and helicopter ratings. A Robinson R22 is like a flying lawn mower, though most of my rotor time is in the bigger R44.

    Everyone knows that Mark and I agree about everything all the time. That’s a prerequisite for being my friend, of course.

  • sad says:

    “Hostage crisis” is an exceptionally poor analogy for the relationship between a mother and her unborn children, however they were conceived. You keep using this analogy, even in a case (like this one) in which there is no evidence that the mother is threatening her children. It is not helpful.

    The mother should be offered mercy not only for her children’s sake, or for her sake, but for ours: the measure we give will be the measure we get.

  • Zippy says:

    If the unborn child weren’t a hostage, people wouldn’t keep bringing up the possibility of him being killed by abortion as a reason to act a certain way.

    Acting as enablers of sin is not merciful. The modern world has lost sight of the difference between coddling/encouraging sin and helping sinners.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    “Hostage crisis” is an exceptionally poor analogy for the relationship between a mother and her unborn children, however they were conceived. […]
    The mother should be offered mercy not only for her children’s sake, or for her sake, but for ours: the measure we give will be the measure we get.

    Zippy is not the first to recognize a hostage situation for what it is.

    Perhaps she could have been offered the chance to make a public confession to the school and give it up for adoption. In exchange: she could keep her job. That would satisfy justice, I think. Then the babies could receive the mercy of a two-parent home, the teacher could receive the mercy of gainful employment, and the school kids could receive the mercy of learning that the sin of fornication can lead to crying every day when their faces remind her of her babies.

  • Scott W. says:

    Well, lots of people have managed to fully convince me beyond any shadow of a doubt that they don’t like that the woman got fired. Still waiting for someone to demonstrate the actual injustice or dereliction of duty to mercy of it.

  • […] case of the unmarried woman who voluntarily disqualified herself from her job as a Catholic first grade teacher …has in my view become something of a litmus test for disordered views of justice and […]

  • Poetic-Nuisance says:

    Of course if she’d been a priest who molested children there would have been a entirely different outcome. Selective morality is the real problem within the Catholic church. Whose leaders kept Europeans in ignorance during the middle ages while burning those who disagreed with the church’s dogma at the stake.

  • Zippy says:

    Selective morality is the real problem within the Catholic church.

    Yes, I understand: the fundamental problem isn’t that some people are getting away with immoral acts. The fundamental problem is that some people aren’t.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    The question is: Did P-N pick that name just for this discussion, or has s/he dispensed with Justice altogether?

  • Zippy says:

    Poetic-Nuisance is a first time commenter (or at least a new handle).

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I just wanted to crack the pun.

  • Poetic-Nuisance says:

    LOL I’m both a poet and as my Grandfather – the Father Above bless his soul – used to say a Perfect Nuisance…

    Ordinarily I would agree with you however with my knowledge of the history of the Roman Catholic church the last place I’d go to seeking spiritual or moral guidance is a member of the Catholic church. Not only is the leadership of Catholic church well known for it’s amorality – selective morality – throughout history and its penchant for imposing it’s dogma by force while promoting ignorance and bigotry. The Catholic church is aptly described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation as a whore riding on the back of a beast who makes the nations drink of the wine of her fornication – spiritual adultery – whose destiny is in the lake of fire after the one thousand year reign of the saints.

    Hence it is not only ironic but moral hypocrisy for the Catholic Church to fire an unmarried woman for fornication who became pregnant. And if there is anything I hate more then the ideology of feminism it is moral hypocrisy and religious tyranny.

  • ybm says:

    OK thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Poetic-Nuisance says:

    Your welcome!

  • DeNihilist says:

    From a contractual perspective, the right and just decision. From the “what would Jesus do” perspective, that depends upon which Jesus we invoke.

  • Zippy says:

    From the “what would Jesus do” perspective, that depends upon which Jesus we invoke.

    How about the real Jesus who actually said “go and sin no more”, as opposed to the imaginary one who said “sin boldly, violate your promises, and insist that you are entitled to do so without consequences. Pro-lifers will support you because if they don’t, the babies will get it!”

  • DeNihilist says:

    Zippy, I was thinking more along the lines of His actions, accepting prostitutes, thieves, etc. into his love (yes I get that the sin no more line was used at this point) showing a great breadth of forgiveness. Or His lashing out at the money lenders, showing an anger without the chance given to accept and change. Or the paradoxicadal action as when He states, “judge not and you shall not be judged”.

    He is a very complex God.

    That is why I stated that in the world of man, the teacher signed a contratct with full knowledge and therefore must accept the responsibility of her actions.

    But in the world of God, I can find as many reasons for forgiveness, allowing said teacher to continue, as I can find to fire her ass. So I will fall back to the depth of my knowledge, go with the world of man solution, but wonder if it is really the world of God solution.

  • Zippy says:

    If this particular woman were repentant and penitent that would change the picture rather dramatically. But she isn’t. She is pursuing a lawsuit because she feels entitled to compensation even though she is the one who disqualified herself; and she does so explicitly on the basis that men can get away with sexual sin that women cannot, which is also the foundation of the legal right to abortion.

    I don’t think there is much ambiguity in this particular case. I think pro-lifers have responded to this case the way they have because of a kind of Stockholm syndrome: the babies have been hostage for so long now that pro-lifers are always looking for anything that might be a consequence of getting knocked up and working relentlessly to mitigate those consequences, independent of whether the person even wants mercy. They do this out of a fear that any difficulty in unwed pregnancy will motivate (some) women to abort.

    This woman does not want mercy. She want’s justice, under her perverse understanding of justice. They call giving her what she wants mercy; but it isn’t mercy.

  • DeNihilist says:

    Uh yes, justice or mercy.

  • Vladyk says:

    Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more, but right after releasing her from what was then an accepted legal punishment for breaking the wedding vow. Notice how He also says to her “neither do I condemn you.”
    The only hostage situation happening here is that imposed by Christ who demands of us to be merciful to even and especially those that do not deserve it, to release debtors from debts they cannot pay. To those who refuse, he promises hellfire.
    Every child is willed by God, even if conception results from fornication, God infuses the soul directly. His will trumps whatever agreement she had with that elementary school. Any scandal keeping her employed might cause pales in comparison to the scandal caused by throwing out a pregnant single woman when she and the life that grows within her are most vulnerable.
    It’s attitudes like yours that ensure that abortion will be around for a very long time to come, they form the very foundation of the culture of death.

  • Zippy says:

    Vladyk, do you similarly object to the firing of Matt Prill, the Catholic teacher caught (by his students, because of circumstances not investigation) sleeping over at his girlfriend’s house? Would you object to firing someone caught engaging in child molestation or theft?

  • […] It isn’t just a one-off situation of hostage taking: it is an ongoing process of hostage-taking with no end in sight, and if the hostage takers are not […]

  • […] different from one-off situations.  This is why intelligent decision makers learn, over time, not to negotiate with terrorists.  Terrorist negotiations may (or may not) change the outcome in a particular case, for better or […]

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