Minor details

January 30, 2013 § 7 Comments

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has faced a lot of criticism for firing an unwed pregnant woman from her job teaching first graders. Critics think the diocese should have been more “forgiving” (under the critics’ understanding of “mercy”). So far none of the school’s detractors have chimed in to condemn the firing of Matt Prill, a Catholic teacher caught by his students sleeping over at his girlfriend’s house.

We’ve heard a lot about how Jesus let the woman caught in adultery go. She was being stoned to death not losing a job, but that detail doesn’t seem to have much traction with the diocese’s critics. That leads me to wonder what kinds of details would have traction with the diocese’s critics.

Red Cardigan a.k.a. Erin Manning gives us the closest thing we’ve gotten so far to an actual principle to work with:

A Catholic school is not acting in the wisest, kindest, most merciful, or most loving way when they fire an unwed pregnant teacher and cut her off of her health insurance for the sin of fornication as revealed by visible pregnancy. While they may have the right to do so …, that does not make it the right thing to do.

This gives us no insight into what standards are enforceable as the right thing to do under Erin’s understanding of mercy.

Suppose it became known that the father was a minor. Or suppose the teacher was a single dad not a single mom, but was fired under circumstances like the ones under which Matt Prill was fired. (Prill, to his credit, seems to have handled his termination with aplomb with nary a lawsuit in sight).

Suppose the immoral act was child molestation not fornication. This is hardly a hypothetical case: the Catholic sex-abuse scandal is quite precisely the result of failure to uphold standards under a rubric of “mercy”.

“Mercy” as general-purpose standards-solvent is obviously just a rhetorical way of begging the question. So until the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s critics can tell us what standards they would uphold, and why fornicating schoolteachers (just the female ones who get pregnant, apparently) are a special case, we are free to ignore their criticisms as unfounded.

Erin finishes with this:

The Golden Rule compels me to say that as I would wish to be treated with great love and mercy in a crisis pregnancy situation, so ought I to treat anybody else in that situation, and the rest is just a matter of detail.

Agreed. Characterizing this as a debate of wishes versus details is one of the most accurate statements from the school’s critics so far.

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