Remember that innkeeper who told Mary and Joseph they might as well sleep in the stable because there was no room at the inn? That’s what came to mind as I read about Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland.
Both were teachers at Lawrence Catholic Academy in Massachusetts, a school describing itself on its website as “a community of believers who strive to permeate the school with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.” Houlihan and Ferland were friends and colleagues for years before they began dating last spring. When Ferland discovered in October that she was pregnant, the pair made plans to marry.
When the school’s principal and the affiliated priest became aware of the situation, however, Lawrence Catholic Academy fired both Ferland and Houlihan for violating their employment contracts, which require them “to adhere to the teachings and principles of the Catholic Church.” Out-of-wedlock pregnancies, even with the sincere intention of marriage, go against Church teachings.
Both Ferland and Houlihan lost their health benefits as a result of their job loss, putting prenatal care for Ferland and the child she carries out of reach. What’s more, being “fired” left a black mark on the pair’s professional records, making it hard to find teaching jobs elsewhere.
As the pair’s lawyer Anthony DiFruscia pointed out, the ultra-pro-life Catholic Church should be glad that a couple with an unexpected pregnancy has chosen “not to abort the child, and the Catholic Church should be happy they wanted to keep another human being on the planet.” Instead, the leaders in this “community of believers” placed the couple in exactly the kind of untenable position that makes abortion seem like the only option for people who literally cannot afford to feed and clothe the child they’re expecting.
The story has a happy ending; with DiFruscia’s help, Houlihan and Ferland managed to hammer out an agreement with the school that allows them to keep their insurance and pay until the end of the school year, giving them time to find work and save money before the baby arrives in June. And the school agreed that, in light of both teachers’ excellent careers, their personnel records should indicate that they resigned voluntarily. As a result, the future looks a lot more promising for them — and their upcoming new arrival — than it might have been if “the love and compassion of Jesus Christ” promised by Lawrence Academy had persisted in its original form.
I guess we can only hope Mary and Joseph had access to a good lawyer.
(Thanks to Jose for the link)