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Don't Ask, Don't Swell

01.06.2006 | RELIGION

In an act so stupid, it's hard to conceive, the Diocese of Brooklyn has fired 26-year-old Michelle McCusker from her job as pre-kindergarten teacher at the St. Rose of Lima school in Rockaway Beach. McCusker's crime? Being unmarried and pregnant. Merry Christmas. 'Tis the season to be jolted. From now on, when the Diocese says Ho-Ho-Ho, we have to read between the lines.

You'd think an organization so adept at navigating a solution acceptable to pederasts could have handled this one a little differently. At minimum, the Diocese acted prematurely. They should at least have let McCusker finish the trimester. This is what we call a miscarriage of justice. This is what we call bad labor policy.

Anyone from Rockaway Beach should understand that in life, there are boardwalks, and things happen under them. This incident should have been dealt with more aboveboard. NBC did a better job with the Julia Louis-Dreyfus pregnancy during Seinfeld. Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live hardly missed a Weekend Update. There are always alternatives to rash behavior. Next baby shower, try a pink blanket instead of a pink slip.

There was no need to throw out the baby with the holy water. Why not trade the expecting mom to a public school for two intelligent design advocates and a pedophile to be named later? Or why not keep her? These days, pregnant teachers deserve an award if the father is past the seventh grade. Anyway, how sure is the Diocese this conception wasn't immaculate?

The way the Diocese sees it, they're progressive. They granted permanent maternal leave. Job security is a matter of habit. If it's tenure you're seeking, try gay sex with your students. When things get out of hand, there's always the Archdiocese and the proverbial transfer. And if you insist on having conventional heterosexual relations outside of marriage, be a dude or avoid showing. Innocent until proven pregnant. Don't ask, don't swell.

Policy is the message, and the writing on the wall here is all too clear. The Church is not pro-choice, even when the choice is pro-life. But neither is the Church pro-life. What they are is pro-wife. No matter what the circumstances. What do you call a pregnant Catholic school teacher married to a drug-addicted, alcoholic, wife-beating lunatic? Employed.

What would Jesus do? This sure as hell isn't it. Let he who hath not sinned cast the first notice of termination. The question, however, is not what would Jesus do. The question is what would you do to Jesus? At best, these folks would arrest him for disturbing the peace. At worst ... well, you know how the story goes. Intolerant people now are intolerant people then. Cold, brutal, unhip, and hypocritical transcend all time. This is The Scarlet Letter remade for Lifetime. Hester Prynne has an iPod and may not be eligible for COBRA. Wayne Knight can play Dimmesdale.

While it's not hard to see how plots get recycled or how members of the Diocese might treat a long-haired unemployed radical wanderer preaching self-determination in the face of authority, there may be an even greater, more ironic force at work here. The Lord works in strange ways. For all these blowhards know, this whole unfortunate episode was the second coming of the woman from John 8:1-11 returning to Queens as a test. You fail.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at

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