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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Abortion Controversy at Loretto Catholic High School

I am a sophomore at Loretto High School, which is an all-girls CATHOLIC school, and I would like to offer my opinion on this article as it appeared on page A1 of the Sacramento Bee:

Teacher fired for work at clinic

By Todd Milbourn and Cameron Jahn -- Bee Staff Writers

Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, October 15, 2005

A drama teacher at a Catholic high school in Sacramento was fired Thursday after church officials learned she had previously volunteered at an abortion clinic, school officials said Friday.

Marie Bain, 50, of Sacramento, who had taught at Loretto High School since August, was dismissed after a student's parent obtained pictures showing Bain escorting people into a Planned Parenthood clinic last spring.

The pictures were delivered to Bishop William K. Weigand, head of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, who outlined the decision to terminate Bain in an Oct. 5 letter to the president of the all-female school.

"Obviously, the very public nature of Ms. Bain's previous volunteer activity at a Planned Parenthood Clinic is inconsistent with her position as a teacher at a Catholic high school and her role as a collaborator in the formation of Catholic women," Weigand wrote. "Abortion is gravely immoral and Ms. Bain's active and public participation in the procurement of abortions is morally inappropriate and unacceptable with regard to her work as a teacher at Loretto."

Reached at home Friday night, Bain acknowledged that she had been fired and that she had volunteered at Planned Parenthood before taking the Loretto job.

"There are many things I would love to say, but I don't want to jeopardize anything. I am pursuing many avenues," she said.

Bain's termination, announced Friday afternoon, was met with tears from students at the college preparatory school on El Camino Avenue. She was described as a passionate teacher with a dramatic personality who pushed her students to memorize their lines with precision.

Bain had been preparing her students for a four-day run at the end of the month of "The Young and Fair," N. Richard Nash's 1948 play about balancing one's idealism and personal ethics.

"She is exceptional," said Sister Helen Timothy, the school's president. "Students thought very highly of her."

"We lost a great teacher," said Cynthia Mitterholzer, the dance instructor who will take over for Bain.

Mitterholzer said teachers working at a Catholic school understand they must follow certain rules.

However, "I think that your personal life is your personal life, and she complied with everything asked from the school in her contract."

Weigand, who is out of town, was unavailable for comment.

The Rev. Charles McDermott, vicar episcopal for theological affairs for the diocese, said employing teachers who have volunteered at abortion clinics sets a poor example for students.

"To support abortion is contrary to the position the church has held for nearly 2,000 years," he said.

"If you participate in that way, you are not qualified to teach in a Catholic school because teachers are inevitably role models."

School officials at Loretto conduct extensive background searches before hiring teachers. The searches typically focus on employment and criminal history and do not often delve into volunteer work, Timothy said.

Timothy said that Bain's views on abortion did not surface during interviews and that she was unsure if they would have disqualified the teacher.

"We hire teachers for their talent and experience and she signed a contract with certain terms and conditions" to uphold Catholic values, Timothy said. "And during her employment at Loretto she was compliant."

In July, a letter to The Bee signed Marie Bain of Sacramento voiced opposition to laws requiring teens to notify parents if they have an abortion.

"Like it or not, teens get pregnant," the letter stated. "And the most important issue is keeping them safe. Safe means access to reliable health care, not gut-wrenching red tape."

Before being hired at Loretto, Bain taught in the Los Rios Community College District.
She volunteered weekly for about nine months for Planned Parenthood, greeting patients and ushering them past anti-abortion protesters who frequently demonstrate outside clinics, said Katharyn McLearan, director of public affairs for the local Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

"We have protesters who hold very graphic signs and are very intimidating, and they sometimes come up to patients' cars," said McLearan. "She was there to be a friendly face and address their concerns.

"It is concerning to us that people are targeting their employment just for being involved," said McLearan, who said Bain contacted Planned Parenthood on Friday to inform the agency of her termination.

Weigand, in his letter, said the case serves to emphasize the importance of checking employee backgrounds to ensure that "those entrusted with forming responsible Catholic women at Loretto High School share our important Catholic moral beliefs and can serve in all respects as worthy role models for our young women."

"She is exceptional. Students thought very highly of her. "
Sister Helen Timothy
president of Loretto High School

While I am thankful for Bishop Weigand's actions, I am confused about my own school's position. All of the students, including myself, received a letter from our school administration about this matter during the last few minutes of school on Friday. There was a mixed reaction from my classmates. Some thought that dismissing this teacher was completely understandable, but others thought that the whole affair was "stupid." Still others could not figure out what Planned Parenthood had to do with abortion. I am writing to clarify some of these misunderstandings and to share my own opinion.

Planned Parenthood is the number one abortion provider in our country, greatly contributing to the 4,000 abortion deaths that occur each day. I have been at Planned Parenthood to pray and I know how the escorts act. If someone considering abortion genuinely wants to talk to a pro-lifer, the escorts turn on loud music and stand right between the "client" and the pro-lifer. Obviously, these volunteer escorts don't truly care about "choice." If they did, they would not be so opposed to people and churches offering jobs, homes, medical care, adoption services, and anything else that a pregnant woman might need. They are definitely not there to be a "friendly face and address their [the women's] concerns", but only aggressively encourage women to have abortions.

The article talks about Ms. Bain's letter in opposition to Prop 73, where she states, "Like it or not, teens get pregnant, and the most important issue is keeping them safe. Safe means access to reliable health care, not gut-wrenching red tape." A person that thinks that parents should not be notified about their minor daughter having an abortion and who volunteers at abortion clinics on days when the killing occurs is probably not the best candidate for a position at an all-girls Catholic high school.

In our student handbooks, it states in capital letters that, "ANY STUDENT WHO PUBLICIZES OR ADVOCATES AN ABORTION EITHER PLANNED OR ALREADY OBTAINED WILL BE DISMISSED FROM LORETTO." From this, one can assume that a student that advocates abortion will be dismissed, but the administration is "unsure if they [her views on abortion] would have disqualified the teacher."

As a student at Loretto, I did not notice students thinking "very highly" of this teacher. I myself did not see anyone crying over her dismissal. The majority of students either didn't care or just didn't understand. I think that if students knew what escorts do, they would share the Bishop's concern.

So please pass this on to everyone who has read the article. The Sacramento community needs to know the truth.

(This post is linked to Stop the ACLU, The Indepundit, The Political Teen, Cafe Oregano, Jo's Cafe, and Cao's Blog.

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