Congratulations to Emily Herx, the Indiana Catholic school teacher fired for using in vitro fertilization treatment to become pregnant. Last week she won a nearly $2 million lawsuit against the Fort Wayne-South Bend Roman Catholic archdiocese.
Most heartening: she won on the basis of sex discrimination, meaning the Church can’t always get away with treating women differently than men.
Herx was fired for running afoul of Church teachings on reproductive issues. But her lawsuit argued that the archdiocese had not fired any male teachers who’d run afoul of Church teachings as well by, for example, obtaining vasectomies or agreeing to their wives’ tubal ligations. A federal jury agreed with Herx fast, deliberating but a few hours in a single day.
Her suit also exposed the Church’s continuing double standard between the rank and file and its bishops. While the archdiocese in Herx case cracked down, again, over a matter involving sex and a teacher, the Vatican remains slow to crack down on matters involving sex and its bishops. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City has become the new poster boy for this double standard. Two years post his criminal misdemeanor conviction for failing to report to police a suspected pedophile priest, Finn is still being investigated by Rome.
Herx, a woman suffering with infertility, notes in her suit that a priest labeled her a “grave, immoral sinner.” What, then, is Finn?
Meanwhile, despite Pope Francis’ noting the hierarchy’s obsession with gays and reproductive issues, archdioceses around the country continue firing gay workers at Catholic institutions.
But the Herx suit also points to the Church’s startling and very expensive rush to judgment. The Church’s big problem with in vitro fertilization is discarding fertilized embryos. But Herx’ suit insisted not only that she used every embryo created, but that she also informed her superiors of this from the start.
The archdiocese fired her anyway. She fought back, and won.