May 14, 2012

Both the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., are defending themselves against lawsuits filed by Catholic school teachers who were fired for pursuing in vitro fertilization treatments.

In the Indiana case, Emily Herx is suing the diocese after being fired from her teaching job of eight years at St. Vincent de Paul Grade School in Fort Wayne.

She had asked the pastor, Msgr. John Kuzmich, for time off so she could pursue in vitro fertilization treatments with her husband.

The diocese has not yet filed a response to the suit, but diocesan spokesman Sean McBride told Catholic News Service May 3 that Herx was not fired but rather did not have her contract renewed.

Herx's suit alleges that Kuzmich called her a "grave, immoral sinner" – a claim the priest denies – and said she would cause scandal if word got out about her planned in vitro treatments.

The suit said Herx appealed to Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

It added he told her, "In vitro fertilization . . . is an intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it."

In response to the lawsuit, the diocese said:

"The diocese views the core issue raised in this lawsuit as a challenge to the diocese's right, as a religious employer, to make religious-based decisions consistent with its religious standards on an impartial basis," said an April 24 statement.

It denied Herx's claims of sex, pregnancy and disability discrimination.

"The diocese has clear policies requiring that teachers in its schools must, as a condition of employment, have a knowledge of and respect for the Catholic faith, and abide by the tenets of the Catholic Church as those tenets apply to that person," the statement said.

"The diocese requires that its teachers serve as moral exemplars. Those requirements, and others, are expressly incorporated into diocesan teacher contracts."