Grandma asks a good question. “She’s terrific — she’s gorgeous — she’s a gift: This child is going to be loved. Is there anything more the church wants?” asks Tammy McCoy.
Apparently the church wants a lot more, Tammy. The church wants your son fired.
Tammy McCoy’s son, Robb, and his girlfriend have a two-month-old daughter, Jaelyn Ruth. At the time of her birth, Robb was an instructor and coach at Bishop Feehan High School, a Catholic institution in Attleboro, Mass.
Robb, 27, said that when he found out that his 21-year-old girlfriend was pregnant, he met with the Rev. David Costa, of Sacred Heart Parish in North Attleboro, to discuss the possibility of marriage. Father Costa divined that this union would not be a marriage based in love, and refused to perform the ceremony.
So far, so good. Robb agreed with Father Costa that the move toward marriage was rooted in the ancient Catholic tradition of doing “the right thing” when you have already done “the wrong thing.” Robb and his girlfriend would wait to see if their love might ever become strong enough to support the lifelong requirements of marriage.
After confessing his transgression to Father Costa, Robb was still employed.
Then came the birth of his baby, and with it the clear indication that Robb had violated the celibacy policy for single employees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River. It is impossible to determine the parameters of the policy, since the diocesan spokesman refused to release a copy in response to a media request, while kicking the obvious through the uprights with a classic response: “It’s a personnel matter.”
Robb McCoy was a good social-studies teacher and football coach. A church that had carefully, even cruelly, crafted rules to punish people for telling the truth and accepting the responsibilities of fatherhood over abortion or abandonment dismissed him. No second chance. You get only one “down” in this ecclesiastical football game.
Robb was not transferred to another Catholic high school, where he would not be known — a solution similar to one used by church officials in the past to deal with employees whose transgressions were more numerous and mind-numbing than Robb’s are. Coach McCoy was flat-out fired. Someone in authority apparently felt comfortable lobbing the “first stone.” It was a direct hit.
Diocesan officials, powered by what seems to be a huffy sort of self-righteousness, demand that their employees sign a promise to be celibate. And there is a no-refund policy on the deal. Break the commandment and it’s bye-bye.
God gave us Ten Commandments with a forgiveness guarantee on all of them.
Those thoughts make me happy to know that God Himself will be the one making all the decisions on Judgment Day.
(Bernard Sullivan, a former Massachusetts editor for The Providence Journal and former editor of the Fall River Herald News, is a Massachusetts-based writer and public-relations man.)