Cuddly baby and a court case

What could be more adorable at Christmastime than the precious smile of a baby? Granted, the photo that ran with a front-page Cincinnati Enquirer story this week wasn't as compelling as the one accompanying this post. That's mainly because the mother featured in the article declined to let her daughter's face be photographed.

Still, the writer paints a warm-and-fuzzy picture of the little one way up high:

WITHAMSVILLE — Sitting on her mom’s lap, the 10-month-old toothless girl with twinkling blue eyes and chubby cheeks sports a wide smile as she gums a jingle bell Christmas tree ornament.

Ahhhhhhh, how sweet!

How, one might wonder, could such a cuddly subject inspire a reader who shared the link with GetReligion to declare it "a seriously loaded" piece of journalism?

Well, keep reading, and the "loaded" part arrives quickly enough:

The infant is Christa Dias’ greatest gift – and the reason she was fired from teaching jobs at two Cincinnati Catholic schools.

“I’ve always wanted to have a baby,” said Dias as she held her wish-come-true in her arms in their Withamsville home. “I’ve always known that. That’s why I became a teacher, because I love kids.

“I didn’t think it would be a problem.”

But it was for her employers, Holy Family and St. Lawrence schools in East Price Hill, who fired Dias in October 2010 because the single woman was 5½ months pregnant and wanted to discuss maternity leave. She is still unemployed.

So, it seems, the story has two sides: The loving mother and the villainous Catholic school officials.

The piece — part of a year-end series by the Enquirer revisiting local newsmakers of 2011 — recounts that the teacher was fired for being pregnant not by premarital sex, but as a result of artificial insemination.

Interestingly enough given the tone of the article itself — and to the newspaper's credit —  these sidebar notes appeared on Page A1 beside the opening paragraphs:

CONTRACT CLAUSE DIAS AGREED TO WHEN HIRED

The teacher will “comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the policies and directives of the School and the Archdiocese.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, SECTION 2376 

"The gift of a child"

“Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple – donation of a sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus – are gravely immoral. These techniques – heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization – infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other.’ ”

Case closed? Apparently not.

The story notes that the discrimination lawsuit the teacher filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati is on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar case. However, the paper fails to provide any background at all on that case. I'm assuming it's the one involving a Lutheran school teacher that Mollie highlighted back in October.

Some background on the Supreme Court case would have improved the Enquirer story. Analysis by third-party legal experts on the key issues — both in the local case and the one before the high court — would have helped even more. Instead, the story quotes only the parties involved.

Meanwhile, readers learn:

Dias, 32, a Michigan native, isn’t Catholic but is Christian and attended Notre Dame College, a Catholic school in South Euclid, Ohio, on a volleyball scholarship.

Dias is Christian.

Unfortunately, that's the full extent of the background given on her faith. Would anyone besides me like to know what kind of Christian she is? Does she attend church? If so, where? What does she believe concerning artificial insemination? Was she aware of the Catholic Church's position before deciding to get pregnant?

Late in the story, the Enquirer abruptly introduces past allegations against the priest who fired the teacher:

Dias was fired by the Rev. James Kiffmeyer, who was suspended in 2002 after being accused of sexual misconduct with two male students at Fenwick High School, where Kiffmeyer was a teacher.

There was no criminal investigation because the men were 18 and adults at the time of the incidents in 1986 and 1990. The Archdiocese made a financial settlement with one accuser. The Vatican reviewed the cases but handed down no discipline.

Kiffmeyer, who denied the allegations, was reinstated in 2006 and then became pastor at Holy Family church.

“I would think Father Kiffmeyer would be more empathetic because of the judgment that he’s received from his past,” Dias said.

Is that background on Kiffmeyer relevant in this particular story? My first reaction is that it is not. It seems out of place and unrelated to the employment question in this story. But maybe I'm missing something.

The story, of course, ends the way it begins — warm and fuzzy:

Despite the fight, Dias is convinced she made the right decision.

“She’s such a gift,” Dias said of her daughter. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I am very happy. She’s an amazing gift from God. She’s amazing and wonderful. I would do it all over again for her.”

Baby photo via Shutterstock

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