Things That Make You Shake Your Head

Adventures in cowardice:

A San Diego domestic abuse victim is now out of a job after she was fired following a “domestic violence dispute” with her ex-husband.

NBC San Diego reports that Carie Charlesworth, a second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity School, was placed on indefinite leave and then let go because school officials feared her ex could put students and other staff in danger.

After a domestic violence incident in January, Charlesworth’s ex showed up outside the school, which was put on lockdown, the station reports. Charlesworth was “put on indefinite leave” according to a message sent to students and staff after the incident. She was officially fired in April. Her four children, who were students at the school, have also been forbidden from returning.

This is just wrong.

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  • Willy Jose

    So wrong. The no-brainer thing to do was simply to ask for police protection.

    • NurseBob

      Really? How many police departments do you know that are ready and eager to extend their limited resources toward providing indefinite protection to schools and other institutions? This man is free because the state isn’t willing to incarcerate him for long enough that he no longer poses a threat. And you think that same state is going to provide that sort of protection to a school? The fact is, the only time the police will show up is after the guy has hurt or killed somebody.

  • How very Christian of them.

  • moseynon

    When he showed up at the school on Jan. 28th, the school went into lockdown. After that, according to the teacher, she got no support from anyone there.

    A fairly large number of parents formed an organization and demanded that she be fired, or they would pull their kids from the school. After the news of the firing was announced, 30 of these parents rallied outside of the school in support of the decision.

    One bit of good news is that the teacher has received a job offer from a private school in Los Angeles. However, she hasn’t decided whether or not to accept. She wants to put the best interest of her own kids first.

    The Diocese of San Diego will continue her pay until August.

  • James Bloss

    The no-brainer thing to do would be to involuntarily commit the ex until he proves he’s not a threat to women – it’s not just this ex he’s abused, if news reports are true. But this is California, which likely means 1) no armed guards at a Catholic school; 2) punishment by the state if the school/church/archdiocese defends itself in anyway; 3) strict liability for the school/church/archdiocese if anything should happen. It may be cowardice for the parents to demand her removal, but after Newtown, query if it’s unreasonable, particularly if they have no other means to defend the kids. One more way the state forces us out of our Christian path, because to Beadgirl’s point, it feels totally un-Christian.

  • carlamariee

    I emailed the diocese. As a DV survivor, it is hard to communicate just how devastating it is. It is almost a joke at women’s shelters that the ones who have spent the most years in abusive marriages are almost inevitably Catholic. The pastoral advice to women is almost inevitably to stay, the danger involved seems to be perfectly acceptable. As a Church, we fail in this area spectacularly.

  • Jessica

    I’m conflicted about this one… if MY child were in danger because a teacher’s violent husband has shown up on school property, I have a serious problem with that. If it’s forseeable, why should we sit back and let someone’s personal problems put other people in real danger?

    • But her “personal problem” is not of her doing, and not her fault. Firing her just serves to punish her for being abused, and makes it all the more difficult for her to leave her abuser her because she won’t have a way to support herself and her kids, or pay for an attorney. The school should have found another way to protect the students.

      I’m a parent myself, and I am ashamed of and angry at the parents who support the school’s decision. What kind of lesson are they teaching their kids? “If you get in trouble, if someone hurts you, you’re on your own because we don’t want to get involved.”

    • carlamariee

      We as a Church are told to “take care of the widows and orphans”. In the original Greek, “widow” doesn’t necessarily refer to a woman whose husband has passed away, but any woman without the protection of a man. Who is more without protection than the one whose husband has turned on her with anger and malice? The Church has failed this woman and her children in a very fundamental way.
      The fact that there are so few options when a former husband comes to hunt down his former wife is evidence of how little society cares about these. Since it’s so statistically foreseeable, why are we satisfied to leave so many women and children in harms way? Check out “Domestic Violence Crime News” to get a sense of how dangerous it is for women and children to get free of a violent man. And people still ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

    • JayAnderson

      I, too, am somewhat conflicted, although I believe the Bishop and the school made the absolutely wrong decision in, as one person put it, sacrificing a few sheep to save the rest of the flock. But I’m finding it hard to condemn them with the same ferocity as others might because (a) as NurseBob has pointed out, I’m not sure we have all the facts, and (b) school administrators are understandably gunshy, literally, about the possibility of domestic violence spilling over into the schools based on what happened just this past December.

      Again, I think the wrong decision was made to fire this poor woman and expel her children over the culpable actions of their abusive husband and father. But I’m not in a position to unequivocally condemn the Bishop for worrying about the worst-case scenario happening if this jerk (who should be locked up if there were any real justice) decided to use the children of this school as target practice in an effort to show his wife who’s “boss”.

      The Bishop and the school messed up, for sure. They further victimized this woman and her children. That said, I’m willing to grant them more understanding than they were willing to grant these victims of domestic violence. And I hope the Bishop sees it in his heart to provide them with more support than just a salary through August.

  • capaxdei

    What about the Church in the United States would make anyone expect any other outcome?

    • moseynon

      The movie “High Noon” is a classic of American cinema. The town sheriff is facing the arrival of band of gunslingers who have announced they will kill him and anyone who gets in the way. No one in town will support him, and they urge him to leave because his presence endangers the rest of them. In one scene the sheriff interrupts a church service, asking for help, and gets none.

      People turning their backs on individuals in distress is nothing new. That doesn’t excuse the conduct of the diocese and the school. The parable of the Good Samaritan seems relevant.

      • Dan F.

        I love that movie – one man with courage; just one man in the whole diocese. I hope and pray that I would have that courage if the situation were in my own diocese

  • SM

    get that parents love their children and care about their safety, but
    Catholics are supposed to love all children as well. The victim’s
    children not only had to deal with the terror of an abusive father,
    but also had everyone at their school talking about it. Now they have
    been kicked out of their school and have an unemployed mother. If the
    protesting parents truly wanted to withdraw their kids from the
    school, they should have just done so quietly, without further
    humiliating an innocent woman and her children.

    • carlamariee

      Thank you for your empathetic response to this.
      A difficult part of the healing process from domestic abuse is the trauma of the betrayal. Research into the aftermath of rape has really shed light on this aspect. It used to be assumed that rape by a stranger was more traumatic, but studies are showing that rape by a person known to the victim is much more devastating because if the betrayal trauma. With both DV and rape, a major factor in successful healing is a strong social support network. Parents who rallied to celebrate the bishops decision have really re-victimized this family in a profound way.
      The first person a woman facing DV confides in is statistically her pastor or church minister. Professionals supporting DV victims have been working to reach out to churches, because their responses have largely ranged from not helpful to outright dangerous. Fr. Charles W. Dahm O.P. has encouraged the Church to take this issue seriously and has written and made himself available to speak to parishes. Sadly, many don’t want to even hear about it.
      The saddest discussions I have been part of at women’s centers have been about the grief many women feel about the loss of place in their faith communities. Catholics in particular feel that they are not longer welcome or belong when they have made the choice for safety. There is something wrong with Catholic culture that women feel like they have to choose between the Church and personal safety, and the children will be lost to the faith too. This is tragic.

  • NurseBob

    Those who assume there’s an easy answer to this are wrong.

    In point of fact, the ex-husband is a danger to the school. The reason he’s a danger to the school is the fact that his ex-wife and children work/attend the school, and because the state doesn’t have the will to incarcerate him for long enough so that he no longer remains a threat to his ex-wife and kids, or to those around them. The Church, of course, doesn’t have the authority to incarcerate the ex-husband, or to provide adequate security for the school. The only option, then, seems to be to remove the reason the ex-husband is a threat to the school, and that means removing his ex-wife and his kids.

    The woman is unemployed, but not without resources. The diocese is paying her through August, which is a reasonable amount of time to find a new position.

    I’ve read a lot of criticism of the diocese and the school, but I’ve not read here many suggestions about what else the diocese and school might do to both help the woman and her kids, and protect the school.

    • capaxdei

      There are no Knights of Columbus councils in San Diego? No Catholics in the Archdiocese willing to underwrite the cost of a security guard? No way for the Archdiocese to work with her, make sure she and her children are safe, comfort them, if it comes to it help her to find another job? No way to demonstrate that anyone in the Church actually gives a shit what happens to her?

      If the “only option” really is to fire her by letter, and expel the children, then to hell with Catholic parochial schools in this country.

      • NurseBob

        I like the idea of the KofC providing security, but is that a legitimate option in San Diego? Most municipalities frown on vigilantism. What liabilities would the diocese or the KofC councils be assuming if they were to do so? The ex-husband has a history of violence. How risky is it to put volunteers who may or may not have professional training between a violent man and his kids? Would you be willing to confront this man? I’m sure the diocese would be willing to accept your sizable donation toward underwriting a security guard. Why not write the bishop and offer that solution? It’ many months yet before the school year begins, and the mother has an income through August. Perhaps it never entered his mind. Or, perhaps it did, and it was determined to be unworkable for any number of reasons.

        We know that the diocese provided her with an income through August. Do we know that the diocese didn’t help her find another job? I don’t know that. I know that the news stories didn’t address the question one way or another, so I guess we’re supposed to assume that the answer is “No,” but is it?

        Perhaps firing her and expelling the children wasn’t the only option, but perhaps it was the best option, given all factors, of which I’m willing to bet we don’t have. It’s a far cry from trying one’s best to come up with a workable solution and finding one that works but not ideal, and not “giving a shit” about what happens to her.

        • capaxdei

          This is not a solution that works, unless Christian charity is optional. Better to close all the schools than kick someone in need out of the community.

          But sure, I can see how it might be illegal in San Diego for private schools to have volunteers — or vigilantes, as you call them — on their property. And yeah, now that you mention it, how likely is it that the thought of asking benefactors to help out with a particular expense would ever cross a bishop’s mind?

          And that take-a-hike termination letter sent in April, I guess we’re supposed to assume it wasn’t forged. Or maybe Tom Beecher and Bonnie Espinosa were too busy helping Carie Charlesworth find a job to mention that they were helping her find a job in the letter they sent her saying she would be out of a job. And when they wrote that they “have conferred with counsel,” that’s probably just how Southern Californians refer to conferring with the bishop.

          And maybe she hasn’t been to Mass since she was put on leave in January because she’s been too busy being helped by the diocese.

          • NurseBob

            A few years ago, our parish experienced a string of automobile robberies during Sunday Mass. The KofC chapter offered to monitor the parking lot during Mass to prevent any further incidents. The pastor squashed the idea, insisting (probably after talking with the diocesan attorney, which is what “conferring with council” usually means) that it was a bad idea because the parish and/or the Knights could get sued if anyone were harmed. There are reasons citizens don’t generally take the law into their own hands. But, again, I’m sure the school would be happy to hear your offer to monitor the school against this violent criminal.

            But, let’s review:

            You don’t know if the bishop considered a security guard at the school and decided, for various reasons with which I’m sure you would disagree out of hand, that it was not a good solution.

            You don’t know whether or not the diocese attempted to find her another job.

            You are assuming the above because of the details that were shared in the news accounts, never thinking that the news accounts might have been written in such a way to get you to assume the above.

            Look, I’m not saying the bishop and the school didn’t blow it. Maybe they did. But, I’m not willing to say that they did unless I have ALL of the details of the matter. Which I won’t have because, frankly, they’re none of my business.

            This is a classic moral dilemma: a conflict between two goods. The first good is the woman’s job and her children’s education at the school. The second good is the protection of the children and faculty from violent threats. Moral dilemmas rarely have solutions that work well for everyone. Usually, one good has to be sacrificed for the other, depending on which is primary. The school decided that the safety of the children and faculty was primary. Is that a happy solution? No. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But, I’m not going to judge the school administrators or the bishop as being jerks and “not giving a shit” about the mother and her kids when I don’t have all of the details, and when the decision isn’t mine to make. That so many here are willing, if not eager, to do so says far more about our propensity to judge others than it does about the supposed lack of Christian care by the school and diocese of San Diego.

            • capaxdei

              Here’s the only fact we need to know — and you seem to be one of the few people commenting here who doesn’t know it:

              It is a repudiation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel to turn your back on a sister in need.

              • NurseBob

                And, yet, you don’t know for certain that the diocese did that. You are assuming so, again, based on the details provided only by the woman and the media. My own experience with the media cautions against doing so.

                But, since you’re willing to judge others as inadequate in their faith or in the quality of their commitment to Christ because they aren’t willing to condemn others based on such little information, I’m not surprised by your eagerness to condemn the bishop and the school administrators.

                Happily, I trust that my judgment before Christ won’t depend on the opinion of an anonymous combox poster who doesn’t know me (or, for that matter, the major players in this sad matter) from a hole in the wall.

                Pax et bonum.

    • moseynon

      Bob, I agree that the situation offered no easy answers. But it is in dilemmas such as this that leadership needs to step up. Instead, they stepped back and washed their hands of the problem.

      At the very least, the diocese could have found a different job for her. I don’t know what other resources the diocese has, but increasing security at the school doesn’t seem impossible.

      • NurseBob

        Perhaps increasing security at the school isn’t impossible, but how does that work in San Diego? What are the costs? What are the liabilities? Catholic schools generally don’t offer many of the services that public schools do, such as resources for children with learning or physical disabilities, because their resources are limited. That may not be the case in San Diego. I don’t know. Do you?

        These sort of stories catch wind in the internet all of the time. We’re given part of the story, some of the details, usually the ones that are meant to get us thinking one way or the other about the major players. For instance, do we know that the diocese didn’t offer to find her another job? We know that the question isn’t addressed one way or the other in the news stories, so we assume the answer is “No,” but is that true?

        I think the diocese did the right thing, if they were going to fire her, to provide her an income through August. I think it would have been the right thing to do to help her find another job, but I don’t know that they didn’t. Maybe they looked into security and discerned that it wasn’t a viable option. After all, they would probably have to do so for all of the schools, not just one, and for how long?

    • wineinthewater

      There was an easy answer: fire her and wash their hands of the problem. And that is the problem, the archdiocese took the easy answer, the easy way, the broad path. This is a tough problem, but the Church should be leading the way with compassionate answers to tough problems.

      A shepherd guards his sheep from the wolves, he doesn’t toss one out into the woods to keep the wolves away from the rest.

      • NurseBob

        The bishop may have made the wrong decision, but it isn’t for us to think that we can read his mind or discern his motives. I doubt, frankly, that the decision was easy for anyone, bishop or administrators. Based on the details, it seems they felt themselves between a rock and a hard place. Given that the diocese has secured her income for some months, I don’t think accusing them of “washing their hands of the problem” is fair.

        So, what would the compassionate answer be?

        • wineinthewater

          At the very least, not fire her in a letter. Be more proactive in finding her future employment, whether inside the diocese in a position where children safety is not an issue, or somewhere else. Certainly not kick the kids out of school.

          And moreso, this is a cause of scandal for the faithful. Even if this was the best the diocese could do (which I highly doubt), it sure doesn’t look like it. It looks like church leadership knuckling under to pressure from a vocal sub-group and abdicating their responsibility to pastor.

    • Ronald King

      The Bishop can organize the entire diocese to use their resources to protect the school. He can personally meet with the abuser in jail. He can personally begin a vigil at the school to protect all the children. He can be an example of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us just by sacrificing himself instead of the five victims of violence. It is only difficult to think of solutions when we are afraid to lose our comfort and security.

      • NurseBob

        These are fair suggestions. Only, I might add that it isn’t the bishop’s comfort and security he’s afraid of losing, but those of the children and faculty of the school. I don’t know the bishop of San Diego, but perhaps he would have chosen differently had it been his own comfort and safety at risk. It’s one thing for the bishop to sacrifice himself. It’s another thing for him to demand that the other parents sacrifice their children.

        • Ronald King

          Why isn’t the bishop facing the media and answering questions? It is the least he can do. He will not have to worry now because she was offered a job elsewhere. Is this the new evangelization?

          • NurseBob

            Maybe because the bishop figures it isn’t his place to face the media and answer their questions. When the hospital where I formerly worked was falsely accused of ending all care for a non-terminal patient, the parents of the child were free and eager to talk to anyone who would listen. The hospital was not, for privacy reasons. The bishop may feel the same constraints.

            The bottom line is: we don’t know all of the details of this matter. We only know those details the woman and the media have been willing to share. I’m not going to judge people when I don’t know all of the details, and the decision isn’t mine to make.

  • PalaceGuard

    Just for the record, 1987 the wife of the captain of the Vincennes had her VW van bombed just outside University Towne Centre mall in San Diego. It was later determined that the bomber was the outraged husband of the woman with whom the captain was having an affair. In any case, the captain’s wife was encouraged to “resign” her teaching position at La Jolla Country Day School, on the grounds that her presence posed a risk to the children.

  • Ronald King

    It influences me to do more than shake my head. I sent an email to the bishop of the diocese on Monday since his motto is “Christ in me” and asked him to take the lead to provide safety for these victims of domestic violence and be the example of sacrificial love which Christ exhibits. No response. I posted article on my face book on Monday and did not receive any response from well-known catholics who are listed as “friends”. Catholic Answers is based in San Diego and I have seen nothing from them. I did receive responses of support from ex-catholics who have shared this news with their contacts. What a disgrace. What an example of evangelization.