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Diocese defends priest's response in IVF case

Lawsuit alleges teacher undergoing in vitro was told she was 'grave, immoral sinner'

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 8:14 am

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a statement Thursday to address concerns about a priest's response to a teacher's fertility treatments.

According to the release, “The diocese will not argue this case in the media or in the court of public opinion. This statement is meant to clarify what appears to be a serious misunderstanding regarding the pastoral obligations of priests.”

The diocese has received significant media attention since a former teacher at St. Vincent de Paul filed a discrimination lawsuit against the diocese after she was fired for undergoing in vitro fertilization.

Emily Herx taught literature and language arts for five years with the school when she decided to begin fertility treatments. She informed the school's principal in 2008 and went through her first round of IVF in 2010, according to the lawsuit filed in the case.

Rev. John Kuzmich was alerted to the treatments when another teacher complained a year later. Shortly after, the diocese informed Herx it would not renew her contract, citing “improprieties related to church teachings or law.”

During a subsequent meeting with Herx, Kuzmich told her she was a “grave, immoral sinner,” the lawsuit alleges.

“While sometimes difficult and delicate, priests are expected always to speak the truth in charity. Priests are required to clearly affirm the truths of our faith, and to speak honestly about what these truths mean for our lives and what we owe to others,” the diocese said in its statement.

The diocese maintains that it is its right as a religious employer to make religiously based decisions with its own standards on an impartial basis.

Kuzmich has been a priest in the diocese for 47 years, according to the statement. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades also asked for continued prayers for Kuzmich, St. Vincent de Paul church and school and for Herx.

On Wednesday, The News-Sentinel requested a comment from the diocese on any disciplinary action against Kuzmich or the school's principal, Sandra Guffey, and has not received a response except for the statement issued Thursday.

In a story that appeared Thursday on news-sentinel.com and in Friday's edition of The News-Sentinel, a story with the headline "Diocese defends priest's response in IVF case" on the website and "Diocese explains priest's words" in the print edition should have said that all statements contained were allegations made in a filed lawsuit.