John McManus, headmaster of St Thomas More Upper School, Bedford, a voluntary- aided Catholic school, said Monika Konacek's liaison with Fr Chris O'Neill was different from other cases involving unmarried mothers at the school because she was in the religious education department, which was 'central in my point of view to the ideology of the school'.
Ms Konacek, who has since married Fr O'Neill after he left the priesthood, is claiming unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination against the governors and Bedfordshire County Council.
Mr McManus said the relationship had been public knowledge in the Roman Catholic community and he had become aware of who the child's father was before May 1991, when the child was born.
'There was a swell of rumour and speculation among staff and pupils,' he said. 'I was informed by members of staff they had been asked awkward questions by people.'
His reaction had been to help Ms Konacek. 'It was my duty as a Christian,' he said.
He said of other unmarried teachers in the school who had had children: 'They showed discretion. They would behave in a way that would raise no more comment than was necessary.'
He thought a single woman's decision to keep a child was heroic. 'I applaud someone who stands by their child.' But Mrs O'Neill had not fallen into this category.
Mr McManus pointed out that at the time Mrs O'Neill had been a Catholic teacher. 'It is a matter of perception,' he said. 'Catholic parents would consider that that behaviour from a Catholic teacher was more reprehensible than from a non-Catholic teacher.'
The hearing continues.Reuse content