Archdiocese pulls ‘Catholic’ label from Jesuit school for refusing to fire teacher in same-sex marriage

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson (Indianapolis)

By Michael J. O’Loughlin, America, June 20, 2019

An Indianapolis Jesuit high school is standing by a teacher who the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said should not be rehired after the employee’s same-sex marriage became public. As a result, the archdiocese will prohibit Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School from calling itself “Catholic,” a decision the school plans to appeal.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis said in a statement that teachers are “ministers” regardless of the subjects they teach and said that to be effective, “all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

According to a statement from Brian Paulson, S.J., provincial of the USA Midwest Province Jesuits, school leaders learned in the summer of 2017 that a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School had entered a civil marriage with someone of the same gender. The marriage became known via social media, according to Father Paulson, who said the archdiocese then orally requested that the school not renew the teacher’s contract. The school decided not to honor that request, as the “teacher in question does not teach religion and is a longtime valued employee of the school.”

Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. Provincial, USA Midwest Province

Father Paulson said that the school disagreed with the archdiocese and that it decided not to honor the archdiocese’s request to protect school staff and because the school considered it interference in employment matters by the archdiocese.

“I recognize this request by Archbishop Charles Thompson to be his prudential judgment of the application of canon law recognizing his responsibility for oversight of faith and morals as well as Catholic education in his archdiocese,” he said. But, he continued, “I disagree with the necessity and prudence of this decision. This is a disagreement between two church leaders of goodwill with related, but distinct responsibilities.”

Though exact figures are unavailable, many L.G.B.T. people have been fired from jobs as teachers, church musicians and pastoral associates in recent years after their marriages were made public. Instances of a Catholic entity publicly disagreeing with church leaders over the employment status of a gay employee is rare.

Father Paulson said that the school disagreed with the archdiocese and that it decided not to honor the archdiocese’s request to protect school staff and because the school considered it interference in employment matters by the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis said in a statement that teachers are “ministers” regardless of the subjects they teach and said that to be effective, “all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.” According to the decree from Archbishop Thompson, the school “can no longer use the name Catholic and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.” It says the decree is effective until the school “demonstrates their desire to operate in accord with the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church.”

Despite the decree, which goes into effect June 21, the school’s leadership says it is still Catholic and that Jesuits will still be able to work at the school and celebrate sacraments there.

William Verbryke, S.J., president of the school, as well as the chair and chair-elect of its board of trustees, said in a letter that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School is “disheartened that the Archbishop has chosen to end our formal relationship. Nevertheless, our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged.”

Jesuits will still be able to work at the school and celebrate Mass there and its leaders are “prayerfully discerning how best to proceed with the process of appealing the Archdiocese’s directive.”
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Father Verbryke’s letter goes on to say, “To our knowledge, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented.” The letter calls the archdiocese’s move “a unique action among the more than 80 Jesuit secondary/pre-secondary schools which operate in dioceses throughout North America, along with the countless Catholic schools operated by other religious orders such as the Christian Brothers, Dominicans, and Xaverian Brothers.”

William Verbryke, S.J., President

The decision not to follow the archdiocese’s decree was both to protect employees, the school said, as well as to avoid future “interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters.”

Jesuits will still be able to work at the school and celebrate Mass there and its leaders are “prayerfully discerning how best to proceed with the process of appealing the Archdiocese’s directive.”

The school, which posted a link to Father Verbryke’s letter on its Twitter account along with the hashtag “#BeBrave,” a reference to its school mascot, is hosting an information session for parents on June 24 in the school’s chapel. Nearly 800 students are enrolled at Brebeuf Jesuit, which was founded in 1962 and employs a faculty and staff of 132.

Article first appeared at: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/06/20/indianapolis-archdiocese-catholic-jesuit-refusing-fire-teacher-same-sex-marriage?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_campaign=f5cd41edf3-DAILY_CAMPAIGN_2019_6_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0fe8ed70be-f5cd41edf3-58610085