By Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, Aug. 5, 2019
A decree is expected Friday stating that the Archbishop will no longer formally recognize Brebeuf as a Catholic school in the Archdiocese. Grace Hollars, Indianapolis Star
The Indianapolis high school stripped of its Catholic identity over the employment of a gay teacher in a same-sex marriage has taken its case to Rome.
Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School is appealing the decision of the Indianapolis Archdiocese to no longer recognize the school as Catholic. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson issued a decree cutting ties with Brebeuf in June after the school refused to fire Layton Payne-Elliott.
A math teacher and Brebeuf graduate, Payne-Elliott is married to Joshua Payne-Elliott, the teacher fired from Cathedral High School at the behest of Thompson.
Joshua Payne-Elliot (right), pictured with his husband Layton Payne-Elliott, is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Joshua Payne-Elliot (right), pictured with his husband Layton Payne-Elliott, is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo: Photo provided by Kathleen DeLaney)
Brebeuf’s appeal is being led by the Midwest Jesuits, the order of priests that sponsor the school and serve there. As is required by the Catholic Church, the order first requested that the archbishop reconsider his decision and rescind the decree. He declined to do so, according to a letter sent Sunday to members of the Brebeuf community.
Now, the school has taken its case to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome. The hope is that the decree will be overruled and, in the meantime, that its effects will be suspended during the appeals process. It’s unclear how long the appeal could take.
When the school announced the split in June, officials said the effects would be minimal. Families may not even notice, said Principal Greg Van Slambrook, during an interview at that time.
Already, though, it looks like the split will change some things. The archbishop denied the school’s request to hold the traditional Mass of the Holy Spirit to start the school year.
“We are disappointed and saddened by the Archbishop’s decision,” the letter said.
However, the letter said the school must “acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop with respect to the celebration of Mass within the Archdiocese.” Instead, Brebeuf will hold a schoolwide prayer service on Aug. 15, one week after students return.
The archdiocese is letting Brebeuf continue to hold daily Mass in its chapel each morning before school, at 7:45. It’s the all-school Mass that looks to be prohibited for now.
The archdiocese said that the school chose not to retain its Catholic identity by not implementing employment contracts that say “all administrators, teachers and guidance counselors must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“By choosing to no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution, Brebeuf was relieved of the burdens and the privileges of a Catholic institution,” said Greg Otolski, a spokesperson for the archdiocese. “Out of pastoral concern and charity, the Archbishop has allowed daily Mass to continue before the start of each school day.”
School officials assured families the education they provide students will not change.
“We will continue to educate our students to grow in their faith and to seek God in the 450-year tradition of Jesuit education,” the letter read.
Brebeuf and Cathedral are not the only Indianapolis-area Catholic schools to have an employee in a same-sex marriage affected by the employment contract language that the archdiocese began requiring all schools to use two years ago. Two guidance counselors were fired from Roncalli High School because of their same-sex marriages.
Lynn Starkey filed a lawsuit last week against Roncalli and the archdiocese, alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation and retaliated against due to her complaints of discrimination.
Shelly Fitzgerald, who gained national attention after she was suspended from Roncalli at the start of last school year, made similar complaints in a filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her lawyer confirmed to IndyStar last week that she’ll be filing a lawsuit soon.
Joshua Payne-Elliott, the teacher fired by Cathedral, has also filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese.
Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at (317) 201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.