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Indianapolis archbishop revokes Jesuit prep school’s Catholic identity

The conflict between the school and the archdiocese began with an archdiocesan request that a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage not have their contract renewed.

Brebeuf Jesuit Prep (Image: CNA)

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 20, 2019 / 01:49 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced Thursday that a local Jesuit high school will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school, due to a disagreement about the employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said in a statement Thursday.

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Teachers, the archdiocese said, are classified as ‘ministers’ because “it is their duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

“Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Despite the archdiocesan decision, “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged,” school leaders said in a June 20 statement to the school community.

The conflct between the school and the archdiocese began with an archdiocesan request that a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage not have their contract renewed.

The school became aware of the teacher’s same-sex marriage in the summer of 2017, according to a June 20 statement from Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, head of the Jesuits’ Midwest Province.

Paulson said the archdiocese requested “two years ago that Brebeuf Jesuit not renew this teacher’s contract because this teacher’s marital status does not conform to church doctrine.”

The school leaders wrote that “After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

Paulson stated that Brebeuf Jesuit “respects the primacy of an informed conscience of members of its community when making moral decisions.”

“We recognize that at times some people who are associated with our mission make personal moral decisions at variance with Church doctrine; we do our best to help them grow in holiness, all of us being loved sinners who desire to follow Jesus.”

He added that this problem “cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a Jesuit institution with responsibilities to both the local and universal church, as well as for the pastoral care we extend to all members of our Catholic community.”

“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,” the priest wrote. “I disagree with the necessity and prudence of this decision.”

The Jesuits maintain that their school’s internal administrative matters should be made by their own leaders, rather than the local Church.

While the Code of Canon Law establishes that religious orders, like the Jesuits, “retain their autonomy in the internal management of their schools,” it also says that the diocesan bishop has “the right to issue directives concerning the general regulation of Catholic schools” including those administered by religious orders.

Canon law also says that the diocesan bishop “is to be careful that those who are appointed as teachers of religion in schools, even non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life, and in their teaching ability.”

The Church’s law adds that the diocesan bishop “has the right to appoint or to approve teachers of religion and, if religious or moral considerations require it, the right to remove them or to demand that they be removed.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis policy, which says that all school teachers and administrators have a responsibility to teach the Catholic faith, is a common interpretation of that norm in U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The archdiocesan June 20 statement notes that the archdiocese “recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.” The 2012 Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC Supreme Court decision established that religious institutions are free to require those it recognizes as ministers to uphold religious teachings as a condition of employment.

The school’s leaders claim that “the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented.”

Fr. Paulson framed the problem as one of “the governance autonomy regarding employment decisions of institutions sponsored by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus.”

“Our disagreement is over what we believe is the proper governance autonomy regarding employment decisions which should be afforded a school sponsored by a religious order. In this particular case, we disagree regarding the prudential decision about how the marital status of a valued employee should affect this teacher’s ongoing employment at Brebeuf Jesuit.”

The school’s leaders added that failing to renew the teacher’s contract would cause “harm” to “our highly capable and qualified teachers and staff.”

“Our intent has been to do the right thing by the people we employ while preserving our authority as an independent, Catholic Jesuit school.”

The leaders noted that they “are prayerfully discerning how best to proceed with the process of appealing the Archdiocese’s directive.”

Fr. Paulson said the province will appeal the decision, first through the archbishop “and, if necessary, [pursuing] hierarchical recourse to the Vatican.”

Canon law establishes that “no school, even if it is in fact Catholic, may bear the title ‘Catholic school’ except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority,” in this case, the Archbishop of Indianapolis.

In August 2018 Shelley Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was placed on paid administrative leave. An employee of an archdiocesan school, Fitzgerald had attempted to contract a same-sex marriage in 2014.

At that time, Archbishop Thompson wrote that “the archdiocese’s Catholic schools are ministries of the Church. School administrators, teachers and guidance counselors are ministers of the faith who are called to share in the mission of the Church. No one has a right to a ministerial position, but once they are called to serve in a ministerial role they must lead by word and example. As ministers, they must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church. These expectations are clearly spelled out in school ministerial job descriptions and contracts, so everyone understands their obligations.”

He added that “When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching.”

The archbishop concluded: “Let us pray that everyone will respect and defend the dignity of all persons as well as the truth about marriage according to God’s plan and laws.”

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    • NEXT expel the Jesuit order from the diocese. Canon Law 360 or 306 I believe is applicable. THEN Require the school to change its name. Bpt Ct. Bishop Caggiano needs to do this to CINO Jesuit Fairfield Univ.. They recently gave their highest Univ. Award to a Sodomite Employee BECAUSE the Employee entered into a so called same sex marriage.

    • Good….clean up the mess..
      If it means stripping Catholic title. GOOD…next go to Notre Dame.

      And if the Jesuits…whether South of Border.or in Our own Country can’t get the concept of Authority and Obedience to Law…our own United States Laws concerning immigration or our Catholic Laws…passed down for 2000+ years…Close the Jesuits next!
      Last thing our Church needs is confusion from renegade cafeteria Catholics. .who want to write rules as they go…Nancy Pelosi…democrats in general. I believe the name is Fitzgerald…the man that wants to live w another…well …will not work while teaching our Children…nor while claiming to be Catholic. Obedience…if don’t have it ..well we can’t help you.

      Regis Zapatka Roman Catholic…Pope Benedict is a living Saint!

    • Sorry, Joe. Catholic doctrine is clear, and sexual immorality applies to men, women, priest, nun, gay, or straight, The Jesuits haven’t been Catholic for a long , long time.

      • I do not know how the Jesuits think that sexual immorality is not a serious sin.
        If freedom is given in the name of employment decisions of the institution, slowly erosion will happen and Catholic institution will become “ most non Catholic

  1. They say they are still a Catholic organization, yet they refuse to acknowledge Catholic authority, and they ignore catholic doctrine on things like abortion and same-sex marriage.

    This defiance, honestly, comes from the pope who has reaped so much confusion, that fly by night liberal Catholics feel more empowered to disregard God’s clear word in the bible, that has become Catholic doctrine, because they can point to him and his flip flopping on social issues.

  2. “Our intent has been to do the right thing by the people we employ while preserving our authority as an independent, Catholic Jesuit school.”

    You cannot serve two masters.

    Either you believe the Church and the words of Christ or you teach a church and its teachings made in the image of the surrounding culture.

    It may take some time. Perhaps, it will be subtle at first. But that woman teacher will be teaching a different kind of catechism simply by example of how she lives. It will be an irrepressible conflict within herself regarding Catholicism. How can she be true to herself and also true to the Catholic Church in terms of teaching or guidance at a Catholic school?

  3. Bishop Thompson is a good shepherd.

    The Jesuits now make idolatry out of their own cult, committing profanity by conforming Jesus to themselves, rather than conforming themselves to Jesus.

  4. I do not argue with the Bishop’s right to do as he did.

    But given the reason he did so, he should also have demanded dismissal of any employee who is divorced but not annulled, any employee who has remarried prior to the death of the previous spouse, and any employee in a co-habitation arrangement. It is naive to think there are not employees in such situations.

    To be selective in enforcement is unfair. Fairness is dealing with all doctrinal violations in a like manner.

    • The point is well taken but an invalid marriage does not necessarily show bad example as a same sex marriage would. There may be a way to avoid scandal. And individual circumstances and confessors decide at first. Jesuits run good schools and need freedom from unneeded intervention. But same sex marriage and men in women’s sports are maybe just not acceptable the way other differences may be. God made us man and woman to preserve creation. Powerful but wise and it worked so far.

      • Donald Hasenfratz — If the reason/issue is scandal, that would seem to be different than a doctrinal reason.

        If scandal, then the problem occurs only if others outside a closed community know. Which then seems to condone “if-it-is-a-secret-then-we-will-let-it-ride”.

        I’ll support a doctrinal reason for the bishop’s decision, but not a scandal one. The doctrinal reason has the potential to be fair and consistent, the scandal one does not. In fact, a reason of scandal might be considered secular rather than religious.

    • That is the policy of the Archdiocese for all Catholic school teachers. Do you know of anyone that falls into one of your categories who is still employed? If so, call the Archbishop.

    • “any employee who is divorced but not annulled”

      As long as the employee doesn’t “remarry,” it is quite possible for a good Catholic to obtain a civil divorce in case of necessity – for example, for physical safety in the case of an abusive spouse.

    • “But given the reason he did so, he should also have demanded dismissal of any employee who is divorced but not annulled”

      Perhaps you meant “divorced & remarried” but not annulled?

    • Point well taken; an assessment of all.

      Divorce/annulment and where is the process and what impediments on why it hasn’t been completed. And the same penalty – via employment – if refuse to comply.

      As for ‘living together’, no argument.

      But you don’t see the problem for homosexual ‘marriage’ in this regard? The very idea of such a union is not possible by form itself in Christian theology and goes well beyond the corruption of sexuality by promiscuity. Leviticus describes the act of homosexuality as a special violation in its own class. The teacher/guidance woman who in the school’s capacity has to violate either her deep-held personal beliefs or compromise the school’s beliefs as taught. One or the other will go in time. You cannot successively hold opposing beliefs at the same time.

      I understand the hypocrisy involved. But unlike divorce, the homosexual movement is front and center. School activities where the parents are involved and the like. A slip of the tongue in the classroom or guidance office of ‘my wife or partner.’ The ‘example’ is right there and must be addressed to the students immediately. The same would be true of partners living together.

      How to proceed?

      Yes, divorce must be handled in the same way if it hasn’t been impeded. As for living together, absolutely as in this case. Too much of that has been given a free ticket for far too long.

      But it is a good start however small. And, hopefully in time, divorce and cohabitation will follow suit.

  5. My guess is that across America, about 50% of the Catholics in the pews on Sunday would support the Archbishop and 50% would support the school.

    There are lots of Progressive Catholics whose faith is animate by their feelings and whose beliefs on abortion, SSA, divorce, etc, are counter to official church teaching, which they don’t know because it hasn’t been properly taught or reinforced to them.

    When was the last time (or even the first time) you heard a priest give sermon on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or even on the 10 Commandments?

  6. God Our Lord bless the Archbishop for defending our Catholic Faith. No, it is not our Holy Father Francis responsible for the Jesuits liberalism. This goes back many many years. Our Holy Father is a true disciple of St. Ignatius de Loyola. Pray for him. He is being attack by the forces of Satan within the Vatican.

  7. In Alberta, Canada, The same kind of situation has come up numerous times. The Catholic School Districts terminated the employment in all cases.
    There was also a situation where a fairly long-term female teacher transgendered to a male. This person was dismissed and a settlement was made (as required by law). It was agreed between the parties that there be a non-disclosure clause. However, the LGBGTQ community went to the media and there was some public debate. It was pointed out to all that teachers sign their contracts which state that they will adhere to Catholic teaching in all relevant areas.

    We also had some cases where teachers in a same-sex relationship lied about and their religion in order to get a teaching job. They signed contracts and by doing so committed fraud and violation of their contracts. Their employment was terminated and the LGBTQ community and Human Rights made a fuss. From a legal perspective the teachers did not a leg to stand on. In reality, the Catholic School District could have charged them with fraud and misrepresentation.

  8. Good for the bishop and shame on the gay married couple who is trying to shove their lifestyle down our throats. It’s not enough that they should choose another lifestyle. They are free to do so. But they their values into our teenagers. They should be ashamed that they are trying to evangelize a set of values which they know does not comport what Catholic teaching. There are many other places they could work. They should go find them. They are damaging the reputation of the school.

  9. Time for sanctions. The bishop might start by revoking the priestly faculties of the priests involved. They serve within his diocese at his discretion; Order priests or not.

  10. “The school’s leaders added that failing to renew the teacher’s contract would cause “harm” to “our highly capable and qualified teachers and staff.”

    But they have zero concern for the harm done to the young men they exist to serve by setting for them an example that it’s ok to give the Archbishop the finger.

  11. Tough call. Homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (#2358) according to Roman Catholic Catechism. A.M.D.G.

  12. Jesuits don’t get it. As a graduate of Marquette University I am disappointed of Jesuit behavior regarding same sex teachers and very much support “Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.” The Jesuit order SHOULD AGREE Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School is wrong in their actions.

  13. Here is a quote from one of the greatest saints ever regarding homosexuality. St. Catherine relays words of Our Lord, about the vice against nature, which contaminated part of the clergy in her time. Referrng to sacred ministers, He said: “They not only fail from resisting this frailty [ of fallen human nature]…but do even worse as they commit the cursed sin against nature. Like the blind and stupid having dimmed the light of the understanding, they do not recoginze the disease and misery in which they find themselves. For this not only causes Me nausea, but displeases even the demons themselves, whom these miserable creatures have chosen as their lords. For Me, this sin against nature is so abominable that , for it alone, five cities were submersed, by virtue of the jugdment of My Divine Justice, which could no longer bear them…It is disagreable to the demon, not because evil displeases them and they find pleasure in good, but because their nature is angelic and thus is repulsed upon seeing such an enormous sin being commited. It is true that it is the demons who hit the sinner with the poisoned arrow of lust, but when a man carries out such a sinful act, the demons leave.

    St.Catherine of Siena, El diabolo, in Orbas de Santa Catarina de Siena

     “We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues – I see the world is rotten because of silence.” – St. Catherine of Sienna

  14. This type of episcopal intervention must occur when ever and wherever necessary. Some years ago in my home archdiocese a similar intervention occurred motivated by the situation of a teacher, identifying as a Catholic, but co-habiting with a female friend. The Archbishop eventually had to close the school and sell the property once the school administration and significant number of teachers took the side of the teacher. End of story. Drastic but problem solved, and all the other schools in the archdiocese took note and “Catholicity” of schools improved.

    • I salute that archbishop.

      Unfortunately, the fact that this is a Jesuit school seems to make it more complicated, the more so since the Jesuits are focusing on “this is *our* school, we are independent!” rather than on Church teaching and the good of the students.

      The mealymouthed statement put out by the president and the chairman and chairman-elect of the board quotes practically verbatim the provincial of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, all of it focused on their independence. And not once does either of them admit that the behavior of the teacher in question is morally reprehensible and likely to corrupt the moral formation of the students.

      There was a story on the news featuring one of the students saying “Oh, but love is looooooooove” or the equivalent. If he has not learned any better from his school then that school is a failure at what should be its primary goal.

      (Oh, and of course they had to have a statement from James Martin, SJ, who ought to have the grace to shut up, but clearly doesn’t).

  15. If the bishop wants to fire a teacher because of sexual orientation, why don’t they fire all the priests who also brake Catholic law by molesting children. Talk about two hats!!!

    • The bishop did not want to fire the teacher “because of sexual orientation,” but because of the teacher’s actions: committing a grave sin by entering into a mockery of marriage, and thus making it quite clear that he or she does not believe in the Church’s teachings.

      I have no idea what you mean by “talk about two hats,” but in case you have missed it the Church has been working on the problem of sexual abuse by priests, though sadly not effectively. Please also note that the overwhelming majority of the abuse is not pedophilia but homosexuality.

  16. Our Lord tells the story of the Good Samaritan as the occasion of loving the
    neighbor . Would it be that , in our times that are very much afflicted by the death spirits , through sins against life and purity in marriages , we have confused the robbers for the victims – not that the robbers were not victims in an earlier occasion /stage , in own lives .
    Interesting too that this event is also based in Indianapolis , with its connections to the Our Lady of America apparitions , as well as the public declaration of the intent of another ‘robber figure ‘ , afflicted by similar death spirits , to want to lead the nation .
    Let us hope and pray that the Holy Father and Cdl. Burke , as a member of the Knights of Malta would be able to help approve the Our Lady of America devotion and requests as well as that of ‘The Father Speaks to His children’ devotion , with its simple request to have a Feast in honor of The Father in August – this year , that first Sunday in August is Aug 4th , what would have been Feast of St.John
    Vianney .Truly believing that God is one’s Father would make a tremendous impact in our lives ; our Lord is The One who could take in that truth , in His human
    nature , to the best extent , thus helping us to love The Father , in and through His Sacred Heart .Those who fall for the carnal nature , in betrayal of the
    fidelity , thus the love that is owned , to God , to oneself and others – hoping that the ongoing ministry of deliverance and renunciation of spirits become a regular part of lives , that parents can ask for and be assured that their children are not going to be exposed to occasions of blatant contempt and betrayals towards the
    sacred .
    Places and these incidents are possibly what The Church need to look at more carefully too , as to what negligences there might have been in such places , with regards to also Church approved devotions , including Adoration, Divine mercy images and again giving the support and means for deliverance ministry , esp. of the gentle format of the Heart of The Father ministry etc too .
    May the prayers of the children too be asked for such , united to that of the little saints of Fatima as well .

    Rosary in honor of God The Father , with good meditations to go along with ; in the first picture there , of Adam and Eve, it would have been good if we could depict somehow how they were clothed in light , thus were not really ‘naked ‘ , till after The Fall . Bl .Emmerich also mentions how they had been given the grace to bring forth holy children , in total noncarnal unity, more in the power of the spoken
    word ; that little truth would help to clear up certain other truths for us , including the power of the spoken word , in the Name of Jesus , in His authority , given to the priests , on the occasion of the consecration and other sacraments . It would also help to clear up any question of incest in the carnal sense , in the descendants of Adam – just as they still retained the grace of long lives, if there were a few of the children who were holy enough to still have the grace of immaculate conception as well , as was the case of parents of Bl.Mother , who conceived in such a manner .In fact , Bl.Emmerich mentions how the Incarnation was ‘delayed’ due to the enemy trying to destroy the ‘chosen line ‘ that was to bring forth The Woman , which also necessitated the wars in O.T .
    The devotion to the I.C , given for our times to help tide the flow of carnality – may the seemingly simple devotions such as that of wearing the Miraculous Medal be taken , with the wisdom that same entails so that we can receive the graces through the Immaculate Heart to love and honor God and our Father , in better ways , free of the many doubts in all these areas that damage faith esp. among the young .

  18. In the Jesuit Cristological thinking Christ is the center of the Universe, as Alpha and Omega. With reguard to the Christian Community the Archbishop has the governing veto to the policy of the School in the Faith and Morals. Well this discussion is can the school remain Catholic in the face of opposition to Natural law morality (sex between two consenting Adults)? The will of the Archbishop to preserve responsibility in teaching Catholic Faith is Alpha and Omega.

  19. One can always count on comments on CWR to be gutter politics at best and unbridled appetites ala the Dumb Ox, at worst.
    Its a wonder CWR earns enough revenue from subscribers to keep it online

  20. I’m so confused. Its not OK for an adult to have an healthy, consenting relationship with another adult. But, it is OK for multiple priests in the Indianapolis diocese alone, to molest young boys over a 50 year period??

    • “But, it is OK for multiple priests in the Indianapolis diocese alone, to molest young boys over a 50 year period??”

      Who, exactly, is saying that?

    • “I’m so confused.”

      Yes, you are. It’s good that you recognize it, as a first step towards getting help.

      “Its not OK for an adult to have an healthy, consenting relationship with another adult. ”

      a)it’s not healthy, and
      b)you’ve left yourself nothing to say to someone who wants to commit adultery or incest, or promiscuity, or any other evil behavior, as long as they are adults and consent; they’ll argue, “But it’s healthy!”

      Regarding the molestation of boys, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a list of all the priests who were credibly accused of abuse; all who are still living have been removed from ministry. Nobody is saying it’s “OK.” I must point out to you that the vast majority of abuse cases throughout the country are homosexual predation against adolescent boys.

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