Indianapolis, Ind., Sep 24, 2019 / 04:24 pm (CNA).- Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis announced this week that the Vatican has suspended a decree prohibiting the school from calling itself Catholic. The announcement has […]
It is interesting to observe that in the Catholic New Agency (CNA) report of June 20, 2019 on Archbishop Charles Thompson rescinding recognition of Brebeuf Jesuit as a Catholic institution of secondary education, the words […]
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education has temporarily suspended a decree from the Archbishop of Indianapolis that revoked the Catholic identity of a Jesuit high school. The suspension will have effect while the congregation considers an appeal of the decree.
The June 21 decree from Archbishop Charles Thompson said the archdiocese would no longer recognize Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School as Catholic, after a disagreement about the school’s employment of a teacher who attempted to contract a same-sex marriage.
Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, head of the Jesuits’ Midwest Province, has led the appeal of the archbishop’s decree. After Thompson declined to rescind the decree, Paulson turned to the Congregation for Catholic Education to consider the matter.
The president of Brebeuf, Fr. Bill Verbryke, SJ, said Sept. 23 that the congregation “has decided to suspend the Archbishop’s decree on an interim basis, pending its final resolution of our appeal.”
Verbryke added that “It is very important to understand, however, what this temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree does NOT mean. It does not mean that the matter has been resolved, or that any permanent decision has been made. It also does not mean that anyone should infer that the Congregation for Catholic Education is leaning one way or the other on any of the issues at hand.”
“The Congregation has simply granted a temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree until it makes a final decision,” Verbryke explained in a message to the school community.
Verbryke noted that Thompson had “very kindly informed me that, as a result of this temporary suspension of his decree, Brebeuf is free to resume our normal sacramental celebrations of the Eucharist.”
The archbishop had already granted permission for daily Masses to be said at the school’s chapel, but had denied permission for Masses offered on particular occasions, such as an Aug. 15 “Mass of the Holy Spirit as a traditional opening-of-the-school-year- Mass.”
The school’s president said it is unknown how long the appeal process will last, “but please be assured that we are sincere in our desire to resolve our disagreement with the Archbishop and resume the strong relationship we had always enjoyed with the Archdiocese since our founding in 1962.”
He emphasized that the “process is ongoing in an environment of not only deep love for our Church, but also, despite our differences on this matter, deep respect for the Archbishop. Ultimately, our desire is to remain in full communion with the Catholic Church, without restrictions on our celebration of the Eucharist, and that our identity as a Catholic school be fully recognized and supported by the Archdiocese.”
Kris Mackey, advancement and communications director for the Jesuits’ Midwest province, told CNA that Verbryke’s letter “mirrored the letter” received from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
She added that the congregation’s suspension of Thompson’s decree was made at the congregation’s discretion, and that adjacent to its appeal, the province “had asked for the suspension during the time that the decision-making is happening.”
While the congregation “granted yes to the suspension,” Mackey reflected, “of course they’re discerning,” and how long the appeals process will last is unknown.
“The two are kind of unrelated,” she said. The suspension does not indicate the congregation is more likely to rule one way or another.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said that the temporary suspension was “following standard canon-law procedures,” and that “this is a common, temporary, measure that does not affect a final determination.”
The local Church added that it awaits a final determination from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The archdiocese had announced June 20 that “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 in June, 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.”
Layton Payne-Elliot, the Brebuef teacher who attempted a same-sex marriage, is civilly married to Joshua Payne-Elliot, who was dismissed earlier this year from a different Catholic high school in Indianapolis, because contracting a same-sex marriage violates archdiocesan policies and Catholic teaching.
Joshua Payne-Elliot filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese in protest of his dismissal, one day after having reached a settlement with Cathedral High School, where he had been employed.
The archdiocese has said that “religious liberty, which is a hallmark of the U.S. Constitution and has been tested in the U.S. Supreme Court, acknowledges that religious organizations may define what conduct is not acceptable and contrary to the teachings of its religion, for its school leaders, guidance counselors, teachers and other ministers of the faith.”
In a press conference June 27, Archbishop Thompson stressed that Payne-Elliot was removed not because he was homosexual, but because he had contracted a same-sex marriage, in opposition to Church teaching on marriage.
The conflict between Brebeuf and the archdiocese began with an archdiocesan request that the contract of Layton Payne-Elliot not be renewed because he is in a same-sex marriage.
The school leaders wrote in June 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.”
The story of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory has taken several turns since the Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced that it was severing ties with the school over a decision by its administration to retain a teacher who […]
Indianapolis, Ind., Aug 5, 2019 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- A Jesuit-sponsored high school in Indiana has asked the Vatican to overturn Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson’s decision to revoke the school’s Catholic identity, and announced that … […]
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 […]
Denver Newsroom, Dec 21, 2020 / 09:35 am (CNA).- The outcome of a Vatican appeal involving same-sex civil marriage and the Catholic identity of an Indiana school could have effect on a pending religious liberty lawsuit, and on the way other Catholic schools approach the issue of Catholic identity among their faculty.
Layton Payne-Elliot is a math teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit High School in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In 2017, the school became aware that Payne-Elliot had contracted a same-sex marriage with Joshua Payne-Elliot, a teacher at Cathedral High School, which is also in the archdiocese.
The archdiocese asked that both schools not renew the teachers’ contracts, because, they said, teachers in Catholic schools are supposed to be witnesses of Catholic doctrine, and contracting a same-sex marriage constitutes a public act of counterwitness to that doctrine.
Brebeuf refused the archdiocesan instruction. In turn, the archdiocese revoked the school’s recognition as Catholic. The school appealed that decision to the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Curial officials close to the case have warned for months that Indianapolis’ Archbishop Charles Thompson is unlikely to find support for his deployment of the “nuclear option” in response to the school’s decision on Layton.
Several Vatican officials have told CNA that after some gestures of consideration, Brebeuf’s Catholic identity will likely remain intact, and the practical autonomy of institutes administered by religious orders will be bolstered by the Congregation’s decision.
A decision against Thompson could impact an ongoing civil lawsuit over the same case.
Joshua Payne-Elliot, who taught at Cathedral High School, filed suit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 2019, after he was fired from his position. His case is currently before the state Supreme Court; this month the court rejected a request from the archdiocese to dismiss the case.
Cathedral High School’s handbook states that the “personal conduct” of all teachers should “convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
The Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the archdiocese, saying that “religious employers are entitled to employ in key roles only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts,” and the government cannot interfere “with the autonomy of religious organizations.”
But according to The Indiana Lawyer, a judge in the litigation offered an unexpected settlement proposal last year.
Judge Stephan Heiman suggested that the parties reach a settlement that would depend on the Vatican’s decision in Brebeuf Jesuit’s canonical appeal against the archbishop. The judge suggested that if the archdiocese prevailed in Rome, the civil litigation would be dismissed, but if Brebeuf won in Rome, “the liability of the Archdiocese to Payne-Elliott would be established as a legal matter.”
Payne-Elliot accepted the idea, but the archdiocese did not. It’s worth noting that the judge’s proposal seemed to consider that the Congregation for Catholic Education will rule on the issue only as a matter of principle, when, in fact, there are any number of technical canonical issues at play, all of which may be a factor in the canonical case.
But Heiman’s proposed settlement indicated that he saw a correlation between the Congregation’s decision and the case before him. That idea may well be picked up by Judge Lance Hammer, who is now overseeing the case, or argued for by Payne-Elliot’s attorneys, especially if the Congregation decides against Thompson without clarity on the reasons.
In short, the canonical specifics of the Vatican’s decision may well prove an operative factor in the ongoing civil litigation.
Of course, a decision against the archdiocese could also have a chilling effect on other Catholic institutions which require that teachers or employees live according to Catholic doctrine. It is unlikely bishops will be willing to press institutions in their diocese on such requirements, especially institutions administered by religious institutes, if they expect Rome won’t support their decisions on the matter.
Across the U.S., Catholic bishops in recent years have strengthened their policies on the Catholic identity of employees, in light of a number of religious liberty decisions in U.S. courts. But to understand how those policies might actually be applied in the years to come, many will now be looking to Rome, and to Indianapolis.
Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 9, 2020 / 02:24 pm (CNA).- Indiana’s Marion Superior Court has postponed a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in a religious liberty case over whether a Catholic school may dismiss a teacher for publicly violating Church teaching.
Becket, which is representing the the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in the case, has announced that a March 10 hearing in Payne-Elliott v. Archdiocese of Indianapolis “has been postponed for medical reasons.”
It added that the hearing will be reset at a later date.
Joshua Payne-Elliott, a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, filed a lawsuit claiming that the archdiocese illegally interfered in his professional relationship with Cathedral High School, leading the school to terminate his contract in June 2019.
Joshua and Layton Payne-Elliott had contracted a same-sex civil marriage in 2017.
Joshua was dismissed from Cathedral High because contracting a same-sex marriage violates archdiocesan policies and Catholic teaching.
“Archbishop Thompson made it clear that Cathedral’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage,” Cathedral High School leaders said in a June 2019 letter.
“Therefore, in order to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School, Cathedral must follow the direct guidance given to us by Archbishop Thompson and separate from the teacher,” said the letter, signed by Matt Cohoat, chairman of Cathedral High School’s board of directors, and Rob Bridges, the school’s president.
Layton is employed as a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. The school’s Catholic identity was revoked by the Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2019 after a disagreement about Layton’s employment. The revocation is temporarily suspended while the Congregation for Catholic Education considers an appeal.
In 2017, Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis had requested that Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School not renew the Payne-Elliotts’ contracts.
Joshua Payne-Elliott filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese in protest of his dismissal in August 2019, one day after having reached a settlement with Cathedral High School.
Jay Mercer, an attorney for the archdiocese, has said that “The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that churches have a constitutional right to determine rules for religious schools, and that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.”
“Families rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic social teaching throughout its schools, and the Constitution fully protects the Church’s efforts to do so,” he added.
The Department of Justice has said that the school’s decision was protected by the First Amendment.
“This case presents an important question: whether a religious entity’s interpretation and implementation of its own religious teachings can expose it to third-party intentional-tort liability. The First Amendment answers that question in the negative,” a Justice Department statement of interest said.
It added that “religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts, and, more broadly, that the United States Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of a religious organization.”
In June 2019, the archdiocese said of teachers that “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.”
Archdiocesan policy states that every Catholic school, archdiocesan and private, must clearly state in its contracts and job descriptions that all teachers are ministers of the Gospel and must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.
In a June 2019 statement, the archdiocese explained that teachers at Catholic schools are considered ministers, as part of the schools’ mission to forming students in the Catholic faith.
“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,” the archdiocese said.
Archbishop Thompson has stressed that Joshua Payne-Elliott was removed not because he is homosexual, but because he had contracted a same-sex marriage, in opposition to Church teaching on marriage.
All people should be treated with love and respect, and sexual orientation in itself is not sinful, the archbishop said.
However, he added, the Church is clear in teaching that the proper role of sexual activity is within a marriage between one man and one woman.
The problem in cases such as Brebeuf and Cathedral, he said, “is about public witness of Church teaching on the dignity of marriage as one man and one woman. That is our Church teaching.”
“In this particular case we’re dealing with, those are ministers in our Church. Teachers, guidance counselors, other leaders, leaders of the schools and other leaders in the archdiocese are bound to live out these principles.”
Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2021 / 11:00 am America/Denver (CNA). Catholic schools must be free to uphold the Church’s teachings, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said after a federal judge allowed a lawsuit against […]