Brebeuf Jesuit says Archdiocese of Indianapolis will break with school over same-sex marriage issue

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A rift between the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School over an employee’s same-sex marriage means the Archdiocese will no longer recognize Brebeuf as a Catholic school.

In a letter to the Brebeuf Jesuit community, school leaders asked parents to “pray with us for a peaceful and just outcome.”

Brebeuf was founded in 1962 as an independent Catholic Jesuit school. The school has been in a collaborative partnership with the Archdiocese for nearly six decades. However, school officials said the Archdiocese will issue a formal decree announcing the decision to dissolve their partnership.

CBS4 spoke with Brebeuf Jesuit Principal Greg Vanslambrook about the announcement.

“Unfortunately the Arch Bishop of Indianapolis has made the decision he will no longer recognize Brebeuf Jesuit as a Catholic school," said Vanslambrook.  “We’re saddened by that decision that we hoped wouldn’t have to happen we’ve been in dialogue with him with this issue for a while.”

The decision follows what the school called a “sincere and significant” disagreement over who has the final say on personnel decisions at the school.

Regarding the teacher who was involved, Vanslambrook said he feels supported.

“We’ve been in close contact and it’s a difficult situation for him as well, but I know he feels very supported by the school, he’s grateful for that,” said Vanslambrook.

Brebeuf said the Archdiocese directed the school to part ways with a “highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage.”

The school felt the Archdiocese was, in effect, interfering with the school’s operations and setting a “concerning precedent” on other school matters.

From the school’s letter:

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.

Brebeuf officials wrote that they would not violate their “informed conscience” on the matter and said the Archdiocese’s mandate would cause harm to “highly capable and qualified teachers and staff.”

“As an institution with a mission to develop men and women for others, 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 school wrote. The school plans to appeal the Archdiocese's decision.

The school will hold an informational meeting in the chapel for parents on Monday, June 24, at 5 p.m. The Very Rev. Brian G. Paulson of USA Midwest Province Jesuits has also written a public letter on the matter.

The news comes nearly a year after a highly publicized incident at Roncalli High School in which a school counselor was suspended for being in a same-sex marriage, which the school and Archdiocese said violated her contract.

The Archdiocese provided the following statement:

The Catholic Church teaches that Catholic schools are integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be places of learning where students encounter the living Christ.

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. 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. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers. A comprehensive description of Catholic Church teaching can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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.

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 attached decree is effective as of June 21, 2019.

DECREE

Whereas, the undersigned and officials of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have been in extensive dialogue with the President and Board of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School on whether or not Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School was willing to remain as a recognized Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis; and,

Whereas, I accept and respect a school’s right and responsibility to make decisions that result in such a determination; and,

Whereas, it is my canonical responsibility to oversee faith and morals as related to Catholic identity within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis; and,

Whereas, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has chosen not to implement changes in accord with the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church;

I, the Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, D.D., J.C.L., with great sadness, acknowledge the choice of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School to no longer retain Catholic identity according to the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church and, therefore, to no longer remain as a Catholic institution in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Therefore, in accord with canon 803 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, I hereby decree that:

The institution known as Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (2801 W. 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46268), by its own selection, can no longer use the name Catholic and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis nor included in the listing of The Official Catholic Directory.

This decree is effective immediately and will remain in effect until such a time as Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School demonstrates their desire to operate in accord with the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church. This decree is subject to hierarchical recourse according to the provisions of canons 1734 and following.

Given this 21st day of June 2019

at the Office of the Archbishop

The Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, D.D., J.C.L.

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

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