June 20, 2019

Archdiocese Cuts Ties With Brebeuf Over Gay Teacher

A May 2018 mass at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. - Facebook/Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

A May 2018 mass at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.

Facebook/Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will be cut from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis because it would not fire a gay teacher, school leaders say.

The private northwest Indianapolis school will no longer be recognized as a Catholic school by the Archdiocese. The decree will be published Friday in the local Catholic newspaper The Criterion.

Brebeuf leaders say they will appeal the decree. 

Greg VanSlambrook, Brebeuf Jesuit's Principal, says the Archdiocese insisted during the past two years to dismiss a “highly capable and qualified teacher” because they are married to a same-sex partner.

The Archdiocese, in a statement, said all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators are recognized as ministers -- and ministers in their professional and private lives must follow Catholic Church teachings.

"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," the statement read.

But VanSlambrook says it is “unprecedented” for the Archdiocese to try to insert themselves into an independent Jesuit Catholic schools in partnership with a diocese.

"Through everything we've been able to find, there hasn't been a similar action taken by a diocese toward an independent Catholic school run by a religious order," he says.

VanSlambrook says Brebeuf receives no funding from the Catholic Church and expects families won't see a change at the school after Friday. The school will hold a meeting Monday for students' families.

Brebeuf has not identified the teacher but described him as a longtime educator at the school who does not teach religion.

"We made our decision, in this situation, just in regards to our own community, our own teacher to do the right thing by him and by our community and its values as opposed to an eye on any larger implications," VanSlambrook says.

In an open letter to the Brebeuf community, Father William Verbryke, the school’s president, and others, called the issue a “sincere and significant disagreement" with the Archdiocese.

“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,” Verbryke and others wrote in the letter.

Brian G. Paulson, provincial for the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, called the decree a "disappointing development" in the ongoing fight, according to a statement posted to the group's website.

Paulson says Archdiocese will allow Jesuit priests to serve in leadership at Brebeuf Jesuit and retain their ability to celebrate Mass on campus. Despite the decree, Paulson says, “Brebeuf Jesuit still affirms its identity and mission as a Catholic Jesuit school and the Midwest Jesuits still regard it as a sponsored work.”

Brebeuf began its partnership with the Archdiocese when it was founded in 1962. It is rated A for academics by the state education department. This past school year it enrolled nearly 800 students in grade grades 9-12, with a faculty and staff of 132.

Last year, Brebeuf received $375,583 in state funds from school vouchers, which allows some parents to apply public school dollars toward private school tuition.

The Archdiocese’s decision comes more than a year after another one of its schools, Roncalli High School, did not renew a counselor’s contract because of her marriage to a woman. A second Roncalli counselor has since said she also lost her job because of her same-sex relationship.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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