“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going the other way…”

In shades of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, is the tale of two Indianapolis’ Catholic schools. One chose the other way; the way of foolishness. Although, not everyone agrees which school it was that chose badly.

This past week, two schools in the archdiocese of Indianapolis were told by Archbishop Charles Thompson to stop employing teachers in a same-sex marriage or they would lose their status as a Catholic school. According to Canon 806, the bishop has the right to “watch over” and “inspect” Catholic schools in his territory, even those directed by religious orders. “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,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

 

The Two Schools

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (named for martyr Saint Jean de Brebeuf, tortured and killed in Canada in 1649), told the archbishop they would not end their teacher’s employment. Thus, according to the archbishop’s decree, Brebeuf School “can no longer use the name Catholic and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic school in the archdiocese.”

Father Brian Paulson, provincial of the Midwest Province of Jesuits, said that the archbishop’s request not to renew the teacher’s contract “is neither a prudent nor necessary exercise of his responsibility to oversee faith and morals.” They are appealing the decision through a Church process starting locally and possibly reaching all the way to the Vatican.

The second school, Cathedral High School, agreed to comply, although seemingly reluctantly. A letter posted on their website, referred to “an agonizing decision, made after 22 months of earnest discussion...” It was signed by the chairman of the board of directors and the school’s president.

It stated: “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.

“If this were to happen, Cathedral would lose the ability to celebrate the Sacraments… we would lose the privilege of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel’s tabernacle, we could no longer refer to Cathedral as a Catholic school, our diocesan priests would no longer be permitted to serve on our Board of Directors, and we would lose our affiliation with The Brothers of Holy Cross. Furthermore, Cathedral would lose its 501(c)(3) status thus rendering Cathedral unable to operate as a nonprofit school…

“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.”

The difference between the two schools is that Brebeuf is sponsored by the Jesuits and can continue independently in many ways, because their canonical and nonprofit status is different from Cathedral’s.

 

Backlash

At a Catholic school, an archbishop should not be treated as a bad guy for adhering to Church teaching. But he is. The backlash is intense. That is real heroism: doing the right thing despite pressure, as opposed to the two teachers that were willing to jeopardize the well-being of their schools while knowingly breaking their contracts.

On Facebook, a former Catholic school teacher said: “Catholic friends, you say you love us, but why do you allow this to happen? I was a gay Catholic school teacher (not out at school) but luckily, I had the support of the pastor and ultimately the principal… I wish Catholics in Indiana but also around the U.S. would take a stand. Withhold your donations, speak to your priests, write to your bishops, and let them know you truly do support your LGBTQ brothers and sisters and want this type of abuse to stop. You cannot say you love us and then force us to live a life different from who we are. That seems to be contrary to God’s law.” 

The school phone number was included, hoping they will be inundated with calls. He defined “love” as synonymous with living as one feels and claimed objections are “contrary to God’s law.” Yet, if you live how you want and not as the Church teaches, then your god is you.

The situation has been called an “inquisition against LBGTQ people” on one popular site. There is petition with over 12,000 signatures protesting the firing of the teacher at Cathedral and another to remove the archbishop. Note to protestors: Petitions don’t remove archbishops for holding to Catholic teaching.

People say that using the “morality clause” against same-sex attracted people is discriminatory since other straight teachers are not held to them. At the Catholic schools in my diocese, that is not the case since several heterosexual teachers have been let go for morality reasons. Regardless, if people feel the morality clause should be enforced more evenly, then advocate for that rather than advocating for immorality.

An Indianapolis teacher, posted on Facebook that she was divorced and remarried without an annulment, so she had breached the school's morality clause. “As scary, heartbreaking, and life changing as this is for me to say, Archbishop Thompson: fire me too,” she wrote. I wish that he would since she asked for it.

Another parent wrote on Cathedral’s Facebook page: “We, as a family are devastated that Cathedral would show such cowardice… I am actually ASHAMED to have sent my kids here."

Yes, she should have saved herself all the tuition since Catholic teaching is not what she expects at a Catholic school. The public schools are free in many ways—free of Catholic morality—so families should stop protesting and put their kids in public schools if Catholic teaching upsets them.