Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Brebeuf Jesuit cut ties

(WTHR photo)
Archdiocese Splits from Brebeuf
Archdiocese splits from Brebeuf
Archdiocese splits from Brebeuf

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is forcing a local high school out of its fold, after the school's board refused to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

The Brebeuf Jesuit Board of Trustees sent out emails Thursday afternoon advising parents and supporters of the separation.

According to the letter, the Archdiocese, under the direction of Archbishop Charles Thompson, will issue a formal decree announcing it will no longer formally recognize Brebeuf Jesuit as a Catholic high school under its leadership.

The breakdown reportedly came after Brebeuf declined a directive to "dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage."

The email said, "Please be assured, the Archdiocese's decision will not change the mission or operations of Brebeuf Jesuit."

School leaders asked members for prayer and said the school is and will always be a Catholic Jesuit school.

From where former Roncalli High School guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald stands, the decision by Brebeuf was a step forward in the right direction.

"My first reaction was how amazing it must have been for this teacher to feel so supported by their administration and by their school community to give them hope that things get better," said Fitzgerald, who had a different experience.

Last August, Fitzgerald was put on administrative leave from Roncalli after working at the school 15 years, when the administration discovered she was married to a woman.

Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit against the Diocese and Roncalli.

"I did receive support from all over the entire world and from my students, which ultimately is the most important thing," said Fitzgerald.

In March, a second Roncalli High School guidance counselor lost her job because she's married to a woman.

Like Fitzgerald, Lynn Starkey's contract wasn't renewed. She too filed a discrimination complaint.

"How Brebeuf students will feel about that is different than it was felt at Roncalli to students," said Fitzgerald.

From where Brebeuf parents Todd and Linda Maurer sit, Brebeuf's administration made the right call.

"Brebeuf is now walking their walk and saying, 'We support all people,'" said Todd Maurer.

The Maurers are Jewish. Their oldest daughter just graduated from Brebeuf and another daughter is a sophomore.

"We could not be more proud to have Brebeuf as our school. That they made this decision, this is huge," said Linda Maurer.

Their daughter Alexis, who's about to study elementary education, isn't surprised.

"The first thing I thought of when I heard that was how much love the Brebeuf community has for everyone and how much love that teacher must be feeling to have the strength and power of the school, standing by that teacher," said Alexis Maurer.

Because of it, the Maurers are putting their money behind Brebeuf.

"We already made a contribution today, as well, because we support organizations that do the right thing," said Todd Maurer.

Fitzgerald and Shelly's Voice, a student advocacy group started in support of Fitzgerald, will be standing up this Saturday at what they're calling a Rally for Equality in front of the Catholic Center. They say it's not a protest. They plan to speak about what they stand for, not what they stand against.

For Shelly Fitzgerald, it's more than just an institution doing what she feels is right, it's the people in it.

"I do think it's beautiful that adults stood up for it, so the students didn't have to," said Fitzgerald.

The Archdiocese released a statement around 2 p.m. saying, in full:

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:


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