A Catholic high school in Indianapolis has fired a gay teacher to protect its ‘Catholic identity’ after it was pressured to do so by the archdiocese.
Cathedral High School announced in a letter to the community on Sunday that it made the ‘agonizing decision’ to ‘separate’ from the unnamed teacher who is in a same-sex marriage.
That decision will means the school will avoid the punishment the nearby Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School received last week when it was cut off by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for refusing to fire its own gay and married employee.
Cathedral High School (pictured) has fired a gay teacher after pressure from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Archbishop Charles Thompson (pictured) told Cathedral that he would strip the school of its Catholic identity if it didn’t fire the gay teacher, according to a letter by school leaders
Cathedral said it had been engaged in almost two years of ‘earnest discussion and extensive dialogue’ with the archdiocese.
Archbishop Charles 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,’ according to the letter.
The letter states the repercussions for disobeying the church: It would not be able to identify as a Catholic school, celebrate the sacraments or have diocesan priests serve on their board of directors, and would lose its nonprofit status.
The letter, signed by the school’s president, Rob Bridges, and the chairman of its board, Matt Cohoat, said they hoped the gay teacher’s termination won’t ‘dishearten’ students.
‘We know that some individuals do not agree with every teaching of the Catholic Church and so their conscience struggles between the teaching and what they believe is right,’ Bridges and Cohoat wrote.
‘We want you to know that we respect an individual’s conflict between teaching and their conscience.’
Administrators at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (pictured) in Indianapolis pushed back against the archdiocese’s demands to fire a gay teacher and questioned whether the archdiocese has the authority to govern the school’s personnel decisions or revoke its religious affiliation
The letter also notes that Brebeuf is a Jesuit school with a looser affiliation with the archdiocese and does not face losing its funding.
‘We respect the position of our brothers and sisters at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School as they also navigate this painful time… The two schools cannot function the same way if Cathedral were to receive a similar decree as Brebeuf.’
Many Catholics across Indianapolis have expressed frustration with Cathedral’s decision.
A Change.org petition showing community disapproval of the teacher’s termination has received more than 7,500 signatures.
The petition states: ‘The decision to follow this demand from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is neither a Catholic nor a Christian one, but instead is an act of unjust discrimination and exclusion, not in keeping with the Catholic call to acceptance, defined by respect, compassion, and sensitivity.’
A Facebook page called ‘Fire Me Too’, set up by a Brebeuf graduate, says: ‘Brebeuf Jesuit was right when it stood up for the inherent dignity of all God’s children. Now even Cathedral High School has caved before the the single-minded focus of the new Archbishop.’
The page creator was inspired by a post from a Cathedral teacher that went viral Sunday night.
It says she divorced and remarried, without getting an annulment, which would technically violate her morality clause, so ‘as scary as this is to say, Archbishop Thompson: fire me too’.
Many Catholics across Indianapolis have expressed frustration with Cathedral’s decision. A Facebook page set up by a Brebeuf graduate protests the archbishop’s pressure on schools to terminate homosexual employees
The creator of the Facebook page was inspired by a post from a Cathedral teacher that went viral Sunday night
One Twitter user posted: ‘#FireMeToo in response to the firing of gay teachers in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis makes my heart happy.’
Another wrote: ‘The Archbishop is on a witch-hunt.’
When confronted with the same decision as Cathedral, Brebeuf rebuffed Archbishop Charles Thompson, writing in an open letter to the community that it had ‘respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher’.
Brebeuf President Friar Bill Verbryke called the archdiocese’s decision to cut ties with the school ‘very sad and difficult’
After learning of the archdiocese’s preliminary decision last Thursday, Brebeuf President Friar Bill Verbryke called the occasion ‘a very sad and difficult day’.
‘We will continue to function as a Catholic and as a Jesuit school,’ the president said defiantly in a video statement on the school’s Twitter account.
Though the archdiocese has already taken action to strip Brebeuf of its Catholic identity, leaders with the Midwest Province of Jesuits said the decision will be appealed.
In a statement about Brebeuf, the archdiocese said the problem is not about ‘sexual orientation’ but about the fact that the teacher in question is married to someone of the same sex.
It said that all school employees, including teachers who do not teach religion, are considered ‘ministers’ of Catholic teachings.
‘It is about our expectation that all personnel inside a Catholic school — who are ministers of the faith — abide by all Church teachings, including the nature of marriage,’ the statement said.
‘If and when a minister of the faith is publicly not doing so, the Church calls us to help the individual strive to live a life in accordance with Catholic teaching.’
But some called that explanation into question.
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America Magazine, told the New York Times that ‘categories of people you would need to fire’ would amount to ‘a huge list,’ including faculty members who used birth control, skipped Sunday Mass or did not give to the poor.
‘Why are those virtues any less important than the church’s teaching on same-sex marriage?’ Father Martin said. ‘It is completely discriminatory.’
Cathedral is the third Indianapolis Catholic high school that has faced pressure from Thompson over employees in same-sex marriages since he became archbishop in July 2017.
Archdiocesan-operated Roncalli High School of Indianapolis has fired or suspended two female guidance counselors in the past year because they are in same-sex marriages. The women have filed federal employment discrimination complaints and have said they intend to file lawsuits.
Cathedral High School is one of 68 schools Catholic recognized by the archdiocese and serves around 1,100 students in grades 9 to 12.
The 101-year-old private school is affiliated with the Holy Cross Brothers, but is independently run and depends on the Catholic Church to keep its nonprofit status.
Indiana is among around 30 states without state nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT+ people, according to the gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign.
A federal bill for such nationwide nondiscrimination protections passed the House of Representatives in May but appears doomed in the U.S. Senate because of Republican opposition.
Pope Francis has offered mixed signals on his stance on homosexuality and gay marriage, telling reporters on Rome as recently as April that homosexual tendencies ‘are not a sin,’ but stopping short of ordaining a gay lifestyle or gay marriage.