School defies Archdiocese of Indianapolis, refuses to fire teacher in same-sex marriage

/ CBS/AP

Controversy over teacher's same-sex marriage

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis will no longer recognize a Jesuit high school as Catholic because it refuses to fire a teacher who's in a same-sex marriage, it announced Thursday. A decree taking effect Friday by Archbishop Charles Thompson said that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School "can no longer use the name Catholic and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic institution."

Then-Bishop Charles Thompson speaks after he is introduced as the new archbishop of Indianapolis in Indianapolis June 13, 2017. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

"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 Thursday.

Archdiocesan-operated Indianapolis Roncalli High School has fired or suspended two guidance counselors in the past year because they're both in same-sex marriages. However, Brebeuf is independent of the archdiocese despite being located in it and has "always maintained control of our school's operations and governance, including our personnel decisions," the school's leaders said in an open letter Thursday.

The Indianapolis school has 793 students in grades 9-12, with a faculty and staff of 132. The Very Rev. Brian Paulson, who heads the Midwest Province of Jesuits, said in a statement the archdiocese "requested verbally two years ago that Brebeuf Jesuit not renew this teacher's contract because this teacher's marital status does not conform to church doctrine."

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Paulson said the teacher doesn't teach religion and "is a longtime valued employee of the school." He didn't identify the teacher.

The school's principal, Greg VanSlambrook, told CBS affiliate WTTV he's been in close contact with the teacher. "It's a difficult situation for him as well, but I know he feels very supported by the school," VanSlambrook told the station. "He is grateful for that."

Brebeuf will appeal the archdiocesan decision — to the Vatican if necessary, Paulson said. "Brebeuf's administration and Board of Trustees have determined that following the Archdiocese's directive would not only violate their informed conscience on this particular matter, but also would set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school's operations and other matters," Paulson said.

Despite the decree, Brebeuf will continue to call itself an "independent Jesuit Catholic school," VanSlambrook told The Associated Press. "Independent Jesuit Catholic schools receive their governance and sponsorship from the Midwest Province" of Jesuits, VanSlambrook said. "We'd like to try to continue a partnership with the archdiocese."

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who is one of the leading advocates for greater LGBT inclusion in the Catholic church, applauded the move by Brebeuf's leadership. "The targeting of LGBT employees in Catholic institutions must cease, and Brebeuf and the Jesuits are here standing with the marginalized," Martin said in an email. "Despite what the Archdiocese says, this is the most Catholic thing that the school could do."

First published on June 21, 2019 / 12:16 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Then-Bishop Charles Thompson speaks after he is introduced as the new archbishop of Indianapolis in Indianapolis June 13, 2017.

School defies archdiocese, refuses to fire gay teacher

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis says it won't fire teacher who's in same-sex marriage

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