There have been far too many stories about gay teachers who work at Catholic schools, only to get fired after their relationships or marriages become public. It doesn’t matter how popular or beloved or experienced those teachers are — if they’re in a same-sex relationship, the Church will gleefully kick them out no matter how much it hurts the community.
In a similar situation, you would expect an identical outcome at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. Even though it’s technically sponsored by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus and receives no money from the Catholic Church, there has been a close bond between the two for more than five decades.
But in 2017, the school found out via social media that one of its teachers had gotten married to someone of the same sex. The Catholic Church gave them an ultimatum: Get rid of the teacher or else.
Yesterday, V. Rev. Brian G. Paulson, SJ announced that the school would be giving the Catholic Church a gigantic middle finger… though he said it a little more eloquently.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, through the Superintendent of Catholic Education, 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. The teacher in question does not teach religion and is a longtime valued employee of the school. Brebeuf has declined to honor the Archdiocese’s expectation that the school dismiss this teacher.
Our disagreement is over what we believe is the proper governance autonomy regarding employment decisions which should be afforded a school sponsored by a religious order. In this particular case, we disagree regarding the prudential decision about how the marital status of a valued employee should affect this teacher’s ongoing employment at Brebeuf Jesuit.
Consistent with long tradition in our church, Brebeuf Jesuit, with my support as provincial, respects the primacy of an informed conscience of members of its community when making moral decisions. We recognize that at times some people who are associated with our mission make personal moral decisions at variance with Church doctrine; we do our best to help them grow in holiness, all of us being loved sinners who desire to follow Jesus.
This is an issue that cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a Jesuit institution with responsibilities to both the local and universal church, as well as for the pastoral care we extend to all members of our Catholic community.
In short, that teacher is a good guy and they don’t give a damn if he’s gay. The worst thing that’s going to happen is that the school doesn’t get to call itself “Catholic” anymore. It’s cut off from the broader Catholic community. But that punishment is like your mother telling you, “Do your homework right now, or else you’re not going to get broccoli for dinner!”
It’s not really a threat that should scare anyone.
The school’s letter to families is more of the same “Sorry not sorry” approach, explaining the disagreement, but not apologizing for anything since they did nothing wrong. According to the agreement they have with the Archdiocese, only certain employees are required to be Catholic, and teachers are exempt from that rule (except for the ones who teach religious studies).
If anything, refusing to accept the Catholic Church’s bigotry will be a huge morale boost for everyone who works there. It’s a courageous move by Brebeuf Jesuit — and one that ought to set an example for every other decent school that has an opportunity to tell the Catholic Church they refuse to stand for faith-based hate.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)