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Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory Academy, Indianapolis

Indianapolis archdiocese cuts ties with Jesuit high school over gay teacher

Leaders of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School have refused the archbishop's order to fire a long-time teacher who is in a same-sex marriage.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis is cutting ties with Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School after the high school refused to fire a gay teacher.

The Indianapolis Star reports that the decision comes with limited financial implications for Brebeuf, but it could isolate the Indianapolis school from the larger Catholic community.

Brebeuf, which is sponsored by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, received notice that Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson will no longer formally recognize Brebeuf Jesuit as a Catholic school in the archdiocese.

"Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly recognized same-sex marriage," school officials said in a letter to the community.

"After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide."

Brebeuf, which has about 800 students, receives no financial support from the archdiocese, but has partnered with it since its founding in 1962. The partnership had enabled Brebeuf Principal Greg VanSlambrook to participate in meetings of Catholic school principals and allowed archdiocesan priests to minister at Brebeuf, though the school does not have anyone from the archdiocese at the school at this time.

VanSlambrook says Brebeuf has worked hard to avoid this outcome, but the split will not change anything for students or families.

"All of our programming will remained unchanged," he says. "There are some things we're going to miss, but it's not things that students and families will notice."

Brian G. Paulson, provincial for the Midwest Jesuits, called the decision "disappointing" in a statement posted to the group's website. He said the Jesuits and Brebeuf have been at odds with the archdiocese over the teacher for two years.

The archciocese's Superintendent of Catholic Education asked Brebeuf Jesuit not to renew the contract of the teacher in question because the teacher’s marital status does not conform to church doctrine. Paulson noted that the teacher in question does not teach religion and is a longtime valued employee of the school.

"I recognize this request by Archbishop Charles Thompson to be his prudential judgment of the application of canon law recognizing his responsibility for oversight of faith and morals as well as Catholic education in his archdiocese," Paulson said. "I disagree with the necessity and prudence of this decision."

Because Brebeuf is an independent Catholic school, not governed by the archdiocese as many other Catholic schools in the city are, administrative decisions are usually left to the school. The Jesuits have a long tradition of independence, as well as a strong focus on education.

"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," Paulson said.

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