INDIANAPOLIS — For some reason, the archdiocese of Indianapolis seems to want to provoke another Reformation.
Within the past few days, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in northwest Indianapolis announced it was separating from the archdiocese. The archdiocese wanted Brebeuf to fire a longtime and well-respected teacher who happens to be gay and married. Brebeuf stood with its employee — and its LGBTQ students — and said no.
Soon after, Cathedral High School announced it was knuckling under to demands from the archdiocese that the school fire another longtime and well-respected teacher who happens to be gay and married. The archdiocese had a lot of leverage to exert on Cathedral. It could force teachers who are priests to leave the school and even compromise Cathedral’s not-for-profit tax status, which likely would have shut the school down.
The Brebeuf and Cathedral controversies follow a similar battle at Roncalli High School on Indianapolis’s south side.
There, the archdiocese demanded the firing of a longtime and well-respected — notice a pattern? — school counselor who happened to be gay and married. Another gay and married Roncalli employee faced the same archdiocesan wrath.
Both Roncalli employees have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging the archdiocese with discrimination. The complaints are a prelude to lawsuits.
They’re lawsuits the archdiocese likely will lose or be forced to settle. Unless the archdiocese is willing to enter into a jihad to fire every employee who is divorced, had an abortion, engaged in premarital or extramarital sex or supports capital punishment, the argument that it is selectively enforcing the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to discriminate is close to a slam dunk.
But that’s down the road.
At this moment, the archdiocese’s actions have provoked a firestorm.
The New York Times and other national news organizations have done stories on the Brebeuf and Cathedral situations.
Several Indiana state lawmakers said schools the archdiocese controls or supports no longer should be eligible for vouchers and other forms of taxpayer support. The legislators’ sensible argument is that no school that discriminates against individuals in legally sanctioned unions should receive government funds. The state wouldn’t support a business or organization that fired employees who married people of a different race or ethnicity.
But perhaps the thing that should be most troubling to the archdiocese — and the church leadership to whom the archdiocese presumably answers — has been the reaction from Indianapolis-area Catholics. Brebeuf students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff have rallied around the school.
Upset members of the Cathedral community began an online petition drive urging the school to defy the archdiocese on principle, regardless of the consequences. The petition included an open letter to Cathedral’s leadership that cited an authoritative source on the subject:
“This policy decision comes at a time when the global Church, exemplified by the papacy of Pope Francis, has embraced a more inclusive stance and pastoral tone toward the LGBTQ+ community. In 2013, Pope Francis made headlines saying, ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?’ He went on to say, ‘The catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society.’”
Within a few hours, more than 4,000 people had signed the petition, many of them Cathedral students, parents and alumni.
Worse, at least one Cathedral teacher threw down the gauntlet in a way that perfectly illustrated the archdiocese’s shaky legal position. She said she had been divorced and had remarried without getting an annulment. If the archdiocese was going to fire people for being gay and married, it needed to fire her, too.
Most poignant have been the arguments from anguished Catholics that Christ would not close the door to people in this fashion.
— John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehousseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.