Brebeuf principal, students respond to Archdiocese split

Archdiocese of Indianapolis splits with Brebeuf

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School says the response has been largely positive to the school’s decision not to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage. 

Thursday, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced it was cutting ties with the north side Catholic school “with great sadness.” It says Brebeuf no longer retains a “Catholic identity according to the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church” and, therefore will “no longer remain as a Catholic institution in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.” 

News 8 spoke with the school’s principal, Greg Vanslambrook, hours after the announcement was made. He explained a teacher hired by the school nearly 15 years ago had gotten engaged and married to another man. Vanslambrook said the school knew about the relationship and when confronted by the Archdiocese about disciplinary action two years ago, said it would not fire him. 

“It’s a sincere disagreement between the Catholics and the people who are trying to do the best for the Catholic church and for the people of the Archdiocese, and we understand all that,” said Vanslambrook. “We anticipated this coming today eventually, but we did try to avoid it for a long time and try to come to a resolution, but it’s unfortunate that it has come to this point.” 

Vanslambrook said he valued the partnership but that this was “a matter of conscience,” “the right thing,” and a decision based on the community values.  

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When asked why the school was standing behind a teacher in clear violation of an employment contract, Vanslambrook said the teacher’s contract was with Brebeuf, not the Archdiocese. 

“Contractually we have some differences with other schools,” he said. “Our decisions are based on a teacher’s excellent skills in the classroom, their ability to carry out our mission, their knowledge of and belief in doing what we do with students.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a statement, saying in part: 

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The statement also said:

“To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching. […] Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students.”

Vanslambrook asserted that Brebeuf is now an independent Jesuit Catholic school and will not experience many changes from the loss of the Archdiocese support.

He said the students’ education will still be recognized as Catholic, and funding won’t change due to the school’s reliance on tuition, fundraisers and state money. He said the only real noticeable change will be that archdiocesan priests won’t attend school events anymore. 

News 8 spoke with a Brebeuf student who said she was shocked to hear the news but agreed with the decision.

“Just really reiterating that message that everyone’s welcome here, everyone’s welcome at this school, everyone’s welcome at this community. I think that’s what this decision really showed,” said Ivy Jane Gallagher.

The school will hold a parent informational meeting Monday at 5 p.m. 

Brebeuf is now the second Catholic school in Indianapolis to handle employment issues concerning same-sex marriage. Last year Roncalli High School suspended guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald for her same-sex marriage, and earlier this year another counselor Lynn Starkey told News 8 the school wasn’t renewing her contract due to her same-sex marriage. Both women have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.