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Former Roncalli counselor files federal lawsuit against high school, archdiocese

Former counselor file federal lawsuit against Roncalli High School, archdiocese

Stephanie Zepelin | News 8 at 5 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A former Catholic high school guidance counselor suspended over her same-sex marriage filed a federal lawsuit against the school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Shelly Fitzgerald is suing Roncalli High School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Inc. Fitzgerald said school officials asked her to resign after they received a copy of her same-sex marriage certificate.

Fitzgerald says this is sex discrimination because she’s married to another woman. A same-sex marriage is against the teaching of the Catholic Church. However, the suit claims male and heterosexual Roncalli employees are not held to the same standards when their actions violate the teaching of the Catholic Church

The lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, hostile work environment, and discrimination.

The suit also addresses the treatment of Fitzgerald’s father. According to the lawsuit, Pat Fitzgerald volunteered and spoke at Roncalli for more than 26 years. But after defending his daughter, the suit says the school told him he was not longer allowed to volunteer.

The school alleges that Fitzgerald signed and agreed to a ministerial job description in her employment contract that she live in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The school also said she acknowledged she breached this clause of contract by entering into a marriage that is not valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis sent this statement:

“Catholic schools exist to communicate the Catholic faith to the next generation. To accomplish their mission, Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom. If a school’s leaders reject core aspects of the Catholic faith, it undermines the school’s ability to accomplish its mission. Because of that, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.

Many families in our community have sacrificed so their children can attend schools where they will learn the Catholic faith. They rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic teaching throughout its schools, and the Constitution fully protects the Church’s efforts to do so.” 

Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Fitzgerald and her attorneys are asking for back pay with interest, payment for employment benefits, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.