IUPUI professor: Catholic schools’ decisions on same-sex marriage ‘interpretational’

Cathedral High School fires teacher

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two Catholic high schools responded differently in the last week to guidance from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to remove teachers who were in same-sex marriages. 

Just last week, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School announced it was splitting from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis after the school board refused to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

Brebeuf is sponsored by the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, allowing the school to keep its Catholic identity and sponsorship even without the archdiocese’s support.

Cathedral High School announced in a letter Sunday that it was separating from a teacher in a same-sex marriage after “direct guidance” from Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

Cathedral in the letter said that not complying with the archdiocese would have meant the school would be stripped of its nonprofit status and Catholic identity.

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“So, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has made a decision that same-sex marriage — an employee that is in a same-sex marriage that is in a school that they have some sort of influence over — is a red line,” said Raymond Haberski, a professor at IUPUI.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, in a statement on Monday, said every private, Catholic school must ensure teachers are following the teachings of the Catholic church. That statement reads:

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. When an individual acknowledges their ministerial role by signing their contact, the Church and her schools accept this acknowledgement in good faith.

This issue is not about sexual orientation; rather, it is about our expectation that all personnel inside a Catholic school—who are ministers of the faith—abide by all Church teachings, including the nature of marriage. If and when a minister of the faith is publicly not doing so, the Church calls us to help the individual strive to live a life in accordance with Catholic teaching. Over the years, we’ve walked with individuals and schools on many other issues that contradict Church teachings. Many individuals have chosen this accompaniment, and a few have not. In such a case, it is very difficult to part ways, but we readily honor the person’s dignity and decision.

But Haberski says the way the schools ensure that adherence can become blurry.

“Usually it’s a combination of whatever the institution’s mission is, right? So you have the Catholic doctrine, you have Catholic teaching of that doctrine, you have some tradition sort of baked into this as well. And it’s interpretational, let’s face it. Right?

“So there are some things, I have a question for the Catholic schools out there. How many people that they employ have been divorced? Is that a violation, something, of the mission or morality agreement, and if those people have been divorced, how many of them have been remarried and still work in this institution in the schools? It’s an interesting test,” said Haberski. 

Last year, two Roncalli High School counselors filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the school did not renew their contracts. One was in a same-sex marriage, the other in a same-sex union. 

In June, the EEOC had not yet ruled on those cases.