Catholic School Puts Guidance Counselor on Leave for Same-Sex Marriage

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 4, 2018   

Roncalli High School puts Shelly Fitzgerald on leave after school was sent copy of gay marriage license

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INDIANAPOLIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic high school in Indiana is getting blowback for trying to enforce its teachers' contract.

Shelly Fitzgerald works as a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in the archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Catholic school put Fitzgerald on administrative leave after a concerned Catholic sent the school a copy of Fitzgerald's same-sex marriage license.

According to Fitzgerald's account, Roncalli's principal, Chuck Weisenbach, and President Joseph D. Hollowell met with the guidance counselor on Aug. 10, showed her they had received a copy of her marriage license and discussed the results of her violating her employment contract.

They laid out several potential scenarios. One possibility was to keep her on staff until the end of the school year if "things stayed quiet" and the controversy stayed under wraps. But if word of the scandal became widespread, Weisenbach and Hollowell said they would likely have to "move towards termination." She was also given the options to resign immediately or to dissolve her same-sex "marriage" in order to stay on staff.

The guidance counselor was put on administrative leave on Aug. 12.


Some students, parents and others are up in arms over the school's treatment of Fitzgerald. For instance, former Roncalli employee Mary Jo Eckstein said, "I think the archdiocese need[s] to take a great, big look at what they're doing and decide that this is the year 2018."

"We have lots of LBGT people here in this community, in this world, and they're going to need to be accepted because they're also products of God," she added.

Those loyal to Roncalli were so vocally upset over the issue that the school had to shut down its Facebook page due to countless expressions of anger and debates.

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Shelly Fitzgerald was put on leave after the school found out

she was in a same-sex marriage.

Indianapolis Abp. Charles C. Thompson said in a statement on Aug. 21, "The issue concerning Ms. Fitzgerald's employment is not about sexual orientation, but about the Church's teaching that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as established and revealed by God."

The archbishop also stated, "When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching."

Fitzgerald worked at Roncalli for 15 years. She and her same-sex partner were civilly married in 2014 and are raising a child they adopted.

She said she was "shocked" and "hurt" that someone had sent a copy of her marriage license to the school.

It was recently announced that Fitzgerald will appear on The Ellen Show with Ellen Degeneres — herself lesbian — to talk about the ongoing controversy with the high school.

A statement from Roncalli High School reads, "The Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Roncalli High School are aware that Ms. Shelly Fitzgerald, who is employed as a guidance counselor at the archdiocesan school, has made public a confidential personnel matter concerning her employment contract with Roncalli."

The school notes, "Roncalli does not discuss specific details of school personnel matters. Roncalli takes seriously its responsibility to treat all employees fairly and to not discuss their employment record in a public forum."

While there has been widespread outcry against Roncalli administrators, there have also been several op-ed pieces coming to the school's defense.

"Roncalli is bound by the traditional standards of the Catholic Church," Gary Varvel wrote for IndyStar, "and has the religious right to require that its employees adhere to those standards."

Another commentator, Chris Freind, argued, "At its core, this is not about gays, gay rights or gay marriage. It is about a private entity exercising its right — yes, its legal right — to choose employees it believes are best suited for the business."

Freind also said, "Flip the coin. Should Planned Parenthood be forced to employ a devout pro-lifer? Since doing so would be bad for 'business,' as well as contrary to the organization's goals, Planned Parenthood would rightfully reject that."

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