Vatican Freezes Archbishop’s Decree Against Pro-LGBT Jesuit School

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  •  September 24, 2019   

In June, Abp. Charles Thompson revoked Brebeuf High School's Catholic name for refusing to dismiss same-sex 'married' teacher

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INDIANAPOLIS ( - A Jesuit high school in Indiana has temporarily regained its right to call itself Catholic, pending a final decision by Vatican officials.

Back in June, the Indianapolis archdiocese prohibited Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School from calling itself Catholic after school leadership refused to dismiss a teacher living in a same-sex "marriage."

As a consequence of the decree, Indianapolis' Abp. Charles Thompson revoked permission for all-school Masses at Brebeuf, while still allowing early morning Mass before the start of the school day. Also, some of Brebeuf's sports teams have been blocked from competitions that are specifically for Catholic schools.

The Society of Jesus, which runs the school, appealed to the Congregation for Catholic Education (CCE) in the Vatican. Now, the CCE has temporarily lifted the archbishop's restriction on the school, pending a final ruling.

In a letter posted on Brebeuf's website on Monday, the school's president Fr. Bill Verbryke explained, "We have just learned that the Congregation for Catholic Education has decided to suspend the Archbishop's decree on an interim basis, pending its final resolution of our appeal" (emphasis added).

The temporary lifting of Abp. Thompson's restriction on Brebeuf is not an indication of which way the CCE will rule when it reaches a decision.


"It does not mean that the matter has been resolved, or that any permanent decision has been made," Fr. Verbryke wrote. "It also does not mean that anyone should infer that the Congregation for Catholic Education is leaning one way or the other on any of the issues at hand. The Congregation has simply granted a temporary suspension of the archbishop's decree until it makes a final decision."

Archdiocesan Communications Director Greg Otolski made a similar point in a statement:

Following standard canon-law procedures, the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome has temporarily suspended the effects of a decree by the Archdiocese derecognizing Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School as a Catholic institution. This is a common, temporary measure that does not affect a final determination. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis awaits a final determination by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Father Verbryke noted in his statement, "The archbishop very kindly informed me that, as a result of this temporary suspension of his decree, Brebeuf is free to resume our normal sacramental celebrations of the Eucharist. Most happily, this means that we will be able to celebrate the Mass for the feast day of St. Jean de Brebeuf on October 24."

"Ultimately," Fr. Verbryke argued, "our desire is to remain in full communion with the Catholic Church, without restrictions on our celebration of the Eucharist."

This is a common, temporary measure that does not affect a final determination.

The teacher that Brebeuf's administrators refused to dismiss is Layton Payne-Elliott. His same-sex "husband," Joshua Payne-Elliott, was dismissed from teaching at Cathedral High School — another Catholic school in the Indianapolis archdiocese — in June. Cathedral administrators dismissed Joshua owing to pressure from the archdiocese.

Joshua was not the first employee let go by an Indianapolis archdiocesan school for being in a same-sex union. In fact, the Indianapolis archdiocese has caught flak repeatedly in recent times for schools dismissing faculty members in same-sex "marriages."

Roncalli High School, also in the Indianapolis archdiocese, put a guidance counselor on leave in August 2018 because she was legally "married" to another woman. Then, in March 2019, the school dismissed a different guidance counselor who was also in a same-sex union. The two women have taken legal action against the archdiocese and the high school.

Archbishop Thompson and Superintendent Gina Fleming spoke up about the controversies over gay teachers' dismissals at a press gathering on June 27. The archbishop emphasized that teachers at Catholic schools are expected to give "ministerial witness" to the Catholic faith, which includes living in accord with Catholic moral teaching.

In like manner, Fleming argued, "So if we work for the Church, we certainly are expected to convey and be supportive of Church teachings — not only in our classrooms and our schools, but in the way we live our lives."

Regarding teachers at Catholic schools, the Code of Canon Law states that "teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life" (canon 803, section 2).

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