Indiana-area Jesuit high school faces controversy with the Church


Indiana-area Jesuit high school faces controversy with the Church

An ongoing conflict between Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has garnered international attention following the involvement of the Vatican in late September. 

The conflict stemmed from an order by the archdiocese for the school to fire an openly gay teacher who has been legally married to another man since 2017. Following two years of dissent between the archdiocese and the Midwest province of Jesuits on the manner, the archdiocese rescinded the high school’s status as a Catholic institution this past June. 

“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. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers,” the Archdiocese said in an official statement printed alongside the decree. “Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into [an] agreement that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.” 

Brebeuf Jesuit responded to the decree with a statement signed by the school’s president, Fr. William Verbryke, stating, “Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage… After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.” 

That same day, the Midwest Province of Jesuits began an appeal of this decree through the formal appeal process of the church, which ultimately led to the matter being taken up by the Vatican.

“The general reaction was that a lot of [students] felt extreme disappointment in the archdiocese but also a lot of us were proud that our school made the decision to not fire the teacher,” Dexter King, an editor of The Brebeuf Arrow, said. “Students quickly rallied around the school.”

While awaiting response from the Vatican, the school was no longer identified or recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese and was no longer allowed to officially hold mass. The implications of this order were additionally felt in athletics, after Brebeuf was barred from two All-Catholic Invitationals between other schools in the Indianapolis Archdiocese, a girls golf tournament on August 5th and a cross country meet on September 14th. 

On September 23rd, the Vatican announced an interim suspension of the decree while the school awaits the final decision of the Congregation of Catholic Education, a process that will take months, if not years. In the meantime, Brebeuf Jesuit has returned to holding mass on campus and has regained recognition as a Catholic institution. 

“I am very hopeful that the resolution will favor Brebeuf because our school is Jesuit primarily and therefore the Jesuit superintendent should have authority over the Archbishop as to the governance of my school,” King said. “I only hope that the Church makes the best, most inclusive decisions possible going into the future.”