An Indiana Catholic high school has fired a married gay teacher to remain within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
The decision means Cathedral High School in northeast Indianapolis will avoid the punishment the neighboring Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School received just last week for following its conscience and refusing to fire its own gay and married employee.
Cathedral High School’s board of directors said in a letter on Sunday that if the school kept the gay teacher on staff, it would lose its nonprofit status, its diocesan priests and its ability to offer the Eucharist, a central Christian rite, among other consequences.
Leaders said they hoped the gay teacher’s termination won’t “dishearten” students.
“We know that some individuals do not agree with every teaching of the Catholic Church and so their conscience struggles between the teaching and what they believe is right,” the letter stated. “We want you to know that we respect an individual’s conflict between teaching and their conscience.”
While official Catholic doctrine denounces same-sex marriage, the church also has a robust theology regarding conscience and an individual’s ability to discern between good and evil. Following their own consciences on the matter, a significant number of American Catholics have become more accepting of same-sex marriages, according to a 2017 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Younger Catholics are especially likely to be supportive ― 80% of white Catholics and 77% of Hispanic Catholics between the ages of 18 and 29 favor allowing lesbian and gay couples to legally marry.
It’s unclear when the archdiocese ordered the schools to fire the teachers, but Cathedral High School says it had been in dialogue with Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson for the past 22 months before coming to its “agonizing decision.”
Last week, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School announced its own decision to split from the Indianapolis archdiocese. In a letter to its community on Thursday, Brebeuf leaders said following the archdiocese’s order to dismiss a “highly capable and qualified teacher” would violate “our informed conscience on this particular matter.” The Jesuit school, part of the religious order’s Midwest province, was also concerned about a local archdiocese interfering in an employment decision that it believes should be made by leaders within its order.
As a result of Brebeuf’s stance, Thompson announced that the school would no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution that is part of his archdiocese.
“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 said in a statement about Brebeuf last week. “The Archdiocese of Indianapolis recognizes all teachers, guidance counselors and administrators as ministers.”
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis founded Cathedral High School in 1918. At the time, the archdiocese asked the Brothers of Holy Cross, a Catholic religious order, to serve as faculty at the school. The school is still affiliated with the Brothers of Holy Cross.
Cathedral’s board of directors said that it respects Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School’s decision “as they also navigate this painful time.” But while Brebeuf is sponsored by the Jesuit religious order, the letter suggests that Cathedral relies heavily on its local archdiocese and couldn’t react to its decrees the same way.
Cathedral’s board of directors’ letter said the school is offering “prayers and love” to the fired teacher, students, faculty and Thompson.
“We are committed to educating our students in the tenets of the Catholic faith with an emphasis on the Holy Cross tradition,” the board said in its letter. “Therefore, in order to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School, Cathedral must follow the direct guidance given to us by Archbishop Thompson and separate from the teacher.”