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What We Know: The Archdiocese of Indianapolis' stance against same-sex marriage in their schools

Posted at 3:53 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 18:57:01-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since Cathedral High School fired a teacher earlier this month because of their same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Indianapolis publicly addressed the situation, defending his decision to uphold the church's teachings.

"It's been a difficult week for the Catholic community and beyond," Archbishop Charles Thompson said during the closed meeting with the press Thursday afternoon. "This is not a witchhunt. We do not go looking for these situations."

Thompson said teachers who are gay can continue to work at Catholic schools who are part of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as long as they do not get married to their partners, or live with them.

"One's orientation is not sin, as I said in the beginning," Thompson said. "Its the public witness with the church teachings... We do the same thing if someone is cohabitating."

He also said the Archdiocese has known about the situations at both Brebeuf and Cathedral for the past two years, but this is not just about the school.

"I have dear family members and friends of same-sex attraction," Thompson said. "It is as personal to me as it is to anyone and they know I love them unconditionally and they know I respect their dignity upmost."

The Archdiocese has 2,000 teachers across 67 schools that stretch from Hamilton County and south.

Gina Fleming, superintendent of Catholic schools, said they have also taken action against staff who were involved in in vitro fertilization or who were divorced without an annulment.

“In the past two years, four Catholic employees in the Archdiocese have been found to be in violation of their Archdiocese employment contract,” Fleming said.

Four hours after the Archbishop's meeting with the media, the Cathedral High School Alumni Association hosted a "Prayer Circle" to pray for the teacher who lost his job at Cathedral and to protest the Archdiocese's decision to force the firing.

Watch the protest & prayer circle below.

Cathedral High School

Cathedral High School was the third central Indiana Catholic in the past year to be given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The school chose to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage after threats from the Archdiocese that if they did not, they would lose their Catholic status and all the symbolism and monetary help that comes with it.

READ | Cathedral High School follows Archdiocese orders, fires teacher in same-sex marriage

The school said in a release on June 23 that their decision to follow the “direct guidance” of the Archbishop came after 22 months of discussion. They also said they were told that if they did not fire the teacher, they would lose the "ability to celebrate the Sacraments as we have in the past 100 years with our students and community."

READ | Cathedral talks to students about decision to fire teacher | Cathedral told to fire teacher or lose non-profit status | Cathedral received $1.1 million in public money last year

"Please know that we offer our prayers and love to this teacher, our students and faculty, our Archbishop, and all associated with Cathedral as we continue to educate our students in the Catholic Holy Cross tradition," the school said in the letter.

You can read the full letter from the high school here.

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Brebeuf Jesuit stood up to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis this month when they were given an ultimatum: Fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage or lose your Catholic status. The school made the announcement June 20, the day before the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was set to release their official decision. “While we’ve enjoyed a collaborative partnership with the Archdiocese for nearly 57 years, we have always maintained control of our school’s operations and governance, including our personnel decisions,” the school wrote to parents and staff.

READ | Brebeuf stands up to Indy Archdiocese | Brebeuf backs teacher in same-sex marriage, loses Catholic status

“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.” Because of that decision, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has decreed that Brebeuf will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution, meaning the Archbishop will no longer attend school events and the staff at Brebeuf will not be welcome at Archdiocese educational opportunities.

The reverend who oversees the Midwest Province of Jesuits has said they plan to appeal the Archdiocese’s decision locally and they will take it “all the way to the Vatican” if it comes to that.

Roncalli High School

Roncalli High School was the first of the three Catholic schools in Indianapolis to come under fire after they gave a guidance counselor in a same-sex marriage two choices: Resign or ‘dissolve’ her marriage.

READ | Roncalli guidance counselor asked to resign over same-sex marriage

Shelly Fitzgerald made the situation public in August 2018 after she posted a message on her Facebook page denouncing the school’s treatment of her and the ultimatum she was given. She claimed she had kept her 22-year relationship hidden until someone “sought out” her marriage certificate and presented it to school administrators. She said the school then gave her the choices to resign, “dissolve” her marriage or “wait it out and stay quiet” until the year was up, in which case they would not renew her contract.

Fitzgerald was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident and eventually filed a case against the school in November.

READ | Second Roncalli counselor given ultimatum over same-sex marriage

A second guidance counselor, Lynn Starkey, filed a complaint with the EEOC the day after Fitzgerald announced hers, saying she also faced discrimination, being told her contract would not be renewed because of her same-sex marriage. Starkey’s complaint claimed, “discrimination and hostile work environment based on sex and sexual orientation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Both teachers are still battling their complaints.