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Brebeuf Jesuit stands up to Archdiocese, backs teacher

Posted at 1:25 AM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 01:25:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A north side Catholic school is in the national spotlight after a decision by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

As of Friday, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution because the school refused the Archbishop's request to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

Greg VanSlambrook has been the principal at Brebeuf Jesuit for 15 years, and for the last two, he's been working to maintain the school's relationship with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

"We're saddened by the Archdiocese in this case," VanSlambrook said. "They had become aware of the issue through social media."

The issue, according to a statement from the school, was the employment of a teacher who is married to another man.

"He's a longtime valued member of the school," VanSlambrook said. "He's an excellent teacher, highly qualified. We've had open dialogue with him and he feels very supported."

Supported because the Archdiocese wanted him to be fired.

"We really just tried to look at it in terms of our community," VanSlambrook said. "Our decision trying to do the right thing by our teacher and by our community."

They're standing by their teacher. It means some things around the school will look a little different. The Archbishop will not attend school events and the staff won't be welcome at Archdiocese educational opportunities.

"We'll still have priests on campus," VanSlambrook said. "They'll still be administering the sacraments. We'll have all-school masses."

In a statement, the Archdiocese said the school can "no longer use the name 'Catholic' and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic institution."

"The governance of the school and the Catholic identity of the school comes from its sponsorship by the Jesuits who founded the school in 1962," VanSlambrook said.

The decision to stand behind their staff member has been met with some push-back, but also support by other parents.

"Absolutely, I think it's it's the right message," Deanna Oware, whose son will attend the school next year, said. "It sends a message that the school is what their mission says and they're men and women for others, and that they're an inclusive and welcoming community, and that's absolutely why we chose to send our son there."

And school staff holds out hope the church will come around.

"We hope to keep up communication with the Archbishop and his office, and I would love to be able to reconcile it down the road," VanSlambrook said.

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

All this comes after another Central Indiana Catholic school handled a similar situation much differently.

Roncalli suspended counselor Shelly Fitzgerald indefinitely last year because she's married to a woman.

Fitzgerald has filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This year, a second Roncalli counselor came forward saying the school told her it would not renew her contract because she's also married to a woman.