The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:
The leaders of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis have taken a courageous step by standing by their teacher who is involved in a civil same-gender marriage. Unfortunately, like most prophetic witnesses, actions, and words, their decision has garnered them only a penalty from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis of not being allowed to be identified as a Catholic school. The school’s name has already been removed from the archdiocesan website. [Editor’s Note: For news details about these incidents, click here.]
New Ways Ministry applauds the courage of the Brebeuf leaders. They knew the possibility of this penalty, but they also knew that they would not be following their consciences if they acquiesced to the archdiocese’s demands. In Catholic teaching, violation of conscience is one of the most serious errors one can commit, certainly more serious than any violation of sexual ethics.
They were faced with a choice: lose the name “Catholic” or lose what it really means to be Catholic. They chose the path of conscience, integrity, and justice.
Over the past decade, close to 100 employees at Catholic institutions have lost jobs because of LGBTQ issues. New Ways Ministry has been tracking this shameful trend, as well as the few acts of resistance that have arisen during these disputes. In 2016, the Sisters of Mercy made a commitment to continue employment of a transgender employee after his transition. The Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, in whose diocese the school was located, did not stop their decision or impose penalties because he saw the sincerity of purpose the Sisters exhibited. Why couldn’t Archbishop Charles Thompson have sought the path of listening and reconciliation instead of a harsh, punitive action that will only alienate more and more Catholics?
In their statement, the Brebeuf leaders said “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.” In fact, they have set a remarkable precedent of courage and risk that all Catholic institutions can learn from and should emulate.
Brebeuf’s website includes a Statement of Non-Discrimination which begins with the following sentence.
“It is the policy of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School . . . to prohibit unlawful discrimination against, and Brebeuf Jesuit does not discriminate against, any member of the School community, including, without limitation, employees and students, whether current or prospective, on the basis of the individual’s race, color, national and ethnic origin, religion, . . sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, citizenship, ancestry, military or veteran status, genetic information, or any other consideration or class protected by applicable law, . . . , in any matter whatsoever under the direction, control, sponsorship, or administration of the School.”
Since 2013, New Ways Ministry has been encouraging Catholic institutions to add “sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status” to their non-discrimination policies. Only a handful have done so. We pray that Brebeuf’s prophetic witness will encourage other Catholic institutions to follow their example of conscience, integrity, and justice.
We call on all Catholics to offer letters of support to the Brebeuf community:
Fr. William Verbryke, S.J, President
W. Patrick Bruen ’79, Board of Trustees, Chair
Daniel M. Lechleiter ’97, Board of Trustees, Chair-elect
Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, 2801 West 86th Street , Indianapolis, Indiana 46268
We also call on all Catholics to express their disagreement with the archdiocese’s decision by writing to:
Archbishop Charles Thompson, 1400 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 22 2019