The following is a statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the firing of an LGBTQ Catholic high school teacher in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:
Another LGBTQ teacher at an Indianapolis Catholic high school has been fired because of an ultimatum presented by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis: fire the teacher or lose the right to call the school “Catholic.” Coming just days after another Catholic high school in the same city lost its ability to call itself “Catholic” for refusing to fire another LGBTQ teacher, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, for the good of the Church, to stop and re-consider its punitive policies.
In both situations, at Brebeuf Preparatory School and Cathedral High School, the archdiocese tried to force the schools to unjustly fire two LGBTQ teachers who had civilly married. (In both cases, the gender and names of the teachers were not revealed.) In the case of Brebeuf, the archdiocese was unsuccessful. Cathedral High’s statement indicated that they were compelled to fire. Two other school employees and a volunteer at Indianapolis’ Roncalli Catholic High School had already been fired in the last year. With the most employment cases of any diocese, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has become “ground zero” for Catholic LGBTQ firings.
New Ways Ministry has catalogued over 80 similar cases of LGBTQ employment disputes in the Catholic Church, dating back to 2008. These are only the cases which have become public in the media.
What the archdiocese, and many other church officials, don’t get, is that firing LGBTQ teachers and pastoral ministers is a losing and self-defeating policy. Instead of accomplishing the task of defending a narrow orthodoxy focused solely on sexuality and gender issues, firing LGBTQ church workers causes more and more Catholics to see that the Church’s teaching on these matters does not reflect human reality or the mercy of God. And these leaders ignore the demands of the Church’s social justice teaching, so clear to Catholics in the pews, that every person’s human dignity must be respected. In every single firing case, Catholics, especially young people, rise up in protest—and a large number of them become alienated from the Church.
Moreover, such actions have not prevented LGBTQ people from continuing to minister in the Church. LGBTQ people serve at all levels of the Catholic community—including in the hierarchy itself—and have served compassionately and faithfully, following Jesus’ call to spread the message of the Gospel. They lead holy and healthy lives, and they act with the utmost integrity in their professions. Not one who has been fired has been described as an immoral or unprofessional employee. LGBTQ people serve God and the Church, often under difficult conditions of having to be private about their lives to avoid all kinds of discriminatory behaviors from others.
Having already faced an uproar from the Brebeuf situation, the archdiocese would have been wise to avoid a second conflagration by having another LGBTQ employee fired. They did not. They should have chosen the path of pastoral reconciliation with a community already hurting, instead of exacerbating the wounds and extending them to yet another school community. Grave pastoral harm has been done, and it is now up to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to reverse its decisions, and help heal the damage that they have created.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 25, 2019