Indianapolis Catholic Schools Exclude Brebeuf Jesuit Students from Athletic Competition

Catholic schools in Indianapolis have excluded student-athletes at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School from participating in a joint competition, a decision made following the archbishop’s decree that removed Brebeuf’s Catholic designation because administrators there refused to fire an LGBTQ employee.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Brebeuf athletes were barred from competing in the Guerin Catholic Invitational golf tournament on August 5th in which five other Indianapolis-area Catholic schools competed. The newspaper explained:

“Guerin Catholic athletic director Ryan Davis said the intention was for Brebeuf to be part of the golf meet. But after talking it over with the other schools that are part of the Indianapolis Archdiocese — Chatard. Ritter, Cathedral and Roncalli — the decision was made to leave Brebeuf out of the event, along with the All-Catholic cross-country meet on Sept. 14 at Guerin.

“Cathedral director of marketing Grace Trahan Rodecap said Thursday that the school was not contacted by (Guerin athletic director Ryan) Davis prior to the decision to leave Brebeuf out of the All-Catholic events. Davis later confirmed that Cathedral was not contacted.

“‘We felt like it was in the best interest of the meet not to have Brebeuf participate,’ Davis said. ‘There was nothing explicitly said to us that those schools would not compete, but they might have a tough time explaining that they competed with Brebeuf in an all-Catholic meet.'”

Brebeuf Jesuit’s director of communications, Mike Higginbotham, said the school was “disappointed for our student-athletes” at being excluded from the golf and cross-country events, but would not comment further while the school appeals Archbishop Charles Thompson’s decree to the Vatican. Athletic director Ted Hampton said the relationship with Guerin Catholic’s leadership remains “great.” Brebeuf athletes will still compete against other Catholic schools as part of the Circle City Conference which includes non-Catholic institutions.

But despite the penalties to the school, one alumus and former board member cheered on Brebeuf administrators in an essay for The Indianapolis Star. Mark Lubbers also criticized the archbishop:

“[Thompson’s] dispute with Brebeuf over the school’s independence from his authority in the matter of teacher contracts could have been resolved quietly, within the confines of the Church’s Canon Law process.  Now, on top of a three-alarm fire that need never have been started, he has taken 800 students hostage to his need to show who’s boss. . .

“[T]he actual question at issue is boring and could have been handled with the discretion and diplomatic skill ordinarily practiced in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.  So, it is safe to say that Thompson, who is not unintelligent, intended to conduct this fight in the public square. . .

“As a community of many faith traditions, yet proudly Catholic, those of us in the 50-year-old Brebeuf family hope for less Pharisaic bravado from the archbishop and more Christ-like gentleness.”

Lubbers praised two key figures in this dispute: Layton Payne-Elliott, the teacher Brebuef officials refused to fire over his same-gender marriage; and USA Midwest Jesuit provincial Fr. Brian Paulson, a former Brebeuf board member, who is leading the Jesuits’ appeal to the Vatican. Lubbers wrote of Payne-Elliott:

“I can testify regarding the teacher in question, Layton Elliott, who is and has been an extraordinary Brebeuf educator and faculty leader. I chaired the Academic Affairs Committee of the Brebeuf Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2017. Elliott was chairman of the math department for much of that period, leading one of the most successful and highly regarded high-school math programs anywhere. In our committee’s work with Elliott, we would never have had any reason to know or care about his sexual orientation, and to this day I can’t imagine what that has to do with his ability to impart the essentials of differential equations.”

Officials at Indianapolis’ other Catholic schools have allowed Archbishop Thompson to rule them by fear.  They are punishing Brebeuf Jesuit without even being asked by the archbishop to do so. It is not surprising that administrators at Roncalli High School might pursue such a course of action for they have terminated two LGBTQ church workers so far and just published a new policy threatening students with expulsion for publicly criticizing the school. Looking at the tremendous harm done at three Indianapolis Catholic schools so far, other school leaders need to ask if they wish to follow that path? Are the principals and presidents of Bishop Chatard and Cardinal Ritter ready to discriminate against LGBTQ employees, too? Or to face the costs of not doing so? And where in this decision over athletics are the needs of students being prioritized?

In a moment that called for solidarity and resistance, school administrators in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have deeply failed their students, the church, and, indeed, their own self-interests.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2019

13 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Sounds a bit petty and mean-spirited to me. Do those schools also exclude Protestant and public schools from their exclusive sports meets? Of course the clear message of these actions is that LGBT employees and students are to be shunned as sinful lepers and of less worth than straight employees and students. What are they really afraid of? Are they afraid of LGBT people? Or are they afraid of the wrath of a discriminatory bishop who has his own issues? So much for “Whatever you do to the least, you do to me.” All their proclamations of justice and concern for all God’s people are hollow and undermined by such behavior. Truly sad.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I really appreciate being kept informed about this story. It perfectly illustrates what is going on in the world of LGBT rights within the Catholic hierarchy. Machiavelli isn’t dead.

  3. Kris
    Kris says:

    Bullying and cowardice: the two go hand in hand. And it is happening here, in the reaction of Thompson, and in the sneaky ‘non-decision’ by those Catholic schools.

    There really is only one way to deal with a bully, and it doesn’t involve kid gloves. I learned this at high school.

    I want only one epitaph on my gravestone: he died spine intact.

  4. Mr
    Mr says:

    It makes me sick to my stomach to read all this. What happened to WWJD? What happened to “Do not Judge”.
    It is more and more difficult to remain a Catholic with this type of environment.

  5. Kathy Stockman
    Kathy Stockman says:

    As is often noted, there is nothing in Jesus’s teachings that call for the outcast of anyone including the members of the LGTBQ community and their families and friends. Though there is a scripture that pretty specifically calls for a welcoming of the children.

    And that happens to be today’s gospel.

  6. Scott Hill
    Scott Hill says:

    I’m stunned by the breath-taking small minds of the boards overseeing a golf tournament and cross country event on behalf of Catholic Education. These people, walking in lockstep with a petty Archbishop, close their hearts and minds to the possibility of becoming bridge builders. To the students of Brebeuf Jesuit Prep School, stand up with pride for you school. Your school and its leadership uphold the values of a Gospel movement that ALL are welcomed!

  7. Ethan Nielson
    Ethan Nielson says:

    This is a situation that happened all over the United States when Catholic teachers started marrying their partners when marriage equality became legal. Everyone knew they were gay but as long as they didn’t legalize it, Church officials looked the other. It happened at St. Lucy’s Priory in Glendora, Ca. where a 14 year veteran of the school was fired after marrying his partner of many years. He didn’t publicize it but it was discovered. What makes it all the more tragic is that he was an extraordinary teacher who used to teach the girls to stay chaste, especially at the time of Prom and promoted Catholic teaching. Hundreds protested outside the school but the Board Of Directors would not budge. There was film a couple of years back called LIFE IS STRANGE with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina which detailed this tragic circumstance which reached epic proportions all over the country.

  8. Friends
    Friends says:

    Although I’m a Catholic by birth, and the alumnus of a prestigious Catholic college (Holy Cross), I have suspended my financial and personal support of ALL Catholic institutions, until this hateful anti-GLBT bigotry within the Roman Catholic Church comes to an end. The appalling behavior of some of these bishops is nothing less than Satanic. It is the total antithesis of what Jesus Himself exhorted us, in His final words just prior to His Ascension: “This Is My Commandment: Love One Another, As I Have Loved You”. There is no love whatsoever in the vicious behavior of too many of these bishops. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

  9. Jan Rose
    Jan Rose says:

    I just read an article concerning the word “homosexuality” in the New Testament. Since I am not a Biblical scholar, I do not know how true it is. However, what it said was that there was a mis-translation in the NT, and what we now see as “homosexual” was actually “assaulting young boys”. Look familiar??
    The hierarchy has lost its way on this one!

  10. Evita Perennista
    Evita Perennista says:

    My initial reaction was the same as everyone else: How petty. They’re gonna punish the students as a retaliatory measure against the school administrators? It’s hard to tell who the adults are and who the kids are in this scenario. But if the decision didn’t originate with the chancery of the archdiocese, then it most likely wasn’t malicious. They probably didn’t know what to do. I’m sure they only intended to remain on good terms with the diocesan establishment. But that just goes to show how stupid this whole thing is.

    If Brebeuf isn’t Catholic, then what are they? It’s not like they’re teaching anything out of the ordinary. What was their great offense? Refusing to fire somebody over something that has nothing to do with their job description. I guess I must have missed that article in the Creed. Probably because it isn’t there. It’s not even in canon law. What are they gonna do, excommunicate all the Jesuits? I’m sure they not only think they can, but that they’d like to, from the Pope on down to Fr. James Martin, even to the ones running parochial schools.

    So what’s your excuse then, that we can’t have people like this molding young minds? Ah, of course. You prefer your children not to have a mind of their own, but to be faithless automatons like yourselves, and can’t even fathom that they might actually form their own opinions instead of blindly following those of another person, whoever they may be. As in the case of college professors, they think of them as being secular swami/gurus who are gonna corrupt their morals and lead them away from the Church. But exactly when does any of this come up in a math class?

    That’s not even a sufficient excuse in regard to the guidance counselors at Roncalli. I know you can’t imagine that they could conduct themselves honorably in their profession, since you undoubtably perceive them to be depraved sinners who can do nothing good, but it’s entirely conceivable that they could perform their jobs without infringing upon the moral decisions of their pupils. The only thing I can recall guidance counselors really doing is vaguely “helping” you choose electives and preparing for college. But supposing a student were gay, whether or not they were romantically involved with their peers, at least they’d have someone to confide in given how they’re generally treated in the Church, and if they were ethical counselors, wouldn’t influence them one way or the other regarding celibacy. If you’re looking for spiritual direction, you go to a priest, not a guidance counselor.

    But the sad fact of the matter is that, Catholic or Non-Catholic, the advice they’d get would probably be more Catholic than they would from many sources in the Church, who won’t even talk to you unless you meet their list of demands first. And worse than that, who do you think they would be liable to replace them with? People who, unwittingly or deliberately, would most likely direct them to the unethical lunacy over at “Courage,” where when it comes to minors, drop the charade that they’re about celibacy and instead refer their distraught parents to the con artists peddling reparative therapy.

    So what are you left with? The scandal it might bring if people thought that you condoned the decisions they make regarding personal matters in their own private lives? No, the bigger scandal would be the one perpetrated by you in causing people to think that you can’t be employed at a Catholic institution without conforming your personal life to the dictates of canon law — or that Brebeuf isn’t Catholic. When they make their frankly blasphemous appeals to “Religious Liberty” they claim that it’s so they can live out their religion peaceably, when it reality this is what it’s about. They want to make everyone else live like they do, which is precisely what they do when they have any power over them. That’s also why they don’t want gay people to have any power or be in a position of authority, because they think that they’d wield it as tyrannically as they do themselves.

    Well, they already missed the golf tournament, but it’s not too late to do the right thing by including them at the cross country meet and apologizing to the aforementioned student athletes. You don’t have to comply actively or proactively with an unlawful order from an ecclesiastical superior, which does not constitute an exercise of authority, but an abuse of authority, which at this point should be formally censured. Exclude them if you feel you must, but for all that Brebeuf will be no less Catholic. It only serves to show who the real Catholics are.

    “As he saith also in [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Romans 9:25-26)

  11. Scott Hill
    Scott Hill says:

    Well written. Thank you. I’m dumbfounded by the pettiness of the Guerin Catholic Invitational organizers and the other leaders of this charitable event. This organization chooses to walk in lockstep with a narrow-minded Archbishop who uses power as a weapon. What a far cry from the example of Pope Francis who uses his authority (his power!) to welcome; to build bridges, not walls. It appears to me these leaders are “Catholic Tourist” who are “superficially close to the church,” wandering around without deep convictions in the Scriptures or embracing the heart and disposition of Jesus.


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