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