The Vatican has suspended sanctions imposed on a Catholic school that refused to fire an LGBTQ employee while the school appeals the sanctions imposed by its local bishop.
Fr. William Verbryke, S.J., president of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in, Indianapolis, announced the suspension of the sanctions in a September 23rd letter to the Brebeuf Jesuit community. He explained:
“We have just learned that the Congregation for Catholic Education has decided to suspend the Archbishop’s decree on an interim basis, pending its final resolution of our appeal. The Archbishop very kindly informed me that, as a result of this temporary suspension of his decree, Brebeuf is free to resume our normal sacramental celebrations of the Eucharist. Most happily, this means that we will be able to celebrate the Mass for the Feast Day of St. Jean de Brebeuf on October 24.
“It is very important to understand, however, what this temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree does NOT mean. It does not mean that the matter has been resolved, or that any permanent decision has been made. It also does not mean that anyone should infer that the Congregation for Catholic Education is leaning one way or the other on any of the issues at hand. The Congregation has simply granted a temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree until it makes a final decision.”
Indianapolis’ Archbishop Charles Thompson decreed in June that Brebeuf Jesuit could no longer be designated a Catholic institution, nor could it celebrate school wide Masses because school officials denied the archbishop’s request to fire gay educator Layton Payne-Elliott. The Jesuits’ USA Midwest Province, led by Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J., has appealed that decree to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education. Verbryke expressed hope that the Congregation would “rescind and permanently set aside the Archbishop’s decree.”
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis released a statement in response to the Vatican’s move, saying it was “standard canon-law procedures” and “a common, temporary measure that does not affect a final determination.”
Shelly’s Voice, an advocacy group in Indianapolis started in support of Shelly Fitzgerald who was fired by another Catholic school in the area over her same-gender marriage, issued a statement as well. The group said it was “hopeful,” and they Catholics to write to church leaders in support of LGBTQ church workers.
Fr. Verbryke is correct that suspending the archbishop’s punitive decree is not an indication of how the Congregation for Catholic Education will rule on the appeal. Indeed, Brebeuf Jesuit faces an uphill battle given it is among the more conservative congregations at the Vatican. But this reprieve should be welcomed nonetheless. Perhaps it will prevent any future attempts by Archbishop Thompson to root out LGBTQ church workers in the archdiocese given at least three of them have lost their jobs in just over one year. For the latest reports on employment disputes in Indianapolis, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2019