Report: Cardinal Tobin Asked by Vatican to Intervene in Indianapolis Church Worker Dispute

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

A leading U.S. cardinal has been asked by the Vatican to negotiate a canonical dispute between an archdiocese and a local Catholic high school. The dispute erupted after the archbishop removed the school’s Catholic affiliation over its failure to comply with the archbishop’s request for a married gay teacher to be fired. 

As reported by The Pillar, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark will mediate a compromise between the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. In 2019, Brebeuf administrators would not fire Layton Payne-Elliott over his same-gender marriage, as the archdiocese instructed the school to do. Archbishop Charles Thompson then stripped the school of its Catholic identity, a decision which the school has appealed to the Vatican to reverse.

Prior to Tobin’s appointment as mediator, the Vatican had already interceded and suspended Thompson’s sanctions pending further resolution of the dispute, which is not at the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Although Cardinal Tobin declined to comment on this matter, a Vatican official with direct knowledge made the following statement:

“‘The situation [when it was appealed to the congregation in 2019] was very adversarial, very emotional, you can say.’ . . . 

“‘It was decided that reconciliation is needed first, not a judgement [from the congregation]. Cardinal Tobin is very trusted, very good at restoring difficult situations in this way.’”

A spokesperson for the Indianapolis archdiocese commented:

“‘[S]ince the matter is still under discussion and the Congregation for Catholic Education has not announced a decision, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has nothing from the Vatican to respond to at this time.’”

Prior to being named a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, Tobin served as Thompson’s predecessor in Indianapolis for five years. Beforehand, Cardinal Tobin held a position as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome.

Bondings 2.0 has previously reported on the employment dispute concerning Layton Payne-Elliott and his husband, Joshua Payne-Elliott. Soon after Brebeuf’s decision to retain Layton, Cathedral High School, which is overseen by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis fired Joshua, who was a teacher there.

Cardinal Tobin has a unique and rare opportunity to begin the process of healing and reconciliation for LGBTQ teachers, Brebeuf Jesuit’s educational environment, and the wider spiritual community who have been deeply wounded by Archbishop Thompson’s discriminatory actions.

New Ways Ministry has already lauded Brebeuf Jesuit for its support of Layton Payne-Elliott and the school’s willingness to appeal the archbishop’s decision. No Catholic school or parish should ever have to choose between firing an LGBTQ employee or losing its affiliation as a Catholic institution.

Cardinal Tobin should labor to reorient how the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the wider institutional church approach the inherent dignity and value of LGBTQ educators and church employees. This way, the firing of LGBTQ workers can cease, and church officials can stop manipulating same-gender civil marriage as an administrative mechanism to bully and discriminate LGBTQ church workers and the educational leaders who seek to protect them.

In the last decade, more than 100 church workers have gone public about losing their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes. You can find a full listing of these incidents here, as well as New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBTQ issues here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on this page.

Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, March 5, 2021

2 replies
  1. Don E Siegal
    Don E Siegal says:

    Report: Cardinal Tobin Asked by Vatican to Intervene in Indianapolis Church Worker Dispute

    This is huge. I’ve never heard of the Vatican doing anything like this. Actually, the initial surprise came when the Congregation for Catholic Education in the 2019 appeal by Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School essentially granted Brebeuf a temporary injunction from the actions of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

    Brian, let us all pray daily that the Holy Spirit may grant Cardinal Tobin the wisdom of Solomon in his mediation efforts in this situation, in order that, what you asked for in the penultimate paragraph of your report may come to fruition. All I can say is WOW. Thank you Holy Spirit.

    “Cardinal Tobin should labor to reorient how the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the wider institutional church approach the inherent dignity and value of LGBTQ educators and church employees. This way, the firing of LGBTQ workers can cease, and church officials can stop manipulating same-gender civil marriage as an administrative mechanism to bully and discriminate LGBTQ church workers and the educational leaders who seek to protect them.”

    Reply
    • Don E Siegal
      Don E Siegal says:

      Rethinking my comment, I needed to be more inclusive with my call to prayer. In reality, our prayers need to be for everyone involved in the mediation, the administrators of Brebeuf, Layton Payne-Elliott and his husband, Joshua Payne-Elliott, the administrators of the Archdioceses of Indianapolis, both Cardinal Tobin and Archbishop Thompson, as well as the Congregation for Catholic Education. I still say WOW. This is a big deal.

      Reply

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