A men’s religious community is severing its relationship with the Catholic school which last fall made a decision to hire a lesbian staff member married to another woman last year.
Although the hiring decision was not mentioned explicitly in the joint statement from leaders of Benet Academy and the Benedictine community of St. Procopius Abbey, both in Lisle, Illinois, the impetus for the decision was referred to as “events in recent months.” The statemenet, from Abbot Austin Murphy, who serves as the school’s chancellor, and Dennis Flynn, the school’s board chair, in part:
“Events in recent months have been an occasion for the Benedictine monks of St. Procopius Abbey to examine their future relationship with Benet Academy. After much deliberation, the monks as a community have discerned that they no longer have the resources needed for the governance and oversight of the Academy. Currently, alternatives for the Academy’s governance are being studied. In the meantime, the Abbey will continue its role in the governance of the high school. The goal is that Benet Academy will continue to operate with an emphasis on academy excellence and Catholic identity within the Benedictine tradition.”
In September of 2021, Benet Academy officials rescinded a job offer from lacrosse coach Amanda Kammes when they discovered she was in a same-gender marriage. But, after protests by the school community, those officials reversed their decision and went ahead with hiring Kammes.
This reversal led Abbot Murphy to signal that a change might occur by expressing he was “deeply troubled” and that the abbey was “discerning how to proceed. St. Procopius Abbey founded Benet Academy 120 years ago and remained until now a top donor. Going forward, ABC 7 reported:
“The transition to a new sponsorship is expected to occur in the coming months, Head of School Stephen Marth said in a letter sent Tuesday afternoon to parents, faculty and staff. The abbey will continue its governance role in the meantime.
“Marth on Tuesday noted Benet’s ‘steadfast commitment to ensuring that the Academy will maintain its Catholic identity, in the Benedictine tradition, for years to come.’
“He said a committee that will include representatives from the Diocese of Joliet, the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, the Benet Board of Directors and school administration will collaborate on what the next move will be for the school, which has 1,300 students enrolled.”
The separation of Benet Academy from the abbey which founded it and helped contribute to the school’s identity is a loss for both communities. But Benet Academy has not lost its identity as a Benedictine, Catholic institution. In fact, this identity is even stronger because the school chose the path of justice and hospitality despite the cost of separation.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 6, 2021