A Jesuit high school in Indianapolis, waiting for the results of an appeal of its archbishop’s decision to revoke its recognition as a Catholic school, will be allowed to continue celebrating schoolwide Masses on campus after the Vatican suspended sanctions against it while the canonical process continues.
In June, the Society of Jesus announced that Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis had decreed that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School could no longer call itself Catholic after administrators had declined his request to terminate a male teacher who is married to another man.
In an email sent Monday to the Brebeuf school community, William Verbryke, S.J., the school’s president, wrote, “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.” As a result of the sanctions, Brebeuf had not been allowed to hold its traditional Mass of the Holy Spirit to open the academic year. The archdiocese had allowed smaller daily Masses to continue to be held in the school’s chapel.
Father Verbryke wrote that the suspension of sanctions is temporary and that the Vatican is still considering the school’s request to overturn the archbishop’s decree.
“The Congregation for Catholic Education has decided to suspend the Archbishop’s decree pending its final resolution of our appeal.”
“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,” he said. “The Congregation has simply granted a temporary suspension of the Archbishop’s decree until it makes a final decision.”
Father Verbryke noted that the Vatican’s intervention means the school will be able to mark an important date. “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,” he wrote.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis provided a statement to America reiterating that the appeal process is ongoing, calling the temporary suspension part of “standard canon-law procedures.”
“This is a common, temporary measure that does not affect a final determination. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis awaits a final determination by the Congregation for Catholic Education,” the statement reads.
Father Verbryke wrote that the appeal, which is being managed by Brian Paulson, S.J., who heads the Jesuits Midwest Province, is ongoing and that the timeline for a final decision remains unknown.
In his email to the Brebeuf community, Father Verbryke said that the school holds “deep love for our Church” and “deep respect” for the archbishop. He said the Jesuits hope “to remain in full communion with the Catholic Church, without restrictions on our celebration of the Eucharist, and that our identity as a Catholic school be fully recognized and supported by the Archdiocese.”
Other Catholic high schools near Indianapolis have found themselves in controversy this year over similar issues.
In July, Joshua Payne-Elliott filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, claiming wrongful termination after his contract was not renewed for his teaching job at Cathedral High School. Mr. Payne-Elliott is married to Layton Payne-Elliott, the teacher at Brebeuf whose contract renewal sparked the archbishop’s decree. In separate incidents, the archdiocese also faces lawsuits from two women in same-sex marriages who were let go from Roncalli High School.
Nearly 800 students are enrolled at Brebeuf Jesuit, which was founded in 1962 and employs a faculty and staff of 132.
Correction: Sept. 24, 2019
The headline has been updated with the correct spelling of Brebeuf.