Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School is appealing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s decree at the Vatican

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana has been forbidden from hosting Mass during school hours after school administrators did not adhere to a directive from The Archdiocese of Indianapolis to fire a teacher who was revealed in 2017 to be in a same-sex marriage.

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In a statement published on June 20, the school said: “Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage.”

The statement added: “After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.”

Father Bill Verbryke, President of Brebeuf, shared the following video on the school’s Facebook page the same day they issued their statement:

While we are saddened by today’s news, we are so grateful for the ongoing support of our community. We are, and always will be, an independent, Catholic, Jesuit school. Watch this message from our president, Fr. Bill Verbryke. #BeBrave

Publiée par Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School sur Jeudi 20 juin 2019

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The school’s statement, signed by school president Fr. William Verbryke, S.J., and board members W. Patrick Bruen and Daniel M. Lechleiter, was issued a day before the Archdiocese issued their decree stating that the school can no longer call itself Catholic.

On June 21, the Archdiocese issued its decree in its publication The Criterion: “To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching.”

“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, every archdiocesan Catholic school and private Catholic school has been instructed to clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“Regrettably, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has freely chosen not to enter into such agreements that protect the important ministry of communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students. Therefore, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School will no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

In his decree, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson wrote: “I ...with great sadness, acknowledge the choice of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School to no longer retain Catholic identity according to the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church and, therefore, to no longer remain as a Catholic institution in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

“Therefore, in accord with canon 803 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, I hereby decree that: The institution known as Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School (2801 W. 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46268), by its own selection, can no longer use the name Catholic and will no longer be identified or recognized as a Catholic institution by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis nor included in the listing of The Official Catholic Directory.”

The decree was “effective immediately.”

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On August 4, Father Verbryke shared an update on Brebeuf’s website indicating that they, in conjunction with Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. the Provincial of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and his staff, have begun the appeal process with the Vatican after Archbishop Thompson refused to rescind his decree.

Father Paulson had previously indicated that he was “disappointed” with the Archdiocese’s decision.

Father Verbryke also wrote: “Within the past two weeks, the Archbishop has informed us that, as a result of his decree, the current priests of Brebeuf Jesuit, Fr. Chris Johnson, S.J. and I, will require his express, advance permission in order to celebrate any Masses on campus.  Archbishop Thompson has given this permission for our daily 7:45 a.m. Mass, which is held each school day in our chapel.”

“However, although we duly complied with his request and sought the Archbishop’s permission to hold various other Masses on campus this year, he declined to grant his permission for those.”

“We are disappointed and saddened by the Archbishop’s decision; however, our appeal includes our request for the ability to have school Masses on campus once again.”

“We earnestly hope to be able to celebrate the Eucharist as an entire school community again in the near future. However, we must, and do, acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop with respect to the celebration of Mass within the Archdiocese.” 

“In lieu of celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit as a traditional opening-of-the-school-year Mass on Thursday, August 15, our Brebeuf Jesuit community will call upon the blessings of the Holy Spirit in our school community for this academic year by holding a school-wide prayer service during the school day.”

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In a statement to America Magazinearchdiocese spokesman Greg Otolski wrote: “By choosing to no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution, Brebeuf was relieved of the burdens and the privileges of a Catholic institution.”

What do you make of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis's decree? Let us know in the comments