It has been an unsettled time for Catholic schools in Indianapolis. Unfortunately rather than watching other schools deal with a church leadership that is hopelessly out of touch with the times, it is now affecting our family directly.

Cathedral High School announced Sunday that after two years of working with the Archdiocese to resolve a personnel matter, they were caving[1] and choosing to “separate” from a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage. In a letter that went out to all Cathedral families Sunday afternoon, the school board said that the Archbishop threatened to remove Cathedral’s Catholic identity, which would prevent them from celebrating the sacraments, including holding masses on campus, and would also prevent Cathedral from calling itself a Catholic school, which would in turn remove the school’s tax-exempt status.

This came on the heels of Brebeuf, Indianapolis’ Jesuit high school, losing its Catholic identity on Friday as a result of their refusal to fire a gay teacher. Brebeuf is in a slightly different position as they are run by the Jesuits rather than the Archdiocese. The Jesuit leadership has offered vocal, public support of the Brebeuf board and questioned the Archdiocese’s decision.

This all began last fall when Roncalli, Indy’s south side Catholic high school, placed two school counselors on administrative leave until they renounced their same-sex marriages. The moves were made on orders of the Indy Archdiocese.

We also heard a rumor this weekend – at this point totally unconfirmed by anyone who would know for sure – that a teacher at St. P’s will not be returning next year because he is in a same-sex marriage. I fear a little for our main priest, who has voiced support for gay causes.

Clearly the Indianapolis Archbishop is on a mission.

I always struggle with how to handle issues like this. I have no problem criticizing many policies of the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter. But I do have a hard time understanding where the lines for my criticism fall. We pay tuition at two Catholic schools and send a monthly payment to a church in the archdiocese, I volunteer in the school and am a member of the athletic committee, so I am part of the community. But since I am not Catholic, I wonder what right I have to criticize the stances of an organization I’m not officially a part of.

But in a time when it is increasingly difficult to find people who have the gift for connecting with kids, who are willing to deal with all the shit that comes with being a teacher, who can live on the frankly embarrassing wages teaching offers,[2] it strikes me as counter to the mission of every school, Catholic or otherwise, to run people out of their jobs for the crime of wanting legal acknowledgement of and protection for their love for another human being.

It is more infuriating to see this come in an era when society as a whole is racing toward full equal rights for people of all sexual orientations. In an age where the leader of the Catholic church has stated that the church should accept and love gay people no differently than anyone else. When the American Catholic church has often been ahead of the Vatican in opening up to gay parishioners.

However, it seems that the Indianapolis Archbishop wants to carve out a niche as the man who took a stand against the Church accepting gay marriage. This seems like a decision that will only please conservatives in the church hierarchy who are trying to counter Pope Francis’ liberalization efforts, and people who will be dead in 10–15 years. At the same time it will continue to drive away the younger generation that the Church has been desperate to find ways of bringing back. This feels like a decision that may have seemed like a good idea to a small number of people when it was made, but down the road will look like a monumentally dumb and shortsighted choice that did more harm than good to the organization the Archbishop was trying to “protect.”

I do see some good in this, though. There has been an overwhelming response to the decision. My Facebook feed is filled almost exclusively with outrage at what Cathedral and the Archdiocese have done. Different people are laying blame in different ways, but the common message is that this was a horrible decision that will hurt Cathedral and its students. A few families who have written a lot of exceptionally large checks to Cathedral and churches within the Archdiocese over the years have come out strongly against the decision. Ultimately that is what could move the needle, if some of those funds that have only been promised but not yet delivered get placed in hold until there is a reconsideration.

One current teacher at Cathedral posted that she is divorced and remarried without getting an annulment from the church, which puts her in violation of the same morals clause in her contract the gay employees are charged with violating. She closed her post with “#FIREMETOO.” I can’t imagine how much courage it took to post something like that. There have to be dozens and dozens of teachers in her same situation across Archdiocese schools that will not be targeted by the Archbishop simply because they are married to someone of the opposite sex.

I was most pleased by how our girls responded. We got the email after dropping C off at camp, so it was just M and L with us. They both immediately expressed their confusion and anger. “That’s so stupid! It doesn’t make any sense! The only reason they should ever fire a teacher is if they are a bad teacher or hurt someone!” We’ve spent their entire lives teaching them not to judge people because of how they look, what language they speak, their culture, or who they love. When forced to confront the issue directly, it’s heartening to know that they can put those lessons into practice immediately.

I also think the vast majority of the Cathedral faculty support their colleague and believe this decision is wrong. I am confident that they will teach our daughters values that are more consistent with our world view than the Archbishop’s retrograde philosophy. It is that knowledge that allows me to remain comfortable with sending our girls there.

Despite those glimmers, it is a sad and frustrating moment. In general I think society is headed in the right direction, toward the time when everyone who pays taxes receives the same rights and protections under the law. There are still far too many extremely powerful organizations, though, that are dragging their feet and refusing to join the majority view that isolating and hating people is wrong. That this is occurring in the sphere of secondary education, where Catholic high schools pride themselves on having an advantage over public institutions in how they challenge young adults to broaden their perspectives, learn and practice empathy, and live moral lives where all God’s children are treated with love and respect is particularly disheartening.

  1. My term, not theirs.  ↩
  2. I had a conversation with a teacher at a Catholic school this past winter in which I learned how much this teacher made. It almost made me want to cry at how little this person, who has tons of education and experience, clears each year. Especially when you factor in all the bullshit that comes with dealing with kids all day.  ↩