Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis announced this week that the Vatican has suspended a decree prohibiting the school from calling itself Catholic. The announcement has led to speculation and debate about the likely outcome for an appeal filed against the decree. But the canonical realities of the case don’t support most of the conjecture.
The decree was issued by Archbishop Charles Thompson, after a disagreement between the Indianapolis archdiocese and the school over the employment of a teacher in a same-sex civil marriage. It was appealed by the Jesuit province that oversees the school.
To some Catholics, the Vatican’s decision to suspend the decree, and its eventual decision on the Jesuit’s appeal, seems to be a referendum on whether the Church’s hierarchy will defend its teaching on homosexuality. But the case is more complicated than that, and commentators reducing it to a battle over doctrine could lead Catholics into serious confusion.
In June, Archbishop Thompson announced that Brebeuf could no longer call itself Catholic after two years of talks between the school and the archdiocese broke down. The issue began when the archdiocese became aware that a teacher had entered into a same-sex civil marriage, and requested that the school not renew the teacher’s contract.
Archdiocesan officials were clear about their position.
“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students both by word and action inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said in a June statement.
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