Indianapolis is not the first city to see its Catholic schools grappling with the employment of LGBT people but some advocates say the archdiocese — and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson — seems to be pursuing the issue more aggressively than elsewhere in the country.
In the last year, Indianapolis-area Catholic schools have cut ties with five people working in or volunteering for them because of a same-sex marriage or connection to the issue. A group that tracks instances of employment disputes between the Catholic church and people over LGBT issues said no other archdiocese in the country has seen more cases, at least that have been publicly reported.
A sinister, coordinated campaign'
The Cathedral and Brebeuf teachers' marriage came to the attention of the archdiocese when parishioners reported them to pastors. In Fitzgerald’s case, someone went to the courthouse in the county she was married and pulled her marriage license to present to school officials. It’s a disturbing trend said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an organization of Catholics supporting equality and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) Catholics in the church and society.
“DignityUSA has a long experience of working with LGBTQI employees facing discrimination within Catholic institutions, dating to the 1970s,” Duddy-Burke said. “In many of the recent cases we have seen, LGBTQI teachers’ marriages are intentionally exposed by unnamed individuals who make it their business to comb through social media accounts and public records.
“This represents a sinister, coordinated campaign of violence against people for exercising their civil rights. This lack of human decency and respect for the privacy of individuals is a failure of Christian charity and amounts to unjust discrimination, which our church’s teaching condemns."
Others, though, have praised Thompson for staying "steadfast" with canon law. "The truth is found in the Scriptures, not in public opinion," said Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League. In cases where school teachers are fired, it's often parents that complain either to school or church officials.
Support for terminations
That said, there are plenty within the Catholic community standing with Thompson and the Indianapolis Archdiocese. After the Midwest Jesuits announced their decision to appeal the archdiocese's decision to strip Brebeuf of its Catholic status last week, the Catholic League issued a statement commending Thompson.
"Archbishop Thompson did not act impulsively," Donahue said. "Two years ago, the teacher's gay marriage became known on social media. It was therefore no longer a private matter."
That's the difference, Donohue said, between a public gay marriage and other ways in which teachers in Catholic schools may violate church teachings in their private lives. It would take an investigation into a teacher's private life to know if, for example, they were using birth control. "In the instance of the teacher in the gay marriage—and this is typical of such cases—the contractual violation was made public, thus inviting a showdown," Donahue said. "That's not a small difference."