For Catholic Church and Homosexuality, Truth Is Necessary But Not Enough

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When a Jesuit high school in Indianapolis refused to cut ties with one of its teachers – one who was in a same-sex marriage – the local archbishop announced that the school could no longer be called Catholic.

It is a complicated subject, often misunderstood or falsely reported.

The Washington Post headline:  “Archdiocese: School with gay teacher can’t use Catholic name”

From the wording, it appears that Catholic schools cannot employ gay teachers.


Adding to the complexity and false narratives – that the Church is anti-gay – came the news that another Catholic school in Indianapolis followed the directives of the archdiocese and fired a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

This from the New York Times:

“Indianapolis Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher at Archbishop’s Request”

The headline may be true, but still misleading. The teacher was not fired because he was gay, but because he was in a same-sex marriage, which the Church opposes.

At issue are (at least) three factors:

What is the Church teaching on homosexuality?

What is a Catholic school?

How can the Church be better?

The teaching is clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Homosexual acts “are contrary to natural law (CCC 2357) … Homosexual persons are called to chastity … [By] friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection (CCC 2358) … Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman” (CCC 2360).

The Church is also emphatic that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (CCC 2358).

What is a Catholic school supposed to do with such information? Teach it, of course. That challenge is that Church teaching is often so muddled in its interpretation. Culture ideology, propelled by media, equates any disagreement with gay lifestyle to homophobia.

The Catholic school can be the place where clear teaching occurs.

But what is a Catholic school? Fewer and fewer of them appear Catholic these days (something I have written about in regards to colleges).

Catholics schools are often seen as simply private schools with religious classes and the occasional Mass and retreat. For those of us who believe in the richness of the Catholic Church, its sacraments, and its teaching, that approach is too watered down.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis expected more. In its announcement that Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School of Indianapolis would no longer be considered a Catholic school, it stated:

“All those who minister in Catholic educational institutions carry out an important ministry in communicating the fullness of Catholic teaching to students, both in word and action, inside and outside the classroom.”

In other words, true Catholic education is carried out by more than the campus minister and religion teachers. But that is not how Brebeuf views it. The school insisted on employing a teacher in a same-sex marriage (despite objections made two years ago by the archdiocese). In defending his school, Brebeuf president Father Bill Verbryke said the teacher did not instruct religion, so it did not matter if he openly lived a life against Church teaching.

“The president, the principal, campus ministers, you know, people in those positions, religion teachers, certainly we would be very careful in terms of what their status is,” Father Verbryke said in an interview with America magazine, a Jesuit periodical. “But we really feel, for other faculty and staff, that we would not use that as the yardstick for determining employment.”

When school faculty do not have respect for Church teaching, what is the message to the students? Here is the teaching. Go ahead and ignore it.

No teacher should be terminated based on same-sex attraction. But if the teacher wants to openly disregard the tenets of the school’s affiliation, shouldn’t that teacher find another place to work? In a Catholic school, that would also go for any unmarried couple living together, or someone vocally promoting abortion.

The Catholic Church has enough trouble getting its message out. (And yes, clergy scandals add to the obstacles.) It does not need muddling.

And what is the Church’s message to Her members with same-sex attraction? How is She doing in the accepting “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” department? The Church can do better.

Maybe the problem is that Church members think all homosexuals want to live lifestyles averse to the teachings of the Church and the Gospel? Isn’t that what the culture and media tell us? Isn’t that the assumption?

Earlier this month in St. Louis, the second annual Revoice Convention took place — with little media fanfare, compared to the abundant, unfiltered media attention on Gay Pride Month. It was a gathering of same-sex-attracted Christians promoting a celibate lifestyle. The organization’s mission statement calls for support and encouragement for “same-sex attracted Christians – as well as those who love them – so that all in the Church might be empowered to live in Gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”

According to keynote speaker Johanna Finegan, she and other faithful Christians are discouraged by the left (promoting a gay lifestyle) and ignored by the right. But their struggle is real.

“The Church’s discomfort with the reality of this struggle … leads to Her attempt to persuade us into silence,” Finegan said. “Her emphasis of not talking about it … which isolates us and leaves us to our own devices, and too often at Satan’s mercy.”

The 38-minute speech is supportive, enlightening and, for any Christian, inspiring.  People like Finegan, or Catholic author Eve Tushnet, are worth listening to, and reading.

As noted in a previous column, the Church has an opportunity to reach out, while staying honest to its teaching.

If the Catholic Church is to teach her children, it must be with clarity – always compassionate, but always truthful. If a Catholic school cannot do that, it is not worthy of the name.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.