Denver Newsroom, Dec 21, 2020 / 09:35 am
The outcome of a Vatican appeal involving same-sex civil marriage and the Catholic identity of an Indiana school could have effect on a pending religious liberty lawsuit, and on the way other Catholic schools approach the issue of Catholic identity among their faculty.
Layton Payne-Elliot is a math teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit High School in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In 2017, the school became aware that Payne-Elliot had contracted a same-sex marriage with Joshua Payne-Elliot, a teacher at Cathedral High School, which is also in the archdiocese.
The archdiocese asked that both schools not renew the teachers’ contracts, because, they said, teachers in Catholic schools are supposed to be witnesses of Catholic doctrine, and contracting a same-sex marriage constitutes a public act of counterwitness to that doctrine.
Brebeuf refused the archdiocesan instruction. In turn, the archdiocese revoked the school’s recognition as Catholic. The school appealed that decision to the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Curial officials close to the case have warned for months that Indianapolis’ Archbishop Charles Thompson is unlikely to find support for his deployment of the “nuclear option” in response to the school’s decision on Layton.
Several Vatican officials have told CNA that after some gestures of consideration, Brebeuf’s Catholic identity will likely remain intact, and the practical autonomy of institutes administered by religious orders will be bolstered by the Congregation’s decision.
A decision against Thompson could impact an ongoing civil lawsuit over the same case.
Joshua Payne-Elliot, who taught at Cathedral High School, filed suit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 2019, after he was fired from his position. His case is currently before the state Supreme Court; this month the court rejected a request from the archdiocese to dismiss the case.