Indianapolis archbishop addresses Roncalli same-sex counselor dispute

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The archbishop of Indianapolis on Tuesday addressed the controversy about a Roncalli High School guidance counselor who says she’s been told to resign over her same-sex marriage.

The Most Rev. Charles C. Thompson was appointed the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis in June 2017 by Pope Francis and installed in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral about a month later.

Thompson’s statement came a day after the Roncalli High School board canceled a scheduled meetingwhere parents were planning to question board members about the status of guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald. The private school is located at 3300 Prague Road, southwest of Thompson Road and I-465 on the city’s southeast side.

Fitzgerald has been placed on administrative leave. She’s worked for the school for 15 years and has been with her partner for 22 years. She says she’s hired an attorney.

The controversy started after someone showed Fitzgerald’s 2014 marriage certificate to school leaders. Since then, an outpouring of support has come from students, alumni and others tied to the school, including one school board member who resigned.

Thompson wrote this statement on the archdiocese’s website:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

I regret the pain that has been caused by the recent controversy surrounding the employment of Shelly Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. We are called as the Body of Christ to pray for and love one another, even in times of disagreement and controversy.

As has been reported in the media and discussed publicly by Ms. Fitzgerald, she is living in a civil marriage to another woman that is not valid in the eyes of the Church. She is on paid administrative leave. The issue concerning Ms. Fitzgerald’s employment is not about sexual orientation, but about the Church’s teaching that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as established and revealed by God.

There is nothing in Church teaching that says being gay or lesbian is a sin. God created each of us with equal dignity. The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, who “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2358).

At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage, a natural institution established by God. By its very nature, marriage is a permanent partnership between one man and one woman ordered to the good of the couple and the procreation and education of children. It is the foundation of the family, where children are raised and nurtured, and learn values and virtues that help them to grow in maturity.

The archdiocese’s Catholic schools are ministries of the Church. School administrators, teachers and guidance counselors are ministers of the faith who are called to share in the mission of the Church. No one has a right to a ministerial position, but once they are called to serve in a ministerial role they must lead by word and example. As ministers, they must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church. These expectations are clearly spelled out in school ministerial job descriptions and contracts, so everyone understands their obligations.

When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching.

Let us pray that everyone will respect and defend the dignity of all persons as well as the truth about marriage according to God’s plan and laws.

Please know of my prayers for you, and I ask of your prayers for me.

Your Brother in Christ,

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

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