Abbot Austin Murphy, who serves as the Chancellor of Benedictine University, released a statement disapproving the hire of openly gay coach at Benet Academy. (Photo of Abbot Austin from NewMelleray.org)
Kaitlyn Estopare – News Editor
Tim Folliard – Editor-In-Chief
Abbot Austin Murphy of St. Procopius Abbey stated his concern Tuesday about the decision to rehire a gay women’s lacrosse coach for Benet Academy and raised the question of whether the public lives of Catholic high school employees and students should follow the church’s moral teaching.
“We have nothing to add to the letter except to reaffirm that Benet Academy is a Catholic institution. As such, it must adhere to the teachings of the Church on the dignity of all persons and the nature of marriage,” said an Abbey Spokesperson.
The Abbot is the Chancellor of Benet Academy and Benedictine University, according to the BenU website.
“Benedictine University and Benet Academy are two separate institutions. Benedictine University values our hallmark of being a welcoming, open and inclusive community,” said Pat Ariano, Chief of Staff at BenU.
In Abbot Austin’s statement, he poses the question of “is it necessary that the witness of their public lives not be in opposition to Catholic moral teaching?” Abbot Austin believes that “this requirement is necessary and, therefore, is deeply troubled by the school’s decision which calls into question its adherence to the doctrines of the Catholic faith. In turn, I want to let everyone know that I am taking this matter to prayer and discerning how to proceed.”
“Pope Francis recently confirmed the Catholic doctrine on homosexual marriage, which is believed that same-sex marriage is outside the sacrament, but does not contradict the that Church loves and respects all people despite our differences, “ according to the Abbot’s statement.
BenU also faced a case where an employee’s sexual orientation came into conflict with church doctrine
In 2010, Laine Tadlock, a Benedictine University professor was asked by former President William Carroll to retire early after it was discovered that she was in a same sex marriage. Tadlock taught on the now closed Springfield campus beginning in 2005. Her marriage was discovered by officials after a Springfield newspaper posted the wedding announcement.
Benedictine said in a message to Tadlock’s attorney that, “By publicizing the marriage ceremony in which she participated in Iowa she has significantly disregarded and flouted core religious beliefs which, as a Catholic institution, it is our mission to uphold.”
Professor Tadlock did not accept President Carroll’s offer to retire early. She was placed on administrative leave by Benedictine. A week later, she was offered a newly created position of “Director of Assessment, Accreditation and Institutional Effectiveness.” Tadlock turned down the position.
Her turning down the position was viewed as her resignation from Benedictine. Padlock’s lawsuit against the University was dismissed in 2011.
“A lot of Catholics, especially LGBTQ Catholics who want to remain faithful, feel hopeless,” said Kim Gannon in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
Gannon is a doctorate student in public health who attended Benet for two years. “The Catholic Church has always been a very top-down institution and we’re going to keep fighting. But people on the inside are starting to feel like it’s not possible.”
Benedictine University was initially formed by the monks of St. Procopius Abbey in 1887. As of recently, the relationship between the University and the Abbey has been complicated.
In June of 2015, the Abbey sued Benedictine for not having enough say in the University’s decision making. This was in reference to the hiring of former President Michael Brophy.
At the time, Benedictine University released a statement from James Melsa, Chair of the Board of Trustees. In that statement, Benedictine stated that they are still a proud Catholic institution:
“Benedictine University proudly and consistently represents a Catholic university in the Benedictine traditions. This has not and will not change. The issue of how to maintain the Catholic identity of an institution with the declining number of clergy is an issue for every Catholic institution in the country.”
President Brophy ended up resigning in August 2018. According to an article from the Naperville Sun, he was appointed to be in office until 2022. In October 2018, he was hired as the President of Hilbert College in New York.
When Brophy resigned, Abbot Austin said in a statement, “I appreciate the steps Dr. Brophy took to strengthen the Benedictine, Catholic mission of Benedictine University. The hiring for mission policy and the strategic plan, which he initiated soon after becoming president, will serve the University well in the coming years.”
In 2019, speculation arose about a split between the Abbey and the University. No official announcement was made by either party.
“Right now, we are involved in ongoing conversation about questions that really have no distinct answers, we know that the University will be Catholic in 5, 10, 15 plus years, we know the Abbey will be our partner and Monks will [be] on this campus, but exactly what that will look like, we don’t know,” said Chief Missions Office Peter Huff in 2019. “I think it is safe to say that we [Benedictine] is opening up a new chapter now, rethinking how we are going to be an effective, inclusive Catholic University in the future.”
This summer, Campus Ministry released the faith demographics of the student body. According to the survey, 41% of students are Roman Catholic while 20% of students are Muslim. In 2016, 47% of the students were Roman Catholic.