Benedictine monks cut ties with Benet Academy months after school hired coach in same-sex marriage

The chancellor of Benet Academy said in September he was “deeply troubled” by the school’s decision to hire a girls lacrosse coach in a same-sex marriage.

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Benet Academy located at 2200 Maple Ave. in Lisle, Ill.

Benet Academy in Lisle

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A group of Benedictine monks is cutting ties with a west suburban Catholic high school months after the school, under mounting pressure, hired a woman in a same-sex marriage.

Benet Chancellor Abbot Austin Murphy announced St. Procopius Abbey’s decision to separate from the school “after much deliberation” in a letter dated Tuesday.

“Events in recent months have been an occasion for the Benedictine monks of St. Procopius Abbey to examine their future relationship with Benet Academy. After much deliberation, the monks as a community have discerned that they no longer have the resources needed for the governance and oversight of the Academy,” the letter signed by Murphy and board Chairman Dennis Flynn said.

St. Procopius Abbey, which founded the Lisle high school more than 120 years ago, is one of Benet’s biggest donors, giving at least $50,000 to the school during the 2019-20 academic year, according to Benet’s annual report. Murphy serves in a leadership role with a seat on the board of directors. 

The transition to a new sponsorship is expected to occur in the coming months, Head of School Stephen Marth said in a letter sent Tuesday afternoon to parents, faculty and staff. The abbey will continue its governance role in the meantime.

“The goal is that Benet Academy will continue to operate with an emphasis on academic excellence and Catholic identity within the Benedictine tradition,” the abbey said in its letter.

Murphy hinted back in September that a separation could happen. That’s when he released a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” with the hiring of Amanda Kammes as the school’s next lacrosse coach and was “discerning how to proceed.”

Benet came under fire last fall when it rescinded an offer to Kammes, a veteran lacrosse coach and alum of the high school, “upon learning that she is in a same-sex marriage.”

Students and parents protested the school’s decision outside Benet, distributing rainbow masks to fellow classmates. An online petition calling for Kammes to be reinstated and for Benet to implement more inclusive policies garnered more than 4,100 signatures.

The school’s board of directors met Sept. 20 in response to the public outcry.

The school ultimately backpedaled, saying the board “determined that Ms. Kammes’ background and experience made her the right candidate for the position.”

“Going forward we will look for opportunities for dialogue in our community about how we remain true to our Catholic mission while meeting people where they are in their personal journey through life,” the school said in September. “For now, we hope that this is the first step in healing the Benet community.”

Kammes couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Murphy previously said the school’s hiring of Kammes “calls into question its adherence to the doctrines of the Catholic faith.”

Marth on Tuesday noted Benet’s “steadfast commitment to ensuring that the Academy will maintain its Catholic identity, in the Benedictine tradition, for years to come.”

He said a committee that will include representatives from the Diocese of Joliet, the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, the Benet Board of Directors and school administration will collaborate on what the next move will be for the school, which has 1,300 students enrolled.

This is not the first time St. Procopius Abbey has clashed with its educational institutions.

The abbey sued Benedictine University in 2015, claiming it had not been allowed to properly oversee decisions made by the university, which the abbey also founded. 

Murphy also served as chancellor of the university and sat on its board of trustees. 

The outcome of the lawsuit was not known, but Murphy was quoted at the time as saying, “If you take the monks of St. Procopius Abbey out of the picture, you are taking away an important contributing factor to the Catholic nature of Benedictine University.”

Contributing: Sophie Sherry

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