Chicago-area Catholic principal who defied mask mandate won’t return to school, pastor says

Chicago-area Catholic principal who defied mask mandate won’t return to school, pastor says

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M. Jacob “Doc” Mathius, the former principal of Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park, Illinois. / Screenshot of Facebook post

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 17, 2022 / 11:13 am (CNA).

A principal at a Catholic school who was placed on leave after he defied the Archdiocese of Chicago’s mask mandate will not return to the school, it was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 16. 

Father Martin T. Marren, pastor of Queen of Martyrs Church in Evergreen Park, Illinois, shared the news in a letter to the community of Queen of Martyrs Catholic School, following a meeting with the suspended principal, Jacob “Doc” Mathius.

Mathius was suspended from his position on Feb. 8, after he announced that his pre-K-8 elementary school could go mask-optional. This announcement came after a state judge nullified Illinois’ statewide school mask mandate.

At the time, Archdiocese of Chicago policy stated that children enrolled in its schools must wear masks, regardless of what local regulations dictated. That policy has since changed

“[Tuesday] Doc Mathius and I met to discuss the events of the past week,” Marren in the letter. “I told him that, despite everything, I hoped we could agree on a path forward that would enable him to return as principal of Queen of Martyrs School.” 

According to Marren, he informed Mathius that he would be welcomed back as principal, under the condition that he “take some fair and reasonable steps that would repair the breach his actions created in our parish and school community, as well as with our sister schools in the Archdiocese.” 

Mathius declined to accept these conditions, said Marren, and “as a result, will not be returning to our school.” 

“I am saddened, as I trust you are, by his decision,” wrote Marren. “I am sure you can understand that it is not possible for an organization to employ someone who will not abide by rules that apply to all. That is a lesson we teach our children, and it also applies to adults.”

Mathius did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment Wednesday. In a post on his personal Facebook page on Wednesday, Mathius said that he had been “exiled” from his school for over a week without any communication from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools.

Mathius said that the conditions he was told he would meet upon his return to Queen of Martyrs to be “unreasonable in nature and extreme in scope,” although he did not elaborate as to what he was asked to do. 

“I want to once again offer my humble and sincere thanks to so many of the family members of our Queen of Martyrs School community as well as other private citizens … many of whom I have never met … that gifted me their love and support through this very difficult time,” he wrote in the post. “I consider myself fortunate beyond measure to be the recipient of such kindness and affirmation.”

In a later post, he said: “We might be a small community, but my goodness, look at how mighty we are! Look at how this community came together in common cause to make a statement that you wanted heard! Look at how you stood shoulder to shoulder to carry your message forward!”

During Mathius’ suspension, parents of Queen of Martyrs students protested outside the school building on two occasions. Parents were in support of Mathius’ decision and wished to see him remain at the school. 

After his suspension Mathius told Chicago media that he did not expect to be reinstated to his position.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is one of several bishops in the U.S. who has instructed clerics not to assist parishioners seeking religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines. 

Cupich also decreed that all archdiocesan employees and clergy must receive the vaccine for COVID-19, only allowing exemptions for medical reasons.

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