A two-year crusade between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Christ the King High School is heading to the courts.
The Diocese filed a lawsuit against Christ the King to force the school’s Board of Trustees to renew a written agreement to stay committed to providing Catholic high school education or relinquish control of the institution.
“It is sad that we have to go to these extraordinary lengths to have our rights reaffirmed by the court,” said Monsignor Steven Aggugia, judicial vicar of the Diocese. “But it’s time for the Diocese to get a full accounting from the Christ the King Board of what has transpired over the years.”
In the 1970s the Diocese transferred control of the six high schools it owns in Brooklyn and Queens, including Christ the King, to non-profits, under condition that they run the institutions as Catholic, according to court papers.
This agreement must be reexamined and for the past two years, the Diocese has been trying to get the Board to reaffirm this agreement, to no avail.
This year Christ the King began renting space to a public charter school, Middle Village Preparatory Charter School, and the Board has also been operating various enterprises on the campus, including a day care center, online courses and continuing education courses in Spanish, drama, dance and karate.
In addition to getting the Board to reaffirm the commitment, the Diocese is asking Christ the King to turn over all leases for the various businesses that the property has been used for over the years.
“I think they are monetizing an asset and not accounting to us,” said Marty McLaughlin, spokesperson for the Diocese. “They are monetizing an asset that doesn’t belong to them. What [the Diocese] wants is a full account of what is going on there.”
Board members believe that the Diocese wants control of Christ the King because of the school’s amazing record over nearly four decades since transferring to Board rule. Thomas Ognibene, a former city council member and lawyer for Christ the King, said that the agreement in question was supposed to be in place for 30 years and the Diocese had until 2006 to reaffirm it.
“We’ve poured our life blood into that school and they’re looking to shut it down,” Ognibene said.
The Diocese also said Christ the King is the only school that doesn’t follow a rule to donate 40 percent of revenue from charter schools to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, which gives scholarships to “disadvantaged” children for Catholic elementary schools. However, the Board has said they have complied since July.
The Diocese said that they have no plans to close Christ the King or the charter school.