Related to Policy: Gender Identity, April 2020
Much of this pastoral guide and policy has been borrowed from the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. I want to thank them for their time, professional expertise consulted toward a pastoral concern facing families.
This guide is intended as a commentary to help foster a proper understanding of the diocesan policy regarding gender identity, in recognition of the pastoral sensitivities regarding this matter.
I. Gender Dysphoria, Transgenderism, Compassionate Concern and the Pastoral Imperative of Compassionate Concern
Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition, in which a biological male or female believes he or she is the opposite gender. It is of paramount importance to handle such situations with gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern. All forms of discrimination and harsh treatment must be strongly resisted and corrected. It is also important to recognize the difficulties parents and families face when a child or family member is dealing with gender dysphoria. This disorder affects the entire family. In a culture that promotes a false and overly sentimentalized conception of love, many families of an adult or child with gender dysphoria will feel a sense of obligation to support their loved one in “whatever is going to make them happy.” Family members likely wrestle with a sense of confusion, guilt, and uncertainty over how best to support their loved one; and they face pressure, either directly or indirectly, from the prevailing culture to celebrate and reinforce their loved one’s gender dysphoria and feel compelled to “solve” the problem by surgically and hormonally changing the biological sex of the affected person. Such treatments, especially for children, are invasive and disruptive physically, chemically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
For the parents of a child who is dealing with this condition, the first priority must be to assist the child in this difficult situation. Fueling the confusion that families face in these circumstances is not merciful. For the sake of the family and the loved one, it is imperative to be clear on the reality of human biology as a gift from God that we cannot change. In this regard, Pope Francis has questioned whether “the so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution” (General Audience, April 15, 2015).
The Holy Father’s concerns are grounded in the Church teaching that our identities as male and female are part of God’s good design in Creation, that our bodies and sexual identities are gifts from God, and that we should accept and care for our bodies as they were created. A person cannot change his or her gender. A person should accept and seek to live in conformity with his or her sexual identity as determined at birth. The human person is a body-soul union, and the body created male or female – is a constitutive aspect of the human person. Therefore, the Catholic Church teaches that the removal or destruction of healthy sexual and reproductive organs is a type of mutilation and intrinsically evil. Procedures, surgeries, and therapies designed
to assist a person in “transitioning” his or her gender are morally prohibited. “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.” See Catechism of the Catholic Church(“CCC”), §2333. “Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way.” See, CCC §2335.
The presentation of this truth must be made with love, compassion, and patience. As the diocesan policy itself states, our schools, parishes and other institutions embrace with compassion those families and individuals with gender dysphoria and patiently supports them in their journey.
However, it must be clear that our schools and Church institutions (including sacramental records and school records) will refer to such persons with the gender pronouns, along with bathroom and locker room use and sports activities that acknowledge their God-given biology. Some families may not be willing to agree with this approach, and we need to respect their freedom; but they must likewise respect the Church’s duty to adhere to revealed truth if they are to participate actively and fully in our faith community, especially our Catholic schools.
II. The importance and timeliness of a policy regarding gender dysphoria and Transgenderism
Given the gravity of concern regarding gender dysphoria and transgenderism, in particular for our young people, the Congregation for Catholic Education of the Holy See recently published a thorough and important study and directive of guidance on this matter, entitled “Male and Female He Created Them”
This document was developed, in part, due to the increased pressure on Catholic schools and other institutions through the courts and legislatures, requiring schools to allow boys who believe they are girls to use girls’ restroom and locker room facilities and play on girls’ sports teams, and vice versa. Many public schools have begun to implement such policies, even here in Alaska.
Some have shared concerns that the diocesan policy mistakenly assumes adults would use children as pawns in such a political scheme, but the evidence is clear that such activism is well underway in our nation. In fact, in some cases, parents are submitting their children to hormonal therapies at pre-pubescent ages in order to prepare for sexual transgender surgeries later.
Viewed through a Christian lens, such cases amount to child abuse and genital mutilation. One may look to the United Kingdom for a glimpse of the trajectory of this trend. According to a report based on interviews with some of the 35 psychologists who left Britain’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a report (Transgender Children: Crisis in Care) noted that the number of children referred to the GIDS rose from 77 in 2009-2010 to nearly 2,600 in 2018- 2019, and there were 3,000 more children on a waiting list. In particular, the number of girls being referred to the GIDS has increased by 4,500% over that time. This trend presents moral, psychological, and physical dangers to our children.
The transgender policy is not, in and of itself, sufficient to address these threats; but it is necessary as a foundation of clarity and certainty regarding Church teaching regarding human biology, sexuality, and morality. Further, in an aggressively activist political climate — often fueled by social media — our pastors, principals, and administrators of parishes, schools, and affiliated groups and institutions deserve the clarity and protection of consistent diocesan policy on the matter of gender identity. Such policy protects our leaders from being forced to sort through these complex and sensitive matters reactively, under the pressure of inevitably sensitive situations. Such policy also protects our leaders at the local level from being pressured and intimidated on the basis of what is believed to be their own personal interpretation and opinion.
It is outside the scope of this document to provide concrete and detailed training on the skills required for pastoral conversations in such situations. However, resources are available to our priests through the Vicar General; and for school staff the Superintendent of Schools. Pastors and administrators are strongly encouraged to solicit help when questions or situations arise regarding this policy.
A few examples of resources include:
This page includes a series of brief videos that can be useful instructional videos for staff, faculty, and parents on how to approach conversations about gender identity and transgenderism with both sensitivity and clarity. These may be used directly as resource for parents, or for help in training and preparing for conversations with others: https://canavox.com/dear- katy/category/transgender/
Transgender Children: Crisis in Care
This study, referenced above, is based on interviews with several psychologists who previously worked in the UK’s Gender Identity Development Service. It highlights concerns and dangers of the trend toward accelerating gender dysphoria patients toward invasive transgender procedures: https://yhoo.it/3k4R9vs
Male and Female He Created Them
This document, referenced above, was produced by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome: http://www.educatio.va/content/dam/cec/Documenti/19_0997_INGLESE.pdf