This week, I relinquish my space to a teaching from a remarkably coherent and timely decree issued by the Bishop of Springfield, Illinois to his flock. I’m sure it was met by much fierce opposition from proponents of transgenderism and others who oppose the Catholic Church teaching on human sexuality as God’s gift to mankind. In a sensitively-worded but thoroughly “grounded-in-truth” pastoral guide regarding the handling of gender identity issues in his diocese, Bishop Thomas Paprocki declared unequivocally, “A person cannot change his or her gender,” and “should accept and seek to live in conformity with his or her sexual identity as determined at birth.” While his diocese encourages professional counseling for those who suffer from gender dysphoria, Bishop Paprocki has made clear that certain policies regarding his diocese are non-negotiable: 1) All persons will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex; 2) All correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the subject person’s biological sex; 3) All persons will use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex while on diocesan or parish property. These directives apply not only to diocesan schools, but to all Church employees and volunteers.Top of FormBottom of Form The clear statement of policy is timely as Catholic schools and other diocesan entities increasingly face situations that challenge previously unquestioned, widely-accepted norms.
Bishop Paprocki stated: “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.”
The Springfield bishop is taking a preemptive stance to ensure that Catholic schools do not follow the path of celebrating and accepting transgenderism that public schools in his state have chosen. He explained that the document was developed “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.”
While acknowledging that gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition, in which a biological male or female believes he or she is the opposite gender, the bishop said, “It is of paramount importance to handle such situations with gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern.” Gender dysphoria is a condition that affects the entire family, he said. “In a culture that promotes a false and overly sentimentalized concept 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.
Fueling the confusion that families face in these circumstances is not merciful,” declared the bishop. “It’s imperative to be clear on the reality of human biology as a gift from God that we cannot change. 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’,” he boldly stated.
“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,” said Paprocki.
“Some families may not be willing to agree with this approach, and we need to respect their freedom,” he continued, “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.”
“A student of any Catholic school who insists, or whose parents insist, on open hostility toward, or defiance of, Church teaching, or who otherwise intentionally violate this policy, may be expelled,” he concluded.