Bishop Endorses Ban on Transgender Soldiers, Silent on Other Discrimination

Responding to President Donald Trump’s apparent ban on transgender soldiers in the military, the archbishop for the Military Services, USA released a statement endorsing the ban. Meanwhile, there’s been silence from U.S. bishops on another Trump administration act that could advance discrimination against LGBT people.


Archbishop Timothy Broglio

Archbishop Timothy Broglio opened his statement on the transgender ban with an affirmation that the church cares for all people “regardless of personal choices or conditions, because Christ offers salvation to all people.”

While Broglio supported Trump’s trans ban, he believed that the president missed the real issue about gender identity. Broglio said that trans soldiers are not problematic because of military readiness or cost, as the president claimed, but because of a deeper reason. Broglio said the ban fails “to address the essence of the issue – the dignity of the human person.”Broglio explained:

“[G]ender ideology undermines basic Christian anthropology by defining the person as a disembodied mind and the body as a mere instrument. . .Sexual orientation and gender identity issues reflect a rapidly increasing and incorrect societal attitude that individual behaviors in life should pursue immediate and personal choices rather than eternal truth.  In extending the maternal care of the Church to the faithful of this Archdiocese, it is opportune to reaffirm that personal choices in life, whether regarding the protection of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the acceptance of a person’s God-created biology, should be made not solely for a penultimate reality on this earth but in anticipation of the ultimate reality of sharing in the very life of God in heaven.”

Other Catholics endorsed the president’s ban, even while it is still unclear whether his tweet constituents an actual order and how such an order would be implemented. Theologian Chad Pecknold of The Catholic University of America described the ban as the “right decision” because trans people being respected “doesn’t mean that they are fit for combat in the defense of a nation.”

The Trump administration took another anti-LGBT action on the same day as the announcement of the ban, which was also the 69th anniversary of when the military was racially desegregated.

The Justice Department announced that it would no longer interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination for certain protected classes, to be inclusive of sexual orientation. This decision reverses actions taken by President Obama’s Justice Department, which had also interpreted the law as protecting workers based on gender identity. So far, Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been silent about this discriminatory regression.

These two responses undercut church leaders’ claims that LGBT people should be shown “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Broglio and Pecknold speak in terms that treat trans people as objects and as problems with which the church must deal rather than understanding trans people as members of Christ’s body and gifts to the world. Their words seem to indicate they have not personally encountered a trans person and listened to such a person’s story. Their theology derives from anti-trans ideology rather than being grounded in lived realities and scientific knowledge. They certainly do not seem truly concerned with the human dignity of trans people, despite Broglio’s statement that he is.

Church leaders should vocally oppose federal actions that would allow more employment discrimination against LGBT people. While there are more complicated issues when it comes to church workers, church teaching clearly rejects the firing of an employee based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. That same church teaching says “every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.” The bishops’ collective silence on this issue when they have so quickly spoken out to oppose LGBT issues, such as marriage or transgender equality, is sadly telling.

In other similar situations, Church leaders have responded differently than Broglio. Pope Francis himself, whose record on gender identity is admittedly mixed, readily affirmed one nun’s ministry with transgender women in Argentina. Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich said recently that “people should be called the way they want to be called.” Most of all, U.S. bishops could listen to their German peer and papal adviser, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. He recently said the church should be more concerned with discrimination against LGBT people than marriage equality. His statement included these words:

“[It is worth recalling] that the Church has not exactly been a trailblazer as far as the rights of homosexuals are concerned. We must express our regret that we did nothing to oppose homosexuals from being prosecuted. “

Shifting positions to be truly concerned with the dignity of transgender people and discrimination against members of LGBT communities would not be difficult for the U.S. bishops if they have the will to do so. The sad reality is that even four years into Pope Francis’ leadership, that will too often remains absent.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 1, 2017

20 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    “”[G]ender ideology undermines basic Christian anthropology by defining the person as a disembodied mind and the body as a mere instrument. . .Sexual orientation and gender identity issues reflect a rapidly increasing and incorrect societal attitude that individual behaviors in life should pursue immediate and personal choices rather than eternal truth.”

    Ah, yes. And of course he knows eternal truth because he is a bishop. No need for any scientific knowledge when you have “Christian anthropology” to give you all the answers about the great variations in human sexuality. Maybe rather than depend on a philosophical anthropology, he should pay attention to real, scientific anthropology – the study or real humans. And maybe he would just discover that his idea of what sexual orientation and gender identity are, is a fantasy.

    Sounds suspiciously like the kind of truth that the administration spouts. No need for the “fake truth’ of transgender people, or of science, or of human experience. He has “the truth” and he will tell everyone what it is.

    Transgender people have served in the military for millennia, and many are serving in the US military now. And doing quite well. But the president says they should be banned. And he will back the president up. But he cares for transgender people. He just doesn’t need to hear their stories cause they are screwed up and don’t conform to his “eternal, and etherial truth.”

  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    The Archbishop is complicit in discrimination with his comments . It all may be moot, as the Pentagon has already stated that Mr. Trump cannot ban transgendered people by decree. Odd that a Church that speaks freely and frequently about “religious freedom ” and feels “persecuted” by the secular world , would persecute LGBT people with their indifference or sometimes outright hostility.

  3. Joe Geist
    Joe Geist says:

    Members of the church (especially bishops) often talk on both sides of their mouths; consequently, hypocrisy abounds.

  4. Elizabeth Linehan
    Elizabeth Linehan says:

    Since when is “acceptance of a person’s God-created biology” a teaching of the Church? Did God create our psychologies, too?

  5. FrAnthony
    FrAnthony says:

    I think the Bishop is wrong.He is more in line with Calvin.
    I believe God created the universe by causing the big bang.
    God gave the universe laws to follow.And sometimes things go awry as only God is perfect.
    Sometimes people are born in the wrong body.They have a right to correct things.

    • Kate Dougherty
      Kate Dougherty says:

      Thank you. I pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten this poor man. My Curch is untecognizeable sometimes. So much for fedelity to the Pope.

  6. Annette Majgjuka
    Annette Majgjuka says:

    …and this kind of proclamation by bishops is exactly why my kids ask me constantly how I can “remain Catholic” when this is the “official” teaching. I get so tired of defending myself to them when they make such good points. The fact is that the church plays all sides at once, and worldwide, the acceptance of LGBTQ people is way, way behind the US. The hierarchy is willing to wait it out, and not challenge other countries to hasten their evolution. LGBTQ people are acceptable collateral damage in this endeavor. Individuals are always collateral damage to the hierarchy. That is why individuals must live according to conscience. Waiting for official word will take many lifetimes. We progressive Catholics must lead the way and do our part to help the acceptance and love Jesus came to teach us.

  7. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    In my opinion, the bishop is not speaking with the integrity required of his office. I would hope that my ordained brothers and sisters speak the Good News as taught by Jesus Christ and not the fearful assumptions of the dominant culture. I hear them constantly talking about the marginalized instead of listening to the anawim of society. They would do well to listen to the transgender community like Jesus did when he ate with the despised of his time. They would do well to allow their hearts to be broken open like Jesus did when he marveled at the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman.

  8. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    If needed here is a fresh example for Fr. Martin’s discussion of how the hierarchy regularly fails to build bridges. Sometimes just saying nothing is better than becoming an instrument of the state. It is the mind, not the sex organs who determine who we love. Why is this so hard for the bishops to understand we are all called to live in peace, not by a standard an outside group of humans decided when they have never even discussed the situation with those in that situation?

  9. Jim McCrea
    Jim McCrea says:

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but laughing each time something like this happens and the readership here expresses dismay, etc. What in the heck do you expect from this church? The leadership is NOT going to change … NOT AT ALL. 99% of the pew potatoes don’t have a clue about any of this and unless it affects them directly, don’t care either. Wake up people! You are hoping for miracles.

    • Annette Majgjuka
      Annette Majgjuka says:

      I do not delude myself that the church teachings will change. But the faithful has always acted in accord with the times, not always with the official teachings. Instead of waiting for the hierarchy to declare the official teaching null and void (this will not happen) many are acting according to the sure knowledge (by virtue of the Holy Spirit) that discrimination against LGBTQ people is wrong. We are speaking up, lending support, and acting as the church itself should be acting. This is how change happens. Waiting for the hierarchy is not a good strategy. But extending a loving hand of support is always what we should do for one another. This is what Jesus calls us to do.

    • FrAnthony
      FrAnthony says:

      See,we,ae not
      Pew potatoes.we are hopeful.Long ago
      my canon law prof said things change very slowly in the Church so we hope for a miracle cause we
      are mouthy.😇

    • Loretta
      Loretta says:

      I read an article by Sean Winters about the June USCCB conference regarding the ice breaking on the conservative hold in the USCCB that I would recommend reading. For me, I’m trying to focus on the few good men in the USCCB who are trying to reach out. It changes my mood.

  10. RI GUY
    RI GUY says:

    I remember that Abp Broglio was against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” back when it was implemented under Pres Obama.

    Abp Broglio concerned with the dignity of trans people? I don’t think so!

  11. Art Dodson
    Art Dodson says:

    It is a provable fact that if trans people are banned, the Armed Forces will suffer with the loss of their contributions to the Country. Abp Broglio needs to resign this position since he is hurting the the Courtry by his bigoted stand. He should be ashamed to call himself a Catholic Bishop!

  12. Royal D Carleton
    Royal D Carleton says:

    He said “the church cares for all people “regardless of personal choices or conditions, because Christ offers salvation to all people.” I missed HIM saying, in his role, that he agrees, and supports those he may consider the “other.” Personal choices or conditions? He is not connected to those whom he represents. Sad. A common place for “churches” in the US. Numbers continue to decline. There should be no wonder.

  13. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    Theology professor Chad Pecknold claims that transgender people are unfit for combat.

    He is wrong.

    The roughly 15,000 transgender military personnel now successfully serving in the armed forces disprove what Pecknold imagines.

    He knows nothing of military science, combat readiness, or gender identity, because if he did he would know that the scientific evidence proves exactly the opposite of what he claims.

    Pecknold is subservient to a religious superstition called “gender ideology” by its adherents. There is no scientific evidence for this superstition; it was invented by he Vatican as a means to irrationally vilify transgender people in the minds of people who don’t know any better because they don’t know any transgender people.

  14. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    15,000 transgender in military? I’m confused in that seems disproportionate to the assumption statistic (?) of the percentage of transgender folks in the whole society. What is the total of persons currently serving in the military

    • Ned Flaherty
      Ned Flaherty says:

      Regarding the number of transgender people in active and reserve U.S. military service, Trump’s DoD and Trump’s Census Bureau collect no such data on the excuse that there is no use for such information.

      But the UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy estimates 15,500 current personnel plus 134,300 veterans, and the RAND Corporation estimates 2,150-10,790 current personnel.

      Moreover, UCLA researchers report that while 10% of all Americans serve in the military at some point, 21% of transgender people serve — over twice as many.

      Ultimately, however, the precise statistics are irrelevant, because America doesn’t disburse fairness based on population size. Discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or gender is outlawed because it is unfair, not because any one demographic group has reached some magic mythical fairness threshold. No law ever said, for example, “Anti-Semitism will become unlawful as soon as Jews reach x% of the population.” Anti-Semitism is unlawful based on principle, not population.


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