Holy Cross Officials Rebuke Bishop’s Anti-Transgender Comments as “Offensive”

Margaret Freije

Top officials at the College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts, have rebuked a local bishop’s comments disparaging transgender people, saying the bishop was “deeply hurtful and offensive.”

In a message to the campus community, Margaret Freije, Holy Cross’ provost and dean, and Michele Murray, the vice president for student affairs and dean of students, described comments by Worcester’s Bishop Robert McManus as “deeply hurtful and offensive to many members of our community.”  The school is located in Worcester.

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported on those comments made while McManus addressed a healthcare conference held at Holy Cross. He claimed then that transgender identities are “rooted in unsupportable science” and are more akin to the heresy of Gnosticism.

Michelle Murray

The administrators’ message also included the full text of a letter to the editor penned by Holy Cross’ president, Fr. Philip Boroughs, S.J., which criticized the Telegram & Gazette for failing “to follow recommended guidelines on covering LGBTQ communities as outlined in the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, a guide that has informed the style guides of most credible news outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Times.” Boroughs also said that the newspaper offered an “inaccurate depiction of Prof. K.J. Rawson and his scholarship. The article reduces Prof. Rawson’s scholarly work to his lived identity,” without mentioning anything about his scholarly achievements and professional success.

McManus, who refused an invitation to attend Holy Cross’ commencement this year, responded to Freije’s and Murray’s comments. He told the Telegram & Gazette that if people at Holy Cross found his comments offensive, “then perhaps the college should present clearly what Catholicism teaches regarding Christian anthropology and human sexuality.”

But LGBTQ Catholic advocates pushed back against the bishop’s position. Dominican Sr. Luisa Derouen, who has accompanied more than 250 transgender people in twenty-plus years of ministry with that community, told the Telegram & Gazette:

“‘I do not recognize the people I know from Bishop McManus’ description of them. The reality of transgender people is far more complex than is reflected in his talk. . .

“‘What I have witnessed many, many times is that as long as transgender people struggle to conform to be the person everyone else tells them they are, they suffer depression, self-hatred, self-destructive behaviors, physical and emotional sickness and alienation from God. . .

“‘When they finally claim their True Self, I witness the gifts of the Spirit in them: peace, joy, compassion, courage and forgiveness. . .They no longer hate themselves and are able to give and receive love from others. Always, (without) exception, their relationship with God is much closer than before transition.'”

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, said while he appreciated McManus’ call for every person to be respected, being transgender is “a complicated phenomenon that the world at large is still struggling to understand.” This reality is “all the more reason for the church to listen carefully to the experiences of trans people, including trans youth and their parents,” as well as experts in medicine and psychology who “are learning more about the transgender experience every day.”

Guy Turcotte, writing a letter to the editor in the Telegram & Gazette, said “the long echo through time of the Inquisition’s cruel fanaticism” can be heard in McManus’ comments. Turcotte added, “Where has Bishop McManus made a place for love, dignity, and compassion? What is Catholic Identity without them?”

In Bondings 2.0’s first report on this incident, I noted the clear difference in leadership between Bishop McManus and Fr. Boroughs, who has positioned himself firmly on the side of LGBTQ people. This new development  reveals a further divide between trans-negative bishops and their fellow Catholics who deal not in syllogisms but in lived experience. Deans Freije and Murray, like Sr. Luisa, are responding from the communities with whom they interact and to whom they are accountable. Being trans supportive naturally flows from such a posture. I suggested in the first report that McManus call Holy Cross’ president as first step to listening and learning more about the complexities of gender identity. Let me add to his call sheet these three courageous women who reveal precisely what Catholic identity is all about.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 22, 2019

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