Michigan Diocese Releases New Transgender-Negative Policy for Catholic Agencies

Cover of the “Theological Guide” accompanying the Diocese of Lansing’s new gender identity policy.

The Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, has released a new policy on gender identity that requires all of its agencies to acknowledge only a person’s assigned sex at birth.  The document specifies that all clergy, employees, and volunteers of the diocese, as well as students and parents in Catholic schools, are to “conduct themselves in accord with their God-given biological sex.”

Signed by Bishop Earl Boyea, the policy bases itself on an idea that the embodiment of sexuality is a gift from God, and that binary gender complementarity is a bedrock for the family and society. It emphasizes the body-soul connection in strictly male or female form.

The policy offers no specifics about how to refuse to honor a person’s self-identified gender. However, according to the diocesan press release, concrete practice includes things such as only using pronouns and bathrooms that correspond to one’s assigned sex. It notes that “on a case-by-case basis, students who have been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria may request the use of a single-person, unisex facility.”

At a time when President Biden expanded Title IX protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, the diocese also notes that students may only compete on athletic teams that reflect assigned sex, regardless of whether they identify as another gender.

According to Crux, Tom Maloney, diocesan superintendent of schools, explained:

“Applying that compassion to new ethical dilemmas such as gender dysphoria can be challenging – that’s why this new diocesan policy on gender identity will help our teachers form our students in truth and love in order to promote authentic happiness and uphold the common good.”

In addition to the brief policy, the diocese released an accompanying Theological Guide subtitled The Human Person and Gender Dysphoria. The guide explains that the policy attempts to follow up on a 2019 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education entitled Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on The Question of Gender Theory in Education and provide theological context, as well as practical approaches for ministry.

Although these diocesan documents all claim to prioritize pastoral care and concern for those experiencing “gender dysphoria,” the same texts simultaneously employ discriminatory and divisive language while refusing to acknowledge any distinction between a person’s assigned sex and their gender. No references are made to persons with intersex characteristics.

For example, the theological guide differentiates “gender dysmorphia” from “transgender ideology.” To understand the former, it quotes a pastoral document from the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, which compares gender identity questions to anorexia: “each is a condition in which a person, for a complex set of reasons, has self-perception of his or her physical biology that is dislocated from reality.”

In explaining transgender issues, the authors adopt the phrase “transgender ideology,” treating transgender experiences as a political movement or faction rather than the lived realities of individuals: “This ideology radically separates the material from the spiritual and treats the material as mere inert matter for the spiritual to act upon.” Furthermore, they claim that transgender identities constitute a “denial of the fundamental goodness of the unity of the human and soul as created by God.”

Richard Budd, a co-author of the policy and director of the diocesan marriage and family life office, claimed:

“Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition which causes real human suffering that has to be met with genuine compassion, rooted in truth and love, and accompanied by the highest standards of pastoral care.”

He reiterates that he hopes to provide such pastoral care while “also reaffirming the immutable realities of human anthropology–that we are created male and female.” He believes the policy is a “necessary response to those who proselytize, especially among the young, on behalf of false and harmful ‘gender ideologies’.”

Even while encouraging counseling for those struggling with gender identity, diocesan officials are firm that people should consult “counselors or other medical professionals” who “adhere to Catholic teaching.” Gender confirming treatments, such as hormones to block puberty and surgical interventions, are explicitly forbidden.

Like much of institutional teaching and practice on LGBTQ issues, particularly transgender identities, the policy is riddled with contradictions such as claiming to prioritize pastoral care and love of persons while ignoring the real lived experiences of those individuals. Calls for dialogue are hard to take seriously when accompanied by didactic, untouchable statements from the hierarchy.

A truly compassionate approach could employ unbiased listening to the stories of transgender individuals, rooted in the Catholic teaching on human dignity and honoring the imago Dei of every human being. In hearing these narratives as well as from the broader LGBTQ community, ministries could be tailored to meet the true needs of the marginalized and vulnerable populations, following the footsteps of Jesus’ own ministry and teachings rather than continuing to find ways to exclude and shame.

Angela Howard McParland, New Ways Ministry, January 29, 2021

5 replies
  1. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    The “Theological Guide” is a mishmash of scriptural references, the opinions about sex of John Paul II, and outright falsehoods such as the complementarity of men and women. At the risk of sounding like a broken record … no mainstream university teaches any of this stuff anymore. In mainstream science courses it is acknowledged that anatomy is given and gender is constructed. Future doctors, researchers, health care workers, social workers, teachers, etc., learn in university or post-graduate settings that transgenderism is real, that transgender clinics in teaching hospitals offer real hope and real interventions to people with gender dysphoria, that authentic happiness and satisfaction is usually achieved post-transition, and that satisfaction and mental health generally goes up the longer people live as their preferred gender.

    According to the Public Policy Research Portal at Cornell University (university again), a systematic review of all peer-reviewed articles published in English between 1991 and June 2017 that examined the impact of assess gender transition on transgender well-being showed that 93% of studies found that gender transition improved the overall well-being of transgender people.

    It is simply nuts for the Catholic Church to be bucking this and believing that its way is the correct way when it has no science to back it up. No amount of naked Adam and Eve pictures can change the fact that our “first parents” never existed and we came from an ancestral group … and a big percentage of us are not “ordered” towards the opposite sex. How did the folks who mucked up the clerical sex abuse crisis so very badly ever get to dictate to anyone what their own experiences of gender and attraction are or should be? The arrogance is breathtaking.

    Reply
  2. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    Honestly, this trend of Catholic family educators spewing “love and compassion” while denying and invalidating the experiences of transgendered people and refusing them appropriate treatments is more than upsetting. It’s replay of what happened with LGB students in the ’90s, with the growth of various “ex-gay” ministries that promised to fix their “condition.” Something we all could do is stay abreast of the information pipeline. I offer a couple of links below:

    How many adults identify as transgender in the US?
    https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/trans-adults-united-states/

    The Report of the US Transgender Survey (largest in the world, more than 27,000 respondents)
    https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF

    Research on transgender well-being
    https://whatweknow.inequality.cornell.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-well-being-of-transgender-people/

    A critique of “Male and female He created them: towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education, Congregation for Catholic Education” (Giuseppe, 2019); Author: Claire Jenkins. Could have used some editing but it starts with the notion of “institutional heterosexuality” … a useful way to start.

    http://rainbowcatholics.org/pastoral/a-critique-male-and-female-he-created-them-giuseppe-2019/

    Reply
  3. Richard Cook
    Richard Cook says:

    Yet again the hierarchy boxes itself in. Marriage is God ordained, we were and are told, but the hierarchy then insists, sexual intercourse in marriage is not at all for intimate pleasure but only for procreation. This codicil was added to protect the celibate male priesthood from ever having to recognize and honor the ordained homosexual priest, and his partner/spouse. Now the hierarchy instructs that gender is God ordained but the hierarchy then adds that God forever fixed gender with the appearance of genitalia, allowing no possibility that God might also have created emotional and psychological maturation that is to be taken into account. The genitalia codicil is needed so the hierarchy will have ammo against the day when a member of the male celibate clergy declares her self female, and is, without further ado, an ordained female self. Back in the day, the hierarchy defended human slavery and the burning of dissenters with similar codicils. Eventually, these codicils became dead letters, too.

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