The Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana is implementing a new policy requiring students, parents, faculty, and staff at Catholic schools to wear clothing and use the pronouns of “each person’s God-given sexual identity and biological sex at birth.”
The new “Sexual Identity Policy” has been added to the 2022-2023 school handbooks. The language of the policy, as published in three diocesan schools—Teurlings Catholic High School, St. Thomas More Catholic High School, and Cathedral-Carmel School—states:
“Behavior and expressions of a person’s sexual identity within the school environment that are inconsistent with these principles and/or which cause disruption or confusion regarding Roman Catholic teachings on human sexuality are prohibited. The full cooperation with this policy of school officials, faculty, parents and students is required and a condition precedent to the continued enrollment of each student and the continued employment of each employee, and the enforcement of this policy by the school is deemed a spiritual mandate.”
While this policy was not included in previous years’ handbooks, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported that the diocese claims that this is not a new policy. Blue Rolfes, the diocese’s director of communications, maintained that this policy provides “written clarification of a policy that’s been in effect for quite some time.” There are more than 30 Catholic schools in the diocese, and Rolfes explains that this policy “simply spells out Roman Catholic teachings on human sexuality and what students, parents, and school staff can expect when they enroll or are hired to work in all Diocese of Lafayette Catholic schools.”
The brief two-paragraph policy concludes by directing people towards Male and Female He Created Them, a 2019 document on gender from the Vatican’s then-Congregation for Catholic Education.
Restrictive policies regarding LGBTQ issues in Catholic schools are, unfortunately, nothing new. In the past two years, New Ways Ministry has documented similar anti-LGBTQ policies cropping up in Milwaukee, Marquette, Arlington, Lansing, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Springfield, Illinois, and many more U.S. dioceses. Most recently, the Diocese of Green Bay implemented a new policy that compares being openly transgender with sexual abuse.
These policies go against good Catholic pedagogy, which maintains that teachers must “care for the whole person” of their students and establish enduing personal relationships. When teachers respect and acknowledge students by their chosen name (be it a nickname or a gender-affirming name) and pronouns, an environment of love and of trust is fostered. In To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey, Parker Palmer, a Quaker author, wrote “the origin of knowledge is love.” If this is true, then Catholic education should stand as an inspiration to prophetic love that inspires transformative knowledge not as a haven for hate and ignorance.
If the Diocese of Lafayette is truly “committed to providing a safe environment,” as their new policy suggests, it should recognize the unsafe conditions it is establishing in its school and the risks it is causing LGBTQ+ families. It should then reverse this policy and seek a path that lovingly fosters learning and growth.
—Bobby Nichols (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 11, 2022