Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates have used strong terms to criticize a new document from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that aims to stop gender-affirming care at Catholic healthcare institutions.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, issued a statement calling the USCCB document “tragic” for keeping transgender and nonbinary people from receiving appropriate healthcare. Noting that one in six hospital beds in the U.S. is church controlled, Duddy-Burke continued:
“It seems clear that this directive’s goal is to impose long-standing and outdated Catholic doctrine on people with critical medical needs, in violation of the very goals our bishops have outlined for Catholic health care. We urge a very different approach that begins with listening to and trusting the validity of transgender and nonbinary people’s experiences, as well as the testimony of their families, and the expertise of medical professionals who have overseen the care of these individuals. We believe that such an approach will help make the exceptional Catholic health care providers across our country more capable of supporting all of those they are called to serve.”
Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, described the document as “outrageously transphobic” in a statement reported on by The Washington Post. Manson added:
“‘The USCCB’s so-called “moral criteria” directing Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide transgender patients with gender-affirming healthcare is anything but moral — it is an attack on basic human rights, an affront to Catholic social justice values, and with 1 in 6 U.S. hospital beds housed in Catholic hospitals, a very real threat to the lives, health, and well-being of transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive patients.'”
Fr. Charlie Bouchard, OP, senior director of theology and sponsorship for the Catholic Health Association, said that the USCCB document “will not change much” in terms of transgender healthcare—Catholic hospitals will still continue to respect and support trans patients, yet refuse to provide gender transition care. The Independent reported:
“[Bouchard] said Catholic hospitals are also training staff to be respectful of transgender patients: ‘When a patient checks in, we ask staff to be respectful in how they ask questions. We want to affirm transgender individuals as persons and provide them with spiritual care and psychological counseling.’
“Bouchard said Catholic hospitals will ‘base health care on science and continue to follow the science when it comes to transgender people.’
“‘But we don’t treat ideology,’ he said. ‘We treat patients who are really suffering. There are things out there about gender fluidity that we do not agree with. But as Catholic hospitals, we are held to the same standard of care as other hospitals.'”
Christine Zuba, a trans Catholic woman, contrasted the bishops’ approach with her experience of parish life, noting the USCCB document does not even mention transgender people. Zuba told the Associated Press:
“‘In my parish, I feel accepted unconditionally for who I am. But that is missing in our hierarchy. There is no willingness to engage with us and understand our lives. . .All we ask is listen to us as a group and as individuals. Open your hearts and try to understand.'”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, adding to a previous statement, told the Associate Press:
“‘These decisions are being made at a much higher level without knowing the individuals and individual cases involved. When transgender people are not permitted or restricted from transitioning in ways they feel are appropriate, it could end in depression, anxiety or even self harm, including suicide.'”
To read more reactions to the document from transgender Catholics, theologians, and pastoral ministers, click here. You can find all Bondings 2.0’s previous coverage of the USCCB document and commentaries below.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, March 30, 2023