Member of Boston Archdiocese’s Gender Commission Resigns Over Transparency Concerns

Maureen DiMilla

A member of the Archdiocese of Boston’s gender identity committee has resigned, citing transparency concerns and the absence of transgender people in the process as her reasons.

Maureen DiMilla announced her departure from the committee after the chair, Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary in Boston, asked the committee’s members to avoid speaking to anyone about the drafting of new guideliens for elementary and middle school students, according to the National Catholic Reporter. O’Connell’s stated goal was to keep all information confidential until the document is close to completion.

DiMilla, whose career has focused on child protection, said this request from O’Connell lacked transparency. In her view, the public, especially school personnel, families, and LGBTQ+ students, should be updated about the drafting process. DiMilla explained:

“It doesn’t need to be fully transparent all the time, but there needs to be a level of transparency during the process. Families, teachers and principals and those it will impact in Catholic schools need to know that the archdiocese is working on this type of document and what types of resources they are using to craft it.”

After DiMilla’s resignation, O’Connell spoke to NCR about the controversy surrounding the committee. In the interview, he stated that he hopes that the public can “trust in the process” and that the committee will make its process known in the future.  He said the committee is striving to create “a very Catholic document on this issue and speak to people in real situations.” He said that transgender individuals and their families are the document’s audience. He believes that the committee is pursuing the drafting process with integrity and intentionality, stating:

“You need to be able to talk about these things, test things and argue them and get behind a position and to listen to others. That can’t take place in a public forum.”

O’Connell also said that “not everyone gets a say in what we do,” though he did not elaborate on who that might mean. NCR reported:

When asked if the group would speak with a transgender adult who is Catholic, the bishop said someone who struggled with their gender identity only later in life would not be helpful, but someone ‘who had this issue early might be relevant’ to the committee’s work. He did not indicate when or if the group would seek out such an individual.”

Michael Sennett

As more dioceses issue LGBTQ-negative policies, many people have debated the appropriate amount of transparency in how these policies are developed. While some, like O’Connell, believe that confidentiality is necessary, others argue that transparency is needed in decision-making. Michael Sennett, a transgender church worker in the Boston archdiocese and contributor to Bondings 2.0, explained:

“‘Transparency is important because the risk is to an already marginalized group, a vulnerable group. Trans people are having these policies written about us, and when we don’t know what’s going on it puts us in a more vulnerable position. We don’t know what’s going on until it hits us. . .

Last Spring, DiMilla asked Sennett to speak to the committee about his experience as a trans Catholic. Her hope was to “bring some transparency to the process.” However, O’Connell initially refused to meet with Sennett. After an NCR report on the committee’s process was published, O’Connell changed his mind and contacted Sennett.

According to Sennett, O’Connell apologized for his previous refusal to meet. However, the bishop made clear that Sennett could not speak to the committee, since he had previously spoken with the press.

Based on this interaction, Sennett believes that the church “has not mastered the art of transparency,” which is impacting the church’s relationship with the transgender community. NCR reported:

“‘Feedback is crucial,’ said Sennett. But he believes connecting with families of transgender youths near the end feels like ‘an afterthought’ and that ‘trans people should be consulted throughout the process.’

“‘It doesn’t seem responsible to begin writing guidelines without meeting the people who will be impacted by them,’ said Sennett.

Despite DiMilla’s inability to continue crafting the gender identity guidelines, she is clear in her decision to resign from the commission. She believes that her mission in life is “to love people and to shine Christ’s love,” which she has done by standing up for LGBTQ+ inclusion. As for what she would like to see in the future, DiMilla hopes that the committee produces guidelines that are “supporting and loving and accompanying students who are on this type of journey.” She also hopes that the Catholic Church learns that transparency is essential in connecting with the community, and the Archdiocese of Boston revealing the drafting process is one step towards this goal.

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, May 17, 2023

1 reply
  1. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    “You need to be able to talk about these things, test things and argue them and get behind a position and to listen to others. That can’t take place in a public forum.” It is important to establish from the beginning what is the goal of these conversations? Is it to gain leverage in order to reinforce an institutionally established teaching? Or is it being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit by leaving all preconceived beliefs behind and truly listening to everyone’s truth? When approaching a burning bush, you must take off your sandals and leave the accumulated dust behind. You are walking on holy ground.


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