Protecting the Human Person: Gender Issues in Catholic School and College Sports

Everything in Catholic education must serve its mission: which entails the pursuit of truth, the integral formation of the human person, the sanctification of students, and service to the community. Athletics are particularly well-suited to achieving elements of this mission. Sports, correctly balanced, can be particularly effective in developing virtue, building community, and providing a powerful experience of the unity of body and soul. The Vatican has noted that,

…in the context of the modern world, sport is perhaps the most striking example of the unity of body and soul. …neglecting the unity of body and soul results in an attitude that either entirely disregards the body or fosters a worldly materialism. Hence, all the dimensions have to be taken into account in order to understand what actually constitutes the human being.[1]

Catholic educators have a positive responsibility to teach the truth about the human person. Among these fundamental truths are:

  • everyone, by nature of their creation by God and eternal destiny, has inherent dignity and must be treated with love and respect;[2]
  • God, through Jesus Christ, the perfect man, fully reveals man to himself;[3]
  • the things of creation are to be received in awe, respect, and gratitude as gifts from God and not manipulated, dominated, and controlled in ways contrary to their natural ends;[4]
  • the very existence of our bodies is one of the awesome creative gifts of God, and the body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19) which we must treat with honor and respect according to God’s original purpose;
  • we are incarnate creatures with a unified body and soul;[5]
  • there is a natural “language of the body” which helps us understand and express our united physical and spiritual selves;[6]
  • God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27);
  • male and female are two distinct but equally dignified and complementary ways of being human;[7]
  • the concepts of sex and gender can be distinguished but not disaggregated;[8]
  • a biologically-based sexual identity is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman;”[9] and
  • a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”[10]

These are not minor or inconsequential teachings but are at the heart of what it means to be human, and athletic programs should be structured to ensure a healthy Christian understanding of these truths. Catholic educators must also be prepared to counter elements in the current culture, such as “gender ideology,” which is often contrary to the Church’s understanding and teachings about Christian anthropology. Given the incompatibility between gender ideology (the idea that one’s gender can be detached from one’s biological sex) and a Catholic worldview, Catholic educators cannot simply look the other way or surrender their vision of man and reality to these erroneous and dangerous premises. Too much is at stake. Gender ideology undermines Church teachings on:

  • truth,[11]
  • human anthropology,[12]
  • the nature of the human person as male and female,[13]
  • complementarity,[14]
  • marriage,[15]
  • family,[16] and
  • [17]

These are all challenged or compromised by accepting or enabling the underlying beliefs which inspire gender ideology. The Catholic school’s responsibility to these truths is much more important than any individual student’s desire to play on a team not in alignment with his or her sex. Those suffering from gender dysphoria deserve our care and kindness, but Catholic educators must also, while acting with compassion, follow Church guidance which states that “the Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church.”[18] While affirming the dignity of all persons and seeking to lead all to the saving love of Christ, Catholic educators and coaches must strive to speak and live the truth with love. To help guide athletic departments through these complex situations, Catholic institutions need position statements and policies that emphasize the Christian view of the human person to ensure that the powerful influence of athletics is not coopted to work against its mission.

Challenges of gender ideology

Pope Francis warns against gender ideology which,

…denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.[19]

Following the Pope’s warning that gender ideology is a dangerous legislative and educational force, the Vatican further alerts Catholic educators that gender ideology has created,

…an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and in many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.” The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning[20] (emphasis in original).

The danger is serious, as gender ideology not only destroys the notion of male and female and the family but also “aims to annihilate the concept of ‘nature.’”[21]

Related to student formation, gender ideology is part of a “continuous bombardment of messages that are ambiguous and unclear, and which end up creating emotional disorientation as well as impeding psycho-relational maturity.”[22] It is the responsibility of Catholic educators “to maintain the Church’s vision of human sexuality, in keeping with the right of families to freely base the education of their children upon an integral anthropology, capable of harmonizing the human person’s physical, psychic and spiritual identity”[23] (emphasis in the original).

Impact of athletics

Sporting activities are a significant part of the cultural and social fabric of our society. They provide entertainment, heroes, conversation, and community. Some have even noted the quasi-religious function sports now play in the common culture, given the degree to which they can generate significant commitment, sacrifice, passionate devotion, ritual, community and fellowship.[24] American fans spend on average about eight hours a week consuming sports,[25] and the sports industry is the 11th largest in the country (bigger, for example, than machinery, insurance, food, trucking, legal, autos, farms, finance, and oil).[26] Half of all Americans participate in a sport regularly, and a much higher percentage occasionally.[27] Parents frequently encourage their children to play sports in hopes of promoting their physical and emotional health and social skills.[28] Athletics plays a significant role in the development of individuals and entire cultures.

The Church concerns herself with all that is authentically human, and athletics properly experienced serves a proper human end. Vatican II acknowledged both the communal good of athletics, in that “physical exercise and sport help to create harmony of feeling even on the level of the community as well as foster friendly relations between men of all classes, countries, and races,”[29] while also emphasizing that a person’s physical, moral, and intellectual endowments must be developed harmoniously with an eye toward freedom and virtue.[30]

Because “the integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students,”[31] athletics can serve Catholic education and its goal to help students develop virtue and harmonize mind, body, and will. Pope Pius XII articulates this integrating element and its potential to help student athletes love and serve God:

Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.[32]

Because athletics is such a powerful influence on both individuals and cultures, it can also pose a threat when it does not serve truth or does not serve to praise God. St. John Paul II cautions:

Sport runs the risk of degrading man if it is not based on and supported by the human virtues of loyalty, generosity and respect for the rules of the game as well as respect for the player. These are virtues that harmonize well with the Christian spirit because they demand a capacity for self-control, self-denial, sacrifice and humility, and therefore an attitude of gratefulness to God, who is the giver of every good and therefore also the giver of the necessary physical and intellectual talents. Sport is not merely the exercise of muscles, but it is the school of moral values and of training in courage, in perseverance, and in overcoming laziness and carelessness. Besides, it is an antidote for weakness, discouragement and dejection in defeat. There is no doubt that these values are of greatest interest for the formation of a personality which consider sports not an end in itself but as a means to total and harmonious physical, moral, and social development.[33]

St. John Paul II’s emphasis that self-denial and respect for the body as God’s gift are fundamental to a healthy athletic program, which ought always to be a means to “harmonious physical, moral, and social development,” is particularly important given the new challenges gender ideology now brings to the scene.

Since athletics provides a striking example of body/soul union, Catholic educators cannot cede this arena to gender ideology. “The Church understands the human person as a unit of body, soul and spirit, and seeks to avoid any kind of reductionism in sport that debases human dignity.”[34] Anything, in sports or any other activity, which detracts from the fullness, health and harmony of the body/soul unity which is at the foundation of the human person does not serve humanity well. St. John Paul II emphasizes that sports are never just “sport for sport’s sake” but always at the service of the dignity, freedom, and integral development of man.[35] He also cautions athletes:

The educational and spiritual potential of sport must make believers and people of good will united and determined in challenging every distorted aspect that can intrude, recognizing it as a phenomenon opposed to the full development of the individual and to his enjoyment of life. Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry.[36]

Gender ideology is a distortion of the full development of a person and attacks the integrity of the body. It works against a Catholic understanding of athletics and the good of the person and so has no claim on Catholic programming. 

Catholic sports programming must proceed thoughtfully and deliberately, precisely because athletics provides a powerful locus for a presentation of the full concept of the human person. Sports are human activities of the will and spirit, clearly grounded in physical and material reality where things are seen, measured, and judged. This way of approaching and seeking to measure, judge, and understand things is also present in the Catholic philosophical proposition that if the senses are in good condition and exercised thoughtfully under normal circumstances, and if the intellect is calm, focused, and unbiased, we can, with sufficient evidence, come to know and judge things that actually exist outside of ourselves.[37] Athletics intuitively celebrates this insight, but the validity of this proposition is not limited to sports. It is a way of countering the tsunami of relativism in which our culture is drowning, and which is, through gender ideology, now swamping athletics, especially for women. Catholic philosophical realism counters relativism and gender ideology by affirming our ability to know reality with our minds and senses.

Building on this proposition and aided by revelation, the Catholic anthropological position insists “that the material world (and everything that exists) is good as it is created by God and that the person is a unity of body, soul, and spirit.”[38] Because of this reality, athletics can and does serve the integral development of students. Students’ “embodied experiences of play and sport necessarily also involve and impact young people at the level of soul and spirit.”[39] It can affect their understanding of themselves and their relationship with God in profound ways.

Catholic education seeks to leverage this powerful tool to ensure students’ understanding that,

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.[40]

This body is a gift from God, created by Him as male or female, and will be resurrected by Him as male or female.[41] This is part of His perfect plan for us, which we must acknowledge for our own good and happiness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church insists that,

Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.[42]

Pope Francis, in addressing the notion of sexual identity, affirms that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.”[43]

The Catholic position is clear: humans are a body-soul unity and part of a divine plan. These are fundamental truths of the Catholic faith. The mission of the Church is to preach the good news about God and Man and our redemption in Christ. She establishes schools as part of her great commission.

As noted at the outset, everything in Catholic education must serve its mission of the sanctification of its students and service to society. Given the incompatibility of gender ideology and a Catholic worldview, Catholic educators cannot simply look the other way or surrender their vision of man and reality. Too much is at stake.

Safety, fair play and justice

When opposing gender ideology, educators must not lose sight of the most important reasons it must be rejected. But there all also lesser but compelling reasons to reject the influence of gender ideology in sports programs. These include the responsibility to ensure athlete safety, promote fair play, and ensure justice, especially for biologically female athletes.

Player safety is the first consideration of all athletic experiences. Biological males have androgenized bodies with higher testosterone levels and other physiological characteristics that provide an inherent physiological advantage over biological females. “Science demonstrates that high adult levels of testosterone, as well as permanent testosterone effects on male physiology during in-utero and early development, provides a performance advantage in sport and that much of this male physiology is not mitigated by the transition to a transwoman.”[44] Males are naturally physiologically bigger, stronger, and faster than females.[45] This is clearly evident in high school, college, and Olympic speed and strength records, and it is delineated in greater complexity and nuance by scientific research.

In close competition, teams typically do not remove stronger and faster players to protect the slower or weaker; they remove a slower or weaker athlete if the disparity in strength and speed may cause harm. A male on a female team may therefore eliminate some female athletes from play. A female on a male team may be unsafe and unlikely to play. Ensuring the safety of all athletes is of paramount importance.

Although ensuring safety is the first concern, sports is also inherently about fair play. A biological male should not usurp the right of a biological female to fair competition with her physical peers, and a biological female should not surrender her right to compete against other biological females because she is gender dysphoric. Students have a right to play on teams of the same sex without having to compete against the opposite sex for coveted spots.

No athlete should have an unfair advantage over another, and placing athletes on teams should be objectively decided on with enforced categories such as age and biological sex. The Vatican has recently noted that,

…if sport is actually a competition regulated by particular rules of the game, then the equality of opportunities has to be warranted. It simply would not make sense to have two or more competitors, be they individuals or teams, whose starting conditions are largely unequal. That’s the reason why in sport competitions usually a distinction is made between the sexes, performance levels, age classes, weight classes, degrees of disabilities and so forth.[46]

This same document draws attention to the fact that fair play is especially valued in today’s culture and that “Athletes honor fair play when they not only obey the formal rules but also observe justice with respect to their opponents so that all competitors can freely engage in the game.”[47] It is arguable that a biological male is not respecting female athletes in asserting his right to compete against them at his own discretion. His male body typically gives him an illicit advantage over his female competitors.

Permitting biological males to compete against biological females violates the notion that athletics must be “an occasion to practice human and Christian virtues of solidarity, loyalty, good behavior and respect for others, who must be seen as competitors and not as mere opponents or rivals.” A male seeking to play on a female team is not respecting females or showing appropriate solidarity with them. St. John Paul II emphasized that athletics requires basic human qualities such as “awareness of one’s personal limits, fair competition, acceptance of precise rules, respect for one’s opponent and a sense of solidarity and unselfishness. Without these qualities, sport would be reduced to mere effort and to a questionable, soulless demonstration of physical strength.”[48] The transgendered athlete violates these athletic values and saps sport of its integrity. The solidarity, loyalty, and bonding that sports provide for groups of men and women are different in gendered and mixed-gendered environments. There is a benefit to having opportunities for males and females to group and bond by gender.

A Catholic institution which willingly enrolls and includes transgendered athletes on its sports teams harms the Christian virtues of solidarity and respect for others that athletics is uniquely able to inculcate. To be clear, a male athlete identifying as female would still have a right to play sports. He would simply be held to the same rules as other males and play against his biological peers, which is fair and respects both teammates and opponents. Because all institutions are obligated to protect all athletes from any and all unjust discrimination or bullying, this long-standing practice of segregating by sex respects all athletes and ensures fair play.

Closely related to fair play is the concept of social justice, which must always be a central concern of Catholic educators. Biological males, given their natural physical advantages, will unfairly reap the rewards athletics has to offer and unjustly deprive biological females of their hard-won records, awards, and rewards.

To the extent that certain activities like sports are ways of publicly valuing human excellence, biological males will get more validation in head-to-head competition against biological females. To the extent that athletics at the high school level and beyond often rewards excellence with money through scholarships, contracts and endorsements, biological males will get more money in head-to-head competition. Biological females will be disadvantaged and treated unjustly, as they are faced with less access to fair and healthy competition, public valuing, and money. Catholic educators cannot be a party to such injustice.

Practical Steps

  • Catholic educational institutions should publicly and explicitly affirm and seek to implement their faith-based mission and develop and consistently abide by policies in all programs that support this mission. They should assert religious freedom to uphold Catholic teaching and claim exemption from laws, regulations, athletic association rules, etc. that demand conformity to gender ideology.

  • Athletic programs should include in their goals the use of athletics as a means of inculcating virtue, especially justice and fair play, promoting the unity of body and soul, and protecting the human body not only from physical injury, but also from any attack on its integrity, exploitation, and idolatry.

  • Athletic policies should require that students participate on sport teams consistent with their biological sex.

  • Athletic personnel should be formed in a spirituality of athletics as part of their ongoing professional development. Such formation may include presentations by theologians on Christian anthropology, the role of sport and play in human well-being, and sports as a tool of evangelization and virtue development.

Conclusion

Catholic education is devoted to the sanctification of its students and integral formation by witnessing to Christ and all that is true and good. To lead the children in their care to God requires that they encounter the fullness of His truth and that they not foster situations in which students might be led astray in matters of basic human nature and morality. Respect for students also requires that educators never lie to them or deceive them. Authentic love for students requires that educators seek their good and assist them to dwell in truth.

It is contrary to the truth to assist a gender-dysphoric student athlete in his or her disconnect with reality, however sincerely experienced, or to participate in any effort to change natural gender expression. Catholic educators can best respond to such situations by facilitating pastoral and professional counseling to help clarify and define issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic teaching and God’s natural plan. This holistic and reality-based response to the challenge facing gender dysphoric athletes provides for maximum care, competition, and fair play in accord with Catholic education’s faith-based mission.

 

Dr. Dan Guernsey is a senior fellow of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. He has 13 years’ experience as a high school principal and has served as an associate professor and education department chair at the university level.

 

 

[1] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person (2018) at https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/06/01/180601b.html (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997) 27.

[3] Saint Paul VI, Gaudium et spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965) 22, at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[4] Catechism 307.

[5] Catechism 362.

[6] Saint John Paul II, “Language of the Body, the Substratum and Content of the Sacramental Sign of Spousal Communion,” weekly address (January 5, 1983), in The Redemption of the Body and Sacramentality of Marriage (Theology of the Body) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005) 268-270.

[7] Catechism 2334, 2383.

[8] Pope Francis, Amoris laetitia (2016) 56.

[9] Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the World (2004) 8.

[10] Catechism 2393.

[11] Pope Benedict XVI, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia (2012) at http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2012/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20121221_auguri-curia.html (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[12] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Images of God: Reflections on Christian Anthropology (1983) at https://www.usccb.org/committees/ecumenical-interreligious-affairs/images-god-reflections-christian-anthropology (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[13] Catechism 2331-2335.

[14] Pope Benedict XVI, Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (2013) 4; Catechism 396-392.

[15] Catechism 1601-1605.

[16] Catechism 1655-1658

[17] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching (2005) at https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching (accessed Oct. 6, 2020).

[18] Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (1982) 18.

[19] Pope Francis (2016) 56.

[20] Congregation for Catholic Education, “Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019) Introduction.

[21] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019) 25.

[22] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019) 42.

[23] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019) 55.

[24] Corine Gatti, “Have Sports Become a Religion?” (not dated) at https://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/sports/have-sports-become-a-religion.aspx (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[25] Statista. “Average Number of Hours Sports Fans Spend Per Week Consuming Sports (Hours per Week) From 2011 – 2014” (May 27, 2014) at https://www.statista.com/statistics/288896/hours-spent-per-week-consuming-sports-in-the-united-states/ (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[26] Justin Wolfers, “The Business of Sports: Where’s the Money?”, presentation to the Young President’s Organization, San Jose Sharks Stadium (Feb. 6, 2003) at http://users.nber.org/~jwolfers/Papers/Comments/The%20Business%20of%20Sports.pdf (accessed on Oct 6, 2020).

[27] Dennis Howard and Brad Humphreys, eds., The Business of Sports: Volume 1, Perspectives on the Sports Industry (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger, 2008).

[28] The Aspen Institute Project Play, “Survey: Kids Quit Most Sports by Age 11” (Aug. 1, 2019) at https://www.aspenprojectplay.org/national-youth-sport-survey-1 (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[29] Saint Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes (1965) 61.

[30] Saint Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis (1965) Introduction.

[31] Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (1982) 17.

[32] Pope Pius XII, Sport at the Service of the Spirit (1945).

[33] Saint John Paul II, Address to Italian Olympic Medal Winners: Sports Offers Opportunity for Spiritual Elevation in L’Osservatore Romano N.50 (Dec. 10, 1984) 4.

[34] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life (2018) 1.1.

[35] Saint John Paul II, “Jubilee Year of The Redeemer Homily Given at the Olympic Stadium in Rome April 12, 1984” in Kevin Lixey, Norbert Muller, and Cornelius Schafer (eds.), Blessed John Paul II Speaks to Athletes: Homilies, Messages and Speeches on Sport (London: John Paul II Foundation for Sport, 2012) p. 21 at http://www.laici.va/content/dam/laici/documenti/sport/eng/magisterium/jpii-pastoral-messages.pdf (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[36] Saint John Paul II, Jubilee of Sports People: Homily of John Paul II (Oct. 29, 2000) 3 at http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/2000/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_20001029_jubilee-sport.html (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[37] Leslie Walker, “Truth,” The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 2012) at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15073a.htm (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[38] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life (2018) 3.1.

[39] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life (2018) 5.2.

[40] Catechism 364.

[41] Saint John Paul II, “The Resurrection and Theological Anthropology,” weekly address (Dec. 2, 1981), in The Redemption of the Body and Sacramentality of Marriage (Theology of the Body) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005) 169-172.

[42] Catechism 2333.

[43] Pope Francis (2016) 56.

[44] “Division of elite athletes by gender ‘outdated’: researchers,” Otago Daily Times (July 17, 2019) at https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/campus/university-of-otago/division-elite-athletes-gender-outdated-researchers (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[45] Taryn Knox, Lynley Anderson, and Alison Heather, “Transwomen in Elite Sport: Scientific and Ethical Considerations,” Journal of Medical Ethics (2019) 395-403 at https://jme.bmj.com/content/45/6/395 (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

[46] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life 5.2.

[47] Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life 5.2.

[48] John Paul II, “Address to the Organizers and Participants in the 83rd Giro d’Italia Cycle Race” (May 12, 2000) in Kevin Lixey, Norbert Muller, and Cornelius Schafer (eds.), Blessed John Paul II Speaks to Athletes: Homilies, Messages and Speeches on Sport (London: John Paul II Foundation for Sport, 2012) p. 52 at http://www.laici.va/content/dam/laici/documenti/sport/eng/magisterium/jpii-pastoral-messages.pdf (accessed on Oct. 6, 2020).

Let’s Follow Bishop Paprocki’s Lead

Last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, released a clear, truthful guide on gender identity that does a great service for Catholic schools in his diocese. Catholic educators everywhere should follow his lead in implementing similar policies in their schools.

The timing of the guide could not be better, as society embraces a sorely confused understanding of gender identity. For example, biological males are winning female events in Connecticut high school sports, and high school districts like one in Illinois are allowing biological males to use female locker rooms, and vice versa.

But the Catholic Church’s teaching on gender identity and human sexuality is clear. Catholic school policies should be consistent, as well.

For handling situations of a student facing “gender dysphoria,” Bishop Paprocki’s guide stresses the importance of “gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern” and condemns any sort of “discrimination or harsh treatment.”

At the same time, the guide states that sex is determined at birth. The truly loving thing to do in a situation when a person is facing gender dysphoria is to be “clear on the reality of human biology as a gift from God that we cannot change.”

As a result, students at diocesan schools must “use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex,” and they will be “addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex.”

Thank you, Bishop Paprocki! More than ever, Catholic schools need to teach and witness to the Truth.

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality should be steeped deeply in our Catholic schools. A Christian anthropology should guide classroom learning, student activities and all school policies.

In fact, Catholic schools might consider adopting Human Sexuality Policies, like the ones developed by The Cardinal Newman Society, that go beyond the issue of gender identity. If a school has a firm commitment to forming young people in chastity, then it is clear that the concern is for all students of every stripe, and not targeting certain students as many activists claim.

“As a Catholic institution, we believe that human bodies are gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit,” the resource states. “All men and women are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious.”

“Because our efforts at integral formation include the integrity of body, spirit, and moral development, our school has a proper concern for each student’s behavior and development in the complex area of human sexuality,” the resource continues.

The resource offers examples of specific policies related to human sexuality, including addressing athletics, dances, dress code, facilities use, same-sex attraction and more.

In the months ahead, Catholic schools will face even more questions related to human sexuality. Catholic educators must be prepared with responses that are clear and consistent, upholding Church teaching.

Having strong policies in place will help Catholic schools to fend off attacks and legal threats. But even more important is the witness for students — they should learn the Truth about the human person in the classroom and see it lived out.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Chapel at Franciscan University

True Love at Faithful Catholic Colleges

Are students being prepared for careers — and for life — in colleges today? Some college professors are noticing that students are “excelling academically but not necessarily in other areas of adult life,” including dating and preparing for the vocation of marriage.

Students at faithful Catholic colleges, however, may be the exception. A good Catholic college will promote a campus environment that supports healthy relationships, and that’s greatly needed today.

Popular chastity speaker Jason Evert, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, argues that there needs to be a revival of Catholic dating in our culture. He recently published The Dating Blueprint: What She Wants You to Know About Dating but Will Never Tell Youadvising men to “put down their screens, look a woman in the eye, and ask her on a date.”

Michael Kenney, director of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Identity Standards Project and one of the curriculum developers for the Dating Project, agrees. “The most consequential decision a person makes is the decision concerning marriage,” he says. “A healthy dating culture is essential to building strong marriages and families. Tragically, our culture saturates the airwaves with false lyrics, images and messages concerning dating.”

If a revival of traditional courtship seems unlikely on most college campuses, students can expect something different at a faithful Catholic college. At several colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, students can still find evidence of mature, chaste relationships leading to healthy marriages.

At Thomas Aquinas College, which has campuses in Santa Paula, California, and Northfield, Massachusetts, “about 10 percent of the College’s alumni have entered the priesthood or religious life,” the college reports. “Most of the rest marry, often wedding fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumni and raising fruitful, faithful families that bear joyful witness to the Culture of Life.”

With an annual enrollment of just 500 students, Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, boasts more than 480 alumnus-alumna marriages in its 40-year history. This has something to do with the academic program, the college explains:

Students learn Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in one course, while they learn about Catholic doctrine and moral theology in other courses as well. As students complete each course, they gain a greater knowledge of the principles of the faith, especially pertaining to the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage and family.

But even more than the academic study, Christendom’s campus fosters healthy relationships by providing only single-sex dorms, which are totally off limits to students of the opposite sex. That’s opposite to the typical college hookup culture, but the marriages among Christendom alumni are evidence that true love is in the air.

Such is true also of John Paul the Great Catholic University, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Wyoming Catholic College, where — like Christendom and Thomas Aquinas — student dorms are single-sex and opposite-sex visitation is not allowed.

Such dorm policies help combat the hookup culture and preserve the privacy of student bedrooms. A Newman Society report cites one study finding that “students living in co-ed housing were also more likely [than those in single-sex residences] to have more sexual partners in the last 12 months.” Further, those students were “more than twice as likely as students in gender-specific housing to indicate that they had had three or more sexual partners in the last year.”

Of course, reducing the hookup culture doesn’t automatically lead to healthy dating — that’s something that needs to be taught to a generation of students who see casual relationships promoted in popular entertainment — but responsible campus policies certainly can help. Student programming, such as the chastity speaking events at Franciscan University and other faithful colleges, are helpful too.

New online dating apps and other options are being created to help address the Catholic dating problem. But it helps to live in a culture that supports authentic relationships. Faithful Catholic colleges attract students with similar values, and they are uniquely positioned to help prepare Catholic students for happy and meaningful lives.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Educators Need More than ‘Male and Female He Created Them’

The Vatican has reasserted one of the most basic facts of Christian anthropology: “Male and Female He created them,” which is good as far as it goes. The question for Catholic educators is, ”Now what?” They are being challenged by the relentless march of “gender theory” or “gender ideology”—a deception that claims that sexual orientation and gender are fluid and self-determined—and they desperately need a path forward.

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, has described Male and Female He Created Them as a “practical” document, in contrast to the deeper theological reflection expected soon from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But the education document does not give practical guidance to educators on the thorny particulars of admissions, personnel and student policies.

And educators urgently need such guidance, because every week brings another activist, lawmaker or attorney accusing Catholic educators of discrimination for refusing to comply with the dictates of the new gender ideology and a parade of related causes that are wholly contrary to the traditional Catholic understanding of human nature. This is a grave threat to faithful Catholic education.

Consider cases similar to the one in Kansas City, where the Archdiocese turned away a kindergarten student because of same-sex parents. What are the principles that guide Catholic school and college admissions policies? Can Catholic educators and administrators articulate them? Is a student always admitted out of concern for the child, regardless of the parents’ actions and ideology, or should educators consider the influence that adults can have on other children and protect against scandal? Does a school or college accept a child struggling with gender confusion? If so, what message does this send to other students and what pronouns are used, and when? Answer these questions the wrong way, and a school could compromise its Catholic mission or be the target of a lawsuit.

With regard to personnel policies, how does a Catholic school or college respond when a teacher or professor announces a same-sex marriage, declares a new gender identity, or simply insists on embracing aspects of gender ideology? At the Cardinal Newman Society, we have heard from well-intentioned academic leaders who refuse to spell out their policies, instead leaving each situation to their own discretion. That is a recipe for disaster.

In all of these examples, clear standards consistent with traditional Catholic moral and theological norms are key and will help ensure fidelity, compassion and justice.

But there’s another sense in which the truths taught in Male and Female He Made Them need to be developed further to address the practical needs of educators. As noted above, the document’s teaching addresses one of the most basic aspects of human anthropology, the fact that we are created male and female.

Following from that truth and over the centuries, Catholics had developed tried-and-true lessons and habits that helped young people preserve chastity, respect marriage and celebrate children. But in many ways, our culture has forced us to start again from scratch, re-learning simple habits and patterns of male-female relationships.

That means that Catholic educators need to recover and teach to young people these habits and patterns.

For example, not a single faithful Catholic from any generation prior to the 1960s would have doubted that coed dormitories and closed-door visits by the opposite sex in student bedrooms would result in premarital sex, mortal sin, STDs and even sexual assault. Yet most Catholic colleges, with notable exceptions at a few Newman Guide colleges, allow a student to have their boyfriend or girlfriend in their bedroom with the door closed, often after engaging in binge drinking that lowers inhibitions. How many souls have been damaged by these visitation policies that clearly invite near occasions of sin?

Yet when I and my Newman Society colleagues raise the concern of Catholic college dorm policies and near occasions of sin, we are looked upon as relics of a bygone age. I am entirely certain that near occasions of sin are still quite real. What has been lost is our sensitivity to man’s fallen nature and the grave importance of preserving chastity for the good of families and for the good of our souls.

Yes, God created us male and female. It is very good that the Vatican has reasserted this basic truth.

But like mathematicians reasserting fundamental arithmetic, we ought to also understand much more about the natural and moral implications of our sexuality and human nature—and Catholic educators especially need to teach these to the young.

Our problem, of course, is that we Catholics got comfortable compromising on little things when the culture was still reliably Christian. In today’s militantly secular culture, we had better get serious about consistently teaching the truth and remembering fundamentals like 2+2=4, that God created us male and female, and that concupiscence is real. And we had better be able to articulate the principles behind the policies we develop, to uphold Catholic identity before it is too late.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.

Dating 101 at a Catholic College

Many young Catholics find more than truth on campus—they may just find a future spouse! Faithful Catholic colleges are uniquely positioned to promote healthy and holy relationships between men and women, while teaching the fullness of truth about marriage and sexuality.

Through courses like Theology of the Body, campus speakers who discuss Catholic marriage and family, and respectful policies like single-sex dorms, many Catholic colleges take seriously their mission of Christian formation. Graduates of these colleges are bright lights in a culture that often distorts the true meaning of relationships.

It’s no secret that courtship on college campuses has been replaced by a rampant hook-up culture. But Jason Evert, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, encourages students to “Keep it chaste both emotionally and physically. In other words, if you’re single, don’t pretend like you’re dating. If you’re dating, don’t behave like you’re married.”

Evert, who is a popular speaker on chastity, also suggests that young adults work on perfecting themselves rather than finding the “perfect person.” He encourages them to take an inventory of their interior lives and “root out all the things that would be toxic to a future marriage, such as porn, alcoholism, self-absorption, anger, etc.”

Cecilia Pigg—a graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., another faithful Catholic college recommended in The Newman Guide—thinks that students need to be reminded to actually “ask people out on dates.” “If you are asked out by someone, say yes,” she says. “It’s just a date. Dates are opportunities for growth.”

Her only caveat is that she suggests freshmen avoid dating someone exclusively. “If you are both still interested sophomore year, go for it. But most people change a lot freshman year, and it is better to be single and navigate life and yourself without the added pressure of a relationship,” Pigg explains.

While a student at Benedictine, Pigg discerned her vocation to marriage during spiritual direction, and she met her husband Ryan on campus. Now she serves as the editor of CatholicMatch.com.

Another couple credits their faithful Catholic education with influencing their marriage for the better. Andrew and Michelle Ouellette recall that Northeast Catholic College in Warner, N.H., provided them with “wonderful teachers and thought-provoking texts, particularly senior year Theology,” which gave them “solid reasons for living a truly Catholic marriage.” They also have the “memories of the ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, amusing and tragic experiences we shared as classmates and friends” as a basis for their relationship.

A graduate from The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H, says that prayer and study helped him discern his vocation.

“If it were not for the demanding education at Thomas More College, I would not have been able to see that I had so great a need to practice the self-discipline and sacrifice necessary for loving one’s spouse. It was in Rome where I discovered that God was not calling me to the priesthood, and it took almost a year of reading St. Benedict’s Rule (a text I was introduced to through Thomas More College’s curriculum) for me to learn that I was not to be a monk either. Shortly after this decision my wife and I began courting,” he explained.

For students up for a challenge to make the most of dating while in college, he suggests: “wake up before the sun, never trust yourself, put all your trust in God, and pray Thomas More’s Psalm of Detachment every day.”

On Saint Valentine’s Day, young people are presented many images of romance that can be selfish and even self-destructive. May all young Catholics learn that true love consists in respect, self-sacrifice, and joy in doing God’s will, and never settle for anything less.

Meeting Point Sex Ed Program Not Ready for Catholic Schools

The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People (http://www.educazioneaffettiva.org/) is a high school-level sex education program developed by “a group of married couples in Spain,” supported by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and released online by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family in July 2016.  It is intended for use in Catholic high schools, parishes and homes.

Although The Cardinal Newman Society does not formally review educational materials, we have taken a close look at this program because of its high profile, parent concerns about its suitability for Catholic families, and our mission to promote and protect faithful Catholic education.

We find that The Meeting Point makes frequent use of sexually explicit and morally objectionable images, fails to clearly identify and explain Catholic doctrine from elemental sources including the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and compromises the innocence and integrity of young people under the rightful care of their parents.

With admiration for the work of the Pontifical Council for the Family and confidence in the Church’s authority on faith and morals, we find that The Meeting Point in its present form represents a significant break from the traditional approach to Catholic instruction and learning about human sexuality.

Moreover, we note that no Vatican official has directed implementation of this program in Catholic homes, parishes or schools.  Neither have the United States bishops proposed adoption of the program.  It has only been presented online as a resource—and not even a final program but “an opportunity to convene a large community of people to collaborate, to work, to exchange experiences and knowledge in this special field of education.”  It is hoped, then, that the program may be edited and substantially refined in response to the feedback that has been requested by the Pontifical Council.

For these reasons, and to protect the purity of young men and women and the integrity of faithful Catholic education in school and at home, The Cardinal Newman Society believes that—at the very least—substantial improvement of the program is required under the guidance of Catholic parents and experts in theology, catechesis, pedagogy and developmental psychology.  Catholic parents and educators should not assume that this program in its current form is suitable for a faithful Catholic education simply because of its association with the Pontifical Council for the Family.  Parents especially have the right and responsibility to ensure that their children are presented teaching that is both sound and appropriate.

Lack of Moral Foundations

Since its release, the program’s critics have noted that in its hundreds of pages of materials, little emphasis is placed on the Sixth and Ninth Commandments or on the sexual sins that pervade our culture—and how young people should respond to these threats.  The program also is light on references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, other Magisterial teachings and Sacred Scripture, especially with regard to moral law.

Instead, the “affective” program asks leading questions with minimal guidance, except what may be provided by the teacher or parent who leads the discussion.  Without clear reference to the Church’s moral teachings, there is the danger that the student could succumb to relativism and false values.

For example, the Unit 2 lesson “Sex or Sexuality?” includes a group discussion (dividing girls and boys “if possible”) on what the words “sex” and “sexuality” suggest—casually noting that “boys can talk about hooking up, one-night stands, maybe making reference to their genital organs, etc., while the girls can talk more about maternity, pregnancy, falling in love…”  The lesson makes no reference to the Church’s moral teaching, and the concepts of sin and chastity are not addressed until later in the program.

Contrast this with the warnings of the same Pontifical Council for the Family two decades ago in its 1995 document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family:

One widely-used, but possibly harmful, approach goes by the name of “values clarification”.  Young people are encouraged to reflect upon, to clarify and to decide upon moral issues with the greatest degree of “autonomy”, ignoring the objective reality of the moral law in general and disregarding the formation of consciences on the specific Christian moral precepts, as affirmed by the Magisterium of the Church.  Young people are given the idea that a moral code is something which they create themselves, as if man were the source and norm of morality.  (Sec. 140)

While The Meeting Point does point to chastity and virtue, and therefore could not be described quite so harshly as “values clarification,” its affective approach and use of sexually explicit materials often leaves the student uncertain about moral expectations.  The moral authority of the Church is too often hidden from view in The Meeting Point program, in part because it lacks clear and frequent references to the Church’s teaching.

The program also presses students into uncomfortable, inappropriate conversations about sex, which the Pontifical Council strongly opposed in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: “No one should ever be invited, let alone obliged, to act in any way that could objectively offend against modesty or which could subjectively offend against his or her own delicacy or sense of privacy (Sec. 127).”

This concern for modesty is repeated by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia:

A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value…  Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used.  Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviours that distort our capacity for love. (par. 282)

Morally Offensive Images

In order to spark frank discussion about sexuality among high school students, The Meeting Point incorporates sexually explicit images and discussions that are inappropriate, especially for Catholic schools.

The same “Sex or Sexuality?” lesson mentioned above, for example, has students evaluate a photograph that includes a bare-chested woman in an intimate embrace with a man.  The stated “objective” is for students to feel “provoked” or even confused by the image.  Several other sexually suggestive images are used in the same lesson.

The Unit 5 lesson titled “A Suitable Helper: Morality” contains three morally offensive advertisements that are to be viewed and discussed by students.  One indicates a man’s attraction to pornography and adultery with the caption, “Part good.  Part bad.  That’s man’s essence.”  An electronics ad features a partially naked man and woman in bed with the caption, “The second best thing to do in the dark.”  The teacher’s notes acknowledge that “all three have a clearly erotic component.”

In the section on “Different Bodies,” teachers are instructed to have the students observe two photographs: “one of a newborn and the other of Antonio Lopez’s sculptures of a male and female body… to lead the youth to recognize sexual difference.”  It is suggested that a biology teacher be present for this activity to help “review the identification of primary and secondary sex characteristics, observing the difference between male and female.”  The students are then given a worksheet with a picture of the sculptures, followed by the question: “Can you identify the differences between them in a scientific way?”

It is natural and appropriate that older students should learn male and female anatomy at some point, but several images in The Meeting Point are obviously designed for sexual arousal or moral degradation.  The authors may hope that students exercise perfect maturity and chastity in responding to the images, but that is an unrealistic expectation for most teenage boys and girls.  American children are already bombarded with graphic sexual content; a Catholic educational program does not need to show them more.

Just two decades ago, these and other “abuses” in sex education were opposed by the Pontifical Council for the Family.  The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality warned against schooling “whenever sex education is given to children by teaching them all the intimate details of genital relationships, even in a graphic way” (Sec. 139).  It expected educators to be “positive and prudent” and “clear and delicate” in their presentation of “sexual information”:

No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, individually or in a group.

This principle of decency must safeguard the virtue of Christian chastity.  (Sec. 126)

The Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education, in its 1983 document Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education, advised great care in developing teaching materials for sex education, especially the choice of images.  It recommended consultation with experts who can help ensure that teaching materials are psychologically, developmentally and morally appropriate.

It’s highly doubtful that The Meeting Point satisfies the Congregation’s expectations:

Some school text-books on sexuality, by reason of their naturalist character, are harmful to the child and the adolescent.  Graphic and audio-visual materials are more harmful when they crudely present sexual realities for which the pupil is not prepared, and thus create traumatic impressions or raise an unhealthy curiosity which leads to evil.  Let teachers think seriously of the grave harm that an irresponsible attitude in such delicate matters can cause in pupils.  (Sec. 76)

Parents as Primary Educators

In his introduction to the program, Monsignor Carlos Simon Vazquez, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, explains that The Meeting Point is not intended only for Catholic schools, but also for parish programs, Catholic associations and parents at home.  Looking back on discussions about The Meeting Point at last year’s World Meeting of Families, Msgr. Simon attests that “we clearly saw the family’s primacy in the education of the children, and that emotional and sexual education is not something that exclusively or mainly pertains to the competence of institutions that are as necessary as schools are.”

Nevertheless, the adoption of any sex education program by schools or parish programs—unless with the direct and substantial involvement of parents—conflicts with the parents’ role as primary educators of their children, especially in matters of sexuality.   Pope John Paul II, in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, put sex education squarely under parents’ direction:

Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.  In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.  (Sec. 36-37)

Moreover, as the primary educators of their children, parents should not “tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home” (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, Sec. 44).

Clarification is needed on these points to ensure that schools and Church programs do not simply implement The Meeting Point under the impression that it is an “official” Catholic education program prescribed by the Vatican.

Not a Helpful Resource

There are other concerns about The Meeting Point program, such as the discussion of abortion in the Unit 5 lesson titled “I Am a Child; Right, Gift or Problem?”  It makes no reference to abortion as a mortal sin; rather, unwanted pregnancies are discussed as a “problem” in society.

The lesson contains a troubling scenario to be read and discussed among students and teacher.  In “the true story of a woman who was led by her circumstances and society to ‘eliminate her problem,’” an explicit description is rendered of a girl’s abortion experience that can be invasive for many young people.  The discussion of the story ends with the instructor talking to students about lessening abortions by helping women with their “problems” in life, without also emphasizing the sacredness of all human life.

Especially in Unit 6, love is not clearly defined and can be confused with lust.  The program resorts to qualitative descriptions like “beautiful love” and “true love,” which can mean virtually anything.  It would be far better if the authors pointed students to C. S. Lewis or Dietrich von Hildebrand, 20th century authors who provide a clear understanding of this very misunderstood term.

It is because of the above concerns and others that The Meeting Point is not, in its current form, a helpful resource to Catholic families for forming students in Church teaching on sex and sexuality, and it needs significant revisions before serious consideration by Catholic parents, schools or parishes.  We nevertheless look with hope to many fruitful efforts in the Church to respond to a hyper-sexualized culture that is often greatly at odds with Catholic morality and respect for the human person.  The Cardinal Newman Society offers our own recently published resource for Catholic educators, Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools, which recommends school policies that promote a faithful understanding of human sexuality, gender, marriage and chastity.

The Church brings to the modern world the guidance of the Holy Spirit and more than 2,000 years of reflection on the Gospel and on the human condition.  Catholic youth deserve no less than to be taught these eternal truths.

New Sexual Revolution Requires Faithful, Parent-Centered Solutions

Catholic families need the Church’s help facing what amounts to a second “sexual revolution” in America. To that end, there are many good efforts to understand and rebuff the radical “gender ideology” and false ideas about sexuality, marriage and the nature of the human person that are taking hold in American society.

But a recently released sex education program promoted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, in its current form, is not what families need.

The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People was developed by married couples in Spain and has enjoyed the support of the Council and the Spanish bishops. It’s being presented as a work in progress, “an opportunity to convene a large community of people to collaborate, to work, to exchange experiences and knowledge in this special field of education.” The Council is inviting feedback for what may be future improvements to the program or alternative options. Thus far, no directives to use this resource have been issued by the Vatican or the U.S. bishops.

Even so, there is danger that the program in its current form will be adopted by Catholic educators and families since it’s seen as having a stamp of approval “from the Vatican.” But this program is clearly not ready for Catholic schools or homes.

As The Cardinal Newman Society found in our review of the program, following upon similar criticisms, The Meeting Point “makes frequent use of sexually explicit and morally objectionable images, fails to clearly identify and explain Catholic doctrine from elemental sources including the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and compromises the innocence and integrity of young people under the rightful care of their parents.”

This is not what Catholic families need while facing today’s corrosive culture, which is only getting worse. According to one national survey, acceptance of premarital sexual activity spiked in the 1970s and changed little in the next two decades, only to suddenly jump again in the new millennium. Most Americans now believe that premarital sex is “not wrong at all.”

I was struck by another recent report indicating the rapid slide of morality even outside the U.S. The article published last month in The Guardian declared, “Welcome to the most promiscuous Olympics in history.” Apparently what occurred off-screen in the Olympic Village during the Summer Games required the distribution of 450,000 condoms and other bedroom aids, supplied with a wink and a nod by the International Olympic Committee.

Such evidence of a declining culture shows why families need to ensure a faithful Catholic education for their children, especially as public schools become increasingly dangerous to the soul. It’s also why Catholic parents should reject any sex education for their children that does not fully conform to Catholic standards and does not have their permission and approval.

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio:

Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.  In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents. (Sec. 36-37)

In its 1995 publication The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family also recognized the essential role of parents in ensuring education that is sound and faithful. It instructed parents, as the primary educators of their children, to refuse to “tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home” (Sec. 44). Sadly, The Meeting Point fails the parent test.

There’s much to be admired in the work of the Pontifical Council for the Family, but The Meeting Point in its present form is a significant departure from the traditional approach to Catholic instruction about human sexuality. Even if its unique approach to affective, conversational learning deserves further study by the Council, the program is not ready for Catholic homes and schools. The times demand much better from Catholic education.

This article was originally published by The National Catholic Register.

Serving “LGBT” Students in Catholic Schools

How do Catholic schools best serve students who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria (popularly called “transgendered”)? What should a school’s policies prescribe in order to prevent confusion, disputes and even litigation?

Previously, these questions were often addressed behind closed doors, as administrators worked quietly on a case-by-case basis and often within traditional moral norms. However, since this past summer’s Supreme Court ruling supporting same-sex marriage and the social acceptance of superstar Bruce Jenner’s gender dysphoria, Catholic schools face an increasingly public challenge to their teaching and mission.

This dynamic became painfully evident in the recent decision by a Rhode Island Catholic school, which ignited a national firestorm by refusing to admit transgendered students and then was pressured to reverse its policy within just a couple of days. The correct instinct that a Catholic school cannot accommodate willful gender confusion gave rise to a weak position statement, holding that transgendered students could not be admitted due to a lack of facilities to accommodate them. Activists seized upon the opportunity and offered to “crowd source” the necessary facilities, forcing the school to reverse its policy of strict exclusion.

While some Catholic school leaders might be persuaded to avoid this thorny issue, or to embrace a false compassion that is inconsistent with Catholic teaching, instead the Rhode Island school’s misstep highlights the grave necessity of a more comprehensive policy approach to sexuality in Catholic schools. Catholic schools must bravely serve all students, including same-sex attracted or gender dysphoric students, by forthrightly presenting and upholding truth. That’s why — in addition to the excellent resources for Christians already available from Alliance Defending FreedomThe Heritage Foundation and the Liberty Institute — The Cardinal Newman Society has released a new handbook of Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools to help Catholic educators with specific exemplars and language tied to their Catholic mission.

Working with students who have these sexual inclinations is complex, especially since a Catholic school is called to serve everyone who has the capability and desire to partake in its mission. It must also be clear that all students are expected to follow the same school policies, and not work against the school’s mission, or its moral and religious standards and ends.

A Catholic school which clearly articulates the faith in these matters is bound to make some enemies in the common culture, and even possibly to be threatened with legal action. But Catholic educators must never compromise the faith, or the authentic good of their students, for fear of public ridicule or potential litigation. In fact, it is precisely a deeply felt and lived Catholicism, rooted in an authentic love for all students, which is the best protection against litigation. The more clearly and comprehensively a Catholic school articulates its unique religious mission and identity, and the more securely it anchors its policies for all students in this mission, the more protected it is from potential litigation. Such a comprehensive, mission-based approach ensures that students struggling with issues of human sexuality or gender dysphoria are not singled out for different treatment, but rather are held to the same faith-based standards as all students in the school.

Know Thyself

Since it is critical that Catholic schools ensure that all policies are consistent with their Catholic mission, they need to clearly articulate that mission. Pope Pius XI describes the purpose of Catholic education as “securing the Supreme Good, that is, God, for the souls of those who are being educated, and the maximum of well-being possible here below for human society.” Expanding upon this, the Church’s Code of Canon Law #795 sums up the mission of Catholic education this way:

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end, as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.

The final end for which Catholic schools prepare their students is union with God through Christ. A Catholic school also facilitates students’ participation in the common good. Both goals are accomplished by integrally and harmoniously developing the students’ minds, spirits, morals, and bodies so that they might use their freedom properly. What is proper or good as a means of attaining our final end of salvation is always understood in terms of Church teaching, based on the person and truth of Jesus Christ.

This is what Catholic schools do. This is who we are. This is what we offer.

Those who do not want to receive what we offer are free to go wherever they want to find what they think they need. We are not required to change our standards to meet the needs of those who reject all or part of our efforts, especially if changing our standards works contrary to our mission. Those students or families who only want to benefit from a part of the mission, such as our intellectual formation, must still participate with goodwill in the full program.

This program includes formation of the whole human person. We cannot disaggregate our efforts or offer our formation a la carte, because: “In the Catholic school’s educational project, there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom,” according to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. The Congregation also emphasizes that everything in a Catholic school is Catholic, and the faith is everywhere:

What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.

A student or family may not like every part of the complete educational project, but they should be expected to participate in the complete mission, to the fullest extent possible for their state of life, and never do anything that works against the mission, or protests it. Surely those whose religious practices and beliefs run counter to Church teaching might experience conflicts as the school maintains mission integrity. Sincere questioning of the practices and traditions of the Catholic faith, in order to more deeply understand them, ought to be welcome, but openly hostile and public defiance of Catholic truths or morality are signs that a student may not be a good fit for a Catholic school’s primary evangelical mission and, therefore, may be denied admission.

All students should be welcome in our schools, including those working through issues of gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction, but all students must be willing to work within the religious mission of the school, and comport themselves according to the social and moral norms of the distinctive Catholic environment they have freely chosen.

Love One Another

A Catholic school always interacts with others in an attitude of deep respect. This respect is based on the essential human dignity of each person, who is made in the image and likeness of God. There is no room in a Catholic school for hatred, injustice, or a lack of charity or compassion. It is also true that while all people have an inherent dignity and fundamental freedom that must be respected, one need not have inherent respect for all that people do. Respect for particular human behaviors must depend on how completely they fulfill the proper nature of humanity as created by God.

Those who experience challenges in the proper exercise of their sexuality can be respected as members of the human family, and yet still be challenged in behavior which the Church considers as not fulfilling its proper nature. Catholic schools are places to clarify and distinguish between error and truth, sin and virtue, order and disorder, according to reason, natural law, revelation, and Church teaching. Catholic schools make no secret about what the Church teaches regarding human sexuality. We cannot compromise that teaching by looking the other way when one is in serious error, and we cannot allow for the advocacy of error in our hallways. We do this in humility to the truth, and out of love for others.

Respect and love can only transpire in the truth. Love entails seeking the authentic good of the other. A simple definition of “good” is when a thing well-fulfills its potentialities and purposes. Love, then, involves assisting another to fulfill their full human potentiality as created and loved by God.

While many groups differ as to what exactly constitutes human good, the purpose of a Catholic school is to address these issues from a distinctly Catholic perspective, and within a deeply felt and lived Catholic culture. When this dynamic is focused on issues related to human sexuality, it is clear that the Catholic Church has a distinct and defined theology regarding the potentialities and purposes of human sexuality. The Catholic school must ensure that these are presented, even in the face of a hostile common culture, with conviction, integrity, and charity. A school’s pastoral, and policy practices must be written in fidelity to the moral guidance and teachings of the Catholic Church in all areas that touch on human nature, including issues related to human sexuality.

We situate this teaching in the conviction that the mission of a Catholic school includes the integral formation of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. The whole person includes the student’s attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors, of which the very complex area of human sexuality is a part. As a Catholic institution, we believe that our bodies are gifts from God, and temples of the Holy Spirit. We believe that human sexual behavior is only properly oriented to the ends of love and life in the context of a sacramental marriage.

We believe that the body and soul are intimately united: the body does not contain the soul, like water in a glass, but rather holistically and naturally expresses who we are in the order of creation as physical/spiritual beings. We believe that the sexes are complementary, and that “male and female he made us.” Our given biological sex is part of the divine plan. The Church teaches that sexual identity is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman” that is rooted in one’s biological identity, and that a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” Biological identity and sexual identity are never disaggregated. Both are gifts from God for us to perfect and bring into harmony according to his plan and guidance. They are not ours to reject, or to change outside of their proper functioning at our own will, because we believe God has made a mistake which we must correct.

Catholic schools understand truth to be the state in which the mind is in conformity with reality: a reality which entails the fullness of God’s creation and divine plan. We also affirm that reality is knowable through the use of properly functioning senses and reason, as well as through the aid of divine revelation.

In this context, a student who wishes to express a gender other than his or her biological sex is understood as operating outside of the “reality deeply inscribed” within. Assisting the child in his or her disconnect with this reality — however sincerely experienced — by agreeing to participate in the child’s efforts to change gender expression, is contrary to the pursuit of the truth. Authentic love, a gift of the self for the good of the other, requires that we compassionately dwell in the truth, and assist those we love to do the same. We will lovingly accompany the student through the inherent challenges of this situation, but in the fullness of love, must also insist upon integrity between reality and comportment for the good of the child, and for the common good.

In a similar vein, we love and respect all of our students, but Catholic schools cannot condone or respect unchaste or disordered sexual activity. Every member of our school is called to a life of holiness, and that holiness includes living a chaste life appropriate to one’s vocation, whether as single, married, or consecrated religious. The Church defines chastity as the successful integration of sexuality within the person and, thus, the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being: “The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.” Also, because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered, and that sexual activity is only appropriate for the purposes of love and life within sacramental marriage, those students experiencing this disordered inclination may not advocate for it, or express it in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events. The Church encourages individuals experiencing same-sex attraction to pursue the virtues of chastity, self-mastery, and friendship, instead of acting upon those inclinations, romantically or sexually—as is the current norm in much of secular society.

Authentic Good for All Students

Once properly situated in the broad context of a school’s Catholic mission, particular efforts to work respectfully and holistically from within a Catholic context and culture with students experiencing same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria can be better understood, and more clearly articulated. Because the Church teaches that for all its students sexual activity is only properly exercised toward the ends of both love and life in the context of a valid marriage, and because it teaches that same-sex attraction is disordered, the school can and should prohibit actively advocating for, or manifesting same-sex attraction, at school and school events. Similarly, because a Catholic school does not disaggregate gender from biological sex, the school can clarify that it accepts people with gender dysphoria, but still holds them accountable to all policies and procedures (including dress code and facilities use) concordant with the student’s biological sex.

Granted this is a complex and potential litigious topic, but Catholic schools must be willing to secure the authentic good of their students, in season and out of season. If students and families want to pursue a competing concept of the good, that is, of course, their right; but Catholic schools do not need to provide, nor accommodate, a competing version of the good. It is our right and our responsibility to live the truth with love in complete fidelity to Christ and his Church.

Our message of love and human flourishing must be faithful, pastoral, and clear. Our Catholic schools should be open to all who wish to join our mission of complete human formation of our students for their own salvation and good, and for the good of others.

This article was first published on Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools

Introduction

This resource guide responds to the need for clarity, charity, and integrity in policy issues related to human sexuality in Catholic schools. A school’s specific policies related to human sexuality should be consistent with Church teaching and should be tied into the school’s overall mission. Human sexuality policies should, to the degree possible, not single out any particular group or behavior but be placed in the larger context of assisting all members of the school community in virtue formation, furthering of the common good, and the Catholic evangelical mission of the school.

This guide provides examples of policy material at three levels:

  1. A sample broad school vision/mission statement in which to situate human sexuality policies.
  2. A statement regarding the school’s intent and interest in establishing policies related to human sexuality.
  3. Examples of specific policies related to human sexuality.

A series of appendices includes additional resources, Church teachings on human sexuality, and examples of handbook and entry agreements.

These materials are not offered as legal or theological advice. Schools should run all policy statements through their legal counsel and theological advisors, including (when possible) the local bishop. The Cardinal Newman Society has worked with the pro bono attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom and highly recommends them to school leaders for a review of your policies and governing documents.

Any use or adaptation of this material is permitted without attribution, although references to material from Church documents should be retained to those particular documents if used.

Part One: Sample Broad Vision/Mission Statements for Catholic Schools

Example A: A General Belief Statement

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the World” (MT 28: 19-20).

With this statement, Christ sent forth His apostles on a mission of evangelization. Catholic education promotes and fosters the teaching and values of the Catholic Church as professed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.1 Catholic schools, through their educational efforts, provide an essential ecclesiastical ministry, the primary purpose of which is evangelization through a critical transmission of culture in the light of faith and the integral formation of the human person, mind, body, and spirit, to fulfill God’s calling for all to a fullness of Christian living in this world and the next.

Example B: A More Specific Belief Statement With Core Principles2

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization: to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.3 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.4 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;5 He is the Master who journeys with students through school and life as genuine Teacher and perfect Man.6 As a faith community in communion with the Church, all its members give witness to Christ’s teachings as set forth by the Magisterium and especially as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With a Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of the critical transmission of culture in the light of faith7 and integral formation of students in body, mind, and spirit.8

Evangelization. Our school assists in the salvific mission of the Catholic Church by preparing all students to seek and proclaim the Good News through education and formation in the Catholic faith.9

Encounter with Christ. Through daily interaction, prayer, liturgies, and participation in the sacraments,10 all members of the school community encounter Christ and His transforming love and truth and in so doing are drawn to proclaim and fulfill His calling for them and for the Christian community.11 Through this encounter, students are moved toward the fullness of their humanity, becoming more aware of the gift of Faith given them at Baptism,12 to mature into adults who will bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.13

Community of faith. As members of a Catholic educational community, we are all called to model confident and joyful public witness in both word and deed and to live by the moral demands of the Gospel14 in order to model for students the integration of faith and life and to assist in the development of virtues characteristic of the Catholic Christian.15 We do this by living in communion with the Church and its teachings.

Believing in the mercy and forgiveness of Christ, we acknowledge our sinful and fallen nature and look to Christ and to the Sacraments He has given us as sources of grace and strength, particularly when striving to live according to the Ten Commandments given to us in the Old Testament and the Beatitudes given to us by Christ in the New.

Authority for teaching. We profess that all authority for our moral and spiritual teaching is based on the Gospels of Jesus Christ16 and the traditions of the Catholic Church as taught by its ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium, and especially as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Transmission of culture. Permeated by an evangelical spirit of authentic freedom and charity,17 our school provides a unique setting where everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus Christ as evidenced throughout the daily rituals of prayer and Sacraments, harmonious and friendly relationships,18 and curricular selections where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of school life.19 Cultivating within students their intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties in order to develop the right use of reason, promote a sense of values, and encouraging just attitudes and prudent behavior,20 our school environment strives to hand down the cultural patrimony of previous generations, in particular a Christian anthropology which teaches that man was made in the image and likeness of God.

Part Two: Sample Statement Declaring a Catholic Foundation for Human Sexuality Policies

All members of the school community are expected to strive to live a life of virtue guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church in all aspects of their lives. Our school’s pastoral and policy practices are written in fidelity to the moral guidance and teachings of the Catholic Church in all areas that touch on human flourishing. The school establishes an environment of encouragement, mercy, healing, and love to accompany its members as we journey on the path toward holiness.

At the heart of a Catholic school’s unique educational charism is integral formation of the whole human person. The Church instructs us,

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.21

Because our efforts at integral formation include the integrity of body, spirit, and moral development, our school has a proper concern for each student’s behavior and development in the complex area of human sexuality. As a Catholic institution, we believe that human bodies are gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit.22 All men and women are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious. The Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being”.23

The Church also teaches that “sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman”.24 We believe that human sexual behavior is only properly oriented to the ends of love and life in the context of Holy Matrimony.25

The proper understanding of human sexuality requires personal integrity and full integration of body and soul as created by God.26 According to the Church, “the chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.”27

We believe that the body and soul are intimately united: the body does not contain the soul like water in a glass, but the two are intimately dependent upon each other to express man as the highest order of creation.28 We believe that the sexes are complementary and that as “male and female he made them”.29 Our given biological sex is part of the divine plan.30 The Church teaches that sexual identity is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman,”31 it constitutes but is more than one’s biological identity,32 and a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity”.33 One’s biological sex and gender expression are not to be disaggregated,34 but should be seen in harmony, according to God’s plan.

As a Catholic educational institution, we understand truth to be the correspondence of mind to reality:35 a reality which is created by and held in existence by God and which entails the fullness of God’s creation and divine plan. We also affirm that reality is knowable through the use of properly functioning senses and reason, as well as through the aid of divine revelation and the teaching of the Church.36

We believe that man and woman share the same humanity37 and “inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.”38 We believe “they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones…”) and complementary as masculine and feminine.” Therefore they are deserving of respect, and no harassment, violence, or discrimination because of one’s sex will be tolerated.39

Offenses against chastity and marriage, including those described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will not be tolerated. Members of the school community may not advocate for such behaviors, share conversations or publications of a prurient nature, or otherwise impede chastity in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events.

Behaviors that are contrary to Catholic morality and the expectations of this school include but are not limited to: vulgar language and gestures of a sexual nature, immodest dress or deportment, expressions of lust, masturbation, pornography, fornication, homosexual activity, expressing a gender that is discordant with one’s biological sex, adultery, cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, voluntary sterilization, artificial contraception, in vitro fertilization, procuring an abortion, and sexual harassment or abuse.

Part Three: Examples of Specific Policies Related to Human Sexuality

Definition of Terms

“Sex” means the biological condition of being male or female as based upon physical differences at birth.40 “Gender” is a person’s identity as male or female, harmonious with one’s biological sex upon birth.41 “Chastity” is the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.42 “Marriage” is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, by which one man and one woman unite in a lifelong partnership for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.43

Athletic Policy

Students are only eligible to participate on our school’s sport teams consistent with their biological sex. In order to maintain dignity, modesty, and respect for forms of physical contact between members of the opposite sex, at no time will members of the opposite sex wrestle each other in intra-school or inter-school activities.

Bullying Policy

The common good and Christian justice and charity demand a school environment that is safe and affirming of the dignity of all persons. Bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.

Chastity

All members of this Catholic school community are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious. This requires modesty in language, appearance, and behavior.

Dance Policy

In keeping with the Christian mission and moral standards of our school, student dress and behavior is to conform to those characteristics of a virtuous and Christ-centered person at all times, including dances and social activities. Consistent with these expectations, students are to refrain from any sexually suggestive behavior both on and off the dance floor. Because the Church teaches that same-sex attractions are disordered,44 advocating for or expressing same-sex attractions, including same-sex couples at dances, is not permitted.

Dress Code/Uniform Code

In order to maintain uniform appearance and proper comportment throughout the school day and at school events, all students, staff, and faculty must follow the dress code expectations of their biological sex while on campus and while representing the school at outside functions. Modesty is expected at all times.

Facilities Use Policy

Chaste behavior and modesty in dress and deportment is expected at all times on school property and at school events. All students, staff, faculty, and visitors are to observe modesty when using changing facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms and may only use facilities that conform to the individual’s biological sex. The latter policy applies in any state of undress in front of others.

School facilities are dedicated to the mission of Catholic education and may not be used by any member of the school community or any external organization or individual for any purpose or cause that is contrary to Catholic teaching or otherwise opposed to the Catholic Church.

Formal Titles and Names

Students will address all adults by their proper titles as based on school employment documents (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., Sr., Brother, etc.) and surname (last name). School personnel will address students by the original name with which the student was registered (or its common derivative) and correlating pronouns.

Gender Identity

The school will interact with students according to their biological sex as based upon physical differences at birth. A member of the school community who wishes to express a gender other than his or her biological sex is understood as operating outside of the “reality deeply inscribed”45 within. Assisting the person in his or her disconnect with this reality, however sincerely experienced, by agreeing to participate in any efforts to change natural gender expression is contrary to the pursuit of the truth. Authentic love, a gift of the self for the good of the other, requires that we compassionately dwell in the truth and assist those we love to do the same.

The school recognizes that occasionally there may be instances where young people experience dissonance between their biological sex and the roles and norms advocated by society.46 Some young people might feel drawn to dress, act, and even manipulate their physical bodies in ways contrary to God’s plan. The school advocates that young people, working with their parents, bring these types of issues to their pastor as well as to other trained professionals who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic teaching and God’s natural plan. The school’s pastoral and counseling services are available to all members of the school community.

Mission Integrity

The school joyfully exercises its responsibility to teach Catholic faith and morals in all fullness and especially as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Parents or guardians and non-Catholics whose religious practices and beliefs run counter to Church teaching might experience possible conflicts as we maintain mission integrity. Sincere questioning of the practices of the Catholic faith in order to more deeply understand them are welcome, but openly hostile, public defiance and challenge of Catholic truths or morality, are signs that a student, parent, staff or faculty member may not be a fit for our school’s primary evangelical mission and, thus, may be denied admission or may be asked to leave the school.

Public Displays of Affection

In order to maintain a professional atmosphere of learning, romantic displays of affection, such as romantic hugging, kissing, hand-holding, sitting on laps, etc., are not permitted at school or at school-sponsored events.

Same-Sex Attraction

Because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is inherently disordered47 and that sexual activity is only appropriate for the purposes of love and life within Holy Matrimony48, individuals experiencing this disordered inclination may not advocate, celebrate, or express it in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events. The use of the term “same-sex attraction” in discussing homosexual inclinations is preferred, since there is only one proper sexual orientation: that which orients a man to a woman in the bonds of matrimony. Because labels can falsely promote a lasting identification or enduring notion of self, the school avoids labeling individuals with such terms as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “queer,” even when the individual might desire such identification.

The Church encourages individuals experiencing same-sex attraction to pursue the virtues of chastity, self-mastery, and friendship instead of acting upon those inclinations romantically or sexually.49 The school offers its pastoral and counseling services as sources of comfort and direction for any member of the school community.

A Note on Other Policies

This document does not address student pregnancies under the assumption that the school has already articulated a policy that assists the student-parents to re-establish a life of chastity, prohibits abortion, and supports them in their affirmation of the gift of life under all circumstances. This document also does not address specific policies related to sexual harassment and discrimination, because such policies are often complex and crafted together with legal counsel.

Regarding issues of human sexuality as applied to faculty and staff, a series of best practices advice and examples is contained in two publications from the Cardinal Newman Society: Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents and Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: A Compilation from Diocesan Statements, Handbooks and Contract.

Since most Catholic schools exercise their constitutional right and Church-mandated responsibility to hire faithful Catholic faculty and give preference to serving Catholic students, schools should ensure that their non-discrimination clauses are not overly broad or stretch beyond the requirements for faith-based institutions in our country. An example of language in a non-discrimination statement might include in part:

Our school recognizes the inherent value and dignity of all members of the human family and values equal opportunity for members of all races, cultures, and ethnicities. Our school prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran or disabled veteran. Our school reserves the rights and protections granted to it in the areas of admissions and employment practices by applicable laws and constitutional provisions to act in furtherance of its religious objectives.

 

APPENDIX A: Select Church Teachings on Sexuality

Bodily Integrity

“The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”50

“Sexuality affects all aspect of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concern affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.”51

“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”52

“In [St.] Paul’s eyes, it is not only the human spirit…that decides the dignity of the human body. But even more so it is the supernatural reality [of] the indwelling and continual presence of the Holy Spirit in man—in his soul and in his body—as the fruit of the redemption carried out by Christ. It follows that man’s body is no longer just his own. It deserves that respect whose manifestation in the mutual conduct of man, male and female, constitutes the virtue of purity.”53

“A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value, however much some people nowadays consider modesty a relic of a bygone era. Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used. Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviours that distort our capacity for love, and with forms of sexual violence that lead to inhuman treatment or cause hurt to others.”54

“The profound falsehood of this theory and the anthropological revolution contained within are obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the Biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something given is now disputed. The words ‘male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what now applies is this: it was not God who created them male and female—hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves.”55

“Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”56

“…human sexuality [is] being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of the primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”57

“Frequently, sex education deals primarily with ‘protection’ through the practice of ‘safe sex’. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance. It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage. They end up being blithely encouraged to use other persons as an means of fulfilling their needs or limitations. The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication. All of these prepare them for an integral and generous gift of self that will be expressed, following a public commitment, in the gift of their bodies. Sexual union in marriage will thus appear as a sign of an all-inclusive commitment, enriched by everything that has preceded it.”58

Sexual Complementarity

“Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. ‘Being man’ and ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity ‘in the image of God’. In their ‘being-man’ and ‘being-woman’, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.”59

“Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”60

“Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.”61

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”62

“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. It’s psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”63

“Connected with de facto unions is the particular problem concerning demands for the legal recognition of unions between homosexual persons, which is increasingly the topic of public debate. Only an anthropology corresponding to the full truth of the human person can give an appropriate response to this problem with its different aspects on both the societal and ecclesial levels. The light of such anthropology reveals ‘how incongruous is the demand to accord ‘marital’ status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God in the very structure of the human being. Another obstacle is the absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion’. Homosexual persons are to be fully respected in their human dignity and encouraged to follow God’s plan with particular attention in the exercise of chastity. This duty calling for respect does not justify the legitimization of behaviour that is not consistent with moral law, even less does it justify the recognition of a right to marriage between persons of the same sex and its being considered equivalent to the family.”64

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”65

“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”66

“Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”67

Social Ideology

“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”68

“In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”69

“Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.  This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.  Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time’.  It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised.  It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated’. …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.  Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.  We are creatures, and not omnipotent.  Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift.  At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”70

“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind—gender theory—creating so much confusion.”71

“Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life….’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original and internal citation omitted).72

“In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”73

 

APPENDIX B: Sample Letter for Prospective Employee or Parent74

Dear Prospective Parent/Employee:

Thank you for your interest in our school. Ours is a faith-based school, and as such we hope to attract those individuals, students, and families who are like-minded spiritually or who are open and willing to explore life in the Catholic Church. Our mission is one of evangelization and sanctification—to form disciples for Christ within a supportive academic community.

Before applying to our school, please read our School Handbook (Employee Policy), which you will find online. This will introduce you more fully to the mission of our school, our school philosophy, our Church teachings, and other policies and expectations for those working and learning in our school environment.

Please note that our Catholic faith as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and as taught by the Magisterium of the Church is the foundation for all subjects and activities at our school. Students and teachers, whether or not of the Catholic faith, are expected to participate in all religious activities to the extent deemed applicable by the Church. All adults employed at our school are expected to be witnesses and role models of Catholic morality.

If your beliefs and lifestyle choices are not in agreement with our Church teachings, becoming a part of our community might prove difficult. Non-Catholics exposed to Church teachings might exhibit internal conflict. When this is in line with sincere and arduous searching for the Truth, we joyfully will assist in your acquisition of a deeper understanding and embrace into the Catholic Church.

Our school is committed not only to academic excellence, but also forming students into mature young adults who will bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God. If you are in agreement with these objectives, this school will complement the beliefs and ideals of your life and home.

We look forward to partnering with you in this wonderful apostolate of Catholic education.

APPENDIX C: Sample Handbook Agreement75

Parents: Please read the following statements carefully and sign below to indicate your agreement.

I hereby affirm that I have read the Student Handbook and discussed its policies with my student.

I certify that I consent to and will submit to all governing policies of the school, including all applicable policies in the Student Handbook.

I understand that this school exists to further the mission and objectives of the Catholic Church, in its entirety, and those causing public scandal by actively promoting a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching may be asked to leave.

I understand that the standards of the school do not tolerate profanity, obscenity in word or action, disrespect to the personnel of the school, or continued disobedience to the established policies of the school.

I understand that the services of the school are engaged by mutual consent, and that either the school or I reserve the right to terminate any or all services at any time. I understand that the Student Handbook does not contractually bind [School] and is subject to change without notice by decision of [School]’s governing body. Admission to the school is a privilege, not a right, and admission for one school year does not guarantee automatic admission for future school years.

Signature of Mother                     Date

Signature of Father                        Date

Students in Grades 7-12: Please read the following statement carefully and sign below to indicate your agreement.

I hereby affirm that I have read the Student Handbook. I certify that I consent to and will submit to all governing policies of the school, including all applicable policies in the Student Handbook.

I understand that this Handbook does not contractually bind [School] and is subject to change without notice by decision of [School]’s governing body.

I understand that admission to the school is a privilege, not a right, and that any behavior, either on or off campus, which is not consistent with the school’s standards could result in the loss of that privilege.

Signature of Student                       Date

 

APPENDIX D: Select Resources

Policy Development

Alliance Defending Freedom. (2015). Protecting your ministry from sexual          orientation, gender identity lawsuits: A legal guide for churches, Christian         schools, and Christian ministries. Retrieved from http://adflegal.org/forms/download-protect-your-ministry

Donohue, D. and Guernsey, D. (2015) Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: Best Practices Brief. Retrieved from http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/Portals/0/K12%20Pages/Resources/Faith%20and%20Morals%20Best%20Practices.pdf

Donohue, D. and Guernsey, D. (2015) Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: A Compilation from Diocesan Statements, Handbooks and Contracts. Retrieved from http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/Portals/0/K12%20Pages/Resources/Faith%20%20Morals%20Compilation%20Donohue%20Guernsey%20062015.pdf

Kniffin, E. (2015). Protecting your right to serve: How religious ministries can meet new challenges without changing their witness. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/11/protecting-your-right-to-serve-how-religious-ministries-can-meet-new-challenges-without-changing-their-witness

Liberty Institute. (2015). Religious liberty templates and guides. Retrieved from https://www.libertyinstitute.org/school-religious-liberty-audits

Books

Anderson, C., & Granados, J. (2009). Called to love: Approaching John Paul II’s theology of the body. New York, NY: The Doubleday Publishing Company.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2009). Theology of his body / Theology of her body. Westchester, PA: Ascension Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2011). How to find your soulmate without losing your soul.

Lakewood, CO: Totus Tuus Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. Love, sex, and babies. (2009). San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2011). Pure manhood. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2008). Pure womanhood. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Healy, M. (2005). Men and women are from Eden. Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books.

Hogan, R. (2006). The human body… a sign of dignity and a gift. Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League.

Hogan, R. (2005). Is NFP good? Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League.

Hogan, R. (1985). The wonder of human sexuality. St. Paul, MN: Leaflet Missal Co.

Lewis, C.S. (1988). The four loves. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books.

Rego R. (1990). The true meaning of love. St. Paul, MN: The Leaflet Missal Company.

Sri, E. (2007). Men, women, and the mystery of love. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony
Messenger Press.

Course Materials

Butler, B., Evert, J., & Evert, C.  (2011).  Theology of the body for teens.  Westchester, PA: Ascension Press.

Gallagher, A., Heinzen, A., Hogan, R., & Taylor, R.  (1996).  Project Genesis series.  St. Paul, MN: Leaflet Missal Company.

Macke, E., & Power, M. (2016). Called to Be More. Cincinnati, OH: Ruah Woods Press.

Pauley, C., & Spitzer, R.  (2012).  Principles and choices series.  Snohomish, WA: Healing the Culture.

St. Augustine Institute (n.d.). True Beauty/True Strength. Subscription program. https://formed.org/course/551c1916927f85200dda7c5d.

Documents from Bishops

Nebraska Catholic Conference. (2016). Nebraska Bishops’ statement on the Nebraska School Activities Association’s policy on transgender student participation. Retrieved from http://necatholic.org/information/nebraska-bishops-statement-on-nsaas-policy-on-transgender-student-participation/

Terrio, Most Rev. Paul. (2016). Pastoral letter, A basic flaw in the Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expression. Retrieved from http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2694315/AlbertaEducationsGuidelines-1.pdf

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Natural Family Planning Program. (n.d.). Life as a gift from God. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/upload/Life-as-a-gift-from-God.pdf

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Natural Family Planning Program. (n.d.). Human sexuality. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/upload/Human-sexuality.pdf

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. (2016). “Gender theory”/“Gender ideology” – Select teaching resources. Retrieved from www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Gender-Ideology-Select-Teaching-resources.pdf

Documents from Popes

Pope Benedict XVI. (2005). Deus caritas est. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html

Pope Francis. (2016). Amoris laetitia. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Pope St. John Paul II. (2006). Man and woman He created them. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.

Pope St. John Paul II. (1995). Evangelium vitae. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (1993). Love and responsibility. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press.

Pope St. John Paul II. (1988). Mulieris dignitatem. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (February 11, 1981). General audience, The virtue of purity is the expression and fruit of life according to the Spirit. Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/jp2tb55.htm

Pope St. John Paul II. (1981). Familiaris consortio. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (November 7, 1979). General audience, The original unity of man and woman. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19791107.html

Pope Paul VI. (1968). Humanae vitae. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html

Pope Pius XI. (1930). Casti connubii. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19301231_casti-connubii.html

Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini illius magistri. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri.html

Documents from the Vatican

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2019). “Male and female he created them”: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education. Retrieved from http://www.educatio.va/content/dam/cec/Documenti/19_0997_INGLESE.pdf

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (2008). Instruction dignitatis personae on certain bioethical questions. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html

Libreria Editrice Vaticana. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Pontifical Council for the Family. (1995). The truth and meaning of human sexuality: Guidelines for education within the family. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_08121995_human-sexuality_en.html

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1983). Educational guidance in human love: Outlines for sex education. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19831101_sexual-education_en.html

Videos

Bonacci, M. (2006). Sex and love: What’s a teenager to do? Lansdale, PA: Vision Video.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2004). Romance without regret. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press

Evert, J., & Marie, E. (2001). Teen relationships and sexual pressure. Lansdale, PA: Vision Video.

Websites

American College of Pediatricians. (2016) Gender ideology harms children. https://www.acpeds.org/category/position-statement

 

 

 

Experiencing “Transgenderism” on Religious Campuses

On many fronts, the courts are weighing in on the extent to which religious institutions of higher education can follow their faith-based missions.  Recent rulings1 respecting “transgendered” students have granted some exemptions to religious colleges who have set limits on students who choose to live their life as a gender opposite from that in which they were born.

The Cases 

In the first case, a student applied to, and was accepted by, California Baptist University as a woman, but later publicly revealed that “she” was a transgendered male.  The judge ruled that the university was within its rights as a religious institution to expel the student, but at the same time stated that the university could not bar the student from public spaces or online programs. The judge reasoned that some places and programs, such as the library, counseling center, art gallery and online courses “have little or no values-based component … [and] do not require participants to adhere to any moral code of conduct.”  In this case, the university’s standards and behavioral code were accepted, but limited by the judge’s opinion about what was, and was not, material to its religious identity.  While on the surface this may seem to have some rational basis, it completely fails to recognize that for institutions that take their religious identity seriously, there is no area in which their values are extraneous.  For such institutions, their values are an integral, indivisible part of all that they are.  Such values touch every program, every space and every person—with many institutions having explicit behavioral contracts2 and policies3 for their faculty and students.

In the second case, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) rejected a complaint filed on behalf of a “transgender” student (who identifies as a male) whom George Fox University (“Oregon’s Nationally Recognized Christian University”) refused to let reside in male student housing.  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars gender discrimination by educational institutions, and the DOE has recently stated4 that Title IX covers transgender students.  GFU offered the student a private room, but the student claimed that “he” should be entitled to live with male friends just as other male students have that right.  The student’s lawyer is quoted as stating that the use of such exemptions “will do a lot of harm…  [The students] will be abused.”

Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride5 (an organization that serves LGBT student leaders and campus organizations working to free campuses of anti-LGBT prejudice, bigotry and hate) wrote that it is “frightening…that  any private college is now encouraged to use ‘religion’ as a means to justify discrimination.” (quotes in the original)  He goes on to claim that transgender students face threats of harassment and physical violence:  “At the end of the day we must remember this is an issue of safety for transgender young people.”  This statement reflects a standard view that people who do not experience themselves as their biological gender are subject to a number of uncomfortable situations on a typical campus, including difficulty accessing healthcare, navigating their residence halls and utilizing locker and restroom facilities.

While undoubtedly some persons experience negative reactions—and several6 colleges have taken steps to try and address some of those instances—it is unclear that the incidents described above (i.e., abuse, bigotry, hate, violence) are common occurrences.  Rather, a digital search of “danger to transgender students in college” reveals a number of accounts in which students were uncomfortable and distressed by events on campus, but few accounts of violence7 or abuse.

From the data, it appears that while those who disagree with the case rulings above present their arguments in terms of abuse, violence, and safety, the real issue is much more simple: they are offended.  They don’t like the universities’ policies.

Of What Virtue? 

Certainly, any policy by a Christian institution (or any institution, for that matter) should be implemented in a manner that protects all persons’ right to live safely, and any boundaries necessary to that end should be firmly established on the virtues: charity, kindness and compassion among others.  Acts of violence and bigotry, when they occur, must be roundly condemned and reparations made.  But what of “non-offensiveness” as a virtue?  For sure, there is a place for sensitivity in civilized society, and community living requires a respect for human differences.  Yet, this, too, has limits—limits that have traditionally been defined by natural law8, a naturally-knowable and universally-binding law of right and wrong.  One’s gender identity, based upon one’s biological sex, would have clearly fallen into this type of naturally-known limit for many centuries.  The phenomena of gender confusion is not new, but what is new is the idea that this confusion is anything but disordered and something needing intervention and healing.

Unfortunately, gender bending isn’t the only fundamental issue facing shifting opinions with dire consequences for our culture today.  Take for example, the issue of proper human sexual interaction and procreation.  In generations past, it was taken for granted that sexual coupling and childbearing was reserved to marriage between a man and a woman.  Although same-sex marriage is capturing the headlines these days, it is important to consider that the real shift9 began a half-century ago when promiscuity began to be more-widely accepted.  Slowly but surely, the shift took place whereby it became “offensive” to “judge” a person who was exploring his or her sexuality prior to marriage, and some even suggested that such exploration was a healthy advancement beyond the “sexual repression” of the past.  What has come with this shift?  Increasing numbers of children without two parents, and the dire consequences10 that follow.

The normalization of behavior that violates natural law is dangerous; these universities are taking a difficult but laudable stand against the current cultural drift by being clear and unapologetic about their values.  Acquiescing to the demands of a limited number of students in opposition to a school’s core values paves the road to confusion and chaos for the remainder of our young people (not to mention the assault on their own sensibilities).

There is no essential conflict11 between non-discrimination and upholding one’s values. President Michael Lindsey of Gordon College, a liberal arts college that “retains its roots in the Christian faith” and which also has come under scrutiny12 for requesting an exemption, summarizes the issues well: “We have never barred categories of individuals from our campus and have no intention to do so now. We have always sought to be a place of grace and truth, and that remains the case.  As a Christian college, we are all followers of Christ.  As long as a student, a faculty member, or a staff member supports and lives by our community covenant documents, they are welcome to study or work at Gordon.”

Freedom on campuses in the United States is fundamental; such freedom is not, however, rampant license for forcing upon others one’s own predilections. Instead, it is freedom within the boundaries of the community which one joins.  No person is compelled to attend a college or university that has values and goals at odds with those that he or she holds.  But, when he or she chooses to do so, the virtue of integrity demands that he or she do so with the intent of accepting the education sought, on the terms on which it is offered—with the intent of accepting, and giving back.  Such giving involves fostering the mission of the school, upholding its values, and yes, even growing and changing on a personal level.