Policy Standards on Formation of the Human Person in Catholic School and College Sports

 

Everything in a Catholic educational institution must serve its mission of seeking and teaching truth, the sanctification of its students, and service to society. The primary means of advancing this mission is the academic program, which has pride of place and first claim to resources in the life of the institution. The delivery of the academic program takes place within a rich Catholic environment and is inspired by a Catholic worldview. However, co-curricular and extracurricular programs also are important to students’ formation and also must take place within this same rich Catholic environment and worldview. This is particularly true of sports which, in Catholic educational institutions, are an effective means to provide for the well-being of man and to give glory and praise to the Creator.[1]

The goals of a Catholic institution’s sports program include student-athlete growth in physical skills and strength, growth in Christian character and virtue, and becoming a selfless and supportive member of a community. Through integral and holistic Catholic education, student-athletes will come to understand who they are as unified persons of body and soul, as sons and daughters of God, and as responsible members of a community.

These essential goals are threatened if physical health or safety is compromised or ignored, if the pursuit of human physical excellence neglects concomitant growth in moral excellence, if the truth and dignity of the human person is distorted by presenting an errant understanding of the human person, or if sports are placed above the good of the person or of the community. Sports enthusiast St. John Paul II, while recognizing the power of sport for good, also notes its danger if sport is simply “reduced to mere effort and to a questionable, soulless demonstration of physical strength.”[2] He also stresses that particularly in sport, “Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry.”[3]  

Catholic sports programs must not only focus on the positive formative power of sports, but also guard against a deformation that sports might bring about through exploitation of athletes, abuse of the body through steroids or drugs, intemperance, vanity, or lack of charity and justice toward competitors, to name but a few challenges. The recent movement to allow athletes to compete on teams based on a self-determined gender not tied to biological sex (i.e., “transgendered athletes”) is another danger that must be resisted. In teaching and affirming the truth about the human person, a Catholic school or college must communicate care and respect for others, who are at various stages of physical development, moral formation, and self-understanding. While affirming the dignity of all persons and seeking to lead all to the saving love of Christ, Catholic educational institutions must, in service to truth, charity, and justice, give witness in their athletic programs to the “total and harmonious physical, moral, and social development”[4] of student athletes.

Principles

Principle 1: “The Church is interested in sport because the person is at her heart, the whole person, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person.”[5]

Catholic educational institutions form the whole person, mind, body and spirit: “integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students.”[6] While classrooms lend themselves to development of the mind and spirit, sport is particularly valuable for forming the whole person:

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.[7]

Many Catholic schools and colleges, recognizing this reality, interject spirituality throughout their sports programs by including prayers at both practices and games, celebrating team Masses, providing for team chaplains, engaging in service projects, and ensuring that sports do not interfere with Sabbath and Holy Day obligations.

Rightly understood, sport is capable of helping empower the mind to pursue truth and, in its own way, give honor and glory to God. St. John Paul II further develops this Catholic understanding:

Sport, in fact, even under the aspect of physical education, finds in the Church support for all its good and wholesome elements. For the Church cannot but encourage everything that serves the harmonious development of the human body, rightly considered the masterpiece of the whole of creation, not only because of its proportion, vigor, and beauty, but also and especially because God has made it his dwelling and the instrument of an immortal soul, breathing into it that “breath of life” (cf. Gen. 2:7) by which man is made in his image and likeness. If we then consider the supernatural aspect, St. Paul’s words are an illuminating admonition: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:15; 19-20).[8]

Given the power and benefits of sports in human formation, Catholic schools and colleges should ensure opportunities for all students to benefit from athletic formation, not just accomplished athletes. Physical education classes, intramural sports, “pick-up games,” and informal opportunities of physical play among students of all types should be encouraged given the benefits of such activities. The money and time put into interschool sports should not detract from the larger role and opportunity sports can play for all students, not just the formal team athletes. And even accomplished athletes should bear in mind that the desire to win must not hinder or obscure the many other benefits sports offers to them.

Principle 2: “The Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the human person.”[9]

Sport is a powerful tool for teaching basic truths about the human person. “Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption.”[10] The stakes are high, because “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.”[11] With the fundamental concept of the human person so grievously under attack in the common culture, Catholic educational institutions cannot remain passive or silent, but must give witness to the truth of the human person.

Among these fundamental truths are:

  • the material world (and everything that exists) is good, as it is created by God;[12]
  • 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;[13]
  • everyone, by nature of their creation by God and eternal destiny, has inherent dignity and must be treated with love and respect;[14]
  • 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;
  • the human person is a “being at once corporeal and spiritual; body and soul”;[15]
  • God made us male and female, two distinct but equally dignified and complementary ways of being human;[16]
  • the concepts of sex and gender can be distinguished but not disaggregated,[17] and a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity”;[18]
  • there is a natural “language of the body” which helps us understand and express our united physical and spiritual selves;[19] and
  • God, through Jesus Christ, the perfect man, fully reveals man to himself.[20]

The transmission of this Christian understanding of man, this Christian anthropology, is an important part of the mission of Catholic education. The elemental nature of sport can assist in properly situating students in reality and experiencing the unity of body and soul. The Vatican notes that, “In the context of the modern world, sport is perhaps the most striking example of the unity of body and soul.”[21] While this unity is evident in other contexts, the context of sport seeks the harmony of body and will as an athlete negotiates complex physical realities often amid moments of high stress. 

The Catholic attempt to use sport toward the integral formation of the human person and to give praise and honor to the Creator is subverted by competing ideologies in the common culture, especially gender ideology. The issue is bigger than just about sexual politics; Catholic educators must resist gender theories that “aim to annihilate the concept of ‘nature’”[22] and our understanding of who we are and how we exist in the world. The Congregation for Catholic Education has recently warned of gender ideology:

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with [sic] what might accurately be called an educational crisis… [a] disorientation regarding anthropology which is… 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.[23]

Catholic educational institutions must fight for social justice by providing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation.”[24] All athletes are due a fair environment in which to compete against their biological and age-related peers. A college student is typically bigger, faster, and stronger than a high school student, so we do not normally let them compete in high school events. By nature, men are typically bigger, faster, and stronger than women and so should not play against them in competitive interschool athletics.[25] No student should usurp the right of another student to fair competition with his or her physical peers.

It is therefore unjust for any student to be forced to surrender his or her right to compete against others of the same biological sex because of another student’s gender dysphoria. Requiring an athlete who may be struggling with gender dysphoria to compete against his or her physical peers does not deprive the opportunity to participate in sport but is acknowledging his or her biological and God-given nature.

In particular, allowing a male to compete on a female team is unjust for several reasons. It may mean he takes the place of a weaker female who otherwise would have made the team and is now denied the chance to develop and compete. A female on the team may see reduced playing time. It may put smaller females at greater risk of injury, especially in sports like football, basketball, or soccer in which contact is common. Injustice is also present, since males will disproportionally find success against females and hence an elevated social status. Finally, there is the injustice of “economic valuing,” as males will have greater access to scholarships at the collegiate level and contracts at the professional level if allowed to compete head-to-head against females. Permitting biological males to compete against biological females violates the notion that sports 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.” The solidarity, loyalty and bonding that sports provides for groups of men and women is different in gendered and mixed gendered environments.

Principle 3: “Sport has in itself an important moral and educative significance: it is a training ground of virtue, a school of inner balance and outer control, an introduction to more true and lasting conquests.”[26]

Catholic education “aims at forming in the Christian those particular virtues which will enable him to live a new life in Christ and help him to play faithfully his part in building up the Kingdom of God,”[27] and sports are particularly well-suited to develop many of these critical virtues.[28] St. John Paul II emphasized that sports require 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.”[29]

A virtue is “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.”[30] The virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance are all acquired by human effort. They come through practice. In this they mirror the acquisition of sports skills: opportunity for practice and repetition are critical to mastery and habitude. Sports provide rich opportunities for safe and regulated venues to work on virtue development.

If sports are not carefully managed, however, vice can also develop. St. John Paul II notes that:

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 mortal 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.[31]

Anything that might degrade a person should be prohibited in a Catholic institution’s sports program, for  “The Church understands the human person as a unit of body, soul and spirit, and seek[s] to avoid any kind of reductionism in sport that debases human dignity.”[32] Catholic sports programs should ensure there is never any type of player hazing; any type of coaching that is physically, emotionally, or spiritually abusive, harmful, or degrading; and any type of fan behavior that is derogatory or unsportsmanlike.

While physical health is naturally showcased in sports, physical modesty is also to be pursued in a Catholic program. Athletic dress (formal and informal) should assist toward this end, and facilities for dressing should help promote modesty, privacy, and chastity.

While a healthy acknowledgement of one’s gifts is appropriate, the virtue of humility is also to be extolled, and individual or team opponents are never to be cruelly humiliated through mindless, overwhelming dominance. The goal of sports is, through healthy competition, to build up both one’s self and others through growth in mind, strength, skill, and virtue. While these virtues may not be evident in an opponent’s program or well-modeled by professional athletes or programs, in a Catholic context there is a difference in the way sports and virtue are united. In fact, this public witness can be extremely powerful. For good or for ill, competition with another team’s athletes and fans may impact their view of Catholics and Catholicism in general and should be taken into consideration.

Catholic educational institutions seek to leverage the powerful virtue-building opportunities sport provides, and they must protect the integrity of sport so that this powerful tool is not subverted or co-opted by forces promoting a counter-Catholic worldview and concept of man.

Standards for Policies Related to Catholic School and College Sports

In Catholic education, policies involving Catholic school and college athletics programs should:

  • complement and extend the institution’s academic and religious mission;
  • ensure that the academic enterprise and the spiritual priorities of the institution take precedence over athletics;
  • assist in the holistic and integral formation and flourishing of the human person and thereby help the athlete to give glory and praise to the Creator;
  • provide for the spiritual development of student-athletes through prayer and, if possible, the services of a chaplain;
  • guard against exploitation or idolatry related to the body and protect the body not only from physical injury but also from any attack on its physical, spiritual, and psychological integrity;
  • ensure that school and college personnel and players are formed in a Christian and virtue-based approach to sport, highlighting virtues including justice, with its emphasis on fair play and respect, and temperance, with its emphasis on modesty and self-control in action and speech, especially in moments of pain and tension; and
  • promote the common good through self-sacrifice and seeking the good of others.

Operationalizing the Standards

To meet these core standards, policies and practices such as those below can be of assistance:

  • Describe to students and in official policy documents—such as an athletics mission statement—how sports complement and extend the institution’s mission.[33]
  • Ensure that the institution’s academics and religious programs are prioritized over athletics in resources and marketing, so that the institution’s primary public identity and pride are situated in its academic and religious identity.
  • Ensure that athletes are held to the same standards of academic performance, morality, and decorum as other students, so as to avoid a perception of two classes of students.
  • Create opportunities for all students to participate in sports at various levels (intramural, pick-up, informal) so as to benefit from their formative value. Avoid focus on just inter-school athletics or privileging the most talented athletes above other students.
  • To ensure that sporting programs effectively develop the spiritual, emotional, social, and moral dimensions of student athletes, establish professional development programs and policies for athletics personnel. They 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 wellbeing, and sports as a tool of evangelization and virtue development.[34]
  • Standards for hiring and evaluating coaches should require that they be role models for Christian virtue and maturity and avoid humiliation, degradation, or disrespect of student athletes.
  • Ensure that public prayer is a part of each home pre-game program and encourage post-game team prayers as well. Designate a program or team chaplain, if possible, to schedule and lead team Masses, retreats, and service projects.
  • Avoid practices and games on Sundays to allow for proper celebration of the Lord’s Day. Ensure that, if Sunday is a day of travel, students can attend Mass.
  • Insist that student safety and wellbeing are non-negotiable. If size or strength differentials or any other factor creates a situation of physical or psychological harm, ensure that a policy is in place to end a competition.
  • Develop policies to prohibit the use of steroids, assist students struggling with substance abuse, and promote integral bodily health.
  • To maintain the program’s mission and to ensure student safety, fair play, and justice, determine participation on sex-specific athletic teams by students’ biological sex, not gender expression or self-proclaimed gender identity. Sex identified at birth on a birth certificate can normally suffice to determine team placement. The extremely rare case of a child identified at birth with a disorder of sex development can be handled on a case-by case basis with medical consultation.
  • Consider invoking opt-out provisions when offered by a league or sport association that permits transgendered athletes or otherwise compromises the integrity of athletics and risks scandal to students.
  • Develop a policy requiring users of campus facilities to use restrooms or locker rooms corresponding to their biological sex, even when visiting from another institution. A person suffering from gender dysphoria should, if possible, have access to a designated, private gender-neutral facility for changing or bathroom needs.
  • Temper a win-at-all-costs mentality to ensure that sports are seen as beneficial in and of themselves, as an opportunity for human play and personal and team development in skill, strength, and virtue.
  • Ensure that athletic programs, policies, practices, and competitions promote the development of student virtue, good sportsmanship behavior, and the dignity of the human person including modesty in personal decorum and comportment. Modesty in dress avoids clothing that might be too tight, too short, reveals undergarments, or is missing altogether and requires changing in private areas. Modesty in talk means avoiding offensive songs, jokes, or other speech. Modesty in action means not seeking undue attention to oneself or envy of others’ successes.
  • Promote community by teaching students to show respect and care for fellow athletes, cheering them on, forgiving mistakes, showing encouragement them, and establishing positive friendships. Consequently this means a complete prohibition of hazing, cruel teasing, establishing cliques, and ostracizing others. Respect is also due to coaches and officials, precluding criticism of them in the performance of their duties.
  • Ensure that all persons attending sporting events (athletes, teams, coaches, and fans) are required to respect each other before, during, and after sports competitions. Bullying, mockery, or any sort of uncivil or unsportsmanlike behavior directed at any athletic participant for any reason is always forbidden.

Possible Questions

Question: Could we just let sport be sport, run a competitive program like our peers, and leave the rest to theology class or Sunday school?

Response: Catholic schools and colleges are educational evangelical communities of faith. Sports in our communities are a part of something much bigger than simply competition and athletic glory. Because Catholic education is different, with a more comprehensive integrated approach to student formation, our sports programs are different. They are orientated to integral formation of mind, body, and spirit within a Catholic understanding of the human person.

Question: Our coaches and trainers are not theologians and, in some cases, not even Catholic. Isn’t a philosophical and theological agenda impracticable for them?

Response: This may be a weakness that needs to be addressed. The Appendix has a few resources to start coaches and programs on a path to deeper Catholic understanding in these areas. The Cardinal Newman Society’s publication “All Employees Matter” may also help athletics personnel realize the privilege and responsibility of working in a Catholic educational institution.

Question: Isn’t it a violation of good taste and religious freedom to offer a specifically Christian or Catholic prayer before a game? Is that proselytizing? Shouldn’t we choose the most generic and universal sentiments to avoid offending others?

Response: In athletic events, the home team is responsible for the pre-game program. When we invite guests into our “home,” it is a Catholic home. We have a chance to show our guests who we are: a community of faith and part of the Catholic Church, and in this instance the Church at play and prayer. While we respect our guests and should never choose a Catholic prayer that might lead to confusion, we also respect them enough to assume they are capable of the virtue of tolerance and respect incumbent upon guests in another person’s home or Church. We should never shy away from the name of Jesus in any prayer or circumstance out of a false sense of inclusivity or a fear of appearing pious, e.g.,  John 14:13-14: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Also see Matthew 10:33: “But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.”

Question: Don’t laws and athletic associations require a school or college to provide students access to the team of their choice according to their declared sexual identity?

Response: Local, state, and federal laws in the United States and athletic association policies are changing rapidly on this subject, and there is no national consensus. A Catholic school or college must carefully review applicable laws and affiliations. Regardless, there is no option for a faithfully Catholic institution to deny or cast doubt upon the God-given biological sex of any person, including students and employees. This would violate the mission of Catholic education to teach and witness to truth. Faced with a legal challenge, a Catholic institution’s best defense may be to assert religious freedom by claiming exemption from the law, seeking relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or appealing to the First Amendment or provisions in a state constitution. A school or college has the strongest claim to religious freedom protections if its policies and actions are directly explained by Catholic teachings, consistently faithful, and consistently applied over time and across situations.

Question: Not allowing a student the choice of team based on self-declared sexual identity seems bigoted and discriminatory. Isn’t equal opportunity in all aspects of school or college programming a core value in education?

Response: A policy of assigning students to single-sex teams according to the truth of their biological sex treats all men and women equitably and provides access to sports based on the disinterested classification of sex. The policy exists precisely to ensure equal opportunity for women, most of whom would otherwise be excluded from competition simply because they are naturally and physically different from men. Unjust discrimination occurs when similar people are segregated based on unchosen or unchangeable characteristics like race or sex, and the characteristic is irrelevant to the nature of the activity or policy. A school or college’s single-sex team policy acknowledges the scientific fact that men and women are not similar physiologically because of their biological makeup, yet ensures that all men and all women have similar opportunities to engage in sports.

Question: Won’t it hurt the feelings of students and attack their dignity if they are not allowed to choose a team?

Response: On the contrary, students benefit from acknowledging reality and wrestling with desires and ideas that are opposed to what is truthful and healthy. A single-sex team policy determined by biological sex is truthful, compassionate, and based on common sense. It provides a solution that does not compromise the dignity or safety of any athlete, and it protects female athletes who have access to athletic competitions that might not be otherwise available if forced to compete against males.

Question: Doesn’t allowing students access to sex-segregated changing facilities and locker rooms according to their gender identity affirm their dignity?

Response: Student athletes would not be treated with dignity if they were forced into a state of undress in front of the opposite sex. Coaches also have a right to be treated with dignity and should not be expected to supervise or observe an undressed student of the opposite sex. Maintaining the integrity of sex-designated facilities according to biological sex is the most protective policy given the conflicting needs and interests of all parties.

 

This document was developed with substantial comment and contributions from education, legal, and other experts. The lead author is Dan Guernsey, Ed.D., Senior Fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and principal of a diocesan K-12 Catholic school.

 

Appendix A: Examples of Policies for Catholic Schools

This Appendix includes examples of policies in use at the time of publication. These are presented in alphabetical order by category and are not necessarily exemplary in all possible areas.

Athletic Mission and Philosophy

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[35]

Belmont Abbey Athletics: We exist to affect a positive change in the culture of sport by upholding a standard of virtue and excellence in all we do. Our mission is to provide positive athletic experiences in an academic environment where students will be encouraged to strive for virtue and excellence so that in all things God may be glorified.

University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Marauders Vision Statement

To be the preeminent intercollegiate athletic department for developing the greatness within each human person through the practice of virtue and the formation of authentic friendships.

Marauders Mission Statement

Create a department-wide culture committed to individual greatness through Virtuous Leadership.

Philosophy

Virtues themselves are at the core of the athletic experience, and there are many that could be useful for scholar-athletes. In keeping with the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, the University of Mary has chosen to focus on six virtues: the four “Cardinal Virtues” of prudence, justice, courage, and temperance; paired with two virtues worthy of particular note as they pertain to sport: magnanimity and humility. Additionally, we recognize that the signs of these virtues—and thus the signs of greatness that will demonstrate our progress—will be solidarity and harmony. These reveal an integrated individual and communal living.

Our Strategic Plan ultimately focuses on five essential elements of the scholar-athlete experience at Mary. The following five essential areas taken together will serve as the blueprint for athletics at the University of Mary: 1. Virtuous Leadership and Whole-Person Development 2. Virtue-Based Approach to Academic Excellence 3. Virtue-Based Approach to Athletic Excellence 4. Virtue-Based Approach to Scholar-Athlete Safety, Health and Well-Being 5. Virtue-Based Approach to Community Integration and Connectedness

Code of Conduct

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[36]

While there are great incentives and advantages to being a student-athlete, there are also special responsibilities and requirements that accompany being a student athlete and representing Belmont Abbey College. The athletics department places the highest priority on respect and integrity in all endeavors and expects its student athletes to conduct themselves, both on and off campus, in a manner which reflects positively on Belmont Abbey College and its athletic teams. As such, student athletes must be concerned with any behavior which might discredit themselves, their teams, and/or the college and shall act in a manner that respects opponents, coaches, administrators, fans, and officials.

As a Benedictine Catholic College, the ten Benedictine Hallmarks, especially those of hospitality, obedience, humility, and community, guide and permeate the athletics activities on campus. In particular, these Hallmarks embody an expectation of one’s self and of one’s neighbor. Student-athletes are expected to act in concert with these Hallmarks so that the mission of the institution – That In All Things God May Be Glorified – is fulfilled.

Belmont Abbey College, Conference Carolinas and the NCAA encourage and promote good sportsmanship on and off the field. Student-athletes are expected to abide by core values of civility and respect for opponents. Profanity, racial, ethnic or sexual comments or other intimidating actions will not be tolerated and may be grounds for disciplinary actions.

The College expects its student-athletes to train and strive for their highest degree of athletic excellence, to demonstrate academic honesty and integrity and to conduct themselves as responsible citizens. Student-athletes must abide by all College, NCAA and Conference Carolinas codes, rules, regulations and policies, in addition to adhering with all state and federal laws.

In addition, student-athletes are subject to the rules and regulations specified by each head coach for team membership. A head coach, athletic administrator, or senior-level college administrator may at any time, if they believe the student athlete has engaged in misconduct, reprimand a student-athlete, suspend the student-athlete from the team, or impose conditions of probation or consequence on the student-athlete’s continued participation on the team. Any reprimand will be administered by the head coach and/or athletic administration.

Disciplinary Procedures for Rules and Conduct Infractions

  1. The designated athletic administrator will meet with the head coach of the student-athlete to discuss the possible disciplinary actions.
  2. The student-athlete will meet with the designated athletic administrator or coach to evaluate the incident. The designated athletic administrator or coach will present the charges of infraction to the student-athlete.
  3. The designated athletic administrator or coach will meet with student athlete to discuss and implement the disciplinary actions.

Role of the Student Athlete

As a student-athlete you are a role model. You are a visible representative of your team, the athletic department and Belmont Abbey College. As such you should remember you are an ambassador of the institution and at all times represent the college with the utmost integrity, honor, dedication and pride. The staff of the athletic department is here to assist you in achieving both your academic and athletic goals. However, you must take responsibility for your experience and actions.

As a student-athlete at Belmont Abbey College:

  1. I acknowledge that it is my responsibility to honor the college’s values as a Christian academic community which is set forth in its mission, vision, and values statement.
  2. I understand it is my responsibility to be aware of and abide by all current and future college, NCAA and Conference Carolinas policies, procedures, rules and regulations.
  3. I understand it is my sole responsibility to be aware of and abide by all current and future federal laws, state laws and local laws and ordinances.
  4. I will honor the principles of sportsmanship, refrain from using profanity, demonstrate fairness and be hospitable to my opponent. I will exercise humility in victory and grace in defeat. I will not brag or boast.
  5. I will not gamble, wager or bet in any form on any athletic activity.
  6. I will not engage in academic dishonesty including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, and submitting work not my own.
  7. I will meet regularly with my assigned faculty advisor so that I can be guided toward my plan for my academic course of action.
  8. I will not engage in trickery or evasion of rules in order to gain an advantage over an opponent.
  9. I will not engage in behavior considered by the college to be harmful to the honor and reputation of the college, its athletic programs and my teammates.
  10. I will not engage in any form of hazing or harassment.
  11. I will not make, print, or publish any offensive, profane or sexually suggestive language, or make, print or publish any inappropriate, derogatory or disparaging remarks about the college, its athletic program, the faculty, staff or students including in websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.
  12. I will strive, in both attitude and behavior, to make a positive contribution to the college, the athletics program and my team.
  13. I will respect myself, my coach, my teammates, game officials and college officials at all times.
  14. I will recognize authority of faculty members in the classroom and respect and honor them.
  15. I will respect college property and facilities, including residence halls and academic buildings.
  16. I will follow all policies and procedures established by the athletic training department to ensure a safe environment.
  17. I will immediately report any misconduct or violation of college policies by my teammates or other student-athletes to my coach or the athletics administration

Drugs and Alcohol

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[37]

Belmont Abbey College is in full compliance with the Drug-free Schools and Communities Act Amendment of 1989 (Public Law 101-226) and is committed to a program which discourages the illegal use and abuse of alcohol and controlled substances by students and employees.

Belmont Abbey College prohibits the unlawful possession, use, manufacture, distribution or dispensing of alcohol or controlled substances by students or employees in college buildings, on grounds or property, or as part of any college activity. Any full or part-time student or employee found in violation of said policy will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the policies and laws of the College, City of Belmont, the State of North Carolina and the US Federal Government.

Controlled substances include but are not limited to marijuana, cocaine, cocaine derivatives, heroin, barbiturates, LSD, PCP, amphetamines, tranquilizers and inhalants. Students and employees are to be made aware that illegal manufacture, possession, use, distribution or dispensing of controlled substance may subject individuals to criminal prosecution.

Belmont Abbey College administers and maintains an institutional drug testing policy for all of its student-athletes. Each year, prior to participation with their teams, student athletes are educated about its contents and sign an acknowledgement that they understand its tenets.

Gender

Diocese of Toledo, Ohio[38]

In Catholic parishes, schools and ecclesiastical organizations… all activities and ministries are to be rooted in, and consistent with, the principles of Catholic doctrine. Therefore, in every parish, school and institution, all paid employees and unpaid volunteers will… 5) Confirm that uniforms and gender specific dress, bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and sponsored activities will all be according to biological sex. 6) Require that participation on athletic teams and extra-curricular activities be according to biological sex.

Toronto Catholic District School Board, Ontario, Canada[39]

The provision of female-only and male-only spaces and activities in a Catholic school is consistent with our understanding of the complementary differences between the sexes and the responsibility to provide for the safety and flourishing of all students.

In competitive sports, issues of safety, modesty, and fairness are of primary importance when considering which students should be allowed to participate in particular events. Male and female students should not be put in athletic situations that would threaten safety, modesty, and fairness.

St. Ann Catholic School, Hamilton, Ohio[40]

In all Catholic schools, all curricular and extra-curricular activity is rooted in and consistent with, the principles of Catholic doctrine. Catholic schools:

  • Support students with gender dysphoria by treating them with sensitivity, respect, mercy, and compassion.
  • Require that participation on school teams be according to their biological sex.
  • Require that names and pronouns be in accordance with the person’s biological sex.
  • Designate Catholic sex education, uniforms and gender appropriate dress, bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and sleeping accommodations on trips according to their biological sex.
  • Maintain names in school records according to the student’s biological sex.
  • Provide reasonable accommodation to a private bathroom for use by any student who desires increased privacy.

The Cardinal Newman Society[41]

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.

Privacy

Alliance Defending Freedom[42]

PHYSICAL PRIVACY POLICY

I. PURPOSE

In recognition of student physical privacy rights and the need to ensure student safety and maintain school discipline, this Policy is enacted to advise school site staff and administration regarding their duties in relation to use of restrooms, locker rooms, showers, similar school facilities, and school-related overnight accommodations where persons may be in a state of undress in the presence of others.

II. DEFINITIONS

“Sex” means a person’s immutable biological sex, either male or female, as objectively determined by anatomy and/or genetics existing at the time of birth. Evidence of a person’s biological sex includes, but is not limited to, any government-issued identification document that accurately reflects a person’s sex as listed on the person’s original birth certificate.

III. POLICY

A. Use of School Facilities and Overnight Accommodations

  1. Notwithstanding any other Board Policy, every public school restroom, locker room, and shower room accessible by multiple persons at the same time shall be designated for use by male persons only or female persons only.
  2. In all public schools in this District, restrooms, locker rooms, and showers that are designated for one sex shall be used only by members of that sex; and, no person shall enter a restroom, locker room, or shower that is designated for one sex unless he or she is a member of that sex.
  3. In any other public school facility or setting where a person may be in a state of undress in the presence of others, school personnel shall provide separate, private areas designated for use by persons based on their sex, and no person shall enter these private areas unless he or she is a member of the designated sex.
  4. During any school authorized activity or event where persons share overnight lodging, no person shall share a bedroom or multi-occupancy restroom with a member of the opposite sex, unless such persons are members of the same family (i.e., parent/guardian, child, sibling, or grandparent).
  5. This section shall not apply to a person who enters a facility designated for the opposite sex:
    1. for custodial or maintenance purposes, when the facility is not occupied by a member of the opposite sex;
    2. to render emergency medical assistance; or
    3. during a natural disaster, emergency, or when necessary to prevent a serious threat to good order or student safety.
  6. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit schools from adopting policies necessary to accommodate disabled persons or young children in need of physical assistance when using restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms.

B. Accommodations

Persons who, for any reason, are unwilling or unable to use a facility described in subsection A may submit a request to the principal or other designee of the school district for access to alternative facilities. The principal or designee shall evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis and shall, to the extent reasonable, offer options for alternate facilities, which may include, but are not limited to: access to a single-user restroom or controlled use of an employee restroom, locker room, or shower. In no event shall the accommodation be access to a facility described in subsection A that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while persons of the opposite sex are present or could be present.[43]

Profanity

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[44]

The use of profanity by Belmont Abbey College athletics department personnel and Belmont Abbey College student-athletes is prohibited. Head coaches shall inform their student-athletes of this policy and implement clearly defined team sanctions for any departure from this policy by members of their team.

Religious Observance

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[45]

Practice and Competition – Sundays. Practice and Competition are not permitted with the exception of Golf, Baseball, Softball, and Reserve Team Basketball Practice.

Catholic Holy Days of Obligation. Practice, competition, conditioning, and travel are not permitted on Catholic Holy Days of Obligation. If Conference or NCAA Postseason competition is scheduled on a Holy Day of Obligation special approval may be granted.

Social Networking

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C.[46]

Our main concerns regarding the usage of social networking sites are your personal safety and the integrity of Belmont Abbey student-athletes. Potential employers, clients, and family members can, and do, access your site. What will they learn about you? Your personal integrity and safety are at issue. Any information, once posted to the web, is no longer private and can be utilized by anyone with internet access.

In addition to our concern about your personal well-being is the protection of the image of Belmont Abbey College, Belmont Abbey athletics, and you, our student athlete. We understand these sites are your “personal” space, but please remember, any information posted on-line becomes part of the public domain and therefore you forfeit any right to privacy. The pictures, blogs, and comments you post today may be archived forever and can be accessed by virtually anyone.

Due to the fact that we recognize the positive qualities of such networking sights and the educational and personal merit of them, we have decided against creating a hard and fast policy regarding the usage of such web sites. However, please be advised that we are, and will continue to be, aware of their content. It would be wise for you to review your personal space and reassess its content before your coach or a member of the athletics administration does so for you.

Basic guidelines for consideration are:

-never post personal address or residence hall location;

-avoid posting personal and cell phone numbers;

-do not make references to alcohol or drugs in photos, blogs, personal information, etc.;

-do not post explicit pictures;

-do not post negative references to your teammates, coaches, athletic administration, Belmont Abbey faculty/staff, or the college itself;

-logos and pictures posted on the college or athletics department websites are copyrighted and should not be used without expressed written permission;

-do not post references to infractions of team rules.

If a Belmont Abbey student-athlete posts any of the above mentioned items, violates, or appears to violate, college policy, team policy, state law or federal law disciplinary action will be taken.

Sportsmanship

University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.[47]

It is the responsibility of all students to act as good stewards of the university’s name and reputation at all athletic competitions, whether at home or away, and at all other events. This includes the responsibility to support our student-athletes and other students participating in extra-curricular activities with dignity and pride while evidencing a spirit of hospitality, respect and civility for the student-athletes, coaches and fans representing other institutions. Further, University of Mary students are responsible to maintain a positive and respectful stance even when opposing fans or student-athletes adopt a disrespectful or insulting tone. Finally, University of Mary students are responsible to show respect for the game officials and all personnel responsible for the facility where the competition is taking place. The University of Mary reserves the right to eject any student from a university sponsored event who fails to conduct himself/herself as a good ambassador of the university or who otherwise acts contrary to the values of the university.

 

Appendix B: Selections from Church Documents Informing this Topic

Integral formation and Christian understanding of the person

Therefore children and young people must be helped, with the aid of the latest advances in psychology and the arts and science of teaching, to develop harmoniously their physical, moral and intellectual endowments so that they may gradually acquire a mature sense of responsibility in striving endlessly to form their own lives properly and in pursuing true freedom as they surmount the vicissitudes of life with courage and constancy.

St. Paul VI, Gravissiumum Educationis (1965) Introduction.

In today’s pluralistic world, 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.

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

Any genuine educational philosophy has to be based on the nature of the human person, and therefore must take into account all of the physical and spiritual powers of each individual, along with the call of each one to be an active and creative agent in service to society.

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education
in a Catholic School
(1988) 63.

The Catholic school sets out to be a school for the human person and of human persons. “The person of each individual human being, in his or her material and spiritual needs, is at the heart of Christ’s teaching: this is why the promotion of the human person is the goal of the Catholic school”. This affirmation, stressing man’s vital relationship with Christ, reminds us that it is in His person that the fullness of the truth concerning man is to be found. For this reason the Catholic school, in committing itself to the development of the whole man, does so in obedience to the solicitude of the Church, in the awareness that all human values find their fulfillment and unity in Christ.  This awareness expresses the centrality of the human person in the educational project of the Catholic school, strengthens its educational endeavor and renders it fit to form strong personalities. 

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School on the Threshold
of the Third Millennium
(1997) 9.

The educational value of Christian anthropology is obvious. Here is where students discover the true value of the human person: loved by God, with a mission on earth and a destiny that is immortal. As a result, they learn the virtues of self-respect and self-love, and of love for others – a love that is universal. In addition, each student will develop a willingness to embrace life, and also his or her own unique vocation, as a fulfillment of God’s will.

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education
in a Catholic School
(1988) 26.

Human development and growth in faith is a lifelong journey. Renewing the Vision builds upon the growth nurtured in childhood and provides a foundation for continuing growth in young adulthood. Effective ministry with adolescents provides developmentally appropriate experiences, programs, activities, strategies, resources, content, and processes to address the unique developmental and social needs of young and older adolescents both as individuals and as members of families. This approach responds to adolescents’ unique needs, focuses ministry efforts, and establishes realistic expectations for growth during adolescence.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Vision: A Framework
for Catholic Youth Ministry
(1997)

The Church esteems highly and seeks to penetrate and ennoble with her own spirit also other aids which belong to the general heritage of man and which are of great influence in forming souls and molding men, such as the media of communication, various groups for mental and physical development, youth associations, and, in particular, schools.

St. Paul VI, Gravissiumum Educationis (1965) 4.

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world. The human person is present in all the truths of faith: created in “the image and likeness” of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life. 

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education
in a Catholic School
(1988) 55.

Ministry with adolescents promotes the growth of healthy, competent, caring, and faith-filled Catholic young people. The Church is concerned for the whole person, addressing the young people’s spiritual needs in the context of his or her whole life. Ministry with adolescents fosters positive adolescent development and growth in both Christian discipleship and Catholic identity. Promoting the growth of young and older adolescents means addressing their unique developmental, social, and religious needs and nurturing the qualities or assets necessary for positive development. It also means addressing the objective obstacles to healthy growth that affect the lives of so many young people, such as poverty, racial discrimination, and social injustice, as well as the subjective obstacles to healthy growth such as the loss of a sense of sin, the influence of values promoted by the secular media, and the negative impact of the consumer mentality.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Vision: A Framework
for Catholic Youth Ministry
(1997)

Students may need to be convinced that it is better to know the positive picture of personal Christian ethics rather than to get lost in an analysis of human misery. In practice, this means respect for oneself and for others. We must cultivate intelligence and the other spiritual gifts, especially through scholastic work. We must learn to care for our body and its health, and this includes physical activity and sports. And we must be careful of our sexual integrity through the virtue of chastity, because sexual energies are also a gift of God, contributing to the perfection of the person and having a providential function for the life of society and of the Church. Thus, gradually, the teacher will guide students to the idea, and then to the realization, of a process of total formation.

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education
in a Catholic School
(1988) 55.

The unique power of sport to aid in virtue and character formation

Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. 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.

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

Sport, in fact, even under the aspect of physical education, finds in the Church support for all its good and wholesome elements. For the Church cannot but encourage everything that serves the harmonious development of the human body, rightly considered the masterpiece of the whole of creation, not only because of its proportion, vigor, and beauty, but also and especially because God has made it his dwelling and the instrument of an immortal soul, breathing into it that “breath of life” (c1. Gen. 2:7) by which man is made in his image and likeness. If we then consider the supernatural aspect, St. Paul’s words are an illuminating admonition: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:15; 19-20).

St. John Paul II, Address to the Athletes of the Italian “Youth Games” (1981).

…the key principle of which is not “sport for sport’s sake” or other motives than the dignity, freedom, and integral development of man!

St. John Paul II, Jubilee Year of The Redeemer: Homily Given at the
Olympic Stadium in Rome
(1984).

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 mortal 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.

St. John Paul II. Address to Italian Olympic Medal Winners: Sports Offers
Opportunity for Spiritual Elevation
(1984).

In fact every sport, at both the amateur and the competitive level, requires basic human qualities such as rigorous preparation, continual training, 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.

St. John Paul II. Address to the Organizers and Participants in the 83rd
Giro d’Italia Cycle Race
(2000).

A sense of brotherhood, generosity, honesty and respect for one’s body – virtues that are undoubtedly essential for every good athlete – help to build a civil society where antagonism is replaced by healthy competition, where meeting is preferred to conflict, and honest challenge to spiteful opposition. When understood in this way, sport is not an end, but a means; it can become a vehicle of civility and genuine recreation, encouraging people to put the best of themselves on the field and to avoid what might be dangerous or seriously harmful to themselves or to others.

St. John Paul II, Address to the Lazio Sports Club (2000).

With this celebration the world of sport is joining in a great chorus, as it were, to express through prayer, song, play and movement a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. It is a fitting occasion to give thanks to God for the gift of sport, in which the human person exercises his body, intellect and will, recognizing these abilities as so many gifts of his Creator… It is important to identify and promote the many positive aspects of sport, but it is only right also to recognize the various transgressions to which it can succumb.  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.  

St. John Paul II. Jubilee of Sports People. Homily of John Paul II (2000).

Sport and the unity of body and soul

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.

…The human person who is created in the image and likeness of God is more important than sport. The person does not exist to serve sport, but rather sport should serve the human person in his or her integral development. As has been mentioned, the person is a unity of body, soul and spirit, this means that the embodied experiences of play and sport necessarily also involve and impact young people at the level of soul and spirit.  For this reason, they can be a part of the education of the whole person.

…The Church understands the human person as a unit of body, soul and spirit, and seek to avoid any kind of reductionism in sport that debases human dignity. ”The Church is interested in sport because the person is at her heart, the whole person, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person.” 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.

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the
Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person
(2018).

Sport, as you well know, is an activity that involves more than the movement of the body; it demands the use of intelligence and the disciplining of the will. It reveals, in other words, the wonderful structure of the human person created by God as spiritual being, a unity of body and spirit. Athletic activity can help every man and woman to recall that moment when God the Creator gave origin to the human person, the masterpiece of his creative work. As the Scriptures tell us: “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). We are reminded then that even the laws of sport belong to a certain order, which is basically that of all creation. The observance of this order is the condition for success…You are true athletes when you prepare yourselves not only by training your bodies but also by constantly engaging the spiritual dimensions of your person for a harmonious development of all your human talents.

St. John Paul II. The Ideals of Sport Promote Peace to the Participants of the
43rd Italian International Tennis Championship
(1986).

Sport, community, and justice

Freedom is a gift to us from God that reveals the grandeur of human nature. Created in the image and likeness of God, men and women are called to participate in divine creation. But freedom comes with responsibility, for free choices made by every human person impact one’s relationships, the community, and in some cases, all of creation. Nowadays, many people believe that freedom is doing what one wants, without any limits. Such a view decouples freedom and responsibility and may even eliminate regard for the consequences of human acts. However, sport reminds us that to be truly free is also to be responsible.

In recent decades, there has been an increasing awareness of the need for fair play in sport, i.e., that the game is clean. 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. It is one thing to abide by the rules of the game in order to avoid being rebuked by a referee or formally disqualified because of a rule violation. It is another thing to be attentive to and respectful of the opponent and his freedom regardless of any rule advantage. Doing so includes not using hidden strategies, such as doping, to have an illicit advantage over competitors. Sporting activity “must be an unavoidable 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.” In this way, sports can set higher goals beyond victory, toward the development of the human person in a community of teammates and competitors.

Fair play allows sports to become a means of education for all of society, of the values and virtues found in sports, such as perseverance, justice and courtesy, to name a few that Pope Benedict XVI points out. “You, dear athletes, shoulder the responsibility –not less significant – of bearing witness to these attitudes and convictions and of incarnating them beyond your sporting activity into the fabric of the family, culture, and religion. In doing so, you will be of great help for others, especially the youth, who are immersed in rapidly developing society where there is a widespread loss of values and growing disorientation.”

In this sense, athletes have the mission to be “educators as well, since sport can effectively inculcate many higher values, such as loyalty, friendship and team-spirit.”

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the
Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person
(2018).

Young people have to be taught to share their personal lives with God. They are to overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community with others. The very pattern of the Christian life draws them to commit themselves to serve God in their brethren and to make the world a better place for man to live in.

Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School (1977).

Scriptural Verses

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Hebrews 12:11-13

…for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:8

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable for people to seek their own glory.

Proverbs 25:27

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear

Ephesians 4:29 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 

Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

1 John 2:6

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:12 

 

Appendix C: Selected Resources for Staff Training on Sports

Kevin Lixey, Norbert Müller, and Cornelius Schäfer (eds.), Blessed John Paul II Speaks to Athletes: Homilies, Messages and Speeches on Sport (London: John Paul II Sports Foundation, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.laici.va/content/dam/laici/documenti/sport/eng/magisterium/jpii-pastoral-messages.pdf

Congregation for Catholic Education, “Male And Female He Created Them:” Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20190202_maschio-e-femmina_en.pdf

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person (2018). Retrieved from http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/06/01/180601b.html

Christian or Catholic sport virtue programs such as:

  • Sports Leader, at https://www.sportsleader.org/
  • FOCUS’s Varsity Catholic athttps://www.focus.org/what-we-do/varsity-catholic
  • Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion at https://www.playlikeachampion.org/

 

Appendix D: Selected Resources for Policy Development

University of Mary, Student-Athlete Handbook (2020) at https://goumary.com/documents/2020/8/5/2020_21_SA_Handbook_Complete_Version_.pdf

University of Mary, Greatness through Virtue Athletic Strategic Plan (2019) at https://goumary.com/documents/2019/8/19//Athletic_Strategic_plan.pdf?id=1330

Alliance Defending Freedom, Student Physical Privacy Policy (2015) at http://www.adfmedia.org/files/StudentPhysicalPrivacyPolicy.pdf

Diocese of Springfield, Ill., A Pastoral Guide Regarding Gender Identity (2020) at https://www.dio.org/policy-book/77-650-gender-identity/file.html

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Compassion and Challenge: Reflections on Gender Ideology (2020) at http://www.archstl.org/Portals/0/Pastoral%20letters/Compassion%20and%20Challenge%20-%20letter%20size.pdf

Minnesota Family Council, Responding to the Transgender Issue: Parent Resource Guide (2019) at https://genderresourceguide.com/wp-content/themes/genderresource/library/documents/NPRG_Full_Document_Links_V18.pdf

 

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

[2] St. John Paul II, Address to the Organizers and Participants in the 83rd Giro d’Italia Cycle Race (2000).

[3] St. John Paul II, Jubilee of Sports People. Homily of John Paul II (2000).

[4] St. John Paul II, Address to Italian Olympic Medal Winners: Sports Offers Opportunity for Spiritual Elevation (1984) 50.

[5] See Pope Francis, Address to the Italian Tennis Federation (2015).

[6] Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019) 41.

[7] Pope Pius XII, 1945.

[8] St. John Paul II, Address to the Athletes of the Italian “Youth Games” (1981).

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

[10] Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School (1988) 55.

[11] Ibid.

[12] CCC 339.

[13] CCC 307.

[14] CCC 27.

[15] CCC 362.

[16] Genesis 1:27; CCC 2334, 2383.

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

[18] CCC 2393.

[19] St. John Paul II, “Language of the Body, the Substratum and Content of the Sacramental Sign of Spousal Communion” (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.

[20] St. 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).

[21] Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Giving the Best of Yourself: A Document on the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person (2018) 3.10.

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

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

[24] CCC 1928.

[25] Taryn Knox, Lynley C Anderson, and Alison Heather, “Transwomen in Elite Sport: Scientific and Ethical Considerations,” Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 45, Iss. 6 (2018). Retrieved from

 https://jme.bmj.com/content/45/6/395.

[26] St. John Paul II, Sport as Training Ground for Virtue and Instrument of Union Among People: Address to the Presidents of the Italian Sports Federations (1979).

[27] Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School (1977) 37

[28] St. John Paul II (1984).

[29] St. John Paul II (2000).

[30] CCC 1803.

[31] St. John Paul II (1984).

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

[33] See The Cardinal Newman Society’s policy guidance on mission statement.

[34] See appendix for select resources.

[35] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[36] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[37] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[38] Excerpted from “Policy Statement on Gender-Related Matters” at https://www.dioceseoftoledo.org/policy-statement-on-gender-related-matters-1

[39] Excerpted from student/parent handbook at https://saintanncs.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/StAnnHandbook2017.pdf

[40] Excerpted from “Speaking the Truth in Love: Pastoral Guidelines for Educators Concerning Students Experiencing Gender Incongruence” at https://tcdsbpublishing.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=19105

[41] Excerpted from Denise Donohue and Dan Guernsey, “Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools” (March 2016) at “https://newmansociety.org/wp-content/uploads/Human-Sexuality-Policies-for-Catholic-Schools_For-Web.pdf

[42] Excerpted from Alliance Defending Freedom, Memo on “Access to Privacy Facilities: Protecting the Privacy and Dignity of All Students” (2015) at https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/docs/default-source/documents/resources/campaign-resources/marriage/safe-bathrooms/student-privacy-letter-and-model-policy.pdf

[43] An alternative might read: “Students who assert that their gender is different from their sex and request special accommodation regarding the facilities described in subsection A shall, to the extent reasonable, be provided with an available accommodation that meets their needs. Such accommodation may include, but is not limited to: access to a single-stall restroom, locker room, or shower. In no event shall the accommodation give access to a facility described in subsection A that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex.”

[44] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[45] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[46] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://abbeyathletics.com/documents/2020/8/3/Student_Athlete_Handbook.pdf

[47] Excerpted from student athlete handbook at https://goumary.com/documents/2020/8/5/2020_21_SA_Handbook_Complete_Version_.pdf

Policy Standards on Human Sexuality in Catholic Education

Catholic education is committed to the pursuit of truth and promotion of the Gospel. Central to its mission is the integral formation of students’ minds, hearts, and bodies in truth and holiness.

A significant challenge toward this end is confusion in the common culture regarding the nature of human sexuality. The Catholic Church has a deep and rich understanding of the human person informed by natural law and firmly rooted in Christian revelation, which is its privilege and duty to proclaim and which the culture desperately needs to hear. Errors in understanding human sexuality can lead to errors in understanding human nature, the moral order, and even truth and reality itself.

Catholic education’s proclamation of the full truth of humanity requires both sensitivity and courage. It requires clarity, charity, and integrity. It requires loving pastoral responses and clearly articulated beliefs, standards, and policies.

Such pastoral efforts and policies should support the mission of Catholic education, be consistent with Church teaching, and be based on a sound Christian anthropology (i.e., concept of the human person). This concept derives from the overarching biblical vision of the human person, which proposes that we find our deepest identity and happiness only by making a sincere gift of ourselves to others. God made men and women as complementary creatures who are naturally ordered to the special union of one man and one woman in marriage. Central as well to the Christian concept of the human person is that God made both men and women in His image, of equal and immense dignity, existing as a unity of body and soul, and destined for union with Him according to His plan.

To counteract confusion in the common culture and to ensure that Catholic educational institutions fulfill their missions, it is essential to establish policies that foster a true account of the human person and of human sexuality consonant with Church teaching. Such policies justly ensure that employees, volunteers, and students are fully aware of their obligations and the institution’s principles, priorities, and commitments, and they help guard against error and disoriented notions of the human person.

Because modeling and personal witness are essential to the process of education, all members of a Catholic educational community should strive for virtue, guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church. Pastoral and policy practices will therefore necessarily touch on a broad array of activities beyond the strictly academic, in Catholic education’s attempts to promote the integral formation of student’s minds, bodies, and souls.

This broader goal is served by explicit efforts at developing moral, theological, and academic virtues. Development of these human excellences are critical to human freedom and fulfillment. By modeling moral freedom “grounded on those absolute values which alone give meaning and value to human life,”[1] Catholic schools and colleges fulfill their obligation to be “places of evangelization”[2] and equip students to be “leaven in the human community.”[3]

It is hard to overstate how radical the sexual revolution has been and how far-reaching and devastating its consequences to the human community. It has physically, morally, and spiritually destroyed countless individuals, families, children, and communities. Catholic educators must be astutely aware of the challenges posed by the sexual culture, prepared to bravely confront it, and equipped with educational principles and policies to deal with the crisis it has created.

The following principles and standards, deeply informed by guidance from the Church, aim to assist in this regard.

Principles

Principle 1: A key aspect of the mission of Catholic education is the integral formation of the human person.

This key aspect of integral formation, especially as it relates to human sexuality, should be reflected in institutional policies. This type of formation is rooted in the Church’s philosophy of the human person, who is seen as a complex and multi-faceted being, striving for full human flourishing in their physical, moral, spiritual, psychological, social, and intellectual faculties.[4]

Canon Law affirms:

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.[5]

Catholic schools and colleges are also obligated to be “places of evangelization”[6] to bring students to the fullness of truth and disposing them to salvation in Christ and service to the common good.[7] The mission includes empowering students to be “a saving leaven in the human community”[8] through apostolic witness and modeling of a Catholic understanding of moral freedom, which is “grounded on those absolute values which alone give meaning and value to human life.”[9]

Catholic schools and colleges are not simply educational organizations designed to satisfy the intellects of students with academic content. Rather, their “primary responsibility is one of witness”[10] and instruction in the truth of God and the world through complete integral human formation:

The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education.[11]

In all they do, Catholic educators “must consider the totality of the person and insist therefore on the integration of the biological, psycho-affective, social, and spiritual elements.”[12] This is a distinctly different view of the person than is currently promoted in much of common culture, which presents a disaggregation of these elements in an effort to empower the will, instill a false sense of freedom, and remove the divine.

Principle 2: Catholic education is founded upon a sound Christian anthropology, which describes the human person as “a being at once corporeal and spiritual,”[13] made in the image of God,[14] with complementarity and equality of the sexes as male and female.[15]

The Congregation for Catholic Education emphasizes that:

In today’s pluralistic world, 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.[16]

Some fundamental tenets of a Christian concept of the human person include that God created each person body and soul (Gen. 1:27) and that:

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.[17]

This bodily nature includes a biological sexual reality that shares in God’s creative plan for the good.

“Being man” or “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.[18]

The conjugal union of man and woman is naturally ordered toward the good of marriage and family:

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.

“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.”[19]

This is important, since there are many competing and incomplete views of humanity, particularly as related to issues of human sexuality.

The educative program should work in harmony with a Catholic understanding of the human person and the role of human sexuality, because:

…our sexuality plays an integral part in the development of our personality and in the process of its education: “In fact, it is from [their] sex that the human person receives the characteristics which, on the biological, psychological and spiritual levels, make that person a man or a woman, and thereby largely condition his or her progress towards maturity and insertion into society.”[20]

Catholic education addresses issues of human sexuality, because it seeks to foster maturity, growth, and the ability of students to respond to God’s vocation for each of them as individuals and as members of society.

The Congregation for Catholic Education warns that our society is in “an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality,” and that prevalent today is:

…an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason… 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.[21]

This false ideology “creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be.’”[22] What is at stake is not just isolated discussions about personal sexual preferences or what to do about a small segment of people suffering from gender dysphoria (i.e., transgenderism), but rather what is at stake is this ideology’s “aim to annihilate the concept of ‘nature’”[23] and the surrender of natural law, objective reality, and God’s divine plan to the ravages of materialism and relativism.

In the face of such error and like St. Paul at the Areopagus, teachers must use all legitimate means to promote the truth of human body-soul integrity. Natural law arguments are a good start when explaining the harmony between body and soul and the actions that lead to human flourishing. These arguments use reason and are open to all of humanity. But these arguments alone are insufficient and must open to divine revelation in and through the person of Christ who has fully revealed our nature and destiny.

It is important to maintain in teaching and policy the Catholic understanding that, “Biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.”[24] One’s biological sex and gender expression are not to be disaggregated[25] but should be seen in harmony, according to God’s plan. One’s gender identity must be rooted in one’s biological sex. As the Church teaches, a biologically-based sexual identity is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman”[26] and affirms that a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”[27]

The Congregation for Catholic Education reminds educators that “any genuine educational philosophy has to be based on the nature of the human person and therefore must take into account all of the physical and spiritual powers of each individual.”[28] Educational programs or policies that promote a false understanding of the human person put the whole educational project at risk.

Principle 3: Catholic education should communicate and support the formation of virtue in order to help students “live a new life in Christ”[29] and faithfully fulfill their roles in building up the Kingdom of God.

Key to the area of human sexuality is the virtue of temperance, including the associated virtues of modesty, chastity, purity, abstinence, self-control, and moderation. All of these virtues are proper and important where one’s sexuality is concerned, but chastity, “the successful integration of sexuality within the person,”[30] sets the basis for one’s internal integrity of body and soul.

The Church holds that all are called to chastity appropriate to their state in life as single, married, or consecrated religious.[31] Human sexual behavior is only properly oriented to the ends of love and life in the context of Holy Matrimony. A proper understanding of human sexuality requires personal integrity and full integration of body and soul as created by God. The Catechism emphasizes this need for integrity:

…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.[32]

Integrity must be modeled by Catholic educational institutions as well. Policies should be clear, consistent, faithful to Church teaching, and protect from anything which might impair an institution’s faith-based mission and educational philosophy.

Catholic education cannot condone and must form young people with the desire, habits, and fortitude to avoid offenses against chastity and against God, including but not limited to lust, masturbation, pornography, homosexual activity, and fornication.[33] Students must also be formed with appreciation for the gifts of sexuality and openness toward life in marriage, respect for the sanctity of marriage and for all human life, and the desire, habits, and fortitude to avoid artificial contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion.

Standards for Policies Related to Human Sexuality

In Catholic education, policies involving human sexuality:

  • support and protect educational communities of evangelization that promote the salvation of students, teach and witness to truth, and serve the common good;

  • ensure a Catholic environment in which students can develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously;

  • uphold Catholic teaching according to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, especially in matters of human sexuality;

  • are founded on a Christian anthropology which supports the unity of body and soul as part of God’s original plan for humanity and understands sexuality as a gift ordered toward the union of one man and one woman in marriage;

  • expect all members of the Catholic educational community to strive for a life of chastity in keeping with their particular state of life, emphasizing the importance of chastity to a life of virtue and growth in one’s relationship with God;

  • provide clear institutional supports for living chastely, such as single-sex dorms and rules regarding clothing and behavior to establish standards and minimize temptation;

  • provide instruction and reading material, such as Catholic books and pamphlets, that offer practical guidance for living chastely;

  • ensure that all human sexuality materials and instruction are carefully vetted for complete fidelity to Church teachings, taught by qualified and committed Catholics, modest and pure, targeted to the appropriate age and developmental stage of the student with respect for a child’s latency period (lasting up until puberty),[34] and available in advance to parents who may choose to opt a minor student out of the program;

  • ensure that all speakers, vendors, third-party services, and materials are in harmony with the Catholic moral formation of students;

  • ensure that the arts, movies, and literature on campus or in the curriculum are not an affront to a student’s purity or a proximate cause of sinful thoughts or actions;

  • relate to all members of the school or college community according to their biological sex at birth and maintain appropriate distinctions between males and females, especially in issues of facilities use, athletic teams, uniforms, and nomenclature;

  • prohibit advocacy of moral behavior at odds with Catholic teaching and activities that tend to encourage immoral behavior, especially on issues related to chastity;

  • prohibit displays or promotion of vulgar, promiscuous, or same-sex attracted behavior;

  • prohibit actions or activities which promote or encourage students to disaggregate gender from sex; and

  • prohibit bullying and ensure that the dignity of all is respected.

Operationalizing the Standards

Definition of Terms

“Chastity” is the virtue of sexual self-control and is an aspect of the cardinal virtue of temperance; as a religious virtue, chastity motivates and enables us to use the gift of our sexuality in complete accordance with God’s plan. Chastity makes possible the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of the person in his bodily and spiritual being.[35]

“Gender” was commonly used synonymously with the word “sex,” but over time has been changed to mean a person’s socio-cultural role apart from their biological sex. The Church is opposed to this division and views gender (one’s outward manifestation of sexuality) as inseparable from one’s biological sex.[36]

“Gender dysphoria” is the psychological condition given to a person who experiences a conflict between their biological sex and the gender in which they identity.[37]

“Marriage” is the lifelong union of one man and one woman for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Jesus Christ raised this union between baptized persons to the dignity of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.[38]

“Sex” means the biological condition of being male or female.[39]

Specific Areas and Types of Policies

Catholic education policies related to human sexuality are needed within many areas of a school or college’s operation. The Cardinal Newman Society is committed to identifying principles of Catholic identity and policy standards particular to all key aspects of Catholic education through the work of its Catholic Identity Standards Project. For each area below, be sure to check with the Newman Society for more specific policy guidance that incorporates the human sexuality standards and other relevant concerns.

Admissions policies help target admission to students and families who can benefit from the educative and formative approach of the Catholic education program and not hinder the institution’s faith-based mission. Admissions policies should also ensure that students and families understand they are entering a faith-based institution and have an obligation to support its religious mission.

Athletics policies protect biological females and ensure fair play by having students participate on sport teams consistent with their biological sex.

Bullying policies prohibit bullying of any kind and support the common good and Christian justice and charity by affirming the dignity of all persons.

Chastity policies encourage all members of a Catholic educational community to strive for a life of chastity, appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious. The policies require modesty in language, appearance, and behavior.

Dance policies, consistent with the goal to form virtuous and Christ-centered persons, require students to refrain from any immodest, impure, or sexually suggestive behavior both on and off the dance floor.

Dress code/uniform policies, in order to maintain uniform appearance, modesty, and proper comportment throughout the school day and at school events, require all students, staff, and faculty to follow the dress code expectations of their biological sex while on campus and while representing the institution at outside functions.

Employment and volunteer policies, among other things, ensure that all employees and volunteers uphold the Catholic faith and morals—including sexual morality—in their teaching and other duties and by their personal witness. The policies ensure that employee benefits are provided in a manner that does not violate Catholic teaching, including prohibiting insurance coverage for abortion, artificial insemination, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and drugs and procedures intended to change a person’s biological sex.

Facilities use policies require all adults and students who are on campus to model chaste behavior and observe modesty when using changing facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms, and ensure that such facilities are only shared by those of the same biological sex. Facilities use policies should also prohibit use for any purpose or cause that is contrary to Catholic teaching or otherwise opposes or is opposed by the Catholic Church.

Formal titles and names policies ensure that students address all adults by their proper titles and names and that personnel address students by the original name with which the student was registered (or its common derivative) and correlating pronouns.

Health services, counseling, and programs policies ensure that health services personnel, counselors, and other medical and psychological student programs support a Christian anthropology and that parents, as primary educators of their children, are apprised of all conversations and concerns related to the child’s social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical well-being and safety, unless restrained otherwise by law. The policies ensure that the institution will not support a student or employee in any type of “transitioning” of gender or allow medications used for “transitioning” to be administered on campus or by school or college personnel.

Hiring policies ensure that all candidates are properly vetted for their adherence to Catholic teaching especially in the areas of moral expectations as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Housing services policies ensure that students are assigned housing based on their biological sex, are prohibited from engaging in sexual immorality, and preserve the privacy of bedrooms from opposite-sex visitors. Housing policies should support chastity.

Instructional material policies for schools ensure that students are not exposed to materials that are an affront to purity; do not include explicit discussion, presentation, or description of sexuality, sexual activity, or sexual fantasy; and are not a proximate cause of sinful thoughts or actions. The policies ensure that all human sexuality materials are carefully vetted for complete fidelity to Church teachings, taught by qualified committed Catholics, targeted to the appropriate age and developmental stage of the student, respect a child’s latency period, and are available in advance to parents who choose to opt their student out of the program.

Mission integrity policies ensure that the institution exercises its responsibility to teach Catholic faith and morals in all fullness and especially as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These policies should also articulate that openly hostile, public defiance and challenge of Catholic truths or morality are signs that a student, parent, staff member, or faculty member may not be a good fit for a Catholic institution’s primary evangelical mission.

Nondiscrimination policies, crafted together with legal counsel to protect students and employees, should assert the institution’s Catholic identity and legal right to act according to its religious beliefs; avoid terms that can be broadly or falsely interpreted in ways that conflict with Catholic teaching, especially with regard to sexual identity; and stick to the minimal language required by law to avoid unnecessary legal implications.

Public displays of affection policies maintain a professional atmosphere of learning and for K-12 schools prohibit romantic displays of affection, such as romantic hugging, kissing, and handholding.

Same-sex attraction policies emphasize that because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is inherently disordered[40] and that sexual activity is only appropriate for the purposes of love and life within Holy Matrimony,[41] individuals experiencing this disordered inclination are called to a life of chastity and may not advocate, celebrate, or express the disordered inclination in the context of classes, activities, or events. Such policies should use the term “same-sex attraction” in discussing homosexual inclinations, since there is only one proper sexual orientation: that which orients a man to a woman in the bonds of matrimony.

Sexual harassment policies, crafted together with legal counsel to protect students and employees, use language that upholds Catholic anthropology and morality.

Sexual identity policies clarify that the institution will provide pastoral care for any student working through challenges related to the integration of their sexual identity but will interact with students according to their biological sex as based upon physical differences at birth and will direct students to work with their parents, pastor, and other trained licensed professionals who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic teaching and natural law.

Single-sex program policies allow for participation of students in particular activities based on their biological sex.

Speaker policies ensure that speaker presentations do not conflict with Catholic teaching and a Catholic worldview.

Student clubs policies ensure that all student clubs operate based on a Christian anthropology of the human person, and that no clubs advocate or celebrate gender transitioning or sexual behavior contrary to Church teaching.

Student pregnancy policies commit to helping a student-parent re-establish a life of chastity, prohibit abortion, and support students in their affirmation of the gift of life under all circumstances.

Third-party vendor policies regulate the hiring of outside contractors (such as after-school providers, Title II tutors, and counseling services) to ensure that their programs and personnel do not work against the educative and formative mission of Catholic education.

Possible Questions

Question: Don’t we need to be concerned about illegally discriminating against those who identify as “LGBTQ”?

Response: Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and America’s tradition of respect for the natural right of religious freedom, faith-based institutions have a legal right to base hiring, admittance, and other decisions on clearly articulated and consistently applied faith and moral criteria. Increasingly, however, religious freedom has been threatened by local, state, and federal measures, and conflicts with government authorities or lawsuits by employees and students may bring serious challenges. Catholic educators can and must defend their religious freedom and, more importantly, must never violate the mission of Catholic education by compromising Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

Question: Even though it’s not illegal, isn’t it unjust and uncharitable not to conform to the wishes and behaviors of those who identify as “LGBTQ”?

Response: Relating to students and employees truthfully and with desire for their moral growth and purity is charitable and just. Catholic education strives to serve and respect the human dignity of all members of its communities. It does not single out anyone for correction, but it justly addresses concerns about sexual morality in accord with the gravity of the situation and the degree of scandal to its students. Catholic educational institutions have a right to expect employees and students to adhere to a code of conduct designed to create an educational environment capable of effectively carrying out Catholic formation and faith-based education. Publicly unchaste or scandalous behavior, or the presentation of sinful behavior as a good to be pursued, works against this mission.

Question: We don’t dismiss “heterosexual” students who are unchaste, so why do we seem to have a double standard for those who identify as “LGBTQ”?

Response: In fact, Catholic educators should be prepared to dismiss any student whose unchaste behavior is scandalous to other students and who is unlikely to be reconciled to Christ by conformity to Catholic teaching. An isolated non-scandalous incident of unchastity is usually not enough for removal, but an especially scandalous incident may require dismissal, as may repeated and persistent activity. Catholic educators must make distinctions between a student who falls while striving for chastity and a student who claims that unchaste activity is not a sin and acts, celebrates, or publicly encourages others to act accordingly.

Question: Don’t politeness, respect, and civility require addressing transgendered people by their preferred names and pronouns and allowing them to present as whatever gender they wish?

Response: In an entirely adult environment, there may be some logic to this approach, given the complex social fabric of the modern adult world and adults’ heightened ability to distinguish between labels and the true nature of the human person. Still, embracing a false perception of a person is unhealthy for the individual and for observers, and the potential for scandal must be weighed against the demands of civility. Our focus here is on Catholic educational institutions intended for young people; they seek to integrally form students harmoniously in mind, body, and spirit, and encouraging or accommodating gender dysphoria works against this goal. Significant data also shows that about 80 percent of youth experiencing gender dysphoria see the inclinations dissipate in adulthood.[42] In addition, Catholic teachers are in the truth-telling business and cannot blindly support student error, which in this case is a disconnect between the mind and reality.

Question: Since studies show that “LGBTQ” identifying students suffer higher rates of depression and often feel they are socially excluded, should Catholic schools and colleges actively promote “LGBTQ” support groups, “LGBTQ” pride groups, and groups of “LGBTQ” allies?

Response: Catholic schools and colleges should be prepared to offer discreet and robust pastoral services to students who may be struggling with sexuality, but public support groups on campus are inappropriate, as they may prematurely encourage a student to ascribe to a temporary struggle or attraction to a lasting sense of personal identity. They could lead peers to pigeon-hole a student into a category of errant sexuality. Additionally, such support groups, especially if tied to national “LGBTQ” movements, embrace a false notion of the human person and human sexuality which is antithetical to a Christian anthropology, and therefore they are harmful to the students we are trying to integrally form in truth and love.

 

This document was developed with substantial comment and contributions from education, legal, and other experts. Lead authors are Denise Donohue, Ed.D., Director of the Catholic Education Honor Roll at The Cardinal Newman Society, and Dan Guernsey, Ed.D., Senior Fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and principal of a diocesan K-12 Catholic school.

 

Appendix A: Examples of Diocesan and School Policies

This Appendix includes examples of policies in use at the time of publication. These are presented in alphabetical order by category and are not necessarily exemplary in all possible areas.

Chastity

Marian High School, Mishawaka, Ind.

The Catholic school upholds and supports God’s plan for sexual relations by promoting chastity and a respect for human life. Sexual union is intended by God to express the complete gift of self that a man and a woman make to one another in marriage, a mutual gift that opens them to the gift of a child. Therefore, all students are expected to live a chaste lifestyle and to abstain from sexual relations.

Gender Identity

Catholic Bishops of Minnesota[43]

Application of Guiding Principles

The aforementioned Guiding Principles are practically applied in Catholic schools. Catholic schools in the Diocese of [insert] will relate to each student in a way that is respectful of and consistent with each student’s God-given sexual identity and biological sex. To this end, below are some examples of how these Guiding Principles apply to organizations that teach children and youth in the name of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of [insert]:

  1. All school policies, procedures, resources, employee training, and assistance given to families are consistent with the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, including human sexuality. Reflective of a commitment to a culture of transparency and understanding, these policies will be made available in writing to members of the school community by way of inclusion in relevant handbooks, agreements, and statements.
  2. Student’s name and pronouns usage will correspond to his/her sexual identity (see definitions).
  3. Student access to facilities and overnight accommodations will align with his/her sexual identity.
  4. Eligibility for single-sex curricular and extracurricular activities is based on the sexual identity of the child.
  5. Expressions of a student’s sexual identity are prohibited when they cause disruption or confusion regarding the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
  6. The consciences of students and employees will be respected with the assurance of their inviolable right to the acknowledgement that God has created each person as a unity of body and soul, male or female, and that God-designed sexual expression and behavior must be exclusively oriented to love and life in marriage between one man and one woman.
  7. Schools communicate with parents or guardians about their child’s behavior at school and inform them of any concerns relating to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health, safety, or welfare of their child, except when advised otherwise by law enforcement or a social service agency.

    Definitions
    1. Sex refers to a person’s biological identification as male or female based upon physical characteristics present at birth.
    2. Sexual identity refers to a person’s identity as male or female that is congruent with one’s sex.
    3. Sexual binary refers to the God-given gift of the human family created male or female in the image and likeness of God.
    4. Transgender or gender non-conforming is an adjective describing a person who perceives his or her sexual identity to be different from his or her sex and publicly presents himself or herself as the opposite sex or outside the sexual binary. Such public expressions that are intended to communicate a sexual identity different from one’s sex include, but are not limited to, utilizing pronouns of the opposite sex, changing one’s name to reflect the cultural norms of the opposite sex, wearing a uniform designated for the opposite sex, and undergoing surgery to change the appearance of one’s reproductive or sexual anatomy.

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois[44]

§650.1 General Policy Concerning Gender Identity

While the Church has a duty to teach the truth about the human person (anthropology) and human sexuality, and incorporate this teaching into her policies and procedures, the Church has compassion and empathy toward all her members who suffer from confusion about their identity, including their sexual or gender identity.

650.1. Policy: It is the policy of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois that all Catholic agencies, including parishes, schools, institutions, departments, or other entities, shall respect the biological sex with which a person is born and shall apply all policies and procedures in relation to that person according to that person’s biological sex at birth.

Procedures: (portions omitted)

  1. Examples of this policy in practice include the following:
    1. All persons will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
    2. All correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the subject person’s biological sex;
    3. All persons will use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex while on Diocesan or Parish property.
  2. The Diocese also supports and encourages counseling for those who suffer from or are diagnosed with gender dysphoria by licensed counselors or other medical professionals who hold a correct Christian anthropology of the human person and who understand and adhere to Catholic teaching.
  3. While the Catholic Church does not support transgender therapies and/or surgeries that assist a person in “transitioning” his or her gender, the Church recognizes that appropriate medical care may be necessary in rare cases of true genetic or physical anomalies, such as hermaphroditism or intersex.

§650.2. Specific Policy Concerning Employees and Volunteers

650.2 Policy. Employees and volunteers are expected to live virtuous lives guided by Gospel values and the teaching of the Church. Employees and volunteers shall conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times. Likewise, all employees and volunteers shall perform their duties, and tailor their interactions with other persons, in accord with the Diocese’s general policy concerning gender identity (650.1).

Procedures:

  1. Examples of this policy in practice include the following:
    1. All employees and volunteers will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
    2. All employee or volunteer correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the employee’s or volunteer’s biological sex;
    3. All employees and volunteers will use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex while on Diocesan or Parish property.
  2. Violation of this policy by any employee may include immediate corrective action, suspension, and possible termination of employment.
  3. Violation of this policy by any volunteer may include immediate corrective action, suspension, and possible termination of volunteer status.

§650.3 Specific Policy Concerning Students

650.3. Policy. Students and their parents are expected to live virtuous lives guided by Gospel values and the teaching of the Church as described in the Family School Agreement (BK3§404.1). Students shall conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times.

Procedures:

  1. A student diagnosed with gender dysphoria should not be denied admission to a Catholic school as long as the student and his or her parents agree that the child will abide by the Family School Agreement and this policy.
  2. Respectful, critical questioning of Catholic teaching in the classroom is encouraged as long as its intent is to help the student progress toward greater awareness and understanding.
  3. Examples of this policy in practice include the following:
    1. All students and their parents will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
    2. All school correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the student or parent’s biological sex;
    3. Students will participate in competitive athletics in accord with their biological sex;
    4. Catholic schools will not allow, or otherwise cooperate in, the administration of puberty-blocking or cross-sex hormones on school property;
    5. All students will use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex. Students who have been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, however, may request the use of a single-person, unisex facility. Such requests will be assessed on an individual basis by the appropriate school administrator.
  4. A student of any Catholic school who insists, or whose parents insist, on open hostility toward, or defiance of, Church teaching, or who otherwise intentionally violate this policy, may be expelled from the school pursuant to this policy and the provisions of BK3§404.1.3.

Diocese of Steubenville

Policies regarding Transgender Students in Catholic Schools

  1. In Catholic schools of the Diocese of Steubenville, all curricular and extra-curricular activity is to be rooted in, and consistent with, the principles of Catholic doctrine.
  2. Catholic schools, and individuals employed with Catholic schools, shall not sponsor, facilitate or host such organizations, events or activities that would promote views contrary to Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality and gender, either on or off the school campus, or through social media.
  3. Students enrolled in Catholic schools who suffer from gender dysphoria shall be treated with sensitivity, respect, mercy, and compassion.
  4. The sexual identity of students enrolled in Catholic schools shall be in accordance to the student’s biological sex, as determined by an original state issued birth certificate (or an official copy thereof).
  5. Catholic schools shall:
    1. Require that participation on/in school athletic teams and all other school sponsored extra-curricular activities, where applicable (e., school dances) be in accordance with biological sex.
    2. Require that the use of names and pronouns be in accordance with the person’s biological sex.
    3. Designate Catholic sex education, school and athletic uniforms, and appropriate dress, bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and sleeping accommodations on trips according to biological sex.
    4. Maintain names in school records according to the student’s biological sex.
    5. Provide reasonable accommodation to a private bathroom for use by any student who desires increased privacy.
  6. In the case of a specific request, the school shall consider in a compassionate way, on a case-by-case basis, the physical and psychological needs of a student based on the following questions:
    1. What is the specific request of the student and/or parent?
    2. Is the request in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church?
    3. Is the school reasonably able to accommodate the request?

Schools shall make a reasonable effort to inform and instruct school personnel, parents, and students (where appropriate) concerning these policies. School personnel shall be made aware of “Exhibit B.1” (Catechetical Statement) regarding students who identify as transgender. Parents and high school grade students shall read and sign Exhibit B.2 upon enrollment in a Catholic school.

Modesty in Dress

Holy Family Academy, Manchester, N.H.

As the body reflects the soul, so one’s dress reflects one’s attitudes. Modesty is crucial in the dress of each student: dressing with dignity is uplifting, it encourages growth in virtue and character, and prepares the student to engage in the noble activity of liberal education. As such, students are always neat, clean, and well-groomed while at school and at all school-related functions. At all school events, it is important that students keep in mind that they serve as ambassadors of Holy Family Academy in the larger community.

The Highlands School, Irving, Tex.

Pope St. John Paul II called modesty the boundary that protects “the intimate center of the person.” Dances and all school sponsored events (sports banquets, other social activities) should reflect the philosophy of our school (Blazer Spirit) and the moral teachings of the Catholic faith. Out of respect for their own dignity and others’ as children of God and temples of the Holy Spirit, The Highlands School asks all students and guests to dress with modesty, following school guidelines.

Pregnancy

Bishop England High School, Charleston, S.C.

Pro-Life Policy: It is understood that we, as Catholic educators, are convinced of the value and dignity of human life. We hold a pro-life stance which enables us to bring to our students the realization that a Christian code of morality based on the Gospel should give their lives direction and that thorough instruction should help them understand their own sexuality. While we do not condone contraception or premarital sex, once a young couple becomes responsible for the conceiving of human life, we believe every effort must be made and every measure must be taken to preserve this life. In all instances, the student(s) will be treated with charity. In keeping with these beliefs, the following guidelines will be applied whenever female or male students become involved in a pregnancy:

  1. As soon as possible after learning of the pregnancy, the student(s) and their parents will meet with the Principal to inform the school of the situation.
  2. A female student will obtain a medical statement from her doctor giving her due date and her medical fitness to remain in school. The statement must include any medical problems of which the school should be aware. When it is deemed necessary by the administration, she will proceed to an alternative educational program. At that time, the male student will also proceed to an alternative educational program.
  3. Female and male students must follow a bona fide program of counseling which their church or other religious support agency offers. The name of the counselor must be given to the Principal.
  4. During the time of the pregnancy and after the birth, participation for both the mother and the father in all co-curricular activities, as well as graduation, is at the discretion of the Principal.
  5. After the birth, the students and their parents must schedule an interview with the school administration to determine the feasibility and conditions of returning to school.

In addition, we believe that abortion at any stage of pregnancy is the taking of the life of an innocent human person. Therefore, a female student who attempts to procure an abortion or a male student who enables this attempt must withdraw from the school immediately.

Academy of Our Lady, Marrero, La.

A young woman’s life is forever changed with the conception and birth of a child. Her new condition takes precedence even over her role as a student. In order to foster a complete “pro-life” stance, when a pregnancy becomes known the parent/guardian(s) and student must inform the principal, and the student will be required to follow the guidelines set out by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In accordance with Archdiocesan policy, the student may be allowed to return to Academy of Our Lady after the birth of her child if she agrees to abide by the conditions for returning and remaining in school. The administration will meet with the student and her parents/guardians to explain the conditions for returning and remaining in school. The principal determines attendance at school functions. A student who does not disclose her pregnancy to school administration and continues to attend classes is subject to immediate dismissal.

Same-Sex Attraction Policy

Archdiocese of New Orleans

The Archdiocese of New Orleans respects and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church as we minister to youth who face the complexity of cultural and personal issues of today. As they grow in their understanding of their identity and sexuality, we will provide guidance and parameters founded on the truth that they, as male and female, are created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus. We will teach respect for the dignity of the human person, recognizing the importance of chastity as we guide our youth in discovering their identity as children of God. We will not tolerate hatred or bullying at any level in our parish or school programs. We set boundaries and policies that help us teach young people to live with relational integrity, showing respect for themselves and one another. Out of respect for the confidentiality of our students and their families, we will not address specific questions regarding a parish/school situation. We will continue to minister to our youth and members of their families during times of struggle as they develop in their understanding of their identity and sexuality.

Appendix B: Selections from Church Documents Informing This Topic

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.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 364.

The Holy Scripture reveals the wisdom of the Creator’s design, which “has assigned as a task to man his body, his masculinity and femininity; and that in masculinity and femininity he, in a way, assigned to him as a task his humanity, the dignity of the person, and also the clear sign of the interpersonal communion in which man fulfils himself through the authentic gift of himself.” Thus, human nature must be understood on the basis of the unity of body and soul, far removed from any sort of physicalism or naturalism…

Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them:
Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education
(2019) 32.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2332.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2393.

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.

Pope St. John Paul II, General Audience, The Virtue of Purity
Is the Expression and Fruit of Life According to the Spirit
(February 11, 1981) 3.

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.

Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (2016) 282.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est (2005) 5.

…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).

Pope St. John Paul II, Letter to the Families (1994) 19.

Frequently, sex education deals primarily with “protection” through the practice of “safe sex.” Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative fina`lity 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 a 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.

Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (2016) 283.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 369.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2361.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2360.

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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2333.

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. Its 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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357.

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.

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the
Social Doctrine of the Church
(2004) 228.

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.

Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of Puerto Rico (June 8, 2015).

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.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (January 19, 2013).

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.”

Pope St. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body,
trans. M. Waldstein, (Pauline Books and Media, 2006) 10:1.

There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated. The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who “chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.”

Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them (2019) 34.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (December 21, 2012).

The process of identifying sexual identity is made more difficult by the fictitious construct known as “gender neuter” or “third gender,” which has the effect of obscuring the fact that a person’s sex is a structural determinant of male or female identity. Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender,” lead to a masculinity or femininity that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede.

Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them (2019) 25.

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.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the Collaboration of
Men and Women in the Church and in the World
(2004) 2.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings
to the Roman Curia
(December 21, 2012).

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.

Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (2016) 56.

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.

Pope Francis, Pastoral Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis
to Pompeii and Naples
(March 21, 2015).

The underlying presuppositions of these theories can be traced back to a dualistic anthropology separating body (reduced to the status of inert matter) from human will, which itself becomes an absolute that can manipulate the body as it pleases. This combination of physicalism and voluntarism gives rise to relativism, in which everything that exists is of equal value and at the same time undifferentiated, without any real order or purpose…The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism…

Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them (2019) 20.

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.]

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of
the Social Doctrine of the Church
(2004) 224.

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.

Pontifical Council for the Family, Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions (2000) 8.

 

 

[1] Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School (1977) 9.

[2] Congregation for Catholic Education, Catholic Schools on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1997) 11.

[3] Saint Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis (1965) 8.

[4] Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019) 3; citing Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education (1983) 5.

[5] Code of Canon Law (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1983) 795.

[6] Congregation for Catholic Education, Catholic Schools on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1997) 11.

[7] Saint John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990) 4.

[8] Saint Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis (1965) 8.

[9] Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School (1977) 9.

[10] Congregation for Catholic Education, Educating in Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic School: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (2013) 57.

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

[12] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019) 3.

[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993) 362.

[14] Catechism 355.

[15] Catechism 355, 369.

[16] Congregation for Catholic Education (1982) 18.

[17] Catechism 364.

[18] Catechism 362, 369.

[19] Catechism 2360-2361.

[20] Congregation for Catholic Education (2019) 4; citing Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975) 1.

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

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

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

[24] Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (2016) 56.

[25] Pontifical Council for the Family, Family, Marriage and ‘De Facto’ Unions (2000) 8.

[26] 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.

[27] Catechism 2393.

[28] Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School: Guidelines for Reflection and Renewal (1988) Introduction, 63.

[29] Congregation for Catholic Education (1977) 36.

[30] Catechism 2337.

[31] Catechism 2348.

[32] Catechism 2338; Mt 5:37.

[33] Catechism 2351-2359.

[34] The Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (1996) 60.

[35] Catechism 2337.

[36] Synod of Bishops, “Synod15 – Final Relatio of the Synod of Bishops to The Holy Father, Francis,” (October 2015) 58. Accessed July 20, 2020 from http://www.lancasterdiocese.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Final-Relatio15-Final.pdf

“According to the Christian principle, soul and body, biological sex as well and the social-cultural role of the sex (gender), can be distinguished, but not separated.” See also Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (2016) 56.

[37] American Psychiatric Association. What is Gender Dysphoria? Accessed 7/17/20. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria.

[38] Catechism 1601.

[39] Physical differences at birth include chromosomal levels. In the unlikely event that a biological sex determination made at birth is uncertain or inaccurate chromosomal levels may need be taken into consideration. Statistics show that such disorders of sexual development (DSD) occur between 1 and  4,500 – 5,500 births (.02%). See Lee, P.A., et al. “Global Disorders of Sex Development Update since 2006: Perceptions, Approach and Care,” Hormone Research in Paediatrics. Vol. 85 (April 2016). Accessed July 20, 2020 from https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/442975

[40] Catechism 2357.

[41] Catechism 2360.

[42] Riittakerttu Kaltiala-Heino et al. “Gender Dysphoria in Adolescence: Current Perspectives,” Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, Vol. 9 (March 2018) 31-41.

[43] Full text can be found at http://www.mncatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/20.0304-Sexual-Identity-Guiding-Principles-FINAL.pdf (accessed 5/20/20). See also the Diocese of Little Rock, AR. Policies and Procedures Manual (2019) found at https://www.dolr.org/sites/default/files/documents/policy_manual_students_20.pdf (accessed 5/20/20) #4.40 for excellent wording and citations.

[44] Full text can be found at https://www.dio.org/policy-book/77-650-gender-identity/file.html (accessed 5/20/20).

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).