An official statement stating its parochial school students will have to conform to the gender with which they’re born or leave school has put Omaha’s Roman Catholic archdiocese squarely in the middle of a raging national debate over gender, identity and faith.
At least two other U.S. Catholic dioceses have also issued statements affirming what they say is church teaching on gender dysphoria. The Omaha document has drawn local attention for its assertion that students who won’t conform to their biological gender may not be “a proper fit” for Catholic school education.
“Students will conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex on parish and school campuses as well as during parish and school-sponsored activities off campus,” the “Archdiocese of Omaha Pastoral Guidelines for Gender Dysphoria” document reads in part. The rule will apply to “restrooms, dress codes, athletics, single-sex small groups, housing at overnight events and dates for parish and school-sponsored events,” local church official said.
In addition, the document said, “Catholic parishes and schools will not allow or otherwise cooperate in the administration of puberty-blocking or cross-sex hormones on school property.”
The new rules will take effect on January 1, the Omaha World-Herald newspaper reported, which said Archbishop George Lucas endorsed the policy.
Earlier this month, the diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, released its own guidelines, which advise that “those who cannot accept” the church’s norms on gender can go elsewhere for education.
Students in Sioux Falls diocesan schools “are to wear only those uniforms and conform to all dress codes in accord with his or her biological sex,” the rules state, and restroom use “will align with his/her sex.”
The Sioux Falls statement also says “students, teachers, and school personnel must use accurate gender references and language in all circumstances and at all times,” and that when classmates use “inconsistent” pronouns for a given student, “this behavior shall be addressed immediately.”
Bill Donahue, president of the conservative Catholic League, praised the Sioux Falls document as “fair, yet firm, and in complete agreement with Catholic moral theology and social teachings.”
He said Sioux Falls Bishop Donald E. DeGrood “has the wisdom and courage not to duck the hard questions that such a policy entails, especially these days.”
Along with Catholic dioceses in South Dakota and Nebraska, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, put forth its own statement on gender in 2021. In a separate policy document for schools, the diocese said cases of gender dysphoria “need to be handled with gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern, with the utmost sensitivity and charity, while avoiding all unjust discrimination.”
But it also notes that Catholic teaching “emphasizes the personal unity of body and soul, and the importance of accepting one’s sexed body as a gift from our Creator. Consequently, the Catholic Church opposes all interventions intended to facilitate the individual’s rejection of his or her biological sex, or to facilitate the individual’s assertion of an identity at odds with biological sex.” Requests to use “an identity at odds with biological sex … will be denied.”
The Arlington policy does not say non-conforming students will be denied admission, but on such hot-button issues as the use of personal pronouns favored by the individual it is firm: “All young people and their family members will be addressed and referred to with pronouns and names or nicknames consistent with their God-given biological sex. If a young person or family member proposes the use of any different name or nickname (male, female or neutral) in connection with the assertion of an identity at odds with biological sex, that request will be denied.”
The Archdiocese of Washington did not immediately respond to a request by The Washington Times for comment on its policies on gender dysphoria among its students.
However, a posted “Admissions and Non-Discrimination Policy” states that while its schools “are not required to adopt any rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with the religious or moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” Maryland law requires such schools to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Not everyone in the Roman Catholic community endorses the new statements. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest whose Outreach faith website seeks to “build bridges” with the LGBTQ community and has been lauded by Pope Francis, said via email the church “should be listening more to transgender people themselves.”
He added, “This phenomenon is still being understood by physicians, biologists and psychologists. So before the church issues documents, with restrictive rules and regulations that end up excluding transgender people, we need to listen and learn.”