The Diocese of Springfield has established policies and guidelines regarding transgender students in parochial schools, churches and other diocesan agencies.
"A person cannot change his or her gender," according to the guidelines. "Just as it would be pastorally reckless to provide weight-loss resources to a visibly gaunt anorexic who thinks she is overweight, it is equally reckless to encourage someone with gender dysphoria to undergo hormone treatment and/or genital mutilation."
The policy, which doesn't ban transgender students but allows for expulsion if they or their parents violate its edicts, is drawing criticism from DignityUSA, a group of Catholics that supports inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Bishop Thomas Paprocki has previously drawn fire for decreeing that people in same-sex marriages should not present themselves for communion and that funeral rites should be withheld if the deceased had openly lived in a same-sex marriage. When Illinois legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, Paprocki held an exorcism ceremony on the grounds that gay marriage is evil.
"The approaches prescribed in this document are of deep concern," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA executive director, in a press release blasting the policies and guidelines. "Once again, Bishop Paprocki is displaying a dangerous and willful ignorance of current medical and mental health standards."
Students diagnosed with gender dysphoria will be allowed in Catholic schools under the guidelines, but there are limits: "Students shall conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times." The policy allows "respectful, critical questioning of Catholic teaching" in classrooms "so long as its intent is to help the student progress toward greater awareness and understanding." But there are limits to tolerance. "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," the policy states.
Removal or destruction of healthy sexual and reproductive organs amounts to mutilation, according to the guidelines, and is inherently evil. Among other things, the guidelines and policies prohibit the use of hormones on school property and require transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that comport with their birth sex, although a student who's been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria can request private, unisex facilities and the request will be considered. Student athletes must compete on teams in accordance with their biological sex, under the guidelines, which also require that students, employees and church volunteers be referred to with pronouns reflecting their biological sex.
Citing a 2015 study that found 40 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, DignityUSA says the policies and guidelines are dangerous and will make students feel excluded and ashamed. The group also says that the policies and guidelines threaten to turn transgender people away from God.
"It will lead to more people leaving the church in disgust at its intransigence, and worse, will mean our church has the blood of more people who succumb to despair on its hands," Duddy-Burke says in the press release. "We call on Bishop Paprocki to immediately withdraw this policy and to enter into real dialogue with transgender people, families and medical and mental health professionals with genuine expertise in this area."
Andrew Hansen, diocese spokesman, said there have been no specific incidents or situations that prompted the policy. "This policy is proactive if one...arises," he wrote in an email. "This policy reinforces Catholic church teachings. The policies allow for compassion while respecting the rights of others and ensuring fair athletic competition," he wrote.
In his email, Hansen reiterated the comparison to anorexia.
"Much like it is wrong to encourage someone who suffers from anorexia and who believes he or she is overweight to eat less, encouraging or helping someone transition to another sex because that's what he or she believes, despite their biological truth, is morally wrong and endangers that person's physical, psychological and mental future," Hansen wrote.
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.