The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis has issued new guidelines warning that transgender students will be prohibited from enrolling in and matriculating at parochial schools in central and southern Indiana that are under the control of the archdiocese.
The new policy is outlined in an eight-page document, “Policy and Complementary Norms on Sexual Identity in School Ministries of the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” which was signed into effect on June 8 by Archbishop Charles Thompson and Schools Chancellor Annette Lentz and distributed to archdiocese employees on June 17.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the policy draws heavily on a controversial 2019 Vatican document that rejected the concept of transgenderism, saying that people who identify as transgender are “confused” and “annihilate the concept of nature.”
While the policy recommends a “case by case” approach to dealing with questions concerning a student’s sexual identity, it says that students struggling with their sexuality may be admitted to schools, so long as they follow Church teaching, which demands that they commit to celibacy.
However, the policy warns that “any student whose ‘gender’ has been legally changed from their biological sex, or who has chemically and/or surgically altered their given biology, may not be eligible for enrollment.”
The policy distinguishes between those with “chromosomal/genetic abnormalities” and those experiencing “gender dysphoria,” noting that surgeries are available for those who are intersex, but also warns that such surgeries should not be entered into arbitrarily.
Instead, the archdiocese recommends that medical professionals “intervene in the least invasive fashion, on the basis of objective parameters and with a view to establishing the person’s constitutive identity.”
But the bulk of the policy outlines behaviors expected of transgender individuals (though the document does not use the term), or those experiencing gender dysphoria, noting that they cannot take puberty blockers, undergo hormone therapy or surgery.
In school, they will be expected to use pronouns and names that match their biological as determined at birth, dress according to the biological sex, and use facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, that match their assigned sex at birth.
The policy does state that any type of bullying, harassment, or discrimination “will not be tolerated.”
If a young person is experiencing severe gender dysphoria, the policy advocates that the student, along with their parents, bring the issue to the attention of a pastor and trained professionals “who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic Church teaching.”
In the June 17 email to archdiocesan officials, the document notes that the policy, which was revised and approved after conferring with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not to be included in faculty or parent/student handbooks, but simply treated as an internal policy.
The policy takes effect almost one year after the Indianapolis Archdiocese attempted to strip Brebeuf Preparatory School of its Catholic affiliation after the school refused to fire a gay teacher who had gotten married to his longtime partner. His partner, who worked at Cathedral High School, was fired, as were two lesbian guidance counselors who worked at Roncalli High School and a straight social worker from Roncalli who objected to her colleagues’ treatment by the school and the archdiocese.
Similar fights are occurring in Catholic-affiliated institutions throughout the country, where the church’s official teachings on sexuality and gender are coming into conflict with a growing societal trend towards acceptance and exposing the human impact that firings and dismissals are having on both teachers and their students.
In February, a bishop in Springfield, Ill., issued a new policy calling for “immediate correction action, suspension, and possible termination” of transgender students and employees. That same month, a Seattle Catholic school was criticized and became the subject of student protests after it was accused of pressuring two openly LGBTQ teachers to resign.
In May, the Archbishop of Dayton was forced to defend his decision not to renew the contract of a popular gay teacher after dozens of current and former students held a socially-distant protest where they blared car horns and played music outside the school in question.
In a statement to ABC affiliate RTV6 Indianapolis, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis defended its new policy, saying it welcomes all students, but tries to balance that welcoming atmosphere with remaining faithful to Catholic Church teachings and incorporating those values and teachings into all aspects of its school culture.
“Some students who attend the Archdiocese’s schools question their sexual identity and we recognize that their struggles have a profound effect on their lives,” the statement reads.
“The Archdiocese’s goal is to always walk in accompaniment with young people and their families. Such accompaniment may result in the provision of resources, accommodations and/or other supports in alignment with Church teaching,” the statement continues. “The hope is that we can continue to serve the student and their family. The safety and welfare of each student is a priority.”
GLAAD, the national LGBTQ media advocacy organization, denounced the archdiocese’s policy, as did Shelly’s Voice, the advocacy group named in honor of one of the fired teachers from Roncalli High.
“The Indianapolis archdiocese’s attempt to target transgender young people rather than create safe and accepting environments for them is shameful and dangerous,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
“Research shows transgender youth face a higher risk of suicide from just this kind of rejection and refusal to see their authentic identity,” Ellis continued. “To codify this rejection further isolates and threatens the very young people in need of love and protection.”
“Shelly’s Voice Advocacy is frightened and dismayed by the new Archdiocesan policy which denies the trans community their dignity and rights,” Shelly’s Voice said in a statement. “This policy advises schools to not allow transgender students to enroll, and advocates for ‘trained’ professionals to help adolescents who are confused about their gender identity by defining ‘issues of self identity’ in accordance with the Catholic teaching.”
Indianapolis PFLAG added its voice to the list of critics of the archdiocese.
“To exclude a group of students from receiving an education because of who they are and how they identify does a terrible disservice to this group of already marginalized youth,” Jan Nichols, president of Indianapolis PFLAG, said in a statement. “The Archdiocese should be lifting these students up, not casting them aside.”
Nichols continued: “As parents and allies of LGBTQ young people, we know all too well the difficulties that transgender students often face. Indianapolis PFLAG will do all we can to help these students and their families receive the quality education they deserve.”
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