While the coronavirus pandemic has proven challenging for schools and parents in educating children, it…
Editorial: Catholic schools need policies on human sexuality
The Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, faced significant backlash last week when it announced a policy on human sexuality, saying among other things, that students must comport themselves according to their biological sex. A similar outcry was raised the same week against the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, following the release of a similar policy on human sexuality.
In both dioceses, some parents and teachers hailed the policies for offering clear, concise presentations of Catholic teaching. Deacon Timothy O’Neill, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha, told the Omaha World-Herald that administrators were favorable toward the new policy.
But not everyone saw it that way. In Omaha, schools that belong to religious institutes and are thus not directly under archdiocesan direction distanced themselves from the policy. The administrators of these schools cited concerns that introducing the new policy to the student handbooks of their respective schools after they had already been finalized for the school year would be problematic. In Sioux Falls, one parent condemned the policy as “frightening and dangerous” and “bigoted.”
The question raised by some in the face of any such proposed policy on human sexuality is: Why is a policy on human sexuality necessary? Doesn’t codifying school policy simply reduce Catholic institutions to battlegrounds in an acrimonious political culture war?
These questions are all the more important because they are not merely speculative; they are questions of loving well. How do I best love a person experiencing gender dysphoria? How will the Church respond? The situation is particularly urgent because many feel that the Church is not responding or that our tradition lacks the resources to respond in charity and truth.
The question of human sexuality matters because it’s about giving people back their lives, about revealing to them their hearts. The truth about human sexuality is an ultimate truth. It cannot be contested, rejected, twisted or altered. To obfuscate or claim otherwise only injures hearts rather than heals them.
Christians have a fundamentally different worldview than our secular contemporaries. Catholic anthropology is incompatible with present-day gender ideology. We believe that God created human beings male and female. Moreover, we believe that men and women were created in the image and likeness of our Creator and that our fundamental destiny is to live out that image of love. Our destiny, no less than our physical body, is not something we invent or fashion. We were created; we receive our bodies, our very selves, as gifts given by God.
This is the truth of the Gospel. It is the truth that we owe our children. Diocesan policies offer the opportunity for the Church to directly address that truth. They offer the chance to clarify that no student experiencing gender dysphoria should ever be bullied or discriminated against. Policies can and should insist that students experiencing gender dysphoria should be listened to, accompanied and loved. Well-written policies offer the chance for us to undertake our mission and offer real compassion; to insist that our children were made by and for God.
Moreover, clear diocesan policies offer the chance for the Church to insist on the rights of parents to aid their children when the most intimate and personal questions about human sexuality arise. Increasingly, in public schools nationwide, parents are not notified if their child says they have begun to experience gender dysphoria. In fact, many school district policies prohibit teachers from notifying parents about social, physical or emotional struggles their children face with respect to identity or sexuality.
Catholic schools owe it to their students and the parents of their students to prepare transparent policies that they can consistently administer. Well-crafted policies will insist on using Christian language so as not to muddy the waters of debate by adopting loaded ideological terms. Teachers — many of whom may be only recently arriving in Catholic schools — need clear policies to form their own classroom approach in order for them to be effective evangelical guides for their students.
Not every heart will welcome policies on human sexuality that promote a Catholic understanding of the human person. But some will. A Pew research survey released this June revealed that 60% of U.S. adults believe that a person’s identity as a man or woman is determined by sex at birth, up from 54% just five years ago. Among Catholics, that number has risen from 52% in 2021 to 62% in 2022. These statistics are encouraging, because proposing the truth of human sexuality is not about winning a political debate but about giving young people a chance to be liberated by the Gospel.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Father Patrick Briscoe, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young