In the ongoing culture war that pits progressives against those holding onto traditional values, it can almost be expected that when the Catholic Church or any part of it asserts its teaching on sexuality and sexual identity, Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” statement of 2014 will be invoked.
The Vatican, according to the Times, has been sending “mixed messages” on whether or not it accepts a “new morality” that approves of same-sex marriage and “gender transition.”
But the new policy in Worcester, approved in late June by Bishop Robert J. McManus and to be put into effect by all 21 Catholic schools in the diocese this fall, goes further in quoting Pope Francis.
The guidelines state that students “may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events.” Students are expected to “conduct themselves at school in a manner consistent with their biological sex,” it says. “School practice shall consider the gender of all students as being consistent with their biological sex, including, but not limited to, the following: participation in school athletics; school-sponsored dances; dress and uniform policies; the use of changing facilities, showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms (with rare exceptions only on a limited, case-by-case basis, to be determined by the principal of the school); titles, names, and pronouns; and official school documents.”
Citing a papal document
Pope Francis has already backed up this vision. In his apostolic exhortation of 2016, Amoris Laetitia, the Pope noted that “biological sex and the sociocultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated,” and that although we must always be “understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life,” that does not require us to “accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”
In fact, the Pope puts the gender issue within the greater matter of respect for creation and the environment.
The Pope stressed that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,” according to Amoris Laetitia, so that “we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator.”
“As Pope Francis notes, we must always respect the sacred dignity of each individual person, but that does not mean the Church must accept the confused notions of secular gender ideology,” the Worcester Diocese noted. “Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the importance of a proper understanding of our sexuality, warning of the challenge 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.’”
The policy also points out that Roman Catholic Canon Law states that “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.”
Worcester’s new policy also prohibits bullying, harassment, or threats or acts of violence against any student based on that student’s perceived sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. But, it stipulates, diplomas, transcripts, school records, and any other official documents of the school “shall be issued in conformity with the student’s biological sex as based upon physical differences at birth and at the time of the student’s enrollment.”
Gender ideology is in fact one of the issues that Pope Francis has spoken about most strongly, saying, for example, that it defies our human vocation. He sees the transgender movements as part of “ideological colonization” and says it is one of the “most dangerous.”
“I always distinguish between pastoral ministry toward people who have a diverse sexual orientation and the ideology of gender. They are two different things. Gender ideology, right now, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations. It goes beyond sexuality.
So the judging comment?
While Church-based media (and the Pope himself) have often given the context of the Pope’s famous “Who am I to judge” remark, that obviously still hasn’t stopped those who want to use it to defend their own positions.