Thursday, September 08, 2022

Omaha archdiocese to delay and revise new gender identity policy

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The Archdiocese of Omaha will delay the implementation of a new policy for Catholic schools on gender identity and gender dysphoria and will incorporate feedback from parents and educators to promulgate a new policy for the 2023–24 school year, according to a letter to parents from Archbishop George Lucas. 

In the Aug. 31 letter, shared by local news station WOWT, Lucas wrote that the policy, which he had issued just days before, would be delayed and revised following “feedback and questions from school administrators and members of school communities.” 

“We will use feedback to draft revised norms that will be more clearly focused and will not compromise the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church,” Lucas wrote, saying that a revised policy would be released by the end of 2022. 

Under the Aug. 25 policy — which was to come into effect Jan. 1, 2023 — all students, parents, guardians, employees, and volunteers would have been required to “act toward a person in accordance with his or her biological sex at birth.” 

Students would have been required to use bathrooms and locker rooms “that correspond with their biological sex” and would not have been permitted to attend school-sponsored dances with a date of the same sex. In addition, students’ eligibility to participate in sports would have been based on their biological sex. Under the guidelines, failure to abide by the policy could result in possible termination for employees and possible dismissal for the student.

The policy would not have denied school admission to those experiencing gender dysphoria, as long as the student and parents agreed to abide by school policies. The policy prohibited bullying or discrimination against students who experience gender dysphoria and referred to the school’s policy for bullying and harassment for such cases. 

The policy also covered parents and prospective students. If a parent “resists the school’s instruction to the child in the Catholic tenets respecting the human person and human sexuality,” their child could be dismissed or refused enrollment. The policy said that a student can be dismissed or refused enrollment if the student’s expression of gender, sexual identity, or sexuality should cause confusion, disrupt the educational integrity of the Catholic education program, or cause scandal.”

Lucas noted in his letter that Catholic schools serve as an extension of the Church’s mission to bring people to Jesus Christ, and if parents ask the school to cooperate in situations that do not comport with God’s plan for gender, “the school-parent partnership suffers, thus requiring discernment about the appropriateness of the family’s place in the school.”

“In our schools, we communicate to our students the love of God in Jesus Christ. We want them to be confident that God loves them as they are and that he offers them gifts so they can grow. Growing up is challenging, and we try to communicate the presence and the mercy of Jesus, especially at challenging moments,” he wrote.

“The thought that gender can be a matter of personal choice threatens the well-being of children and young people. It threatens the relationship between parents and their children established by God. It is a rejection of the place of God as the author of life and the object of true worship, as expressed in the First Commandment. It is incompatible with our Catholic faith and the mission of Jesus,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the archdiocese reiterated that the new policy would continue to affirm the Church’s teachings on gender, even after revisions. 

“It will come back substantially the same policy. It will still be aligned with Church teachings,” Deacon Tim McNeil said in an interview with KETV Sept. 7. 

At least three Omaha-area Catholic schools run by religious orders — Creighton Prep, Duchesne Academy, and Marian High School — told the Omaha World-Herald that they do not plan to implement similar policies on gender. 

Omaha is one of several U.S. dioceses in recent years to issue guidance related to gender theory based on the Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them,” which says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and women, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.

Several other dioceses throughout the country, including Milwaukee and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have implemented similar policies on gender dysphoria.

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