Saturday, September 30, 2023

Some Catholic schools distance themselves from Diocese of Cleveland’s sexuality policy

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

Some Catholic schools that are independent of the Diocese of Cleveland appear to be distancing themselves from a new gender policy that has angered many in the LGBTQ community.

In letters and emails to parents and staff, the leaders of some schools run by religious orders say they will continue to offer compassion and counsel to all students at a sensitive and formative time in the lives of youths.

The diocese’s policy bars gender expression through pronouns and bans same-sex couples at events, such as dances. It also requires church or school staff members to tell the parents of a child who might be transgender. The directive affects 79 elementary schools and five high schools.

Supporters of the policy argue that it aligns with Catholic teachings that acting on same-sex attraction and identifying outside of one’s God-given biological sex is a sin.

Opponents say it is political, hateful and could cause serious harm to members of the LGBTQ community, especially kids. and The Plain Dealer obtained letters and notices sent to faculty, staff and students from several independent Catholic high schools regarding the diocese’s directive. Because the schools are operated by religious orders, they do not fall under the diocese. Most of the schools did not respond to inquiries. The diocese did not comment.

It had said in an earlier statement that the policy is rooted in scripture and church teachings.

At Magnificat High School, which is run by the Sisters of Humility of Mary, alumnae at the all-girls school in Rocky River created an online petition that urged administrators to “speak out about the potential consequences” from the policy.

The school’s president, Moira Clark, said in an email to students and parents that Magnificat values its Catholic identity and plans to continue to work toward a welcoming community.

“In a time when our adolescent youth, and young women in particular, are facing mental health crises, we remain deeply concerned about the heightened risk of mental health challenges — including depression, self-harm, and suicide — faced especially by LGBTQ youth, and we will continue to accompany them, to stand with them and accept them with love, respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” Clark wrote.

St. Edward High School President KC McKenna said in an email that the school was neither aware of the diocese’s policy nor consulted about it. McKenna referenced the constitutions from the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious order that operates the private school in Lakewood.

“We will always operate in the best interest of our students and do not plan to make any changes to the pastoral ways in which we support LGBTQ+ students at St. Edward High School because of this policy,” McKenna wrote.

The Rev. Raymond Guiao is the president of St. Ignatius High School, the Cleveland school run by the Jesuits. In an email to faculty and staff, he said the school remains “committed to the Jesuit value of cura personalis – ‘care for our students.’”

“While questions about sexuality and gender can be complex in the context of Catholic teaching, it is our duty as a Catholic school in the Ignatian tradition to meet anyone who has these questions with pastoral care and sensitivity that embodies God’s unsurpassing love for each person,” Guiao wrote. “It is our mission to be a community of faith for all people.”

In Cuyahoga Falls, Walsh Jesuit High School administrators have a team of people reviewing the diocese’s policy, said Anthony Burke, a spokesman for the school.

Since the guidelines were implemented after the start of the academic year, Burke said the school will consider the diocesan guidelines when crafting the handbook and policies for next year.

“As a Catholic school, we affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church, and, as a Christ-centered community, we value inclusion and strive to be a community of faith for all people,” Burke said in an email to and The Plain Dealer. “A central truth of our faith is to care for everyone with sensitivity that embodies God’s limitless love for each person, and that every single human being is of limitless value because they are created in the image and likeness of God.”

The leaders of St. Joseph Academy, including President Kathryn Purcell and Principal Jeff Sutliff, emailed families and staff, saying the Cleveland all-girls’ school plans to follow the guidance of the Congregation of St. Joseph and not the policy of the diocese on LGBTQ issues.

The Congregation of St. Joseph sponsors the school.

“In a world where many young people feel marginalized and misunderstood, we seek to create a community where every student feels that she belongs and is valued for her unique gifts,” the email said.

Sister Pat Kozak of the Congregation of St. Joseph said she thinks it is important to say that she fully supports the congregation’s statement regarding the LGBTQ community.

“We act in solidarity with all those who are marginalized,” the congregation’s website says. “We are called by God to love one another, and with love comes compassion, respect and sensitivity for others. As a congregation, we are committed to doing the work needed to be allies and to help LGBTQ+ individuals find welcome in our church, communities and in our world.”