Distributive policy

Archdiocese of Milwaukee targets trans people in sweeping new policy

A person holds a “Trans” banner in this photo illustration. (CNS/Reuters/Sergio Perez)

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has released a sweeping new policy for people who do not identify with their biological sex, stating that parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations in Wisconsin’s largest city must require people to use bathrooms associated with their birth sex.

Additionally, new archdiocesan rules state that a person’s biological sex dictates the dress codes they follow, that drugs like “puberty blockers” are prohibited on church property, and that transgender people and their families should be referred to ministers and advisers who can provide support. “in accordance with the directives and teachings of the Church”.

The policy also prohibits the use of preferred pronouns, a now fairly common practice in which people identify in advance how they wish to be addressed by others.

The Milwaukee Rules are the latest in a series of such regulations issued over the past two years by nearly a dozen dioceses across the United States. While their supporters say the policies are necessary safeguards, others have called them anti-transgender, “insensitive” and likely to push more people out of the church.

“My first reaction was fear,” the father said. Greg Greiten, pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Milwaukee, told NCR about the new policy. “That we no longer listen to the LGBTQ population, or the stories and experiences of the LGBTQ community.”

The lives of transgender people “have become a lightning rod for people to declare certain ideological allegiances,” said Craig Ford, a professor of theology who studies sex and gender at St. Norbert College, in De Pere, Wisconsin, “and I now think it’s sort of spilling over into a Catholic discussion.”

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee guidelines, titled “Catechesis and Policy on Issues Concerning Gender Theory,” were released Jan. 18. They were compiled at the request of Archbishop Jerome Listecki by an ad hoc committee of the Archdiocesan Health and Bioethics Committee, according to an email Listecki wrote to priests announcing the new policies.

The ad hoc committee was led by Fr. Javier Bustos, vicar general of the archdiocese and delegate for health and bioethics, and other members had backgrounds in theology, education and psychiatry, according to the e -mail.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee did not respond to NCR’s request for comment on the policy.

The guidelines, Listecki wrote in his email, apply to all church employees, staff, volunteers, contracted vendors “and those in the care of the Church.”

Explaining his reasoning for the guidelines, Listecki wrote that each age and era presents itself with particular challenges and opportunities, and that the current period poses “the need and the gift to share the fundamental principles of a Christian anthropology of basis, which includes every man and woman. as made in the image and likeness of God, imbued with dignity and gifted as man and woman.”

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee speaks during a November 16, 2021 session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.  (SNC/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee speaks during a November 16, 2021 session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore. (SNC/Bob Roller)

The four-page document summarizes a selection of church teachings that address issues of personality, biological sex and gender. The guidelines state that a person’s biological sex is a gift from God that is “immutable” and “inseparable” from a person’s sex.

“If anyone feels a tension between biological sex and ‘gender’, they should know that this inner conflict is not a sin in itself, but rather reflects ‘the larger disharmony caused by original sin’ and results often from the residue of social ills and cultural distortions of what constitutes ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’,” the guidelines state.

The document insists that transgender people should not be bullied “and treated with respect and charity”, while adding that such charity “must be understood, upheld and practiced in the light of truth”.

The guidelines also outline seven policies that all parishes, schools, and archdiocesan organizations must follow. “As a general rule,” he states, “in all interactions and policies, parishes, organizations and institutions should only recognize a person’s biological sex.”

Regarding preferred pronouns, the Archdiocese said they are not permitted in any document or by any person when speaking or writing.

“Allowing the designation of a preferred pronoun, while often intended as an act of charity, rather promotes acceptance of the separability of biological sex and ‘gender’ and thus opposes the truth of our sexual unity”, indicate the instructions.

The designation of bathroom use by biological sex also extends to changing rooms, although single-use bathrooms are permitted for use by anyone.

The policies also prohibit the use or distribution on church or school property of any drugs used in sex reassignment, including so-called “puberty blockers” that temporarily suppress the release of sex. hormones like testosterone or estrogen during adolescence.

The Archdiocese has scheduled a presentation for all clergy on the new guidelines for Feb. 15 at the Marie Mère de l’Eglise Pastoral Center.

Prof. Greg Greiten, photographed in May 2017 (photo provided)

Prof. Greg Greiten, photographed in May 2017 (photo provided)

Greiten told NCR that some fellow priests he has spoken with are “stunned” and he has heard from other Catholics who are “extremely upset.”

In 2017, Greiten shared with his parish that he was a gay, celibate priest. He said that as a young gay man he felt separated and ignored by the church, and he now fears the archdiocese’s new policies will only spread that feeling among LGBTQ people today.

“My biggest fear is that by not listening we will sexually traumatize another generation,” he said.

Over the past two years, more than half a dozen dioceses have issued similar guidelines on gender issues. They include the Archdioceses of Indianapolis and St. Louis, the Dioceses of Springfield, Illinois; Lansing, Michigan; Arlington, Virginia; and Marquette, Wisconsin. The Minnesota bishops also released a joint document.

The crushing of gender-focused policies follows the publication in 2019 of a text by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education that criticized modern gender theory. Titled “Male and Female He Created Them” and presented as an aid to Catholic teachers and parents, the text declared that the view of gender existing along a spectrum was “nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and desires”. “

Among the criticisms the document drew was that it had not consulted anyone within the transgender community – a failure that the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, admitted to several months after it was published. .

A similar lack of consultation with transgender and gender-nonconforming Catholics seems apparent in the suite of US bishops’ policies, including Milwaukee’s latest, said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the New Ways ministry.

“And I think the biggest problem with these guidelines is that they don’t show any concern for a human person who has a desire to change gender,” he said.

Milwaukee’s gender guidelines have drawn heated reactions on social media.

One came from Fr. Pauliste. Stuart Wilson-Smith, associate pastor in Chicago, who tweeted that the policy represented “a ruthless, anti-intellectual, anti-human trash fire of a document unworthy of any association with the name of our Lord and brother”.

In an email, Wilson-Smith told NCR that the omission from the document of terms such as “trans” or “non-binary” discredited his message “from the start.” He added that a number of statements in the policy were “either logically fragile or pastorally damaging”, such as its statement that people experiencing “tension” between their biological sex and their gender should seek harmony between two by “turning to Christ and to all that the Church provides.”

“Piety has its place – I love our faith, our devotions and our rituals – but no one has been well liked by condescending platitude, and I don’t understand why we expect LGBTQ+ people to settle for it “, did he declare.

Several people who spoke with NCR criticized the restriction on the use of preferred pronouns.

Ford said that for many transgender people, it helps express who they are and rejects their use of “miss[es] the point of having a real human connection.”

Wilson-Smith said, “There is no evidence here of listening to anything as simple as how marginalized individuals and communities prefer to be addressed.”

Besides the lack of consultation with transgender people, DeBernardo said the document also lacked evidence that the ad hoc committee had spoken with medical professionals or reviewed the scientific literature on the issue.

He added that decisions about names and pronouns and other areas covered in archdiocesan guidelines are best left to schools and individual parishes.

“Our church is not unique, and especially on something as personal and individual as someone’s gender identity,” DeBernardo said.

Ford said the guidelines as a whole continue a trend in the church to “scapegoat” transgender people and other members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community, and oppose Pope Francis’ call to a culture of encounter.

As well as increasingly polarizing the pews, he said it is also driving people out of the church, especially young adults who disagree with church positions on sexuality and gender. kind.

“If we let this polarization completely determine the reality of our church, you’re just going to have a fragmented church that replicates the fragmentation of our society. And that doesn’t promise any kind of salvation or redemption or love,” he said. he declares.

Greiten added, “We need to have the meet. Let’s sit down and talk about these issues. … Ignoring people is going to cause more shame and trauma and abuse in their lives.”