Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield IL has issued a directive entitled PASTORAL GUIDE: Regarding Policy §650 Gender Identity, which became binding throughout the diocese and its institutions on January 13, 2020:
It is the policy of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois that all Catholic agencies, including parishes, schools, institutions, departments, or other entities, shall respect the biological sex with which a person is born and shall apply all policies and procedures in relation to that person according to that person’s biological sex at birth.
We share below some of the more salient excerpts from the Pastoral Guide. Only seven pages long, it can be read in its entirety here.
If you wish to communicate your concerns to Bishop Paprocki on this matter—whether you are Catholic, any other kind of Christian, not Christian, LGBTQ, or an ally—the contact information for phoning, faxing, emailing, and an online contact form can be found on the diocesan website.
See “Transgenderism” Isn’t a Thing for the perspective of an Orthodox father, Transgender & Catholic: A Deacon’s Personal Account of Parenting a Transgender Child for the perspective of a Roman Catholic father, and Priest to Mother, “Better Your Transgender Child Were Dead” for the perspective of an Orthodox mother on loving and supporting their transgender children.
Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition, in which a biological male or female believes he or she is the opposite gender. It is of paramount importance to handle such situations with gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern. All forms of discrimination and harsh treatment must be strongly resisted and corrected. It is also important to recognize the difficulties parents and families face when a child or family member is dealing with gender dysphoria. This disorder affects the entire family. In a culture that promotes a false and overly sentimentalized conception of love, many families of an adult or child with gender dysphoria will feel a sense of obligation to support their loved one in “whatever is going to make them happy.” Family members likely wrestle with a sense of confusion, guilt, and uncertainty over how best to support their loved one; and they face pressure, either directly or indirectly, from the prevailing culture to celebrate and reinforce their loved one’s gender dysphoria and feel compelled to “solve” the problem by surgically and hormonally changing the biological sex of the affected person. Such treatments, especially for children, are invasive and disruptive physically, chemically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.
For the parents of a child who is dealing with this condition, the first priority must be to assist the child in this difficult situation. Fueling the confusion that families face in these circumstances is not merciful. For the sake of the family and the loved one, it is imperative to be clear on the reality of human biology as a gift from God that we cannot change. In this regard, Pope Francis has questioned whether “the so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution”
With this teaching in mind, gender dysphoria can be reasonably compared to anorexia. Each is a condition in which a person, for a complex set of reasons, has a self-perception of his or her physical biology that is dislocated from reality. Just as it would be pastorally reckless to provide weight-loss resources to a visibly gaunt anorexic who thinks she is overweight, it is equally reckless to encourage someone with gender dysphoria to undergo hormone treatment and/or genital mutilation.
None the less, the presentation of this truth must be made with love, compassion, and patience. As the policy itself states, our schools, parishes and other institutions embrace with compassion those families and individuals with gender dysphoria and patiently supports them in their journey. However, it must be clear that our schools and Church institutions (including sacramental records and school records) will refer to such persons with the gender pronouns, along with bathroom and locker room use and sports activities that acknowledge their God-given biology. Some families may not be willing to agree with this approach, and we need to respect their freedom; but they must likewise respect the Church’s duty to adhere to revealed truth if they are to participate actively and fully in our faith community, especially our Catholic schools.
The Church teaches that our identities as male and female are part of God’s good design in Creation, that our bodies and sexual identities are gifts from God, and that we should accept and care for our bodies as they were created. A person cannot change his or her gender. A person should accept and seek to live in conformity with his or her sexual identity as determined at birth. The human person is a body-soul union, and the body –created male or female – is a constitutive aspect of the human person. Therefore, the Catholic Church teaches that the removal or destruction of healthy sexual and reproductive organs is a type of mutilation and intrinsically evil. Procedures, surgeries, and therapies designed to assist a person in “transitioning” his or her gender are morally prohibited.
While the Church has a duty to teach the truth about the human person (anthropology) and human sexuality, and incorporate this teaching into her policies and procedures, the Church has compassion and empathy toward all her members who suffer from confusion about their identity, including their sexual or gender identity.
c) Examples of this policy in practice include the following:
1. All persons will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
2. All correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the subject person’s biological sex;
3. All persons will use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex while on Diocesan or Parish property.
d) The Diocese also supports and encourages counseling for those who suffer from or are diagnosed with gender dysphoria by licensed counselors or other medical professionals who hold a correct Christian anthropology of the human person and who understand and adhere to Catholic teaching.
e) While the Catholic Church does not support transgender therapies and/or surgeries that assist a person in “transitioning” his or her gender, the Church recognizes that appropriate medical care may be necessary in rare cases of true genetic or physical anomalies, such as hermaphroditism or intersex.
1. All employees and volunteers will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
2. All employee or volunteer correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the employee’s or volunteer’s biological sex;
3. All employees and volunteers will use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex while on Diocesan or Parish property.
b) Violation of this policy by any employee may include immediate corrective action, suspension, and possible termination of employment.
c) Violation of this policy by any volunteer may include immediate corrective action, suspension, and possible termination of volunteer status.
Students [in Catholic schools] shall conduct themselves in accord with their biological sex at all times.
a) A student diagnosed with gender dysphoria should not be denied admission to a Catholic school as long as the student and his or her parents agree that the child will abide by the Family School Agreement and this policy.
b) Respectful, critical questioning of Catholic teaching in the classroom is encouraged as long as its intent is to help the student progress toward greater awareness and understanding.
c) Examples of this policy in practice include the following:
1. All students and their parents will be addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex;
2. All school correspondence, documents, and records will reflect the student or parent’s biological sex;
3. Students will participate in competitive athletics in accord with their biological sex;
4. Catholic schools will not allow, or otherwise cooperate in, the administration of puberty-blocking or cross-sex hormones on school property;
5. All students will use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex. Students who have been clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, however, may request the use of a single-person, unisex facility. Such requests will be assessed on an individual basis by the appropriate school administrator.
d) A student of any Catholic school who insists, or whose parents insist, on open hostility toward, or defiance of, Church teaching, or who otherwise intentionally violate this policy, may be expelled from the school pursuant to this policy and the provisions of BK3§404.1.3.
See the following sections in Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s Archives 2017-19 and/or Archives 2020: Anglican Church and Same-Sex Marriage, Bridging Voices, Fifty Years after Stonewall, Sexuality and Gender, and Warwick Files.
Orthodoxy in Dialogue seeks to promote the free exchange of ideas by offering a wide range of perspectives on an unlimited variety of topics. Our decision to publish implies neither our agreement nor disagreement with an author, in whole or in part.
Join the conversation on Facebook and/or Twitter, or in an article of your own or a letter to the editors.
Sign up for email notifications in the upper right column of this page.
Click Here to Become a Monthly, Occasional, or One-Time Supporter of Orthodoxy in Dialogue!