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Archdiocese issues guidelines on gender issues


Katya Rekina I Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 01/21/22

Milwaukee Church must use personal pronouns based on person's biological sex.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has issued a policy statement governing matters of gender on church and Catholic school property. 

“As a general rule, in all interactions and policies, parishes, organizations, and institutions are to recognize only a person’s biological sex,” the archdiocese says. “This policy applies, but is not limited to, all Church employees, personnel, volunteers, and those entrusted to the care of the Church, including all contracted vendors when they are on-site and may have contact with those entrusted to the care of the Church.”

The policy affects the use of personal pronouns, bathrooms and locker rooms, attire, athletics and extra-curricular activities, the use of gender-related medication, and single-sex schools, buildings, and other programs and institutions. 

Specifically, it directs that any parochial, organizational, or institutional documentation which requires the designation of a person’s sex is to reflect that person’s biological sex. “No person may designate a ‘preferred pronoun’ in speech or in writing, nor are parishes, organizations, or institutions to permit such a designation,” it says. “Permitting the designation of a preferred pronoun, while often intended as an act of charity, instead promotes an acceptance of the separability of biological sex and ‘gender’ and thus opposes the truth of our sexual unity.”

Grounded in Catholic teaching

The new policy is accompanied by an explanation of the theological grounding behind it. The human person is a body formed by a soul, it says, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae. “The body, it says, quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus caritas est is a ‘vital expression of our whole being.’” It affirms that one’s biological sex, expressed by the body, “is a gift from God and is unchangeable.”

“It cannot be changed because it is bestowed by God as a gift and as a calling,” the document says. “Biological sex is a gift because in the very act of creation, God bestows upon each human person a biological sex — ’Male and female he created them’ — two sexes that are different, equal, and complementary. It is a calling because we work out our salvation via our masculinity or femininity. In other words, human persons do not experience the freedom and joy of salvation despite their biological sex, but only in it and through it.”

The document quotes Pope Francis in supporting the statement that respect for creation is also a respect for one’s biological sex. 

“It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings,” Francis wrote in his encyclical Laudato si. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it, and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek ‘to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.’”

Other aspects of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s new policy include the following:

  • All persons must use the bathroom or locker room which matches their biological sex.
  • All persons are to present themselves in a manner consistent with their God-given dignity. Where a dress code or uniform exists, all persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex.
  • Participation in parish, school, and extra-curricular activities must be conformed with the biological sex of the participant. Some sports and activities may be open to the participation of individuals of both sexes.
  • Admission to single-sex programs, including but not limited to single-sex schools, camps, and retreats, is restricted to persons of the designated biological sex. Dormitories or other single-sex buildings are restricted to persons of the designated biological sex.
  • No person is permitted to have on-site or to distribute any medications for the purpose of gender reassignment. Also, students and those entrusted to the care of the Church are not permitted to take “puberty blockers,” even if self-administered, on parish or school property, with the purpose of a potential or actual “gender reassignment.”
  • Those entrusted to the care of the Church who express a tension between their biological sex and their “gender” and others directly affected by this tension (parents, guardians, etc.) should be directed to appropriate ministers and counselors who will help the person in a manner that is in accord with the directives and teachings of the Church. 
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