Catholic School Apologizes to, Accommodates Transgender Student

Lily Madigan

A Catholic school which had suspended a transgender student for wearing a uniform consistent with her gender has apologized and implemented new accommodations.

St. Simon Stock Catholic School in Kent, England, apologized to student Lily Madigan. The school said in a letter that she may wear a female uniform and use female restrooms and locker rooms, reported the Daily Mail.

Madigan was sent home and threatened with suspension in March for wearing the “wrong uniform,” having worn a female uniform to school as part of her transition. School officials told the student she would not only be forced to wear a male uniform, but would have to use male restrooms and be called by her legal name, Liam. Madigan said wearing a female-appropriate uniform as part of her transition “made me feel so happy, until I was sent home,” and told Buzzfeed:

” ‘It made me feel that something was wrong with me. You think maybe you’re the problem. It’s alienating. You think school is supposed to be there for you and when that happens it breaks your trust.’ “

A meeting with Madigan, wearing the male uniform, her mother, and school officials was unsuccessful at resolving the situation. She was presented with, in her words, “an ultimatum” from the school which told her to either comply with their policies or leave. Unable to leave, Madigan wore a male uniform for several weeks which caused her depression to worsen and energy to weaken.

Responding to the school’s decision, Madigan organized a petition and received support from more than 200 classmates. That petition stated, in part:

” ‘Transgender students make up some of the most vulnerable students in schools. . . Changing these policies wouldn’t affect other students but not doing so clearly and greatly affects trans students.

“The school already has an equality and diversity policy (created in response to the equality act 2010) so treating us equality should be a no issue. . .This is about trans people presenting how they feel they should be, how they want people to see them, to recognise themselves when they catch their reflection.”

Madigan also retained a lawyer who reminded school officials of the UK’s Human Rights Act and 2010 Equality Act, which says no one may be discriminated against “because of their gender reassignment as a transsexual.” The Act has over authority over the Catholic school because it is state-funded, and it seems efforts by the law firm which took the case pro-bono were key to the reversal.

In addition to the apology and accommodations for Madigan, school staff will receive training on transgender issues. St. Simon Stock’s spokesperson said supporting trans students “is an important issue for us, as for schools up and down the country.” They continued:

” ‘As an inclusive, Catholic academy, we are confident that the attention we have given to transgender, including carefully listening to students, has been invaluable in us going even further to make sure all students are happy and comfortable, so that they can be as successful as possible.’ “

Madigan was pleased with the school’s decision, but said she “felt it was something I shouldn’t have had to fight so hard for, if at all” and further:

” ‘I’m encouraged in that I’ve seen what I’m capable of achieving and I’m proud, but I’m not encouraged about the school’s attitude to equality.’ “

It is unfortunate when politics about school uniforms and gendered spaces impair Catholic education from enacting its true mission, which is the formation and flourishing of its students. Lily’s initially painful story is reminiscent of other extreme decisions here in the U.S. In the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, a new policy threatens LGBT students with expulsion for coming out.  And earlier this year in Pennsylvania, a Catholic high school ejected a lesbian student  from prom because she wore a suit.

Policies are about matters such as wearing pants or a skirt are only important to the degree in which they harm students. Nothing in church teaching mandates clothing along a gender binary, and church teaching would actually affirm helping students become their authentic selves. Efforts to police gender are becoming outdated, and Catholic schools should give up these attempts to suppress the signs of the times in favor of supporting every student.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 22, 2016

Catholic and LGBT Advocates Give Mixed Reactions to Pope Francis’ Remarks

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2016

Pope Francis’ latest comments on LGBT issues, in which he both called for more competent and case-by-case pastoral care for transgender people and said there was a “world war to destroy marriage,” have provoked strong reactions. Below, Bondings 2.0 features reactions from Catholics and LGBT advocates. You can read a report on the papal remarks by clicking here, and you can find New Ways Ministry’s response by clicking here.

Aoife Assumpta Hart

Aoife Assumpta Hart, a transsexual Catholic woman who is herself critical of “gender theory,” had been worried the Vatican would condemn trans identities and bar people from the Sacraments. But in view of the pope’s remarks, Hart wrote on her blog, Aoifeschatology:

“[My] canonical fate had not been foreclosed, and my Church was developing a more nuanced approach, one of encounter rather than dismissal… I could remain in the church I truly love and consider my life’s greatest treasure — being Catholic. Pope Francis offered to walk with me, not against me…” And in the Pope’s most recent comments — I read several moments of affirmation that enriches my belief that, with time, and patience and cooperation (from trans and non-trans faithful)… there still remains the Christian compromise of a merciful, rational, common ground for trans inclusion.”

James Martin cropped
Fr. James Martin

Fr. James Martin, SJ said in a Facebook Live conversation (see video below) on the America Magazine page:

“It seems like in his public pronouncements he’s still trying to come to understand it. One wonders who is speaking to him about this. I mean is he speaking to a lot of parents of transgender or gay children, or is he just hearing things anecdotally… It’s a struggle for him. I don’t think, though, that it’s a doctrinal struggle because I think that the main thing that he is recommending and encouraging priests and pastoral workers and everyone who works with the church to do is this accompaniment.”

Fr. Martin also cautioned against interpreting the pope’s remarks through only a Western lens where LGBT acceptance is increasingly common, commenting:

“Imagine reading this [in the Global South] and even parts of Europe where a bishop or a priest may be antipathetic to LGBT people, imagine reading this, this is quite a challenge… I think these are very big steps forward as far as I know.”

Finally, Fr. Martin saw Pope Francis’ remarks as validating LGBT ministries already being undertaken by Catholics:

“For people who are working with LGBT people, first to sort of take this as a kind of encouragement for your work against people who are saying that’s not an appropriate ministry or that’s not a real ministry or that’s not something you should be doing. And to continue this culture of encounter and accompaniment…I think [Pope Francis] has been very encouraging to people who do LGBT outreach.”


[Note: New Ways Ministry is awarding Fr. Martin its Bridge Building Award for his efforts to promote understanding and reconciliation in the church. If you are interested in attending or honoring Fr. Martin, more details are available here.]

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA said in a statement:

“Our Church leaders need to abandon the biological determinism that they have adopted, and accept that God’s imagination and love are greater than ours. We need our Shepherds to provide appropriate support, care, and guidance, rather than condemnation. We agree with Pope Francis that marriage is a ‘beautiful thing.’ LGBTQ people and allies join Church leaders in affirming marriage.”

Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr.

Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr. of the National LGBTQ Task Force called on Pope Francis to educate himself further, as reported by The Washington Blade:

“[M]illions of people are deeply hurt by what Pope Francis has said about transgender and gender non-conforming people, which reveals a profound lack of knowledge and empathy… We urge the pontiff to educate himself about the realities of transgender people’s lives and to welcome and affirm transgender and gender non-conforming people rather than reject and dehumanize them.”

In a statement from the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics,  Ruby Almeida, Co-Chair, said:

Ruby Almeida

“Pope Francis has softened his words when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. Nevertheless, in what he says, the Pope does reveals a level of  prejudice and a level of misunderstanding of the life experiences of LGBTI persons. GNRC would be most happy to start a dialogue with the Pope to enable  him to get a more holistic understanding of our community’s spiritual and pastoral needs.”

Kevin Clarke of America Magazine questioned how much further the pope could go on LGBT issues, saying:

Kevin Clarke

“It seems like the pope wants to have it all. There’s a point where you can only talk about outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a pastoral requirement, a dictate of pastoral life, and then fully embracing LGBT people in the manner their hoping for. And I don’t know how much further along he can go on this path without getting into doctrinal issues and, frankly, disappointing people.”

Pope Francis’ treatment of LGBT issues remains muddled, and so it is not surprising that Catholic and LGBT advocates have responded both positively and negatively.

What do you think? Are these latest comments from the pope positive steps for LGBT Catholics or is any good overshadowed by the pope’s criticisms? You can leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

Former Nuns Celebrate Civil Union in Italy, as Ousted Priest Marks Anniversary of Coming Out

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 3, 2016

Two women in Italy who had formerly been in religious life celebrated their civil union last week,  just about a year after a priest working in the Vatican  publicly came out as gay.

screen-shot-2016-01-20-at-6-01-42-pmFederica and Isabel celebrated their civil union in the city hall of Pinerolo, where they live, reported The Guardian. The ceremony was held a day early because “the media were alerted to the story and the couple wanted to avoid a media frenzy.” Mayor Luca Salvai, who officiated for the couple, said the town respected the couples’ desire for discretion and a simple ceremony. Theirs is only the second civil union in Pinerolo, a town near Turin in the north of the country.

The couple met while they were Franciscan sisters working at a rehabilitation center with people suffering from addiction. They left religious life, critical of the church’s teaching on homosexuality, and have entered not only a legal partnership, but will make their marriage vows in an unofficial religious ceremony. Franco Barbero, a resigned priest and friend of Frederica and Isabel, will preside at a religious service for the couple. He commented, reported The Irish Times:

“They are two lovely people, of intense faith and with serious studies behind them. . .They prayed a lot about this and they reflected at length during a difficult process.  In the end, they took their decision knowing that not many would approve….

“Mind you not everyone in the church disapproves…. They were criticised but also understood by their fellow nuns. Just like there are many decent priests who do not condemn this type of choice. I can also tell you too that this is not the first time that I have married two nuns.”

Having exercised their civil rights, the couple affirmed that they remain faithful believers and called publicly for greater respect from the Catholic Church, according to The Telegraph. Isabel said, “God wants people happy, to live the love in the light of the sun,” and Federica added, “We call upon our church to welcome all people who love each other.”

A year ago yesterday, former priest Krzysztof Charamsa came out as a gay man with a similar message. He has offered thoughts on the church in a new book, The First Rock. A Vanity Fair report on the book says the former priest criticizes a culture at the Vatican which “built the perception that homosexuals are sick and pedophiles” as a “move that serves to maintain homophobia within the Church.” Charamsa claimed further that allegations of a gay lobby were false, but propped up by ranking church leaders who “favored a corrupt system that allowed them to hide any suspicion of sexual abuse.”

CharamsaStonewallA former Vatican theologian and professor in Rome, Charamsa announced his coming out just days before the 2015 Synod on the Family, a moment that was a “big step for himself and the Church” according to New Ways Ministry. He has since moved to Barcelona with his partner, having been suspended from priestly duties.

In the interim, Charamsa has lectured and written widely, including an appeal to Pope Francis to end the “immeasurable suffering” the Catholic Church inflicts on LGBT people. He has said, “Today, I am a better priest. . .The paradox is that today, I cannot exercise my being a priest,” and that, “The church needs a Stonewall.” To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Krzystof Charamsa’s journey, click here.

Charamsa said in October 2015 that he hoped to be “free, happy, out of the closet, and serving the same ideals and the same values for which I became a priest” in a year. As he celebrates today the anniversary of his coming out, and as Federica and Isabel celebrate their love, may we echo their joy, the joy which comes from living as one’s authentic self, as one is created by God to be.

New #LGBTmercy Campaign Focuses on LGBT Catholics’ Good Works

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2016

LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies are gathering in New York City today for a “Pilgrimage of Mercy.” And around the world every day, LGBT Catholics perform works of mercy for the needy in their communities.  These works sometimes get overlooked by church leaders who don’t take notice of the good that LGBT people do. #LGBTmercy, a new campaign by New Ways Ministry, highlights the many ways by which LGBT Catholics and those who support them act mercifully.

Today’s Bondings 2.0 post invites readers to participate in this campaign, while also highlighting one lesbian woman whose Catholic roots have propelled her to do good.


Building on the Vatican’s #BeMercy initiative in early September, which asked Catholics to share information about the works of mercy they perform, #LGBTmercy recognizes the many gifts and contributions which LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies offer to the church and to the world.

You are invited to participate in this campaign in three ways:

  1. Post on social media the acts of mercy yourself or others have done and use the hashtag #LGBTmercy
  2. Submit photos and/or text about the acts of mercy yourself or others have done to
  3. Send this blog post to your family and friends, and ask them to help spread the good news of #LGBTmercy

New Ways Ministry will begin posting photos, videos, and text submissions in early November, leading up to  Christ the King Sunday, November 20th,  when the Year of Mercy concludes.

One Lesbian Woman’s Story

Covenant House, a leading non-profit with Catholic roots that aids youth experiencing homelessness, has named a lesbian woman as interim director of its newest shelter, which is located in Chicago, reported the Windy City Times.

Teresa Cortas

Teresa Cortas, who herself has Catholic roots, began working with Covenant House after graduating college. She spent a year in Anchorage, Alaska, and then Los Angeles, before eventually ending up in Chicago. There, she worked with homeless populations and with HIV-positive women and children for nearly two decades.

Early on, Cortas worked with youth around her age who were questioning their sexual identity and some who had suffered for coming out. She had journeyed herself, and explained that in adolescence church teachings had “essentially ‘shut down’ the exploration of her own sexuality.” Cortas grappled with questions of faith and sexuality while attending The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC,saying:

” I was sorting out what my attachment was to the faith. . .as opposed to ‘is there a faith separate from the church and, if so, what does that look like?’ I lived a lot in my head. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I really began to realize who I was. Prior to that, even though I was approached by many women, it never really occurred to me.

“Then it was conversations of ‘God punishing drug addicts and homosexual men’. . .At the time, I was confused because you could have said the same thing about God giving a person cancer to punish who they were. I was also intrigued to find out more about the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic.”

Cortas eventually came out to her traditionally Catholic family, her parents expressing concern she would get HIV/AIDS or be damned for leaving the church. While she no longer identifies as a practicing Catholic, Cortas still struggles with being forced to leave because “the church has asked me not to be” a member.

Years later, Cortas’ connections with the church have made possible a Covenant House shelter in Chicago. She knew President Kevin Ryan from college and had connected with former president Sr. Mary Rose McGeady. DC, in her earlier work. Cortas pushed them to bring a shelter to Chicago, and now that it has finally happened, she expressed hope and readiness about this new venture:

“Is it going to be an easy process? Not at all. . .I think Chicago has extraordinary youth agencies. My experience with them has been phenomenal. The problem is there is not enough. There is not enough space. The number of homeless kids . . . is astonishing and unacceptable and we have to do something about that.”

Cortas added that it “takes a lot of courage for us to be something other than our families. . .I don’t think enough LGBT [people] realize that. But when you do, you can really begin to fight.”


New Jersey Catholic High School Rejects Transgender Student

Mason Catrambone with his parents, Frank and Annmarie

A Catholic high school in New Jersey has rejected a transgender student, and school officials are making shaky claims that Catholic identity was the reason behind their decision

Camden Catholic High School accepted Mason Catrambone last spring. Trouble arose when his parents informed administrators in August that their son was transitioning. In two meetings held, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

“The family say they told school officials at two August meetings that Mason would be willing to use the restroom in the nurse’s office, and change into gym clothes there as well.

“They did insist that Mason — who is not yet undergoing any treatment or surgical procedures — be able to wear a boy’s uniform.”

According to a joint statement from Principal Heather Crisci and the Diocese of Camden, those requests could not be met because of the school’s Catholic identity. Fr. Joseph Capella, director of Catholic identity at the school, cited natural law to defend the decision, saying “we believe we are not the creators, and at no point in our lives can we move toward being that.” Capella later said that because of the high school’s religious affiliation, “some will choose another learning environment.”

Mason, who came out as transgender this past May, said school officials “can’t look past what I’m going through, and see me as a human being. . .I’m not a transgender. . .entity. I’m not some diabolical plan to impose my transgender evilness on them.”

Mason explained how he sees the situation:

“I didn’t lose Camden Catholic. Camden Catholic lost me.”

Mason’s parents, Frank Catrambone, Sr. and Annmarie Kita, who learned about Mason’s gender issues four months ago, stand by their son. They taught Mason that “you stand up for yourself, and speak for yourself,” as he is doing now.  When they learned the news from their child, Annmarie said she was “in complete disbelief,” but the family discussed it and the parents educated themselves. Frank said despite there being a “mourning period,” the high rate of transgender youth suicides because of family rejection motivated them to respond positively:

“I heard that, and there was not a choice to make. The only thing to do was to love and support Mason.”

They are disappointed Mason will not begin at Camden Catholic this fall. A 1971 alum, Frank said he had been “very, very excited that my kid was going to have the same opportunity” there. Annmarie said the school “could have tried hard to find a way” for Mason to attend.

For now, Mason is attending an online cyber high school and raising awareness about his rejection. He told NBC Philadelphia that he wants his story shared, and says, “I felt like I was rejected even though I knew the students of Camden Catholic would accept me as one of their peers.” A petition supporting Mason has received more than 1,300 signatures so far.

Camden Catholic and the Diocese of Camden are attempting to describe the rejection of Mason as a choice the family made.  The decision, however, was the school’s to make. School officials failed to prioritize a student’s well-being, to educate themselves about gender identity issues and thereby provide appropriate supports for a transgender student. Fr. Capella’s claims about natural law theory rejecting transgender identities is debatable, and it is certainly not official church teaching.

The school officials’ decision is having repercussions in the wider Church community. Walter Browne, who attends Mass weekly with his family though is not Catholic, wrote a letter to the editor of the Inquirer which said, in part:

“Just last week, I was listening to the Gospel in which Jesus was sitting with the ‘outcasts,’ much to the consternation of the Pharisees. Now we have that same Church, at Camden Catholic, turning away a teenager who wants the benefits of the love and logic of Jesus. Just who have become the Pharisees now? Why reject anyone – gay, straight, divorced, transgendered [sic]? We all need the healing power of community and love. Open the doors to everyone.”

As more transgender youth come out, more and more Catholic schools have had to face the issue. The Diocese of Little Rock amended its 2016-2017 education policies to threaten LGBT students with expulsion if their gender identity or sexual orientation even “have the potential of causing scandal.” Earlier this year, a Catholic high school in Rhode Island attempted to ban transgender students, but reversed the decision after tremendous alumni outcry. And some Catholic bishops have vocally opposed President Barack Obama’s efforts to keep transgender youth safe and supported in public schools.

Catholic educators who oppose transgender students should educate themselves. If they do, they will find that there is no defined Catholic teaching on transgender identities or diverse gender expressions. They will find that some church leaders, like the United Kingdom’s Monsignor Keith Barltrop who heads LGBTQI outreach for the Archdiocese of Westminster, have actually called for the church to support trans people who transition. They will find that these issues are not settled. They will realize that their responsibility is to respond with the compassion and care that Jesus himself offered, always attentive to the well-being of the person in front of them.

The school year has only just begun. It would not be too late for Camden Catholic officials to learn something, apologize to Mason and his family, and welcome him with open arms.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related article:  “Petition backs transgender 14-year-old rejected from Camden Catholic”



Revealing the Potential Harm of the Vatican’s Sex Education Curriculum

Today’s blog post is from New Ways Ministry’s newest staff member, Glen Bradley.  A 2016 graduate of the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University, California, Glen is a member of the Loretto Volunteer Program.  We were delighted to welcome him to the staff last week, and now we are delighted to welcome him as a contributor to this blog.

As Bondings 2.0 reported last week, the Vatican’s new sexual education program (The Meeting Point) inadequately educates youth on sexuality and gender because it does not include LGBTQ inclusive material and instead relies on strong heterosexist and cis-sexist biaseswhich privilege the lives and experiences of heterosexual people and people whose gender identity/expression conforms to societal norms and with their sex assigned at birth.

The Vatican’s negligent program excludes the reality of LGBTQ people in our world today and poses serious threats to all students–LGBTQ and straight-cisgender alike–by potentially negatively impacting their academic performance, personal development and health.

Some Catholics oppose educating children on LGBTQ people and relationships, believing that doing so would confuse them and harm their development. However, recent educational research shows that an inclusive curriculum does just the opposite. Josh A. Goodmancounseling psychology doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Huffington Post contributorpointed out the benefits of inclusion in his article “5 Reasons Schools Should Adopt LGBTQ-inclusive Sex Ed”:

“[LGBTQ inclusive sexual education] teaches about sexual orientation and gender identity as they actually exist. Regardless of a person’s moral views, it is a fact that humans have a diverse array of sexual orientations and gender identities. To only teach about one sexual orientation, to ignore gender minorities, and to suggest that a heterosexual marriage is the only acceptable relationship for sexual activity makes invisible the experiences of LGBTQ people and presents an inaccurate view of human sexuality. If we are to prepare youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities to feel good about their sexuality, make safe and responsible choices involving relationships and sexual activity, and appreciate—or at least tolerate—the gender and sexual diversity of their peers and community members, incorporating LGBTQ topics and perspectives into the curriculum is essential.”

In short, excluding LGBTQ topics from a curriculum teaches a dangerous lie: that either LGBTQ people do not exist or they do not have healthy relationships.

Not only would students at Catholic schools be miseducated on the realities of sexuality and gender, research has found that sexual education excluding LGBTQ identities and relationships create health and development risks. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that LGBTQ children who did not receive LGBTQ-inclusive sexual education programs were

  • less likely to feel safe at school, more likely to miss school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable
  • less likely to feel comfortable talking about LGBTQ issues with school personnel
  • less likely to be able to identify educators who were supportive of LGBTQ students (GLSEN).

Regardless of the curriculum, LGBTQ children are already negatively affected by LGBTQ-phobia from their peers and the adults at school. According to The Southern Poverty Law Center’s resource guide Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-inclusive School Climate:

“LGBT students report being harassed at schoolboth verbally and physicallyat twice the rate of non-LGBT youth. With heightened stressors like bullying, harassment and a lack of role models, LGBT students are also more likely to experience negative educational outcomes.”

A non-inclusive curriculum sends a brutal message: that the school does not fully support and value their LGBTQ students.

Other research has found that LGBTQ-inclusive sexual education is an effective way of reducing LGBTQ-phobia in schools. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States released guidelines saying,

“Most importantly for LGBTQ youth, comprehensive sex education provides factual, non-stigmatizing information on sexual orientation and gender identity as a part of human development and teaches youth to respect LGBTQ people with messages like ‘Making fun of people for not acting the way society expects them to based on their biological sex [sic.] is disrespectful and hurtful’ and ‘People deserve respect regardless of who they are attracted to.’

Furthermore, lowered LGBTQ-phobia from inclusive sexual education has been effective in reducing mental health problems and improving academic performance. A new report found that students with LGBTQ-inclusive sexual education had increased academic performance because they were less likely to report harassment and more likely to feel safe at school. The same research found that while inclusive curriculums in other subjects also contributed to higher academic performance because of decreased abuse and mental health problems, but that inclusive sexual education classes had the greatest impact with regard to school climate.

Very importantly, research has shown that inclusive sexual education does not only benefit LGBTQ students. GLSEN revealed positive outcomes for both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students in a report saying that an inclusive curriculum

“. . .would benefit not only LGBT youth, but also provide non-LGBT youth with an opportunity to dispel myths about issues of sexual orientation and gender and broaden their understanding about LGBT peoples and communities.”

Similarly, decreased LGBTQ-phobia in schools improves the health and development of all students. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s resource guide states:

“Creating a supportive environment for LGBT students improves educational outcomes for all students, not just those who may identify as LGBT. And remember, it’s not about politics—it’s about supporting students. Any educator, regardless of his personal beliefs, can be a resource for LGBT students.”

Research has also quantified the positive effects of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and anti-homophobic policies on heterosexual boys, finding that “heterosexual boys were half as likely to attempt suicide as those in schools without GSAs” and “heterosexual boys [at schools with anti-homophobic policies that have been in place for more than three years] had 27% lower odds of suicidal thoughts than heterosexual boys in schools without.”

While Catholic schools certainly need GSAs and LGBTQ-supportive policies to combat LGBTQ-phobia in schools, inclusive sexual education is a place to start. GLSEN’s A Call To Action report says LGBTQ-inclusive sexual education is, “a logical venue to help young people learn about identity and encourage acceptance for LGBTQ people and families.”

An inclusive sexual education program for our church would properly educate our children on the realities of LGBTQ people in our world today, while improving students’ mental health, reducing suicide and improving academic performance. Sadly, our Church leaders have not done this in The Meeting Point. The result is a sexual education program that can be very dangerous. But instead of responding with despair, we can use this opportunity as a rallying cry to work to save our children from the dangers of an inadequate curriculum, which has potential for so much damage.

Perhaps the authors of The Meeting Point gave us the analytical test we need when evaluating their curriculum. They quote Rev. Servais-Théodore Pinckaers, O.P., on truth:

“Without the truth, there is neither happiness nor lasting love” (Contents6.0_Educator, page 6).

The first step toward justice is in our ability to seek, see, and reveal the truth to others. The Meeting Point is anything but truthful with regard to sexual and gender realities, realities that include LGBTQ identities and relationships. In this disillusionment, we find neither truth nor love, yet it is our duty as faithful followers of Christ to now bring both to our children and our church.

–Glen Bradley New Ways Ministry

Catholic Priest: Church Cannot Abandon Transgender Catholics

Fr. Bryan Massingale

The church must not abandon transgender Catholics. This is Fr. Bryan Massingale’s message in his new column published by U.S. Catholic, and it is a poignant message in view of Pope Francis’ recent remarks about gender identity.

Massingale. a professor of theology at Fordham University, New York, begins his essay by referencing a transgender panel discussion in which he participated earlier this year. Hosted by the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the largest annual gathering of Catholics in North America, that panel featured to young trans Catholics sharing their stories. Massingale commented on it:

“I was struck by their heartfelt conviction that accepting their true gender identities led them to a deeper and more authentic relationship with God. Hearing their stories of pain and triumph was one of the most privileged moments I have had in 33 years of being a priest.”

But Massingale notes that he questioned his own participation in the event, especially when friends and family asked him about the risks that identifying with LGBT people can have in the church. He explained:

“Space does not allow me to give my full response. But one reason why I chose to be present is because I have a lot to learn. To be blunt, I was at the panel precisely because of my ignorance and discomfort. Transgender issues were never addressed in either my moral theology courses in the seminary or in my graduate studies in Christian ethics. I—and most priests—have not been trained to specifically minister to transgender members of our parishes or to the concerns of their families.

“My personal ignorance is also shared by the church as a whole. There is much that we do not understand about what is technically called ‘gender dysphoria,’ or the lack of congruence between one’s physical body and gender identity. This ignorance leads to fear, and fear is at the root of the controversies in today’s so-called ‘bathroom wars.’ And there lies a major challenge that transgender people endure and that the faith community has to own: the human tendency to be uncomfortable and fearful in the face of what we don’t understand. It’s easier to ridicule and attack individuals we don’t understand than to summon the patience and humility to listen and to learn.”

The church cannot abandon trans Catholics because, Massingale explains, “Jesus would be present to, among, and with transgender persons.” His table ministry with society’s outcasts teaches Christians that we will be judged on “our compassion for the despised and disdained.” Lack of understanding of or comfort with people does not mitigate the obligation the church has to include them and minister to them.  Massingale also cited the compassionate side of Pope Francis:

“During Pope Francis’ visit last fall, he repeated on at least five occasions: ‘Jesus never abandons us.’ This is the deepest reason why I chose to be with Anna and Mateo, who spoke so eloquently for so many of our transgender fellow Catholics. Jesus does not abandon us. If we claim to be his followers, we cannot abandon them.”

You can read Fr. Massingale’s full essay by clicking here.

Fr. Massingale has himself not abandoned LGBT Catholics. While at Marquette University, he celebrated monthly Masses for members of the LGBTQ communities on campus because, he says, it is important they “have a Mass where they feel welcome and that God does love them.” He challenged Pax Christi USA members at their 2013 annual conference to increase the organization’s defense of LGBT rights, as both a human rights concern and a necessary part of attracting younger Catholics. Massingale also joined other Catholic theologians and officials in condemning proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Fr. Massingale will continue his call for inclusion and justice in the church when he will be a keynote speaker for New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.” Early registration has now opened if you are interested in attending, and you can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry