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Catholic educators & gender conversations

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Catholic mission and identity are very important for Catholic institutions such as schools especially with today’s culture which is replacing the word ‘sex’ for male and female and promoting gender identity.

There is an attempt to impose beliefs and actions on religious people “that violate our conscience,” said Dr Mary Rice Hasson, President of The Person and Identity Project (PIP) which assists the Catholic Church in promoting the Catholic vision of the human person and responding to the challenges of gender ideology.

The Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC), on Tuesday, June 27 featured a video presentation by Dr Hasson on the topic: ‘Gender, Sexuality and the Law: What Catholic Educators need to know’.

It was part of the AFLC’s Special Topics in Theology of the Body: Gender & Sexual Identity (based on a virtual conference held by Ruah Woods Institute).

Dr Hasson emphasised that the Catholic mission and identity must be strong. The missionary identity is rooted in the faith and every Catholic school must be grounded in the authoritative teaching of the Church and must have Christ at the centre.

Dr Hasson said, “We are educating them not just for jobs but for Heaven, to shape their character, to form their hearts, to introduce them to a relationship with God.” To avoid legal problems, the first thing is knowing the Catholic identity and being transparent and bold in proclaiming it.

Dr Hasson listed five marks of a Catholic school from Archbishop J Michael Miller: inspired by a supernatural vision, founded on Christian anthropology, animated by communion and community, imbued with Catholic worldview throughout the curriculum, and sustained by gospel witness (The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools).

Dr Hasson said gender ideology proposes a false anthropology and vision of the human person which is incompatible with Christian understanding.

“What used to be implicit in the culture no longer is; what we have in the culture is an explicit attempt to ingrain and embed a false anthropology,” she said.

She explained the Catholic world view expressed in the curriculum meant ensuring textbooks, digital resources and all materials were aligned with the Catholic mission and identity.

Dr Hasson noted that gender ideology was being “woven into” books by major publishers. It was incumbent on the persons leading Catholic schools to take the issue seriously, so they were not “unintentionally embedding gender ideology” into their institutions simply through carelessness or not doing due diligence.

It is critically important for Catholic educators to witness to the gospel. Dr Hasson said this is why Catholic institutions in contractual arrangements with employees include that they (employees) live and take seriously their obligation to be part of Church’s teaching and truth. They cannot be living openly in contradiction to the truth.

In the US, the law respects “ministerial exception” and will not second guess the decisions of schools in relation to its “ministers”. She clarified the term applied to persons engaged in mission and ministry of the religious institution. “Every person must live that witness of life, be on board with decisions of the Church and can’t be promoting a dissenting view,” Dr Hasson said.

Schools are encouraged to do a language audit of their handbooks, forms, and communications materials to parents so that these are reflective of the truth.

“Are you using terms like ‘gender identity’ and ‘sex assigned at birth’ because it’s in the standard forms you got through your software programmes or from a secular provider? If so, you need to change those because it is not consistent with Christian anthropology,” she said.

The school environment has to be intentional. Dr Hasson said the messages conveyed can indicate “who you are is good, your body is good, relationships between males and females are the foundations for the family, having children is good, they are a blessing, all of this has to be reflected in our imagery.”

Social media and technology are used to honour God and the Church’s mission and identity. She gave the watchwords of: charity, clarity, transparency and consistency. The use of language is important. She advised the word ‘sex’ be used not ‘gender’; ‘identity’ not ‘gender identity’; and avoid ideological terms like ‘cisgender’.