October 8, 2019
WASHINGTON— Bishop chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commented on three cases argued before the Supreme Court today – Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. These cases present the question whether the prohibition on employment discrimination based on “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination, respectively.
Bishop Robert J. McManus, of Worcester, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James D. Conley, of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, issued the following statement:
“Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument regarding the meaning of the word ‘sex’ in federal law. Words matter; and ‘sex’ should not be redefined to include sexual inclinations or conduct, nor to promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact. The Supreme Court affirmed that sex is an ‘immutable characteristic’ in the course of establishing constitutional protections for women against sex discrimination in the 1970s. Such protection is no less essential today. Title VII helps ensure the dignified treatment of all persons, and we as Catholics both share and work toward that goal. Redefining ‘sex’ in law would not only be an interpretive leap away from the language and intent of Title VII, it would attempt to redefine a fundamental element of humanity that is the basis of the family, and would threaten religious liberty.”
On August 23, the USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs in the cases, available at http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/Bostock-8-23-19.pdf and http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/Harris-8-23-19.pdf
In addition, staff prepared a backgrounder on the cases.
On June 10, 2019, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education released a reflection on human sexuality entitled: ” ‘Male and Female He Created Them’: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education”
The document is the fullest exposition of the concept of gender (gender identity, gender fluidity, ‘transgenderism,’ etc.) that has been released from the Vatican to date. It is concerned with the “educational crisis… in the field of affectivity and sexuality” (no. 1) and reiterates Catholic anthropology, rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. “The Christian vision of anthropology sees sexuality as a fundamental component of one’s personhood” (no. 4).
The document seeks to combat the dualism that is operative in the idea that “one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex. The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society” (no. 20). This is precisely what legislation such as the Equality Act does.
There will be further reflection on this document in the coming days and weeks, so watch this space!
And here’s a reminder of a few resources that the USCCB has created or made available on the issue of gender:
Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders (December 15, 2017)
The USCCB joined a number of other religious organizations in filing an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court for the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.
The case involves a “transgender boy” (biological girl), identified as “G.G.,” who seeks to use the boys’ restroom at her public high school. The student sued under Title IX (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed the case, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, ruled in favor of the student. The Gloucester County School Board sought review before the U.S. Supreme Court and received a temporary stay from the high Court that prohibits the student from using the boys’ restroom while the case is on review. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Other federal lawsuits of the same kind (student vs. school board) are on hold until this case is settled.
The religious organizations on the brief note, “The religious liberty we cherish is threatened by the Fourth Circuit’s decision adopting the Department of Education’s expansion of Title IX beyond any plausible interpretation.” For, “Major religious traditions—including those represented by amici—share the belief that a person’s identity as male or female is created by God and immutable.”
Archbishop Chaput, incoming chairman for the Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, shares segments from the report on sexuality and gender from The New Atlantis in his column this week.
He notes: “We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the ‘Sexuality and Gender’ report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.”
USCCB Chairmen Respond to Administration’s New Guidance Letter on Title IX Application
WASHINGTON—Two Committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement in response to guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students”:
The Catholic Church consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the wellbeing of all people, particularly the most vulnerable. Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved.
The guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education that treats “a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex” is deeply disturbing. The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” (Amoris Laetitia [AL], no. 285).
Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents. The federal regulatory guidance issued on May 13 does not even attempt to achieve this balance. It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues. Rather, the guidance short-circuits those discussions entirely.
As Pope Francis has recently indicated, “‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated'” (AL, no. 56, emphasis added). We pray that the government make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all students and parents, as well as the common good. We will be studying the guidance further to understand the full extent of its implications.
The statement was issued by Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop George Lucas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education.
Consultant Dr. Theresa Farnan also wrote an article about this issue for OSV.
On January 4, 2016, the Catholic bishops of Nebraska issued a statement regarding the immanent vote of the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) regarding whether high school students who experience gender dysphoria may participate in sports according to their chosen “gender identity”. They said that allowing biological male students to play women’s sports, or vice versa, would “allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology” to determine a schools’ activities. “This would certainly have a negative impact on students’ and society’s attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and the family,” they wrote.
The bishops note that every person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to respect, dignity, support and concern, but that this support must not compromise the safety, privacy, or rights of all the other students. Read the whole statement here.