Catholic archbishop hosts gay activists at cathedral to help set transgender student policy
REGINA, Saskatchewan, May 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic archbishop of Regina, Saskatchewan, Daniel Bohan, welcomed gay activists to his Cathedral hall in March to guide about 75 Catholic teachers in creating a policy on care for “transgender” students.
The event, which the archbishop attended and said he was “pleased” about after the fact, was keynoted by a Catholic priest who tells LifeSiteNews that he disagrees with Church teaching that humans are created male and female.
Panelists at the March 20 event on the “pastoral care for transgendered students” included LGBTQ activists and a trans couple consisting of a biological man and woman who now both look like and claim to be women. The keynote speaker at the event taking place in Holy Rosary Cathedral Hall was Redemptorist Catholic ethicist Fr. Mark Miller.
Besides Fr. Miller, the event included a presentation by Evangelical Lutheran Pastor Reverend Carla Blakley, described by the Archdiocese of Regina’s online account of the event as a “long time advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) people.”
“[Blakley] introduced a three-person panel who shared their life experiences. Leo Keiser is the executive director of the University of Regina Pride Centre and a public speaker on Trans wellness and Queer issues. Laura and Pat Budd have been married 24 years and have two boys, 21 and 12. Five years ago Laura came out as a woman and the two described their transition from fear, to tolerance, acceptance and support from their small rural community. Both are active in their community. ‘What we have together is love, acceptance and respect,’ said Pat,” stated the archdiocese’s report of the event.
The archdiocese’s report goes on to state that Archbishop Bohan was “generally pleased with the symposium,” quoting him as saying: “It pointed out the challenge to us in dealing with people who have to deal with this in their lives.”
When LifeSiteNews asked Archbishop Bohan for comment, spokesperson Bobbi Yanko responded: “The Archdiocese has no particular stand on the issue other than that stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The event was organized be [sic] the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards’ Association (SCSBA); if you have any further questions you can contact them.”
LifeSiteNews then asked more directly: “Your Excellency, do you have any difficulty with the fact that your Cathedral hall was used for an event that apparently gives tacit approval to ‘gender theory’ — which has been condemned on three occasions by Pope Francis and at least once by his predecessor Pope Benedict — that spotlighted two public LGBTQ activists and a 'trans couple' consisting of a biological man and woman who both claim to be women?”
The archbishop replied through spokesperson Yanko: “Two years ago Life Site News [sic] was refused a second permission to attend the CCCB Plenary Meeting as an [sic] journalist observer. This was because of its lack of journalistic competence and inability to accurately report events. It is therefore not my desire to give an interview to them.”
In 2009, Archbishop Bohan responded to an extensive investigative report by LifeSiteNews on the Canadian bishops’ charitable arm Development and Peace and its funding of abortion advocacy groups. Despite overwhelming evidence, Bohan at that time called the reports "false" and a "malicious attack." Following LifeSiteNews’ reports, however, the Canadian bishops eventually launched a reform of Development and Peace and cut off grants that Bohan had defended.
Last year, as US pro-family activist Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, was vilified in Saskatchewan after he was scheduled to speak at a pro-life conference, Archbishop Bohan issued a statement widely taken as siding against LaBarbera.
“It is an opportune time to remind Catholics and all people of good will of the Catholic Church’s official position on discrimination against homosexual persons,” the archbishop wrote, followed by a quote from the Catechism. “Any Catholic is reminded, therefore, to take this fundamental aspect of Church teaching into account in evaluating any speaker or position they may encounter on this topic.”
Male and female: ‘a presumption that’s not verified in creation’
Fr. Miller, the symposium’s keynote speaker, told LifeSiteNews that his main message to the Catholic educators was that transgendered persons are “our brothers and sisters, they are children of God,” adding: “What we need to do is listen to their experiences in order to find out what exactly we are dealing with.”
Fr. Miller received his doctorate in moral theology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, in 1992. He currently provides Catholic ethics workshops at colleges and for health care practitioners.
LifeSiteNews asked Fr. Miller where he thought the Church was at on the transgender question, bringing to his attention recent statements against the notion of gender fluidity by Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. Fr. Miller said that while the popes have their own personal view on the matter, the Church does not have “any official stance” and that “we are in the learning process.”
When asked if people who identify as transgender challenge the Catholic understanding of Genesis that God created people as male and female, Fr. Miller replied: “If we think that that’s a statement about biology from the very beginning, then we are not open to learning from the realities of what, in fact, God has created.”
Fr. Miller went on to describe the biological theory that all people begin as female to justify his position.
“In the womb we all start off female. And then, when the male hormones kick in, when you have the XY chromosome, then you start to move along the lines of male. And if something changes or interferes with that in the middle of the way, you’re somewhere in the middle. So, chromosomally, you may be somewhere between male and female. And so, for us to sort of assume that there’s simply male and female is, I think, a presumption that’s not verified in creation,” he said.
Contrary to this idea, the man who became Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1960 book "Love and Responsibility" that the fact that some may have both male and female sexual characteristics does not contradict that “every human being is by nature a sexual being, and belongs from birth to one of the two sexes,” pointing out that such characteristics are best viewed as a privation of a healthy organism with a given nature.
Fr. Miller said a transgender policy is needed in Catholic schools because “the assumption in our society is that there is only male and female, and the reality is that there is something else there. And to have a policy in our schools is to recognize that we have people who don’t fit our categories neatly, and we can adjust to their situation without forcing them into the categories that we think they should fit into.”
He called the language used in the Catechism to describe homosexuality “really unfortunate” since he said it goes against the message that “we respect all human beings.”
“The reality is that we’re talking out of two sides of our mouths,” he said.
The educators’ symposium is not the first time Fr. Miller has been involved in an event that showcased LGBTQ activists.
In 2006, Fr. Miller led a one day in-service in Radville, SK for the teachers of the Holy Family Roman Catholic School Division. The day was also organized around the theme of offering pastoral care to persons identifying as transgender. Former Catholic school teacher David Sidloski was at the event.
Sidloski told LifeSiteNews that Fr. Miller’s first talk consisted of a brief history of the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Sidloski remembers him saying at one point that the Church’s position on homosexuality could have gone in “different ways.”
At another point in the day, Sidloski remembers an entirely pro-homosexual panel pushing the discussion in favor of an acceptance of homosexuality. “The main push of the panel was that we need to accept the gay lifestyle,” he said. Sidloski said when he asked Fr. Miller during a question period why the panel did not include a same-sex attracted person faithful to Church teaching, Fr. Miller told him it was because none existed.
Sidloski said that Fr. Miller added that if there were celibate homosexuals, it was because they have had to distance themselves from a negative experience within the gay sub-culture and have consequently been deprived of living what he remembers Fr. Miller calling a “healthy homosexual lifestyle.”
When Fr. Miller was asked by educators about his perspective on the way forward, Sidloski remembers him replying: “If only the Pope would stop appointing all these old men who stop the Church from moving forward.”
Sidloski said he approached Fr. Miller directly after the in-service and asked, “So, what about Church teaching [on homosexuality],” to which he remembers him replying: “The Church’s position is untenable.”
Sidloski called Fr. Miller’s overall position at the workshop an “undermining” of the Church’s clear moral teaching on sexuality. “He was clearly there teaching that the Church’s teaching is wrong, and we all just have to be patient [as we wait for change],” he said.
This is not the only time Miller has come out publicly with a position at odds with the Catholic faith, even though he has authored many praiseworthy articles dealing with tough questions from a Catholic perspective. In a 2013 lecture at the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute on the topic of end-of-life care, Fr. Miller stated that doctors can respect the advance-care-directive of a comatose patient to have hydration and nutrition withdrawn, while making it clear that he was aware that the Church’s official position was different than his own.
“Even though there are differences in the Catholic Church on this thing, I think you really have to follow your conscience. So there are people who say, ‘No, the Pope said you have to use the feeding tube, and that’s all there is to it,’ [and] that’s fine, but there’s enough moral theologians and others in the Church who say, ‘No, you can follow your conscience,” he said.
But in a 2004 address to the international congress on “Life-sustaining treatments and the vegetative state” Pope John Paul II called the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, a “natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory.”
The ‘trans’ policy
Ken Loehndorf, executive director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA), told LifeSiteNews that the province’s Catholic directors of education asked the SCSBA to draft a policy to support transgender students.
When LifeSiteNews asked if the province’s Catholic schools were experiencing a problem with such students being discriminated against, Loehndorf replied: “No, as far as I’m aware, there hasn’t been issues, but we are aware of the fact that there are more and more schools being asked to provide various kinds of support for students who are transgender or who are starting to think about that.”
Loehndorf said the SCSBA wanted to take a “pro-active approach to make sure that folks are not bullied, or whatever, and that we can find a way to do our best to try and support them.” He said the policy being drafted has its counterpart in a similar ‘sexual diversity’ policy about to be released by the provincial Ministry of Education. Loehndorf said that the SCSBA was originally asked by the Ministry for input into the policy, but decided instead to draft its own document.
Loehndorf, who heads the committee charged by the SCSBA to provide guidelines offering “pastoral care support to students who are transgender,” said that his committee is still “working on trying to find appropriate Church teaching to support kind of what we’re doing, or what we’re hoping to do in support of the transgender individuals.”
The purpose of the committee, Loehndorf said, is to establish a set of guidelines that will be used by Catholic boards across the province to offer support to students who identify as transgender. The guidelines will likely allow individual Catholic schools to provide gender neutral washrooms, he said. There will also be:
- “practical guidelines” for supporting transgender students
- “whatever there is out there on Church teaching, which, we gather, is very little in this area”
- “some kind of a pastoral letter from the bishops helping direct us”
- guidelines for individual boards for how to form their own policies
“I think our basic stance is going to be ‘every individual needs to be treated with dignity and respect,’” Loehndorf said. “And we want to ensure that at least in our schools that they’re not bullied.”
Tom Schuck, a Catholic pro-life-and-family lawyer who practices in Saskatchewan, told LifeSiteNews that by the fact that the symposium for Catholic educators included a panel made entirely of homosexual and transgender activists means that the policy will likely lean in the direction of affirming students facing a sexual identity crisis in a pro-LGBTQ identity, teaching them to accept same-sex activities as normative.
“The mere fact that they need to bring in three gay and transgender activists to back up the theologian is absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “The whole idea for doing that is to extract an emotional response from the audience and make them sympathetic to these people.”
Schuck said the real issue young Catholics should be taught about in schools is what he called the “incompatibility between the gay culture and the Christian culture.”
One member of Courage who lives in Saskatchewan and goes by the name Andrew told LifeSiteNews that while having Catholic schools adding gender-neutral washrooms wouldn't necessarily counter the Catholic position, “affirming kids within those types of identities would.”
Andrew criticized the idea of making schools ‘safe’ for students who are encouraged by the prevailing culture to define themselves according to their sexual preferences.
“There are many people who feel unsafe in an environment that contributes to the normalization of the idea that we should self-identify and/or define ourselves according to our sexual attractions and or inclinations,” he said. “In every case I have heard of this, the students who feel unsafe are the ones who want to uphold the truths of their Catholic (or Orthodox) faith on matters of sexuality – namely that we are males and females, and that is how we were designed and that a marriage is only possible if that complimentary union is present.”
“These students are made to feel shameful for upholding the truth, because the climate of their school has swung in the direction of pro-gender theory which is far from virtue,” he said.
Fluid notions of gender have been criticized by Pope Francis on at least three occasions and prior to this by Pope Benedict.
“Gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion," Pope Francis told young people during his voyage to Naples, Italy last March.
In his 2012 Christmas greeting, Pope Benedict condemned gender theory as a “profound falsehood” since it denies the male and female sex as a “given element of nature.” According to Benedict, instead of acknowledging that God created people male and female, gender theory posits the existence of sexual social constructions that people can decide to conform to or not.
“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”
“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being,” Benedict concluded. “The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears,” he said.