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Kimberly Scharfenberger

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Notre Dame conference on gender-bending and childhood leaves out Catholic teaching

Kimberly Scharfenberger

A University of Notre Dame conference on “Gender and Childhood” currently taking place includes a broad range of topics in at least 20 panel discussions. The Cardinal Newman Society reached out to Notre Dame to learn how the large event would integrate Catholic teaching, but the conference organizer did not identify whether or not Catholic teaching would even be discussed.

The conference, “Fun with Dick and Jane: Gender and Childhood,” aims “to explore issues of gender and childhood through multiple lenses and from a wide range of disciplines,” according to the event page. Running from December 4-6, it is sponsored by seven Notre Dame departments and programs, and presented by the Gender Studies Program.

The program identifies panel sessions concerning “Gender Variant Parenting” and “Queer Temporalities.”  Another panel discussion on “Queer(ing) Parenting” will apparently include the topic “Raising Them to Be Who They Truly Are: LBGTQ Parents Resisting Heteronomative Gender.”

A few of the sample questions listed in the description include, “How are children gendered? How do we account for transgender children? How do schools inculcate ideas about gender?” Additional topics of discussion could potentially include “gendered childhood spaces,” “ideologies of childhood sexuality,” and “children and gay parents,” as listed on the website.

A student presenter in one of the conference’s undergraduate panels told Notre Dame’s newspaper, The Observer, that “it is important for students to attend this conference not only in an attempt to supplement or improve their academic pursuits, but also [to pursue] that intense self-awareness and self-consciousness we should all strive for.”

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “man and woman have been created… in their respective beings as man and woman.” Additionally, “‘being man’ or ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God” as “they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.”

Unable to find mention of a panel or presentation integrating Catholic teaching on sexual identity into the proceedings, The Cardinal Newman Society reached out to the conference organizers at Notre Dame. Conference Organizer Pamela Robertson Wojcik, a professor in the Film, TV and Theatre department, responded:

As an academic conference, this event allows many different views and perspectives. It does not promote any one view but considers issues through conversation.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.

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