JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri, June 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – While controversy still swirls over a contentious new program to admit “transgender” students to Catholic schools, a nun who serves as the superintendent is touting the process as putting the diocese “in the lead.”
Jefferson City is “a pioneer among other U.S. dioceses,” the LGBT blog Proud Parenting says, citing the controversial “Pastoral Process of Accompaniment and Dialogue.”
The LGBT blog pulled from a Jefferson City News Tribune report over the weekend that said the superintendent of schools, Sister Elizabeth Youngs, viewed the diocese as a forerunner among other U.S. dioceses because of the accompaniment and dialogue program.
Critics of the process say it was crafted clandestinely and that neither parents nor priests in charge of parishes with schools were consulted. They say as well that it pushes gender ideology, upends Christian morality, scandalizes children in diocesan schools, and makes the diocese remiss in addressing potentially abusive situations.
“We probably are in the lead,” Sister Youngs stated to the News Tribune.
The proposed procedure, referenced by the diocese as a process — not a policy — and also termed by the media as guidance, encompasses students who identify as LGBT, along with those who live with same-sex or co-habiting couples.
The 17-page document dated May 9, 2017, was presented to priests and educators by diocesan officials in early May.
“Wherever possible, enrollment is the goal,” the document states.
According to the diocese, the program was crafted using the guidance of Pope Francis’ controversial document Amoris Laetitia. The diocese cited the passage in Amoris Laetitia that references integrating individuals living in “irregular situations” into the life of the Church.
LifeSiteNews inquired with the diocese about the process of accompaniment and dialogue but did not hear back initially. The diocese released a statement to LifeSite after LifeSite’s initial story was published.
The statement said the diocese was in full agreement with the Church’s teaching on gender and human sexuality and that it defends those moral teachings.
It also said the diocese’s process is consistent with Church teachings in its presentation of a suggested pastoral response when a family approaches a parish leader to enroll children in a program, and that it was developed with guidance from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The diocese emphasized it does not support allowing students to choose to use a restroom or other facilities designated for the opposite gender.
However, parents and priests have pointed out that diocese’s document takes Pope Francis far out of context.
They also said it ignores Catholic teaching on gender, as well as the needs of children who suffer from gender dysphoria and the potential risk to children living in same-sex-led households.
Further, they say, by ostensibly accepting these issues as they are presented unanswered in the culture, the diocese is also scandalizing children who come to its schools for a Catholic education.
“The “Francis Effect” is now beginning to be a battering ram used against faith and sanity even out in the hinterlands of Missouri,” an anonymous source within the diocese told LifeSiteNews regarding the policy.
Catholics in the diocese continue to voice their apprehensions over the process, saying their concerns are not being addressed.
The controversy has garnered other media attention as well.
Msgr. Andrew McLean Cummings, a priest from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, pointed out in Crisis Magazine how the Diocese of Jefferson City appears to communicate acceptance of deviation from Church teaching by the very wording of its proposed policy.
“By employing the labels “LGBTQ” and “transgender,” instead of “experiencing same-sex attraction” or “gender dysphoria,” the (Jefferson City) document seems to endorse the prevalent view that these inclinations are a reality to be openly accepted, perhaps even celebrated, rather than a distortion of the natural order requiring discreet attention,” he wrote.
The term “LGBTQ students” is an ideologically loaded term, he said, and even when understood to mean only those children who willingly “identify as LGBTQ” or “decide to present as the opposite sex,” this conflicts with our God-given nature as explained in the Catechism (CCC 2358).
Students claiming to “come out” should not be given admittance to Catholic school, he said, because “such claims are already a departure from authentic Catholic teaching and practice and would be scandalous to other children.”
“Is your diocese next?” the Courageous Priest blog asked in a post.
“This diocesan policy will be the fundamental policy for every diocese with accommodating bishops,” the blog said. “To anyone who has been permitted to read this document, it is apparent that the diocese now plans to join the secular world in questioning the very binary gender system created by God Himself.”
Phil Lawler, news director at CatholicCulture.org, commented on the Jefferson City diocese’s statement about enrollment being the goal.
“A cynic might rewrite the principle: ‘Whenever possible, collecting tuition is the goal,’” Lawler said.
“Look,” he wrote, “if a school promotes the faith, it cannot encourage a student to profess that God made a mistake assigning his/her sexuality. If a school promotes the truth, it cannot encourage other students to accept a falsehood about that troubled student’s sexual identity.”
“If the parish school promotes neither the faith nor the truth,” continued Lawler, “shut it down.”