Showdown: Alberta’s Catholic trustees unite behind bishops against gvmt ‘transgender’ mandate
EDMONTON, Alberta, January 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The association that represents all Catholic school trustees in Alberta has fired back against the New Democrat government’s new guidelines for forming mandatory transgender policies in all schools, including Catholic ones, stating that it’s the bishops, not the government, that provides “moral and theological leadership” to Catholic schools.
In a statement issued earlier this week that comes as a blow to NDP Education Minister David Eggen, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) stated that it “reaffirms the responsibility and the role of the Alberta Catholic Bishops to provide moral and theological leadership to the Catholic community including Catholic education communities.”
It added that while it “reaffirms its commitment to work with Alberta Education” it at the same time “regrets Alberta Education's lack of consultation during the development of the Guidelines for Best Practices resource material.”
Last week the NDP issued “best practices” guidelines that schools must use to form mandatory policies for "transgendered" students that govern everything from change rooms and shower rooms to sport teams and school trips. The guidelines state that a student’s own “self-identification” as either a boy or a girl, or neither, is the “sole measure of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
In a move that critics say sabotages the parent/child bond, the guidelines go as far as to state that school administrators must obtain a student’s “explicit permission before disclosing information related to the student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” to his or her parents.
The guidelines also state that students must be called the pronouns of their choice, including “ze,” “zir,” “hir,” and that “mother” and “father” should be removed from “school forms, websites, letters” so as to make communications as “inclusive” as possible.
Writing on behalf of his brother bishops, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan stated in a letter yesterday that while “Catholic schools of Alberta must respond to legislation concerning education,” they “must do so in a way that is consistent with Catholic belief and practice.”
Speaking directly to the ideology behind the NPD guidelines, the archbishop stated: “The Church teaches, under an authority that is greater than herself, that humans are created ‘in the image and likeness of God ... male and female he created them.’ The Church believes that one’s physiological gender is not arbitrary, but determines the identity that we grow into. This process of growth in identity must be respected.”
Archbishop Pettipas said that Catholic schools will follow guidelines for policy development on the topic that have been created by Catholic stakeholders that he said “respects the spirit and intention of government legislation, while doing so in a way suited to Catholic education.”
There are two Catholic documents put out recently by the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta (CCSSA) that govern the formation of school policy governing bullying, sexual orientation, and gender. One is “LIFE [Lived Inclusion for Everyone] Framework,” which offers guidelines for the formation of student clubs, and the other is “A pastoral Approach to Supporting and Guiding Students in Inclusive Communities – Gender Identity and Expression.”
The “LIFE Framework” guidelines, put out last spring, allow students to:
- create groups to address the topics of “bullying, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity, discrimination, justice, and respectful relationships and language,” but only within a “Catholic context.”
- name the club, but the name must “incorporate language in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
- have discussions, perform acts of justice, and engage in social action, but all “within the context of Catholic teaching on social relationships.”
The “Pastoral Approach…Gender Identity and Expression” guidelines, put out last fall, allow Catholic schools to:
- support students who experience “gender dysphoria” by treating them with “sensitivity, respect, mercy, and compassion.”
- maintain the prerogative of offering gender specific courses.
- designate gender-neutral single stall washrooms and make them available for all students as a washroom and change room.
The ACSTA stated in its response to the NDP transgender guidelines that Catholic schools “have been and will continue to be inclusive, welcoming, safe and caring environments” and that its policies “have long ensured that all students, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc., are treated with equal respect and dignity.”
Edmonton Archbishop Smith confirmed in his own statement issued today that the NDP transgender guidelines are “simply not congruent with Catholic teaching” and, if pressed by the government, would force the Catholic school system to “deny its faith base in its day-to-day operations and activities.”
The archbishop said that the guidelines' basic principle that self-identification is the “sole measure” of an individual’s perceived gender identity creates what he called an “artificial gender-neutral atmosphere in schools, often without proper regard to the rights and protections previously upheld for boys and girls and their mothers and fathers.”
“The Catholic belief is that the human person is created 'body and soul' together (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 362f.), that God created human beings male and female (Mark 10:6), and that we are all called to care for and respect our bodies as they are created.”
“In a Catholic school, all curricular and extra-curricular activity is to be rooted in and consistent with the principles of Catholic doctrine. A Catholic school is a unique and distinctive faith community of learning that not only pursues academic excellence but also nurtures the entire person. Our school boards will no doubt keep this in mind as they formulate policy,” he wrote.
Archbishop Smith also took to task Catholic trustees in the Edmonton Catholic School board for “betray[ing]” their “duties and responsibilities” by defying Catholic teaching and the position of the Catholic bishops on gender ideology.
“There, for too long now, we have witnessed the inability of trustees to function in a cohesive way or speak with a unified voice. The words and actions of some trustees, rather than defending and upholding all that is good in Catholic education, have caused harm and hostility. In so doing, they have betrayed the trust placed in them by Catholic electors,” he said.