New Diocesan Policy on Gender Dysphoria

Father Steve Mattson on Mar 5, 2021

Love, Truth & Authentic Happiness: A new policy on the Human Person and Gender Dysphoria
On January 15, 2021, the Diocese of Lansing promulgated a new policy addressing timely concerns regarding gender dysphoria and the ways Catholic parishes and schools are being asked to respond to concerns of those who experience gender dysphoria and their families. I invite everyone to go to the diocesan website to get the theological background for the policy as well as to view a very helpful podcast addressing the policy. Here is a very brief snapshot of the purpose of the policy, which is based on our Catholic Christian understanding of the way that God made us in our goodness as human beings.

In order to create an environment that upholds the truth of human anthropology while also offering authentic pastoral support to those suffering with gender dysphoria, the new Diocese of Lansing policy requires that all Catholic parishes, schools, institutions, charities agencies, and other agencies respect the biological sex of the human person as given by God and, thus, apply all policies and procedures in relation to that person according to that person’s God-given biological sex.

I am grateful for the excellent work Bishop Boyea and the diocesan staff have done to develop this policy and its explanatory materials. We are all aware that in 2021, the stance that this policy takes, like the Church’s stance on homosexual acts, is anything but “politically correct.” It is abundantly clear that the culture rejects the Christian understanding of the human person, which is regrettable, since the Christian view of the human person accords very well with biological science.

Wanting to Show Love
At the same time, we must be very mindful of our responsibility to love those who experience gender dysphoria. Our challenge within the Church (and society) is to discern how best to show love when someone experiences struggles such as this. The answers are not obvious. As we grapple with this question, we are forced to do so in a context in which "elites" claim that a person's sense of identity is more fundamental to who he or she "really is" than his or her biological sex. From the perspective of both faith and reason, these are troubling claims, and we must take them seriously.

True Love and the True Good
At this point, I want to acknowledge that the desire of family members and friends to show support for those with gender dysphoria and to help alleviate their pain is good and loving. Even so, as the policy makes clear, love must accord with the truth, and be guided by it. Another way of saying that is to say that only what is true is truly loving. In this painful situation, it seems important to recall that all of us can, at least at times, believe things that are not true, even about ourselves. In this context, that means that even insistent, consistent, persistent beliefs can be wrong.

The key to loving well is to help each person come to know the truth about themselves, beginning with the truth that they are loved and lovable as they are. Each person is a beloved son or daughter of the heavenly Father. Our call today, in keeping with the second great commandment, is to love our neighbor as ourself. We must care especially for those who are struggling the most.

May we as Christians prayerfully discern how best to love those who are struggling the most, to help heal their wounds. Such is the deep work and purpose of our Lord's death and resurrection: to heal and make whole. Each of us has different wounds, but the healer is the same, Jesus. May we allow Him to guide us. And heal us, and, through us, others.

Let’s Talk
Some of you may disagree with the policy and with these words of mine. I understand, and readily extend an invitation to talk together about the policy, whether your concerns center on your own experience, those of your loved one(s), or the growing number of children and adults who experience gender dysphoria. The call from the Lord, as I see it, is to speak the truth in love, which is my goal. May we all be guided by love in this regard. As St. Thomas Aquinas famously said, “love is the effective willing of the true good of the other.” That’s my goal, and I believe it is the goal of our bishop and his staff as well.

With love for all God’s children,

Father Steve

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