The Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) has released a new pastoral guide instructing its clergy (and, by extension, laypeople) how to respond to the possible appearance of transgender people in their schools, churches, and families.
In case you’re wondering how likely they are to have achieved the desired level of “compassion and sensitivity”, the man who wrote it — Bishop Thomas Paprocki — is the same man who, in 2013, performed an exorcism on the entire state of Illinois as a response to the decision to legalize gay marriage.
He claimed that it was an appropriate response to the news because gay marriage is a lie from the devil.
Compassion and sensitivity indeed.
Granted, he tries to put on a sympathetic face… but given that he starts off by defining transgender people as inherently mentally ill (later comparing them to anorexia patients), the mask falls away in no time flat.
Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition, in which a biological male or female believes he or she is the opposite gender. It is of paramount importance to handle such situations with gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern. All forms of discrimination and harsh treatment must be strongly resisted and corrected.
He saves the majority of his concern for the families of trans people, whose “disorder affects the entire family” — but only those who make their dismay and lack of acceptance clear to their trans family member. Those who are accepting and supportive are engaged in something “intrinsically evil.” In fact, he baldly labels parents who allow their children access to gender-affirming health care as child abusers:
In fact, in some cases, parents are submitting their children to hormonal therapies at pre-pubescent ages in order to prepare for sexual transgender surgeries later. Viewed through a Christian lens, such cases amount to child abuse and genital mutilation.
That sounds like an excellent argument for the wrong-headedness of viewing it through what Paprocki calls “a Christian lens.”
(It’s worth noting that his information is wrong. Pre-pubescent children do not receive hormones, although they may receive hormone blockers to prevent the onset of puberty from making irreversible physical changes, such as breast development or facial hair growth, that exacerbate gender dysphoria.)His advice to these families — to insist that the trans person is not a valid arbiter of their own identity while refusing them transition-related medical care that has been scientifically shown to be the only helpful course — is, with absolutely no exaggeration, going to cost trans Catholics their lives.
With this reprehensible preface laid out, Paprocki goes on to outline the practical nuts-and-bolts of how all Catholic institutions — which, one presumes, could include Catholic hospitals as well as parochial schools and parishes — should treat the transgender population in Springfield, Illinois.
Needless to say, Paprocki calls on the entire Diocese of Springfield to outright ignore trans people’s gender identity, with all pastoral figures exhorted to use the name and pronouns associated with the gender assigned to them as neonates. Failure to do so can result in censure and dismissal.
Transgender students are permitted to attend Catholic parochial schools only if they consent to being misgendered in all things, from what their classmates are allowed to call them to who they can compete against in sports. Transgender parents may enroll their children in parochial school, but the school is not permitted to use the correct name or honorifics in correspondence with them.
In terms of classroom discussion on current events related to gender identity, one particularly chilling phrase stands out:
Respectful, critical questioning of Catholic teaching in the classroom is encouraged as long as its intent is to help the student progress toward greater awareness and understanding.
In other words, students can explore different points of view about the Church’s teaching on these subjects as long as they ultimately learn to accept what the Church believes about their transgender classmates, relatives, and community members — that they are disordered, that they are evil, that they are against God’s plan — and about the people who support them — that they are abusers, that they are monsters.
To no one’s surprise, transgender Catholics are horrified by the document. In a Dignity USA press release, Linda Roberts, head of the group’s Transgender Support Caucus, speaks frankly:
Statements by the Church that medical or therapeutic treatments prescribed by medical or psychological professionals to deal with gender dysphoria are harmful, immoral or reckless only contribute to this serious problem… Does the Catholic Church really wish to adopt policies that overtly turn people away from God? Was it not Jesus who recounted the parable that it was worth pursuing the one lost lamb even though ninety-nine remained?
Apparently, as far as Paprocki is concerned, the analogy only applies if the lamb agrees with the gender designation given on the day of its birth.
But if it’s numbers Paprocki cares about, he’s playing a dangerous game. As people come to recognize documents like these as promoting cruelty and calling it compassion, the Church will have a lot more than one lost lamb to deal with.
It will be hemorrhaging lambs at an even more astonishing rate than it already is.