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The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

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The Carroll News

Cleveland Diocese issues controversial statement on sexual identity and gender, JCU responds

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s policy both ruffles feathers and stirs up support across Northeast Ohio
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The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s policy both ruffles feathers and stirs up support across Northeast Ohio

On Sept. 1, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland implemented the “Parish & School Policy on Issues of Sexuality and Gender Identity” which will impact 79 elementary schools and five high schools across Northeast Ohio (approximately 42,000 students in total). This release comes as a response to recent “societal trends,” causing the Diocese to call upon its members “to act and speak in ways that are consistent with and affirming of this divinely revealed truth.”

This new set of guidelines, which was approved by Bishop Edward C. Malesic, includes a ban on physical or social gender transitions, a ban on same-sex couples at school or parish dances, a mandate to use a person’s pronouns and name that match their sex assigned at birth, the requirement that members of the parish or school dress according to their sex assigned at birth and the forced notification of parents who have children who express an opinion or identity contrary to the policy.

In the subsequent paragraphs of the policy, the Diocese makes multiple statements such as that gender and sex assigned at birth are the same and that those who express dissent to this opinion outwardly “in an inappropriate or scandalous way” may have their position in the church reviewed.

“This view is contrary to the divinely revealed reality of our true, God-given human nature,” the mandate continues. “Catholic Institutions must accompany people experiencing gender dysphoria and be committed both to providing a loving environment and to upholding the truth of God’s created reality.”

According to Marianne Duddy-Burke, the Executive Director for pro-LGBTQ+ Catholic organization DignityUSA, the Cleveland Diocese is not the first institution to introduce these kinds of approaches to their institutions. For her, while many of these policies are “consistent with official catholic doctrine,” they still “… reflect a very outdated view of humanity that is not consistent with the findings of Sociology, Social Sciences and Psychology.”

“We see this policy and the dozens of others similar to it that have been released over the past three years as very problematic in lots of ways,” Duddy-Burke told The Carroll News. “There has been a group of Catholic bishops, and they tend to be the bishops who are involved in a whole lot of culture war issues, that have released policies. No matter who the people of the church are, there seems to be a particular targeting of LGBTQ+ people. And, recently, trans and non-binary people.”

Many members of the John Carroll community have expressed concern that these statements will impact the university. For LGBTQ+ faculty and students, the message leaves some apprehensive.

“Queer and trans youth are vulnerable as is and for their existence to be rejected and attacked in this way goes against what we see to be Catholic values of solidarity and human dignity,” JCU Allies club president Rebecca Kilmer ‘24 told The Carroll News.

“I can only imagine how emotionally burdensome and painful it must be for some to navigate the news,” Jurell Sison, the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at John Carroll University, stated. “We are fortunate to have many LGBTQ+ Catholics who seek to deepen their faith. As a minister of faith, I remain committed to the ongoing work of learning, listening and accompanying them.”

However, as confirmed by the Vice President of Mission and Identity Ed Peck, the Diocese’s new policy is not directed at JCU. Yet Peck still told The Carroll News that it is important to “… form a community in which all people, regardless of their background or identity, can experience a deep sense of belonging.”

“We recognize and respect the right of the Diocese of Cleveland to establish this policy to govern its parishes, offices and schools,” Peck stated. “Like all religiously affiliated schools, we are called to establish policies and practices that promote a faith-based education in light of our Jesuit, Catholic mission, vision, and values. Reflecting the Jesuit priority of ‘walking with the excluded,’ John Carroll offers many resources for our LGBTQ+ community, as well as their families and friends.”

In an email blast to the wider campus community on Sept. 11, President Alan Miciak said that “… we believe all are made in the image and likeness of God and have inherent human dignity that must be respected. Our university’s foundation is built on the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. We are called to treat one another with kindness, compassion and respect, reflecting the divine image within each of us.”

For clergy member Fr. Jim Bretzke, he is confident the university will handle the controversy appropriately.

“Clearly John Carroll should be ‘responsible for developing policies and practices for the operation of their schools that reflect and promote the Catholic faith and Catholic teaching,’” Bretzke elaborated. “I am confident that this is exactly what JCU will do, keeping in mind our commitment to Cura Personalis, the care of the whole person, and the Jesuit ideal of having our actions and decisions oriented always to that which will be more promotive of the ‘Magis’ of God’s greater glory.”

Albeit University Heights is not the only place where concerns and endorsements alike are being given.

Following its publication, the Diocese received heavy backlash from the public both affiliated and unaffiliated with the church. One of the major dissenters of the policy includes Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb, who released a statement on social media on Sept. 11 rejecting the policy.

Those in favor of the policy have also made their voices heard. In a letter to the editor, an anonymous author wrote that “The Church is a private institution; our schools are for educating our children in the Faith, not in ideology.”

Other respondents in a separate article comment that the policy is “… rooted in the catechism and beliefs of the Catholic Church” and that those in favor are “… an accomplice to harming children” or “… allowing children to mutilate their bodies to something else.” Supporters claim that the Diocese is not excluding queer people, but alternatively reaffirms an open environment to all and that it does not, as said by The National Catholic Register, “‘ban open and respectful discussion or debate’ on sexuality and gender dysphoria in appropriate forums for Catholic institutions.”

The Diocese issued the following statement to The Carroll News “In response to societal trends and at the request of church and school leadership, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has taken existing guidance and practice in matters of sex, sexuality and gender identity and developed them into a formal policy, rooted in scripture and Church teaching, to help ensure that these matters are addressed in a consistent, pastorally sound and authentically Catholic manner across our diocesan and parish institutions and schools.”

“Each one of us brings our own struggles and questions and the Church, like Christ, meets each one of us where we are. It is our hope that this policy, in tandem with the pastoral and theological resources found on the diocese’s website, helps each person to live more fully in the truth of their identity as a son or daughter of God who is made, body and soul, in His image. Each and every person is welcome and invited to be a part of the Church.”

Still, this directive from the Diocese is not expected to be the last of its kind issued across the nation. According to Duddy-Burke, more of these policies are anticipated to be issued in other Dioceses in America. Further, wide-sweeping action could happen starting in November at a conference for U.S. Catholic bishops including barring Catholic hospitals from giving gender-affirming healthcare.

“It is possible that the entire conference of U.S. Catholic bishops [are] going to vote to prohibit all gender-affirming care at all Catholic health care institutions across the country,” Duddy-Burke stated. “This impacts all kinds of people, not just Catholics, but everybody in the country who is served by Catholic health care. That’s about one in six people across the country.”

Even with these controversial moves, Duddy-Burke says that the church is open to all despite these developments.

“The dignity of every human person is really important,” she concluded. “The teaching [is that] every single person is created in the divine image.I think that trans and non binary people teach us that we have no understanding of the abundance of God’s creativity.”

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Comments (1)

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    ErinSep 25, 2023 at 11:47 am

    Actions speak louder than words. The diocese can claim the church is “open to all”, but this policy makes it crystal clear to myself and many others that we are not welcome or respected. Christ embodied the values of compassion, dignity, and inclusion for all; perhaps His message should be given precedence over a few cherry-picked Bible verses.