Green Bay Diocese Gender Identity Policies Prioritize Misguided Church Teaching Over Caring for the Faithful

July 19, 2022. DignityUSA, the world’s foremost organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in our church and society, is strongly protesting changes to the Diocese of Green Bay’s Education Policy that are disrespectful of and harmful to transgender students, family members, employees, volunteers, and all parishioners.

Earlier this month, the Diocese implemented new policies on Gender Identity that were added to the Policy Manual of the Office of Catholic Schools. A general policy states that, “all parishes, schools, and school systems, or other entities … shall apply all policies and procedures in relation to [a] person according to that person’s biological sex at birth.” A student-specific policy mandates that “Students shall conduct themselves in accordance with their biological sex at all times.” Employees and volunteers who do not use pronouns or bathrooms according to biological sex will find their services no longer needed. For students, admission to, or ongoing attendance at, Catholic schools is conditional upon acceptance of policies that include use of pronouns, restrooms, locker rooms, and sports programs based upon biological sex. Even parents who may be undergoing gender transition are to be addressed by the name the corresponds to the biological sex at birth.

“There are a number of troubling aspects to this policy,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. “First, it blatantly disregards the reality of transgender and nonbinary people and fails to honor their dignity and agency in living as they know themselves to be. This violates recommendations about how to address gender dysphoria agreed upon by mental health professionals, physicians, and social scientists, and can lead to tremendous stress for people who encounter this disrespect."

Duddy-Burke continued, “I am also saddened that this policy prioritizes ‘maintain(ing) church teaching’ over responding to the real needs of children and families. That is a pastoral failure that could have tragic consequences for the people served by the Catholic schools, parishes, and programs in the Green Bay Diocese. Finally, it forces teachers and administrators to violate their consciences. Strong majorities of Catholics, including those who work in our schools and parishes, support transgender and nonbinary people in making the social and physical transitions that enable them to live as God created them. Requiring them to follow a heartless policy rather than show support and respect for people with gender dysphoria in order to keep their jobs will mean many will face painful conflicts and may lead to disruptions of the school community as valued employees leave.”

The policy changes have already sparked strong reaction from some Green Bay area Catholics. Francis Beaumier, a member of the Diocese, said he reached out to pastors at three churches to see how they were responding to the new directives. He will be meeting with one pastor, another said he would follow the policy, and the third has not yet responded. Beaumier said, “Much as I would discontinue giving my business to somewhere that makes my Black friends unwelcome, I don’t feel I can use my cis(gender) privilege to show up while others are denied the very courtesy of being called how they want to be called… Wherever you stand, know that this was an extremely hard decision on my part and something I’ve spent the last month grieving.”

Duddy-Burke noted that Green Bay is the latest of roughly a dozen dioceses to have instituted such policies following the release of “Male and Female He Created Them” in 2019. This document, released by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, purported to be a guide to dialogue about the challenges of gender identity in Catholic schools. “Instead, at least in the U.S., it has led to the promulgation of policies, developed without any input from transgender people, family members, or professional caregivers, that make it difficult for transgender and nonbinary people to find support in Catholic schools and communities. This is tragic,” said Duddy-Burke.

“It is time to end Catholic attacks on transgender people,” said Duddy-Burke. “We urge the people of the Diocese of Green Bay and other people of good will to urge this policy be revoked so Catholic schools can serve all who need them.”