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New Vatican document on education could lead to increased exclusion of LGBTQI people, says DignityUSA

March 31, 2022. A newly released document from the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education could make it even more difficult for LGBTQI people to be part of the Catholic school system and could trigger a new wave of staff terminations and students being turned away, according to DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in their church and society. DignityUSA expressed its concerns after reviewing “The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue,” which was issued by the Vatican on March 29.  

The group believes the document’s release may have been prompted, at least in part, by recent controversies over whether schools can call themselves Catholic. For example, in 2019 the Archbishop of Indianapolis ordered Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School not to call itself Catholic after it refused to fire a married gay teacher. That order was later suspended by the Vatican. 

“While this Vatican document claims to be promoting dialogue about how schools live out their Catholic identity in the twenty-first century, it contains a number of provisions that could lead to the increased exclusion of LGBTQI students, parents, educators, and staff, as well as vocal allies” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director. “It states that all teachers, leaders, and noneducational staff must live in ways consistent with Catholic teaching.  But this teaching fails to fairly address the realities of LGBTQI people’s lives in accord with modern scientific, psychological, and sociological understanding. The document also requires that parents and students be informed of how schools promote official Catholic dogma and agree with the school’s ability to require compliance with deeply flawed church teaching. All of these things make it very challenging for LGBTQI people to feel safe within a Catholic school environment.” 

DignityUSA notes that dozens of people have publicly told their stories of being terminated from employment or denied jobs at Catholic schools for simply identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender, or queer, for marrying someone of the same gender, for speaking out against anti-gay bullying in their classes, and even for posting supportive images or messages on social media.

Duddy-Burke continued: “Catholic schools been a positive source of connection with the church for generations of people. Many have fond memories of how these schools impacted their lives. Catholic schools have long been a way for marginalized and impoverished people to access the education needed to get good jobs and security in our society. It is unfortunate that there are a number of bishops across the United States who have actively excluded LGBTQI students and families from Catholic schools, and who have fired their LGBTQI employees simply because of their identities or chosen relationships. These bishops are likely to use this Vatican document to further justify their discriminatory and punitive actions. That kind of exclusion feels entirely inconsistent with the values of inclusion and service that are spoken about in this document.

“We would hope that a document on Catholic education would foster greater understanding, dialogue, and inclusion of all people, including LGBTQI persons,” concluded Duddy-Burke. “Unfortunately, we believe this new document from the Vatican will result in exactly the opposite happening.”