At the start of this new year, we hope and pray for all of us in this lay network: that we experience the presence of God in the moments of our lives. Amen.
First of all, Archbishop Hebda took issue with the description of the December 11 Symposium in the December Lay Network Update. You remember that the St. Paul Seminary sponsored the Symposium at St. Thomas with the title "Man, Woman and the Order of Creation", exploring the meaning of Christian anthropology.
We very much appreciate the Archbishop's critique and have learned from it. He has read and approved the following summaries of his oral comments:
1. We said the Symposium "speakers denied the validity of gender dysphoria."
Not true. None of the speakers denied that people experience gender dysphoria. The questions are about what the experience is based on, how permanent it is, whether chemical and surgical solutions to dysphoria are appropriately recommended. It was the Archbishop's understanding that the problem the organizers of the Symposium intended to address was the mainstream secular culture's presentation of gender as fluid, a free choice, independent of biology and community norms. The Symposium intended to explore the dangers of this strong cultural trend and to explore appropriate pastoral responses in these circumstances.
2. We said that there was a "significant power differential" between the Symposium sponsors, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and the people who were meeting "in solidarity" with transgender people across the corridor. We also said the Symposium had the "full backing of Archdiocesan resources."
Archbishop Hebda's response is that the Symposium was not intended as an affront to transgender people and need not have been perceived that way. The Seminary raised the issue and the bishops attended the Symposium to learn about current gender studies and what a caring pastoral response might be. As to the "power differential," the cultural trend to see gender identity as a free choice of the autonomous individual gets far more play in the media and support on campuses than the Seminary faculty's questioning it as dangerous. The Archbishop was concerned that the Update might have led readers to believe that the Symposium was financed by the Archdiocese instead of by the Seminary.
We need more dialogue to come to mutual understanding and we hope to continue working on it.
If a cultural trend is powerful and dangerous, seeking community understanding would seem worth the time and effort.
Maybe the first questions for us, all Catholics of the Archdiocese working together, is how to assess if there is a powerful and dangerous trend in the mainstream culture on the question of gender dysphoria. We are part of the mainstream culture, after all. Do we understand gender dysphoria and the culture's use of terminology? Can we accept the use of the word "gender" to refer to cultural identity rather than to sex? Does that use lead to unwise chemical and surgical intervention? What are the facts, as unbiased as possible? How prevalent is chemical and surgical intervention? The goal here would be community understanding of what kind of social change is called for.
One suggestion is for us to
hear from transgender persons about their experiences, both positive and negative. Some ethical secular cohorts are as concerned as we are about the suffering of people with gender dysphoria. Can we
trust them and partner with them in bringing clarity to the questions?
Second, the Council of the Baptized has made plans for 2018 with three goals:
Develop among ourselves a firm and articulated Vatican II vision of Church as interpreted over the past 50 years by various theologians. Pope Francis is quoted by Thomas Reese in the January 3, 2018, edition of NCR: "In a talk to the Italian Theological Association on Friday (Dec. 29), he laid out what he believes is the true vocation of a theologian. Theologians must always refer back to Vatican II, where the church recognized its responsibility to proclaim the Gospel in a new way."
Develop a profile of the various understandings of a Vatican II Church prevalent in our Archdiocese
Counteract polarization in our Archdiocese by inviting Archdiocesan staff to converse with us about how we can work together to promote a Vatican II Church
You will be hearing how each of these goals will produce the monthly open forums.
If you have comments or ideas for how you can initiate actions plans, let us know.
Third, remember to come to the Cathedral at 7:00 pm on Sunday, January 21, when Archbishop Hebda will conduct the closing of the 500 year commemoration of the Reformation with the Lutheran bishops of the St. Paul and the Minneapolis Synods. We will be praying for Christians to work together for the reign of God here and now