Council of the Baptized logo
in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
October, 2017


Last month we alerted you to look into your parish compliance with "safe environment" provisions for  protecting minors from sexual abuse.  We are hoping our parish coordinators are satisfied with the safeguards in place.  Fr. Charles Lachowitzer, Moderator of the Curia, has  this to say about the Archdiocesan pastoral care of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.   The Catholic Spirit allows comments now. 

Here is another important alert!  Archdiocesan policy rejecting transgender identity is causing us concern.  Read on and see if you agree that we should write to the Archbishop about taking a more thoughtful, respectful tone in discussing transgender experience and moderating the policy.  

What is happening:
Bullying of LGBT students has been a concern for schools, parents, faith communities, and most citizens for several years, and the concern produced an  anti-bullying law in 2014.  In July, 2017, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) approved an implementing document for the guidance of schools in providing a safe environment for transgender students, calling it a "toolkit" for the voluntary use of school administrators and school boards.  The toolkit was developed by a Council of the MDE charged with working toward safe school environment for learning. This is the link to that  Council's site listing personnel.  The toolkit can be downloaded from the Council's site.  The PDF of the tool kit can also be found   here.

Jason Adkins is Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), a conference of Minnesota's 6 dioceses, engaged in lobbying for Catholic positions in public policy and law.  The  MCC lobbied against anti-bullying legislation, the Safe Schools law,  when it was being enacted in 2014, it lobbied against the toolkit during the MDE approval process, and now that the toolkit is approved, the MCC is still asserting in articles in the Catholic Spirit that transgender claims "deny reality" and promote "gender ideology."  The harsh criticism can only cause continuing conflict.  

Do you think this is a prudent, wise, and compassionate position for the Catholic bishops to take? Our co-responsibility for our local Church and its pastoral duty to our transgender brothers and sisters as well as our ethical duty to our civic community urges us to pay attention to the positions our Church is taking on this. 

Please read the Open Letter to the Minnesota Bishops written by Mary Ellen Jordan posted on the CCCR-Council of the Baptized website.

Then, after reading the references below, particularly Jason Adkins' article and the news reports of the Catholic Spirit, please: 
  • Email Archbishop Hebda about the policy position taken by the MCC.  His contact information is below.
  • Attend Council of the Baptized open forum, Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 S. Snelling in St. Paul.  Dave Edwards, father of the transgender child mentioned below and member of the Council developing the toolkit for schools for the Minnesota Department of Education, will present information and encourage discussion.
One of the immediate triggers for the MDE efforts was a legal claim against Nova Academy, St. Paul, by  David and Hannah Edwards, parents of a 5 year old transgender student. The case was settled by Nova and the parents, with Nova making changes that provided for transgender safety. These Pioneer Press articles tell that story.  

The Catholic case for opposing the MDE effort:  
The Catholic Spirit, in a news story dated July 20, quoted Adkins on the issue of protection for transgender students.  "He said the toolkit asks school faculty, students and parents to deny reality, and is 'less about protecting all students than ruthlessly imposing a plastic view of human beings on everyone, and punishing those who don't conform'."
Adkins wrote an article giving the rationale for the MCC's policy position, published in The Catholic Spirit, August 22, 2017. "The falsehoods of gender ideology - essentially, the view that gender is unrelated to biological sex and can be chosen at will - are not fit to be disseminated anywhere, least of all in our schools. The council's decision to distribute this toolkit to public schools throughout Minnesota reveals that state bureaucrats are more concerned about colonizing students' minds than forming them to seek the truth."   

The Catholic Spirit has followed up with news stories heavily biased in opposing the MDE efforts to provide safe environments for students.

Archbishop Hebda's contact information:

Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
777 Forest Street  N
Saint Paul, MN 55106-3857

(651) 291-4400

Your own ideas and words are best for your letter or email to the Archbishop, but here are ideas if you need them:

1.  If I disagree with a position taken by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, I don't find a way to directly communicate my opinion without feeling it may be ignored.  Therefore, I am writing to you directly as the leader of my local church. 
2.  As so often happens today each side of an issue recruits experts to buttress the view of the world shared by their group.  The development of religious and scientific truth requires that we have an open posture of intellectual inquiry in line with the Catholic tradition of respect for reason.
3.  I am particularly troubled by a recent article published in the Catholic Spirit that ignored the actual experience of young people, their parents and medical professionals in our diocese. 
4. The article implies that with respect to gender we know all that needs to be known.  
5. With the development of the science of gender formation, it is premature to condemn transgender consciousness as "fake", "unreal", or illusory. It is insulting to transgender people.  
6.  Transgender is a difficult, emotionally wrenching subject.  People who identify themselves as transgender are conflicted in dealing with their own gender issues and deserve love and mercy, not condemnation.
7.  The position of the MCC further marginalizes these people.  I urge you to withdraw the current policy position on transgender and to provide a open forum to constructively consider all the issues surrounding this sensitive subject. 


Still in joyful hope,
CCCR Board and Council of the Baptized