Earlier this year, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The document was written for educators in Catholic schools so this deserves our attention. Like other church documents, however, it’s a tough read and so I contacted theologian and social ethicist Fr. Bryan Massingale from Fordham to join me on this week’s podcast to discuss. Grab a copy, read it first, and then listen to the podcast!
Unlike other Vatican documents, this one is not signed by Pope Francis. This document is a “thinking out loud” summary of where the Church is at right now, and because it is centered on dialogue, it is by no means the final word on gender theory. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is also working on a document on gender theory as well and will be out in 2020.
Many were hoping that the document would provide more direction for school policies. Instead, it offers church positions on gender theory and calls for more dialogue. For a look at how the document was received, here are articles which show the variety of reactions:
- Vatican summary of the document which points out its focus on dialogue instead of ideology
- New York Times news article “Vatican Rejects Notion that Gender Identity Can Be Fluid” showcases how the American news media interpreted the document
- The Cardinal Newman Society states that the document didn’t go far enough
- Looking at the two NCR’s: the National Catholic Register states that the document “rejects gender ideologies” and the National Catholic Reporter offers a pointed critique
- Great balanced opinion piece in the Arlington Catholic Herald offering a fair critique of the document
- Perhaps the best piece of commentary was by Fr. Jim Heft, SJ, of the The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC.
The document explores the anthropology (read human development) of Christian life, the divorce of freedom from truth, the importance of the family, and the tension between science and faith. Not to be missed, however, is the document’s attention to “a way of accompanying that is discrete and confidential, capable of reaching out to those who are experiencing complex and painful situations” (paragraph 56). The document does not make any policy restrictions on Catholic schools (e.g. banishing transgender students), instead calling on educators to carry out a pastoral approach.
It’s worth your effort to read and to participate in the dialogue around these thorny issues in our culture, our church, and in our schools. My hope is that the podcast and these resources will help you in your efforts.
This week’s blog and podcast are focusing on the Vatican document on gender theory, “Male and Female He Created Them” released this year and intended for Catholic educators. The Top 5 links:
- Fr. Jim Heft’s take on the Vatican document is the best piece I’ve read on the document and will give you the context around the document.
- In the American Catholic News section, “When Professional Catholics Burn Out” is a great piece exploring how lay Catholics struggle with their vocations in the church as well as their faith.
- Keeping with the same theme in the Leadership section, “6 Causes of Burnout” will help you consider how well your school is functioning. We’ve all heard the adage, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person.” Is that really the best approach?
- In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article on protecting teacher time is a great piece on guarding instructional time from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
- In the Miscellany section, the New York Times piece on the growth of anti-vaccine sentiment is really enlightening. It speaks to the challenges all of us are dealing with in education—if, like medical professionals, we are simply another voice, instead of the professionals—that are reshaping our profession. As people turn against science, experts, and authority, how does that impact your work?
Have a great week!
This week, I am airing a conversation with Fr. Bryan Massingale from Fordham. We’ll be discussing the Vatican document “Male and Female He Created Them.” It’s a difficult document to read and discuss as we touch on some “third rail” topics such as gender, homosexuality, and transgender students. On Wednesday’s Catholic School Matters Radio Hour podcast we have a long form conversation exploring the meaning of the document.