Catholic School Matters

September 29, 2019

Vatican Document on Gender Theory

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.

Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

A teacher in South Carolina was fired for social media posts which were interpreted to be pro-choice. She is now suing the school and the Diocese. Would you have approached the issue any differently? Who determines what is appropriate? When is the last time you've spoken to teachers or principals about your expectations?

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

I'll be in the road this week for a trip to Hays. Our friend Dr. Rachel Moreno from ACE is coming to serve St. Paul Mission Grade School for a weeklong coaching visit. Then I'll stop in to Havre on my way home, will lead Virtual Admin Meetings on Tuesday, call in to Billings on Wednesday, and then travel to Miles City for a school visit on Friday.

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.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Sunday: Travel to Hays
  • Monday: Visit to Havre and Great Falls
  • Tuesday: October Virtual Admin Meetings
  • Wednesday: Chancery meetings & Billings Catholic School Board meeting
  • Thursday: Travel to Miles City
  • Friday: Visit Sacred Heart Catholic School (Miles City); return to Helena

Miles this week: 1,381 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 11,838 road miles; 16,964 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. Educated: A Memoir (2018) by Tara Westover
    2. Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot (2009) by John L. Parker, Jr.
    3. The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts (2019) by Shane Parrish
    4. The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (2019) by Richard Rohr
    5. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance (2014) by David Epstein

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Our next Virtual meetings are scehduled for October 1st. Here is a link to the slideshow
            • The FACTS Ed registration form should have arrived this week for the October 17-18 Catholic Teacher Days

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"