Worcester Bishop Robert McManus in late June approved the policy, requiring students to “conduct themselves at school in a manner consistent with their biological sex,” and sent it to the diocese’s schools to implement into handbooks for this coming academic year.
But not until last week did word about the policy get spread to the general public, after the diocese posted information about it online.
“Catholic parents should enjoy the reasonable expectation that Catholic schools will provide a genuine alternative to the secular values and practices — often inimical to Christian morality and parental rights — which prevail in the government controlled public school system,” Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle said in a statement.
Under the “Catholic Education and the Human Person” policy, students will not be allowed to “advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events.”
Schools will consider the gender of all students being consistent with their biological sex for participation in athletics, school-sponsored dances, dress and uniform policies, and the use of bathrooms, showers and changing facilities. The student’s biological sex will be reflected on all school documents.
The policy references a few foundational sources, including Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and some teachings from Pope Francis.
“While some schools had policies in place, others did not,” David Perda, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese, said in a statement. “Individual situations were arising which underscored a need for a single policy which clearly states Church teaching and provides consistent application of that teaching across all our schools,”
State Sen. Robyn Kennedy, D-1st Worcester, said as a student of Catholic schools, she’s “deeply disappointed in this policy.”
“My Catholicism taught me that we are to love and care for each other,” she said in a tweet. “To the young people who face harm by this policy, please know you are seen, you are valued, you are loved. Our world needs you. We celebrate you.”
Two high schools in the 21-school diocese — the all-boys Saint John’s in Shrewsbury and the all-girls Notre Dame Academy in Worcester — wrote a joint letter to McManus earlier this month that their boards of trustees voted not to incorporate the new policy, according to the Patch.
Saint John’s and Notre Dame Academy are sponsored by independent religious orders, meaning they are not directly overseen by the Diocese of Worcester, according to Patch.
“(We) feel confident that Saint John’s High School is already effectively responding to the matters raised in the Bishop’s letter in a manner that respects the dignity of all persons,” Saint John’s Headmaster Alex Zequiera and Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Buckingham said in a letter to students and families.
It’s not clear what kind of punishment schools will receive if they do not implement the policy. But McManus does have a history of penalizing those that do not agree with his stances. Last year, he dropped the Catholic affiliation from Worcester’s Nativity School which declined to remove Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ flags, the Patch reported.
State Sen. Jason Lewis, D-5th Middlesex, in a tweet blasting McManus and his new policy, included that instance as well as when the bishop withheld the names of priests accused of sexual abuse in a report that went out earlier this year.
“I hope that the diocese will quickly acknowledge the great harm that they are causing,” he said, “and present new policies that support the love and inclusion that the Catholic Church preaches.”
The Archdiocese of Boston is in the midst of crafting gender-identity guidelines for its own Catholic Schools, focused on students in kindergarten through eighth grade, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
The Catholic Action League, in its reaction statement to McManus’ new policy, called out the Archdiocese of Boston, “where attempts to formulate school policy on gender dysphoria have resulted in bitter contention, leaks to the press, and a forced resignation from its study committee, the Diocese of Worcester has managed to devise a straightforward policy founded upon perennial Catholic teaching.”