Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released these frequently asked questions and answers Sept. 19 after the new policy has received some media scrutiny, not all of which has been accurate.
“In turn, I and other staff members of the diocese have received several complaints, questions and concerns. Accordingly, I have decided to address these concerns and dispel the misinformation by promulgating the instant Frequently Asked Questions,” he wrote.
Q: Will “LGBT students” be denied admission to Catholic schools?
A: No. No student will be denied admission to a Catholic school merely because he/she “identifies as LGBT.”
Q: Will students who “identify as LGBT” be expelled?
A: No. The policy language is intended to address student conduct that may become disruptive for the learning environment of a Catholic school. Students who “come out as LGBT” are not subject to expulsion based solely on their self-identification as “being LGBT.” This is not unlike the general and common-sense prohibition against any other student conduct that may become disruptive for the learning environment of a Catholic school. Moreover, the policy language regarding dismissal is permissive (“may be dismissed”), not mandatory (“will/shall be dismissed”) — thus, school principals and administrators always have discretion regarding the best and most appropriate way to handle any given situation, based on the specific circumstances of that student.
Q: Will “LGBT students” be permitted to discuss their sexuality in school context?
A: Yes. Although LGBT students must avoid conduct that may be disruptive (just as all students must), the policy would not preclude, for example, students who “identify as LGBT” from seeking counseling from a school counselor, a teacher or the principal, or even from meeting with other “LGBT students” to discuss openly whatever issues they may be working through with their sexuality (with the caveats, of course, that the principal’s permission and approval is first obtained, and that any such group not actively advocate for a change in the Church’s unchangeable teachings on human sexuality).
Q: Doesn’t the policy permit homophobic or transphobic slurs against “LGBT students”?
A: No. The policy expressly precludes bullying, harassment, or threats or acts of violence against “LGBT students,” whether by faculty or fellow students (see subsection 4.42(2)). All students, including those who “identify as LGBT,” have the right to feel safe and protected from abusive language while in our Catholic schools.
Q: Doesn’t this policy unjustly discriminate against “LGBT students”?
A: No. Many have rightly pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that LGBT persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC #2358). The policy does not discriminate based on LGBT students as persons, but the policy does set out what kind of conduct will and will not be permitted in our Catholic schools. To the extent that some would characterize these standards as “discrimination,” I would assert that these standards do not constitute “unjust discrimination,” insofar as they merely apply what is already well-settled Catholic teaching to our Catholic schools, which must always uphold Catholic teaching.
Q: Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?,” so why are you judging?
A: Pope Francis said if a homosexual person seeks the Lord and has good will, then how can any of us judge that person’s soul? And I wholeheartedly agree. But this policy is not about judging souls, it’s about judging conduct, which Pope Francis has also not shied away from doing. Moreover, Pope Francis has been consistently outspoken on the need for our Catholic institutions to proclaim the truth of our sexuality as designed and created by God (see subsection 4.42(1)).
Q: Doesn’t this policy conflict with the vision of the Jubilee Year of Mercy?
A: No. For us as Catholics, mercy can never be divorced from truth. Mercy without truth is mere sentiment, whereas truth without mercy may not give life. Preaching truth and preaching mercy are not mutually exclusive, and in fact it would be un-merciful if the Church were to be anything less than fully truthful regarding what we believe and teach.
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