Written by Kathy Clubb
On their return to studies this year, students at a Catholic college in Melbourne were informed that their male RE teacher was now self-identifying as a female. Students and staff were told that they were now required to address this teacher by a new name and new pronouns. The principal of the college sent a letter to parents, explaining the school’s policy regarding the teacher, and writing that the school has “sought to respond in a manner consistent with Catholic values and our school identity and has been mindful of our broader mission of teaching and sharing our Catholic faith.”
The letter goes on to explain that the school’s decision to support the teacher’s delusion was reached after discussions with Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS). MACS, as has been mentioned previously by FLI, can in no way be regarded as a defender of Catholic orthodoxy, inflicting as it does with regularity, indigenous spirituality on its students and staff. As a result of the school’s interaction with MACS, the decision was finally reached: “… the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society …. we have resolved to continue to welcome the teacher as a valued member of the community.”
While it is true that respecting human dignity is fundamental, the Church also teaches us that in the exercise of freedom, which Catholics believe is intrinsically tied to man’s dignity, one does not have ‘the putative right to say or do anything’. [Catechism of the Catholic Church §1747]. The Church also tells us that ‘acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.’ [ibid §1749.]
This principle of Christian life is commonly rendered as ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin.’ It shows that it is entirely possible to respect the dignity of the human person at the centre of this situation without pandering to any views which are not in accordance with the Church’s teaching. The same principle assures us that we are permitted to evaluate the actions of the school and those with authority in this matter.
Although only minor pushback against the school’s decision has been apparent, its principal predicted that some parents would not be happy with their sons being taught by a man who dresses as a woman. The letter to parents states that counselling is being offered, however, given that it takes the form of “assistance with processing thoughts”, this gesture sounds more like re-education than any real attempt to come to terms with parents who are upset by the school’s decision. From the letter:
“Our faith tradition values the gift of the human person, and the distinctions between women and men, and we acknowledge the tension this news touches upon. We wish to be sensitive to members of our community who will feel this tension the most and confirm that our shared Catholic mission has not changed, nor has our commitment to Catholic teaching.”
It is very difficult to see how such a statement can be taken seriously. Either the standard of teaching at the school has always been low – which does not appear to be the case – or this development will in fact lead to an inability on the part of staff to convey fundamental Catholic teaching, or even the natural law, to students.
Even if the truths of the faith and biological reality are presented to students, in practice they will be confronted on a daily basis with the anomaly of a man who considers himself to be a woman. They will also know that the Archdiocese of Melbourne tolerates the deliberate flouting of Church teaching and of the state Catholic Education policy.
That policy is found at the website of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, (CECV) in a document called “Guidelines on the Employment of Staff in Catholic Schools.” According to the CECV guidelines, staff in Catholic schools should “by their teaching…and by personal example, strive to help students to understand, accept and appreciate Catholic teaching and values.” (Guidelines p 5, §2c).
Many central Catholic teachings relate to the distinction of each gender and its clear relationship to biological sex. Given the choices of this teacher, it would seem that the personal example being demonstrated is in direct opposition to Church teaching. Furthermore these guidelines state that teachers should “avoid, whether by word, action or public lifestyle, influence upon students that is contrary to the teaching and values of the Church community in whose name they act.” (Guidelines p 5, §2d.)
In terms of avoiding potential litigation under anti-discrimination law, the Guidelines suggest that it would be possible to terminate an employee whose example failed to uphold Catholic teaching without attracting legal consequences. Page 7 of the Guidelines states that “There are certain exemptions to unlawful discrimination that apply to religious bodies and religious schools. Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic.) acts done because of someone’s …. gender identity that would otherwise be discriminatory may be lawful if the act:
(a) conforms with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion; or (b) is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion”. It would appear that the termination of this teacher’s contract could meet both these criteria.
This exemption for religious schools under the Act is known as the ‘inherent requirement’ clause. Despite the fact that a religion teacher would appear to meet the ‘inherent requirement’ condition set forth as grounds for an exemption, the school has so far chosen not to terminate the teacher’s contract. Rather, the school inexplicably sabotaged its best legal hope by requesting that this teacher move to the Maths department, where there is no ‘inherent requirement’ to conform with Catholic teaching.
A source within the Archdiocese of Melbourne, who spoke to FLI under condition of anonymity, said that religious schools believe the wording of the Equal Opportunities Act is ambiguous, leading them to shy away from testing it. According to this source, no religious school in Victoria wants to be the first to terminate a transgender teacher and risk being captured by the law. However, a lawyer has suggested to FLI that there is no ambiguity where the person teaches religion; they believe rather that it is the Church and/or school that does not want to use the exemption to carry out a hard action.
The spokesman also said that a loss in court could make things worse for the Archdiocese, but it is difficult to imagine an outcome that is worse than the current state of affairs. Arguably, the present outcome is worse: an inappropriate teacher is being employed by a compromised school faculty, all under the protection of the Archdiocese. If it was a matter of the government forcing the school to retain the teacher, then at least the Archdiocese would not be complicit.
Additionally, the school and Archdiocese have refused to comment on the situation, in the hope of avoiding scrutiny of their actions. By contrast, had they been willing to engage in a court battle, it would have drawn the public’s attention to the targeted persecution of religious schools by Victoria’s leftwing government. Are we to surmise that the Archdiocese would prefer to risk the souls of students and the teacher, rather than face the wrath of the LGBTI activist community and its fifth column media?
There is no question that the Archbishop of Melbourne understands the ramifications of pandering to gender ideology. Only last year, Archbishop Comensoli headed the team which produced a document dealing with the issue of gender-confused students in Catholic schools. The document, Created and Loved, was developed by the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement under the auspices of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. At the time, FLI reported that the document contains many inconsistencies, and we expressed doubts about how the policies would be received and whether or not those policies would be enforced.
However, much of its content provides the correct pastoral approach to those suffering from gender dysphoria and should form the consciences of those charged with evaluating the potential harms of allowing a transgender teacher to operate in a Catholic school. Created and Loved states that school communities must be “well grounded and adequately formed in the principles of a shared Christian anthropology.” [Created & Loved p.2] Commendably, the document also points out that much of the contemporary conversation surrounding gender is not compatible with Catholic teaching. It specifically mentions the idea that; “gender is something entirely separate from biological sex” and “the concept that gender can be fluid and oscillate between a male or female gender identity according to a subjective personal choice” as examples.
The Bishops’ document reiterates in several places that society’s fashionable narratives on gender being a social construct are not compatible with Catholic teaching. It states that “the belief that each person’s innermost concept of themselves determines their gender identity” is “in conflict with the Catholic understanding of Creation, in which every person is created good…” [ibid, p.5]
The document also stipulates that schools must be aware of the most current medical research regarding gender dysphoria [ibid, p 5] and provides a number of studies supporting this idea at the back of Created and Loved. [ibid, p 10-11]. The document also notes “.. the medical evidence that gender incongruence has a strong psychological dimension,” [ibid, P.8].
Although the policies contained in Created and Loved are aimed at students, and the Bishops have no official policy on dealing with gender-confused teachers, it is contradictory to promote a gender-affirmation model for teachers whilst also stating this policy harms children. Thus not only is the Archdiocese exposing a vast number of students to gender ideology-in-practice but it is also failing in its Christian duty to support the troubled teacher in trying to understand and accept the biological reality of his gender.
Perhaps the greatest concern in this situation is the effect that it could have on vulnerable students. Statistically, many students may be struggling with their own sexuality, and this may only encourage them to delve further into the realm of gender dysphoria. Equally concerning is the thought that a student may have, after great efforts from parents and medical professionals, left behind thoughts of a wrongly self assigned gender, only to now see his own teacher embrace this irrational thought and be fully affirmed by the school as a woman. The psychological effect on such a child could be devastating.
The size of the school involved takes things to a new level of scandal, with more than a thousand students affected, along with their families and the wider community. It defies belief that anyone involved in Catholic Education could be demanding protections for religious freedom when its schools fail in such a spectacular way to provide a true Catholic education.
We think Archbishop Comensoli missed a golden opportunity to test the law and thereby affirm the rights of religious schools. To consider that the school had an opportunity to apply and test the law, and yet chose not to pursue that path is an indicator of the inverted priorities of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Schools of any religion cannot and must not think that they can avoid a clash with the proponents of gender ideology. That fight is coming, whether they like it or not.
A redacted version of the letter from the Principal of the school is attached.