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PORTLAND, Ore. (ChurchMilitant.com) — Oregon's archbishop is shaping Catholic institutions' response to the current gender identity crisis.
The archdiocese of Portland's archbishop, Alexander Sample, recently issued guidelines to help Catholic schools, religious education programs and youth ministers know how to support gender-questioning students and their families. In a letter accompanying the document, the archbishop said he desired recipients to find within its pages "the beauty of the Church's timeless teachings, the depth of God's love for us, and his desire for us to love one another, even amid what can be a confusing and complicated cultural reality."
To underscore the confusing times those in the Western world are living in, the guidelines note: "In the United States, 43% of trans-identified people are below the age of 25, and trans-identification in this age group has doubled since 2017. In the U.K., the number of young people seeking gender transition rose by almost 6,500% between 2009 and 2022."
The 17-page document reports Catholics don't know how to react to this exploding trend and are turning to the Church for insight and help. It urges Catholic institutions to "respond to this complex cultural phenomenon with compassion, clarity, and fidelity to the truth, which is most fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ."
The guidelines' advice on expressing truth with compassion and clarity is broken into four parts: "The Truth and Dignity of the Human Person," "Gender Identity Theory," "Pastoral Guidelines" and "Whole-Person Affirmation: A Catholic Response."
Whole-person affirmation refers to affirming the entire person — body and soul. According to the document, "The first and most important truth that each young person needs to hear is this: you are infinitely loved. You are a living, breathing icon of God, and in this very moment, God is willing your existence, because he delights in you."
It acknowledges that because of the fallen world in which people must live, there are tensions "between our reason, our will, and our desires," but resolving those struggles can't be achieved by externalizing those disharmonies, but instead "through arduous inner work and relying on the grace of God."
The pastoral guidelines inform Catholic institutions they "should not endorse gender identity theory nor enable any form of gender transition, whether social or medical. This means that names, pronouns, facilities use, attire, and sports participation should depend upon biological sex identity, rather than self-perceived gender identity."
Other dioceses have produced and are following similar guidelines. As Church Militant previously reported, the diocese of Des Moines, Iowa released a gender policy last month instructing all diocesan parishes, schools, organizations and institutions to show compassion toward those with gender dysphoria while remaining faithful to the Church's teaching.
In 2020, the diocese of Springfield, Illinois issued a pastoral guide that acknowledged, "Gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition" that should be handled with compassionate care and concern."
It also maintained:
The Church teaches that our identities as male and female are part of God's good design in creation, that our bodies and sexual identities are gifts from God, and that we should accept and care for our bodies as they were created. A person cannot change his or her gender.
The following year, the diocese of Lansing, Michigan launched a gender policy requiring parishes, schools and charities to recognize people by their biological sex. It echoed the diocese of Springfield's pastoral guide, affirming that the differences between male and female, including sexuality, are a God-given good.
All of the aforementioned policies urge diocesan parishes and schools to uphold Church teaching while exercising compassion. The archdiocese of Portland's guidelines are no different, in that they stress "[t]hose who experience gender dysphoria should not be judged, rejected, or ignored, but met with compassion."
Parents of young children struggling with gender identity should find comfort in recent research that indicates most boys and girls will outgrow it. Internationally respected expert on pediatric gender medicine Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala has encountered hundreds of children with gender dysphoria during her time at Finland's largest pediatric gender clinic.
In a recent interview, she professed four out of five children who identify as the opposite sex will feel differently after puberty.
"That's why it's wise to monitor the situation, give the child peace of mind and treat the family's anxiety and possible related problems," she suggested.
One way young people struggling with their identity can receive peace of mind, according to Abp. Sample's instruction guide, is for adults to provide them with diverse models of manhood and womanhood. Caregivers can also remind them that Catholic tradition is rich with saints, some of whom didn't conform to gender stereotypes.
"Gender identity theory can at times reinforce restrictive gender stereotypes by claiming that a gender-atypical child is actually the opposite sex. Because the Catholic worldview affirms that gender — one's identity as man or woman — is grounded in the sexed body, rather than cultural stereotypes that are currently in vogue, there is great freedom and diversity in how masculinity and femininity are lived out in the world," the Portland archdiocese's materials advise.