Iowa diocese bans use of puberty blockers, transgender pronouns in schools and parishes

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The Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, has banned the use of puberty-blocking drugs, transgender pronouns, and the use of bathrooms opposite of one’s biological sex as part of an effort to “welcome and minister to those coping with gender dysphoria while following Catholic Church teaching,” a diocesan representative told CNA.

The new policy, which went into effect Monday, consists of seven new rules regarding transgender ideology at the diocese’s 17 schools (including two high schools) and 80 parishes.

The policy on “designations and pronouns” bans the use of preferred pronouns that contrast with the person’s biological sex on school campuses, parishes, and diocesan ministries. According to the diocese, the use of transgender-preferred pronouns “promotes the dissociation of biological sex and ‘gender’ and thereby confuses or denies personal integrity.”

Diocesan schools, parishes, and organizations are also not to permit cross-dressing, the use of bathrooms and locker rooms opposite a person’s biological sex, or the competition of transgender athletes in the opposite sex’s sports.

Further, transgender students are not to be admitted into single-sex schools, camps, or programs opposite their biological sex. Puberty-blocking or gender-reassigning drugs are not to be taken or distributed on diocesan property.

The diocesan policy also states that “parishes, schools, and other Catholic institutions or organizations should be ever mindful … to practice charity and to respect the personal dignity of individuals who may express tension or concerns about their biological sex.” The new diocesan policy states that individuals struggling with gender dysphoria are to “be guided to appropriate ministers and counselors who will assist the person in a manner that is in accord with the directives and teachings of the Church.”

“As a diocesan community, we are committed to upholding Catholic social teaching that enjoins respect for the life and dignity of every person as created in the image of God,” Anne Marie Cox, the diocese’s director of communications, told CNA. 

According to Cox, the new policy on transgenderism was developed at the request of the diocese’s schools and with the cooperation of school leaders and parents. 

“Parish and school leaders asked Bishop William Joensen to provide guidance … He composed a task force for this purpose, and after two years of study, prayer, listening, and consultation, a policy was developed that begins with love,” Cox said.

Some responded to the diocese’s new policy with outrage. 

Courtney Reyes, executive director of the LGBTQ+ group One Iowa, said: “Calling this ‘compassion’ is equivalent to confusing ‘hate’ with ‘love.’ You cannot pretend to be compassionate while misgendering people and denying them access to any and all spaces under your control.”

Iowa Democratic state senator Claire Celsi attacked the diocese’s new policy, saying: “These schools want public dollars and want to treat kids in a way that might cause them to commit suicide. This is not what Jesus would do.”

Bishop Joensen is not surprised by the outrage of groups and individuals who have “different visions of what contributes to human flourishing,” the Des Moines Register reported.

Joensen maintains that the new policy serves the people of the diocese, including those struggling with gender dysphoria, and helps answer the question “How do we support people but also be true to what we believe Jesus is asking of us?”

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