Trenton Catholic Charities apologizes for sponsoring ‘beyond the gender binary’ book reading

Trenton, New Jersey View of downtown Trenton, New Jersey. | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Trenton issued an apology for co-sponsoring a children’s “story time” session this month with a book encouraging kids to move “beyond the gender binary.”

“We are very sorry for the confusion and hurt this may have caused. We are currently reviewing what led to our agency’s participation in the book reading. It is important to note that this event took place without the knowledge of or approval by [Trenton] Bishop David M. O’Connell, CM,” Hollis Painting, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, told CNA.

The book “My Shadow Is Purple” is written by Scott Stuart, a children’s author who, on his website, claims to be “a leading voice on fully accepting and empowering our children, exactly as they are.”

The book reading occurred at the Hamilton Township public library on June 17 and took place in the “children’s room.”

Scott Chianese, the library’s director, told the Daily Wire that Catholic Charities contacted the library to host the book reading and that it was the first event the charity hosted at the library.

A “local” Catholic parent identified only as “Tom” told the outlet that he was shocked by the reading of the book. 

“We seriously question how this sponsorship is anything other than a sad example of secularized virtue signaling,” he told the outlet. “I would also like the Diocese of Trenton to explain how moving children ‘beyond the gender binary’ will move them closer to God?”

Boy in a dress

The rhyme-scheme picture book features a young boy who says his “shadow” is different from his father’s “blue” and his mother’s “pink” shadow.

“My Dad has a shadow that’s blue as a berry, and my Mom’s is as pink as a blossoming cherry. There’s only those choices, a 2 or a 1. But mine is quite different, it’s both and it’s none,” the book says.

Toward the end of the book, the boy gets invited to his school’s dance and he shows up wearing a dress. “I’m ready to rock and I’m feeling cute,” the boy says.

When he gets to the dance, the boy feels that he can’t join the “pink” or the “blue” shadows and is upset that his teacher is making him choose one side. 

“If I cannot be purple, then I cannot stay,” he said. “I’ll leave and go home, I quietly say.”

Then the boy meets other students at the dance who have different-color shadows like he does.

One student says to the boy: “There’s more than two colors our shadows can be. I was too scared before but blue is not me. I know from outside, blue fits like a glove, but my shadow’s yellow, which to me feels like love.”

The apology

In Catholic Charities’ statement to CNA, Painting said: “Our purpose, rooted in our Catholic faith, is to restore dignity and independence to individuals and families in need, particularly the poor and vulnerable.”

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“We achieve this through service, advocacy, and community building. For over three decades, we have worked with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to provide resources to victims of child abuse,” she said.

Painting said that Catholic Charities was chosen for a state grant to provide and sponsor “youth mental wellness and bullying, suicide, and substance-abuse prevention initiatives.”

“On June 17, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton participated in a book reading at a public library as part of this grant program. We understand that, during this event, a book was read that addressed a gender-related topic,” she said.

“While this is a vitally important state program — and one which Catholic Charities is uniquely qualified to execute — our contract clearly states that we will not administer or host any content that may go against the teachings of the Catholic Church or its values; for any such topic, the curriculum is to be delivered by another community-based mental health organization,” Painting said.

Painting called the contract “an important boundary” and added that “we are working to determine how those lines were blurred during this event.”

“We are deeply committed to serving the community and remain focused on helping those in need while ensuring all future activities align with Catholic values and teachings,” she said.

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