"There is no way that a school can facilitate or support a gender transition without violating its mission and identity...we need to be very clear about this," Farnan said.
In addition, Farnan advised that a Catholic school should not use “preferred pronouns,” as this will signal to other students that a gender transition has in fact taken place.
"It doesn't mean you don't support the student, but you need to say to the student: we love you, we want to have you here as a student, but understand we can't support this."
At public schools in particular, Farnan said, kids are absorbing the message that some people are born in the wrong body, and some people can change from being a boy to being a girl.
"For a school to buy into that, or to in any way endorse it, is something that is very harmful to everyone's faith," Farnan said.
In 2010 and 2011, Benedict XVI described transgender ideology as "an erroneous view of the person" that would have long-term implications.
Pope Francis addresses the problem in Amoris laetitia and Laudato si', Farnan pointed out, and has expressed dismay about the teaching of gender theory to children.
In the long run, Farnan said, a Catholic school facilitating or supporting a gender transition isn't compassionate for the child, partly because they are agreeing to a radically life-altering process that doesn't resolve underlying problems, such as mental illness.
"It's damaging to the other students in the school but also for that student, because you're affirming something that runs contrary to reality, and involves affirming the child in rejecting the givenness of their creation," she said.
The medical process by which a transgender person “transitions” is often referred to as “gender-affirming” therapy.
Both Farnan and Dr. Susan Selner-Wright, who holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair in Philosophy at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, offered an alternative, Catholic view of “affirmation.”
“For us, 'affirming' the person – and I hesitate to even use that word, since it's been so co-opted...but understanding that people want to show compassion and love to the person, the best way to show compassion and love toward the person is helping them to realize that their dignity lies in their relationship to God," Farnan said.
(Story continues below)
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"The difference lies in a different understanding of the dignity of the person. So for us as Catholics, your dignity comes from the fact that you are a created child of God. And God loves you so much that he created you as an embodied person.”
Selner-Wright had a similar insight.
"For a Catholic, what it means to 'affirm' someone is to affirm them in their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God, and we are completely for that," Selner-Wright said.
"But what the other side wants to do is say: no, to affirm someone you not only have to affirm them in their person, you have to affirm everything that they think about themselves and everything that they do...no good parent thinks that that is what affirmation is."
Selner-Wright commented on a recent case in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas that made national news, in which a Catholic school denied admission to a child of a same-sex couple.
The school had deferred to the archdiocese for guidance, which advised against the students’ enrollment.