Dear CCBI BLOG readers,
CCBI has written several articles over the last years dealing with the question of AIDS and condoms, an area where we have to consider both bioethics and sexual ethics.
Many ethical areas involve both these disciplines, including that of transgender. This issue, being relatively new, needs a great deal of reflection on the part of individuals and society. The Church has not written a great deal on this topic so far, but here is one important quotation from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Section 224:
“Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the church does not tire of repeating her teaching: everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.
Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the good of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.”
This teaching reinforces Catholic teaching on the principle of the inseparability of the unitive and procreative dimensions in the human person, and all other teaching in sexual ethics is built on that.
Continuing the theme of the link between bioethics and sexual ethics, questions continue to arise about homosexuality, sexual diversity and, for example, the Ontario Government’s requirements for equity in schools, including sexual equity. As a speaker at CARFLEO’s conference in 2010, and in talking about Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, I was somewhat surprised at the more or less general acceptance of the idea that homosexual activity should be treated as equal to heterosexual behaviour. The other keynote speaker and myself were diametrically opposed on this issue, which did not surprise me. I assumed that was why we were both asked to speak. What did surprise me, and what I later recounted to the main organizer of the event, was the fact that a senior member of the group expressed in the concluding remarks the hope that the Church would change its teaching, with the clear implication that it is wrong in its teaching at present. I expressed my concern that my part of the proceedings had been “blindsided” by this, which is still how I perceive the outcome of this event. Of course my concern was and is that church teaching was being deemed irrelevant and wrong.
One of the questions at the conference was about Gay/Straight Alliances. I said I think they sometimes could have merit, but it depends on how these things are done. In a subsequent interview I said much the same, stating that we all realize that many problems surround such clubs. This was long before any move was made towards using the existence of such clubs as part of a political agenda, which has happened recently.
Because the formation of such clubs, originally meant to help gay students dialogue with others in their school, has become a political football, I recently drew up some further points which I took along ready to discuss at a recent meeting of a school board.
POINTS RE EQUITY AND INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN ONTARIO SCHOOLS
1. Catholic schools’ “reason for being” is to be in keeping with the Catholic ethos.
2. Catholic teaching is universally applicable: sexual activity is a marital activity. Genital expression is not allowed either for unmarried heterosexuals or homosexuals.
3. The discussion of sexuality and sexual orientation is a matter of education and important for students. Because of its importance, it is essential that it be done well and by informed educators.
4 . Since the variability of accuracy in determining sexual orientation is so wide, heterosexual or homosexual students seeking support and information should receive advice from properly trained psychologists and counselors. Students in the same age group as those seeking help cannot be as well informed or experienced. While their input may be valuable, they themselves are on their own journey of identifying their sexuality and cannot be truly reliable sources for those seeking help.
5.. The evidence that many who think they may be homosexual discover the opposite is true as they mature should make us pause before encouraging outing and identification with a specific group. Encouragement towards outing in adolescence, e.g., by the availability of supportive clubs, would be at least imprudent and perhaps dangerous.
6 There is no legislation that states that specific types of associations must be formed or allowed in schools. They may be recommended, but boards have some discretionary power.
7. The Pastoral Guidelines, properly implemented, should serve to respect students and protect them against discrimination, in satisfaction of the ethos of a Catholic school and of the Equity requirements.
I think these are useful points in this discussion, and I hope to continue the discussion of both these issues, transgender and homosexuality in our schools, on this Blog, or in further articles written for CCBI for public information.