Bishop Thomas Daly: “We Are Playing Make-Believe with Students’ Biological Sexes”

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My 14-year-old daughter passed through the heavy wooden doors of a relic last week. She began her high school years at old Mount de Sales Academy, the type of Catholic institution that is vanishing in America, like the gradual blowing out of racks of votive candles. The instructors and the Nashville Dominican sisters at the 170-year-old all-girls school strive to help save the eternal soul perhaps even more than stretching the mind. Due to Mount de Sales’ location, though,—the Archdiocese of Baltimore—the sisters’ maternal drive to sacrifice and protect their girls has grown weightier. 

The transgender revolution has been invited into Baltimore Catholic high school sports teams and become etched into primary school handbooks. In the private high school athletic league, in which twelve all-girls Catholic schools participate, there is a new policy that has obliterated women’s competition. While running hills in her first cross-country meet this past weekend, my daughter could have been running alongside (and likely passed by) a few gender-confused boys.

Catholic all-girls high schools in Baltimore participate in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM), a league of 31 private schools. In 2019, the IAAM instituted a policy that allows biological males to participate in female sports. Because the policy was instituted just prior to Covid, many parents are just now discovering its contents, which state, in part: 

On a league-wide basis, the IAAM’s policy permits students’ athletic participation in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and that affords these students the privacy and confidentiality that all students expect from educational institutions.

“The most basic teaching of the Catholic Church—the biological sex of man and woman made in the image and likeness of God—is no longer agreed upon. By allowing such policies in our Catholic schools, we are cooperating with evil and confusing our youth,” said Christi Gaeng, a mother of three children who played sports and graduated from Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. She and her husband are concerned about sending their remaining two children to Catholic high schools. 

We need to remember the real mission of the Catholic schools, which is to educate our youth in the truth and beauty of their Faith and to save souls. If we cannot stand firm on such basic Church teaching, then we have lost our Catholic identity and have become just like secular schools.

As women, we have fought for protected class status under Title IX and are now losing that status right before the Catholic Church’s eyes. We are watching our Church allow this ideology to take away our womanhood and infiltrate our schools. The physical safety of our girls is now at stake—and even more importantly, their spiritual safety is at stake. As parents of female athletes, we can no longer assure our daughters have a safe place to shower or use the bathroom, not to mention the diminished physical capacity to fairly compete. There really are no words.

On the morning the transgender policy was introduced for a vote, St. Vincent Pallotti principal Jeff Palumbo shared his opposition with the IAAM commissioner and heads of schools. 

My objection was based on our faith as a Catholic school, the competitive disadvantage for our girls, and concern for the long-term welfare of our students.…

As one leading a Catholic high school and asking my instructors to teach the Faith, I couldn’t vote for the measure because, as Catholics, we are taught that God created us male and female. Stories from across the nation confirm that competing against boys who identify as girls is competitively unfair for our girls. Finally, we shouldn’t create policies that encourage students to start down this path at such an early age. There is evidence that many people who have transitioned have regrets that lead to self-destructive behavior and that many children who are confused about their gender will accept their birth gender later in life.

Just one other Catholic principal objected, in milder fashion, to the measure. Ten other Catholic principals voted to approve the gender-inclusive measure. Of the 29 private and Catholic school principals present that day, at least 24 approved the transgender policy.

“I drove home that day very surprised and saddened,” Palumbo said. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this issue. Adopting these types of policies is confusing our children about what the Catholic Church actually teaches.”

Last month, Villanova University published a “Gender Inclusive Practices Guide” that promotes the use of students’ preferred pronouns in the classroom. The guide gave tips on how to refrain from “misgendering” a fellow student in classes and offered ways to apologize appropriately. Transgender dorms are popping up throughout America at Catholic colleges, and Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, and Pro-Choice groups at colleges have become as common as campus Starbucks stands. 

Conservative speaker and activist Michael Knowles, a Catholic, was recently disinvited to speak at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. A spokesperson at the university cited Knowles’ socially conservative commentary. “My disinvitation from the University of St. Thomas is particularly ironic because I was disinvited specifically for espousing Catholic views,” said Knowles.

Although the Christ-centered mission of the majority of Catholic campuses has certainly unraveled, the red tide of reengineered moral norms there isn’t where the primary concern needs to be. Faithful, college-aged young adults are old enough and able enough to circumnavigate and sufficiently discriminate the lies and ideologies often regarded as widely-accepted truths.

Catholic parents would be wise today to shift their attention to Catholic primary schools and high schools, where, overnight, young children have been thrown as sacrificial lambs into a seismic ideological war and upheaval of Christian anthropology. The indoctrination of our young children is unfolding right before our very eyes. The beautiful Catholic vision for young students, prevalent in America for two centuries, is being suffocated, reengineered, and snuffed out by a Catholic embrace of modern, gender-inclusive dogmas.

At its root, it is an assortment of Catholic bishops who’ve allowed it. 

Two years ago, unbeknownst to Baltimore-area pastors overseeing parishes with primary schools, an archdiocesan-wide fiat was written into Baltimore’s Catholic school handbooks. It stated that schools will not discriminate on the basis of one’s gender identity. Most pastors of schools were unaware of the alteration until someone informed them of the change.

Shortly thereafter, at the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, Maryland, my then-third-grade nephew—who still believed in Santa Claus—watched his female classmate begin to present herself as a boy; new name, uniform, and bathroom. This change was promoted and given wide berth by the girl’s father—the then-assistant-principal of the Catholic school. 

A few months after this man stepped down from his administrative position, he publicly revealed himself as one who reviled the Catholic Church. In a podcast, he seemed to present himself as an atheist. This is the same man who led morning prayers for 500-plus Catholic school children, including nine of my nieces and nephews.

You really can’t blame the underground atheist vice principal for forcing his ideologies on impressionable boys and girls; school policy permitted it. Although complaints from a large and disturbed faction of parents made it to Archbishop William E. Lori’s desk, the gender-inclusive policy remains in place entering the 2022-23 school year.

Why? 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore did not answer questions posed for this piece, so I contacted Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education and a former long-time educator and high school administrator. I asked Bishop Daly to address the permissive gender-inclusion policy at primary schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the acceptance of gender-confused athletic competitors, and to speak on the growing number of American Catholic schools caught within the lengthening shadows of reengineered anthropology

Bishop Daly stated:

The Catholic school’s mission is suffering terribly because we are playing make-believe with students’ biological sexes. 

I’ve found myself thinking more and more about Truth. Is there Truth in that [IAAM] policy? No. We are created man and woman in the image and likeness of God—the notion that we assign it to us is a falsehood. This notion has ripped us apart in our culture, and especially hit hard [are] our young people. When we in the Church deny the youth a clear understanding of our Christian anthropology, we have deeply harmed them. And it is something we will answer for from God. 

When Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” it was a beautiful gesture of love, care, and the importance of our young ones. Christ asked us to care for the orphan. In modern society, the new orphan is the impressionable young person who is confused by what some in the Church have allowed him to believe. When the child is allowed to be confused under church auspices, the harm done is unspeakable. 

We are called to persevere for Christ and to help all young people to holiness, to watch over young people, and to protect them. As Catholics, we are called to be prophetic, full of mercy, and compassionate, but this acceptance of new gender ideas has nothing to do with mercy and compassion. This has to do with confusion that leads to chaos.

Bishop Daly said the foundational issue plaguing Catholic schools is the lack of strong Catholic leadership. In refusing to place the full teachings of the Catholic Church first, he said, certain bishops have capitulated and adjusted old Catholic norms in exchange for state money. The aftermath is often reflected by a change of verbiage in school handbooks. 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has received millions of dollars from the state of Maryland in the form of BOOST scholarships. In some of the archdioceses’ own school handbooks is a state-mandated “Non-Discrimination policy” that asserts participating “nonpublic schools” seeking state funds cannot discriminate against “sexual orientation or gender identity.”  

Daly said other bishops and principals fear combatting unhealthy modern trends, and others make accommodations to build athletic programs.

Daly reflected:

Many people are weak; they want to go along to get along…The Church needs to respond in a way that is in total fidelity to what the Church teaches. That’s all. It cannot accommodate worldly trends; In schools, the tail can never be allowed to wag the dog.… Since taking over the [USCCB Education czar] position, I’ve learned that schools are very much impacted by unhealthy trends in culture. The problem is not the Church in the world—the problem is the world in the Church.

Schools and dioceses need strong leaders. Why did so many religious orders collapse over the years?—it was due to poor leadership. Changing governance will not help us. The remedy is strong and faithful high school administrators who respond with a clear Catholic message. You need pastors who support the school, knowledgeable business managers, and strong principals who love the Faith.

Laity is frustrated by a lack of leadership from certain bishops. It is the bishop’s role as a successor of the apostles to take on the role of Christ’s own mission—and that is to save souls. It’s a tremendous responsibility we as bishops have. We cannot allow the secular to overtake the sacred.

Daly did share encouraging news. Recently, the Archdiocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, published a policy that promotes the Church’s proper teaching on sexual identity. The policy requires students to identify and behave in accordance with their biological sex. Their approach runs in line with policies already published by the Dioceses of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Arlington, Virginia.

Although Daly has no jurisdiction over the manner in which bishops oversee their schools, he plans to continue speaking boldly on the need for uncompromising Catholic teaching, strong leadership, and clear teaching that steers children away from LGBTQ and transgender agendas. 

He said:

It saddens me that some bishops, Catholic education departments, and schools have capitulated. Watered-down Church teaching under the guise of social justice and accompaniment has been emphasized at the expense of the salvation of souls. 

So many Catholic schools now have gone with the woke agenda. If schools have made the move to embrace the woke agenda, critical race theories, and the unbridled social justice agenda, they get a failing grade from me—because they have failed our children.

Too many schools have compromised Church teaching—whether it’s because of money, fear, to please society, or because they just don’t believe, it is happening. We cannot let the worst of our culture define who we are as Catholic schools.

When asked how he thought Modernism had been allowed to breach and infiltrate Catholic schools, Daly said: 

There was poor instruction in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s—and we have a moral fiber that has snapped. There is a collapse now that we need to do whatever we are able to prevent. All of this [gender-inclusion in schools] is the product of what the society is now producing.

Gaeng sees great irony in many bishops’ capitulation to modern notions on biological sex: “So many bishops are looking to save the Catholic school system; this gender inclusion will not save it—it will work to continue to destroy it.” She summed up the solution, saying: 

There is a steep rise now in homeschooling tutorials and classical schools. Chesterton Academies are popping up everywhere across the United States. If bishops really want to save the Catholic school system—go back to the mission: teach children to know, to love, and to live out the Faith, and help them to defend and share it and Jesus Christ throughout the world. 

[Photo Credit: Bishop Daly Twitter account]

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Kevin Wells is a former Major League Baseball writer, Catholic speaker, and author of Priest and Beggar: The Heroic Life of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz (Ignatius Press). His best-selling book The Priests We Need to Save the Church was published by Sophia Institute Press in 2019.

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