Saint Mary’s College, a prominent all-women’s Catholic college in Notre Dame, Indiana, recently announced they intend to admit transgender students beginning next year.
School President Katie Conboy wrote to staff that “Saint Mary’s will consider undergraduate applicants whose sex assigned at birth is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”
The announcement has since prompted backlash from some Catholic circles.
Now, as the school is thrust into the national spotlight for the controversial policy, students and staff are torn as some rebel and some applaud.
Trans Women Now Admitted
There are some who saw the move by Saint Mary’s coming.
Earlier this year, Conboy established the “President’s Task Force for Gender Identity and Expression,” whose stated goal was to “present recommendations for housing considerations and on community education around both Catholic identity and women’s college identity” according to The Observer.
For those who pay close attention to academic language, the writing was on the wall the moment the task force was established.
Conboy says that this wasn’t solely her decision. She says that the Board of Trustees “fully supports” this change, and that “we are by no means the first Catholic women’s college to adopt a policy with this scope.”
The reaction to this policy announcement has been... mixed. Many current and former students are celebrating the decision as a step toward becoming more welcoming, more inclusive, and more forward-thinking.
However, other alumni took to social media to express their displeasure.
And it's not just alumni levying criticism; some faith leaders have joined in, too.
Diocese Not Consulted
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades (from the South Bend diocese, where Saint Mary’s is based) says he was not consulted about the decision and argues that the school is rejecting “the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect” by accepting transgender women into the school.
Rhoades is reportedly urging the school to reconsider its decision.
Saint Mary's leadership says their decision was inspired in part by Pope Francis himself.
“Pope Francis advocates for love as the appropriate approach to those who are different from ourselves: 'Love, then, is more than just a series of benevolent actions,'” the email reportedly read.
“Those actions have their source in a union increasingly directed towards others, considering them of value, worthy, pleasing and beautiful apart from their physical or moral appearances. Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives.”
Pope Francis has certainly taken a softer approach to the LGBTQ community than some of his predecessors.
Nevertheless, the pontiff has continued to express mixed feelings on the subject; earlier this year, he was quoted saying gender ideology was “dangerous” because “it blurs differences and the value of men and women.”
Catholic Values At Issue
Alumni and faith leaders who oppose the move argue that by accepting transgender women, the school is turning its back both on its students and its Catholic faith.
However, school administrators say they’re simply upholding Catholic values like acceptance and inclusion.
As school president Katie Conboy wrote, “Saint Mary’s must stand firm in its position as an inclusive community leader, and that as educators, we should continue to create an environment where all women belong and thrive.”
What do you make of Saint Mary’s controversial decision? Both opponents and supporters say they’re the ones with the "real" Catholic values.
Question is: which side is right?