Recently, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland quietly issued a sweeping policy statement on sexuality and gender identity at its 79 elementary and five high schools in Northeast Ohio. Though the Diocese says the policy merely formalizes existing guidance and practice, everything outlined is draconian in practice and foaming with hatred and bigotry that goes part and parcel with the religious radical right.
Among the items of course there’s a bathroom bill in place. But, after that, things become much more oppressive. Faculty and staff must out students to parents should they witness any signs of what they refer to as “gender dysphoria” and ban gender transitions outright. The policy also prohibits same-sex couples from attending Catholic school dances, only allows students to wear what the Diocese considers “gender appropriate” clothing, the display of rainbows or any pride symbols and allows students to only participate in athletics and extracurriculars deemed appropriate by the Diocese and their “God-given biological sex”.
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland also does not recognize sexual orientations or identities like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Instead, it refers to people within that spectrum as “experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion” and will only use pronouns that “accurately reflect a person’s God-given biological sex” and nicknames that confuse or contradict one’s biological sex are prohibited. To double down on this stance, institutional records and documents must use “person’s God-given biological sex and legal name” and ban the alteration of existing records following a legal name change.
The Dioscese’s decision comes after Pope Francis made headlines after criticizing the “very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” of some American Catholics who have replaced faith with ideology at a meeting in Portugal on August 28. Across the United States, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In Ohio alone, 10 bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community have been introduced through bans on trans women in sports, gender-affirming care, drag performances and more.
Like Helen Lovejoy, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland will disguise this oppressive policy under the guidance of children’s well-being. In its eyes, they’re protecting non-trans students from being sexually assaulted in the bathroom or curing what they conceive as an issue through prayer or whatever else the twisted idealogues at the top believe. They scream this down from on high while ignoring that the Catholic church is a principal offender in the sexual abuse of children nationwide.
In 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reported 4,228 child sexual abuse allegations. 3,924 abuse survivors filed these allegations from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. The incidents involved more than 2,700 individual clergy members from across the country. In the greater Cleveland area alone 53 clergy members have been complicit in the sexual abuse of a child since 2002. Unfortunately, there could be more considering many high-ranking Church officials have downplayed the significance of the abuse or orchestrated cover-ups, shuffling clergy members around the nation to protect pedophiles instead of the victims in the name of God.
Instead of safeguarding children, many dioceses and church officials concealed the abuse and protected the abusers. When considering the new policy by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, which doesn’t mention the church’s sins, their reactionary stance is hypocritical considering that the safety and well-being of children were never truly considered. Instead, with this new policy, the Diocese is just putting more children at risk of being afraid of who they indeed are inside. Concealing that instead of embracing who they are and how they feel is evil and much more dangerous than what the Diocese thinks their students need protection from.
Like anything in life, school should be a safe space for students to learn and grow personally and academically. By instituting a policy that’s so overwhelmingly regressive, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is creating a volatile and dangerous space for its students. They want to erase LGBTQ+ students and faculty from existence, which is unacceptable. The ramifications from this are chilling and frankly go against one of the most fundamental lessons taught in Christianity.
Love and accept one another. No matter who they are.
Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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