Created and Loved: A guide for Catholic schools on identity and gender outlines a pastoral approach shaped by the theological, medical and legislative context in which Catholic schools operate.
The bishops consulted widely with specialists in education, including principals and teachers, sought advice from parents with children facing various gender questions, heard from bioethicists and other experts in the field, and from the international Church community.
Increasing rates of gender incongruence in Australian society are seen as an invitation to reflect deeply on the biblical and Christian witness to human dignity. The guide offers principles that can be used by Catholic education authorities for their own local contexts.
“The Catholic Church and our schools begin from the foundational principle that each person is created in the image and likeness of God, and is loved by God,” said Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, chair of the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement.
“That principle guides this document, which we offer to our schools to support them in walking compassionately alongside each student we are invited to educate.”
Archbishop Comensoli said Created and Loved was grounded in Christian anthropology, which values the worth and dignity of every person, and also sees each person holistically, rather than defining that person by any single characteristic.
Assistant director for Catholic Identity and Mission at Catholic Education SA, Jill Gowdie, welcomed the guidelines, saying they would assist schools as they seek to provide the “best pastoral support for gender-diverse students”.
“Our Catholic schools in South Australia absolutely ‘walk the talk’ in their pastoral perspective for all students,” Dr Gowdie said.
“The particular complexities for walking with gender diverse students and their families mean that we need to be formed and informed by theological, psychological, medical, and legislative expertise.
“The Australian Bishops’ guidelines do this – providing a most helpful frame of reference for all, balancing a theological perspective with practical recommendations for the school context.”
Archbishop Comensoli said Catholic school leaders were well placed to respond to pastoral needs in informed and sensible ways, free of politics and the division sometimes seen in the wider community.
The Catholic position is to support the needs of each individual based on their circumstances, respectful of the person and the wider school community of students and families.
“Catholic schools are beautiful communities of encounter with the risen Jesus, who loves us unconditionally and challenges us to grow in our wisdom
and understanding,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
He said the guide would build on the engagement and formation that education authorities are undertaking as they develop practical local guidelines.
“It will be reviewed in time, and the guide will evolve,” he said.
Created and Loved can be accessed at https://bit.ly/CreatedandLoved