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Q&A with Fr John Flader: Putting kids, not sex, first

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Transgender Bathroom Sign
A sign protests a US state law prohibiting transgender rest room access in a hotel. PHOTO: CNS/Jonathan Drake, Reuters

“Dear Father, You began an interesting commentary on the Vatican document on gender theory and promised to continue. What else does the document say?”

The document to which you refer, Male and female he created them – towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education, was issued on 2 February 2019 by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.

After discussing the three guiding principles of listening, reasoning, and proposing, the document goes on to give criteria to the different groups involved in education.

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The first of these is the family, the natural place for the relationship of complementarity between man and woman to find its fullest realisation. The family is a natural unit and is the first one responsible for the education of its children. The document insists on two fundamental rights in this regard.

The first is the family’s right to be recognised as the primary environment for the formation of children, including their sexual and affective education.

This is fundamental in Australia, where programs like Safe Schools seem to take this right away from parents and transfer it to schools, in the event that a child wishes to adopt a different gender and the parents are opposed to this transition.

The second right is that of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother where the masculinity and femininity of the father and mother help the child grow in affective maturity.

This too is fundamental in this country, where same-sex “marriage” has been legalised and where other types of relationships deny children the complementary roles of a father and a mother.

The document next addresses the school, which educates children in a role subsidiary to that of the family. The goal of the Catholic school is the promotion of the human person, and the person finds the fullness of the truth about man in the person of Jesus Christ.

The document stresses that the school is to dialogue with the family and respect the family’s culture, listening to its needs and expectations.

Boy and girl icons

The school should help children grow in affectivity and develop a critical sense in dealing with such issues as the flood of pornography and the overload of stimuli that can deform sexuality.

As regards society as a whole, the document mentions that the educational process should give a perspective on the situation of contemporary society, where the culture of marriage is in decline.

There should be an educational alliance between family, school and society but this alliance, the document says, is in crisis. All participants in education are to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents and with their consent.

The document next addresses formators, those who contribute to the formation of the students in various ways. They can have a strong influence on their students, and for this reason they should have not only professional qualifications but also cultural and spiritual preparedness.

They should always endeavour to give their students good example since, in the words of Pope Paul VI, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (EN 41).

Educators should be especially prepared regarding the issue of gender theory and regarding current and proposed legislation in this matter. And they should develop new teaching materials that offer a sound vision of the human person to counter materials that give a partial or distorted vision.

In its conclusion, the document says that the path of dialogue, which involves listening, reasoning and proposing the Christian vision, is the most effective way to bring about a positive transformation of concerns and misunderstandings in the area of gender theory.

This culture of dialogue does not contradict the legitimate aspirations of Catholic schools to maintain their own vision of human sexuality, in keeping with the right of families to base the education of their children on a proper anthropology of the person’s true identity.

And a democratic state cannot reduce the range of education on offer to a single school of thought, especially in relation to this extremely delicate subject, which is concerned with the fundamentals of human nature and with the rights of parents to choose freely an educational model that accords with the dignity of the human person.

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