WASHINGTON – Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo joined with the archbishop of Omaha, Neb., Monday to lead the church’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s directive that transgender students be allowed to use the restrooms assigned to the gender they choose.
Malone and Archbishop George Lucas, in a statement for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called Obama’s directive “deeply disturbing.”
“The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created’,” the bishops said. “Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents.”
Issued last Friday, Obama’s directive would force schools that receive federal funds to allow transgender students to use the restrooms of their chosen gender. If they don’t, they could lose those funds under a federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools.
Obama defended his directive in an interview Monday with the Buzzfeed website.
“Anybody who has been in school, in high school, who has been a parent should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority – kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender – are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially,” Obama said. “They are vulnerable, and I think it’s part of our obligation as a society to make sure everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved and protected, and that their dignity is affirmed.”
While agreeing that transgender students deserve respect, the bishops said the Obama directive short-circuits the political debate about the issue of which bathrooms those students should use.
“It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues,” the bishops said.
Malone and Lucas commented on their issues because of their roles with the Conference of Bishops. Malone chairs the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, while Lucas chairs the Committee on Catholic Education.