Globally groundbreaking NZ bishops

The new pastoral guidelines concerning gender and sexuality are “groundbreaking”, says New Ways Ministry’s Robert Shine.

Primarily targeting Catholic educators, “Aroha and Diversity in Catholic Schools” is the opposite of so many policies which have harmed students and upset school communities in recent years, Shine comments.

The document clearly shows the bishops’ core concern is young people’s safety and well-being, not with defending church teaching, he says.

He sees the guideline as exciting “as it provides Catholics worldwide with an opportunity to grow in understanding and to improve pastoral practice.”

First, most importantly, the bishops address LGBTQ+ issues primarily through the lens of social justice, Shine says.

“The text stresses repeatedly values like respecting human dignity, advancing solidarity, and promoting the common good.

“At the document’s heart is the clear statement, ‘How we as a Church treat those members of the LGBTQIA+ community should reflect Catholic social teaching.'”

Shine notes the bishops recognise this commitment to social justice is central for young people.

“Such a social justice-focused approach is different from nearly every other diocesan or national gender policy, which sadly focus instead on upholding orthodoxy and imposing LGBTQ-negative prohibitions.”

Second, and linked to the first point, there is a repeated emphasis on the need to end discrimination and curtail bullying, Shine notes.

He says he likes the guideline’s practical advice, which includes general principles like:

  • “Ensure that school is a safe place – many young people may not feel accepted anywhere else … school may be their only … sanctuary.”
  • “Acceptance of others sets a very ‘low bar’ – Catholic schools need to be centres of welcome from all the community. . .”
  • “Ensure … procedures and guidelines on how homophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of violence are unacceptable and how they are to be addressed …”.

The third point is the role an informed conscience has in handling personal, complex issues like gender and sexuality.

“Catholic schools are called to help form the consciences of the young people in their care, while recognising that parents, caregivers and whānau have a role to play in this area. . .”

Practical suggestions include encouraging staff to educate themselves about LGBTQIA+ people, to develop relevant resources and revise gender-related dress codes. It also provides practical guidelines for young people themselves.

The final section – “Tools for Decision Making” – includes questions on how to hold events or promote resources.

On the minus side, Shine says the document reiterates… a conservative interpretation of church teaching!

“Yet, the document does so in a way that is far more limited than other policy documents on this subject.”

Catholic education worldwide can now study the guidelines, he says. By being so focused on localised decision-making, the bishops end up offering universal principles and tools for reflection.

New Ways Ministry has locked horns with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the US bishops for its dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

Pope Francis, however, has praised its founder in a handwritten letter.


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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