More international accolades for NZ bishops’ trailblazing sexual diversity doc

More accolades

Accolades continue for the New Zealand Catholic bishops’ trailblazing document on sexual diversity.

The latest comes from David Palmieri of Outreach, a US LGBTQ Catholic resource.

“Aroha and Diversity in Catholic Schools, manifests the love of Jesus Christ in its courage to seek “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for LGBTQ children in Catholic schools and colleges” he says.

For this unique effort among Catholic leaders, “Aroha” deserves global recognition and accolades, he says.

The National Centre for Religious Studies (NCRS), a branch of the official teaching arm of the NZ Catholic bishops’ Te Kupenga–Catholic Leadership Institute, talked to Palmieri about their role in helping draft the new document.

The NCRS is responsible for Religious Education curricula and resources at primary and secondary school levels, and provides an early childhood curriculum.

The NCRS “is led by Colin MacLeod, and is blessed by the wisdom and experience of full-time or part-time curriculum and resource developers: Laurel Lanner, Sam Steele, Kate McHeyzer, Stephen Woodnutt (seconded for 2022) and Lyn Smith”.

“The bishops genuinely care for the young people in their schools and want to support them,” the NCRS told Palmieri.

“Throughout the process, the New Zealand bishops have been compassionately aware of the need to support vulnerable young people.”

In September 2020, the New Zealand Ministry of Education released new guidelines for education on relationships and sexuality.

They included gender considerations for all grade levels.

The bishops’ new document acknowledges that in the culture, there are some “ideological stances which run counter to Catholic teaching on human sexuality.”

As an example, the NCRS says 2018 census data shows 48.2 percent of the New Zealand population is religiously unaffiliated.

Additionally, the Catholic Church is navigating cultural divergences among its members from official doctrines. These include prostitution, same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

The NCRS says the bishops are also concerned about the over-sexualisation of society, which targets young people and influences their principles and choices.

The bishops’ process for drafting the document “highlights the reality that being followers of Jesus today is just as complex as it was in Jesus’ time, and the Church needs to be just as creative, compassionate and strong in its message of love and faith as modelled by Jesus.”

According to the NCRS, the document’s preparation was an exercise in synodality and co-responsibility.

The bishops listened to school principals, guidance counsellors, directors of religious studies and diocesan religious education advisors. Principals involved in the drafting process were very clear that this document was needed urgently in schools.

They also “spoke to some groups of high school seniors and school leavers to see what they had to say about positive and negative experiences in New Zealand Catholic schools, and what advice they had to offer.”

Another positive aspect is the bishops’ choice to use “LGBTQ language”.

“We used LGBTQIA+ because we wanted to show inclusivity. This is also the terminology used in the Ministry of Education documentation on relationship and sexuality education, and it is the language used by young people in general,” NCRS says.

“Aroha” takes a far different approach from the US with LGBTQI+ issues. It advises “each situation must be judged on its merits.

The document is unique in at least three ways, NCRS told Outreach.

As it’s a pastoral guide, it shows a preferential option for the principles of Catholic social teaching.

It features a pastoral approach to catechesis on human sexuality.

The NZCBC prioritise the affirming and buffering of young people.


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News category: New Zealand.

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