Omaha Archbishop retreats – for now – on new gender dysphoria policy in Catholic schools

An archbishop has delayed for one year the implementation of a gender identity/gender dysphoria policy for Catholic schools in Omaha that was released just days ago.  

Archbishop George Lucas’ decision comes after “recent feedback and questions from school administrators and members of school communities,” he wrote in a letter issued Wednesday. 

The archdiocese is delaying implementation of the policy until the 2023-24 school year to permit time to “draft revised norms that will be more clearly focused and will not compromise the teachings of Jesus Christ and the church,” according to the letter. 

The new policy document sought to uniformly codify existing policy across all 70 Catholic schools within the Omaha archdiocese. The gender ideology movement sweeping through the nation’s public schools has forced the Catholic Church to re-establish the parameters of acceptable conduct in schools to be compatible with Catholic teaching. 

The release of the policy generated mixed reviews among educators and parents. Criticism focused on the unadorned clarity of the policy, as it clearly restated traditional gender norms. The direct nature of the policy stirred some to label it broad, aggressive and extreme. 

Perhaps recognizing that some observers might perceive the delay in implementation as a weakening of the policy, Lucas restated the purpose of the policy and its immutable nature in Wednesday’s letter: 

“The thought that gender can be a matter of personal choice threatens the well-being of children and young people. It threatens the relationship between parents and their children established by God. It is a rejection of the place of God as the author of life and the object of true worship, as expressed in the first commandment. It is incompatible with our Catholic faith and the mission of Jesus.” 

The restatement of the policy’s purpose was echoed by archdiocese spokesperson Deacon Tim McNeil. 

“It will come back substantially the same policy,” McNeil said in an interview with KETV on Wednesday. “It will still be aligned with church teachings. It just may have some sentences … removed, deleted, some things moved around, but it will be basically the same policy.” 

In his letter Lucas referred to the limits that the Catholic faith puts on schools partnering with parents whose beliefs are contrary to the Church. 

“If parents should choose to pursue gender ‘alteration’ for their child or ask the school to cooperate in communicating to their child or others in the school community that which is not in God’s plan regarding gender, the school-parent partnership suffers, thus requiring discernment about the appropriateness of the family’s place in the school. 

“[B]ecause our partnership with parents is defined primarily by the truths of the Catholic faith, there necessarily are limits on how we might proceed together.” 

Until the revised policy is reissued, schools are to follow previous guidelines and refer any conflicts to the Archdiocese for consideration.  

Despite the archbishop’s pledge to soften the wording, but not the overall import of the policy, a parent opposed to the policy, Meghan Herek, adopted a defiant tone: 

“This generation of Catholics is not going to listen to every single word they have to say anymore. We’re not doing that anymore. It’s time for us to change us as a faith.” 

Omaha talk radio personality and fellow Catholic Scott Voorhees of Newsradio 1110 KFAB took issue with Herek on his Thursday morning show 

“OK, Meghan, this generation is all done listening to archbishops, popes, the magisterium [and] priests because Meghan has determined no one has gotten it right until she came along. Thousands of years of teaching, study and prayer out the window because Meghan has it all figured out and informs Catholics the whole church is due for an update.” 

Voorhees spoke of “a far greater majority” of Catholics who lauded the new gender dysphoria guidance document as more indicative of Catholic sentiment. He asked rhetorically why Herek has her children enrolled in Catholic schools in the first place, given her antipathy toward fundamental tenets of the faith. 

In the end, the host drew a conclusion shared by many of his listeners, as evidenced by numerous phone calls to the show.  

“Meghan, you’re just not Catholic, and that’s fine, but quit pretending you are while spouting beliefs that prove you aren’t.”