A Catholic all-women’s college in Indiana is facing criticism after announcing it will begin accepting male students who identify as women.
The admission policy of Saint Mary’s College, one of fewer than 30 all-women’s colleges left in the U.S., changed from accepting only students “whose sex is female” to now including those “who consistently live and identify as women.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, in whose Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese the college is located, publicly regretted the college’s break with Catholic doctrine, a decision made independent of him.
“It is disappointing that I, as bishop of the diocese in which Saint Mary’s College is located, was not included or consulted on a matter of important Catholic teaching,” Rhoades said in a statement, reported by Catholic Review. “In this new admissions policy, Saint Mary’s departs from fundamental Catholic teaching on the nature of woman and thus compromises its very identity as a Catholic woman’s college.”
The college is the sister school to Notre Dame University and is known for its historically Catholic principles. According to its website, “Our first priority is the empowerment of women.”
But the school also says it is a “…Catholic college with students, faculty, and staff from all faith backgrounds. Here, social justice, equality, and respect for the dignity of all people call us to respond.”
The timing of the college’s decision has also come under scrutiny, thought by some to be an effort to avoid the notice of the college’s devout Catholic alumni.
As Emily McNally, a St. Mary’s alumna, explained in an op-ed for the Federalist, the announcement from Katie Conboy, college president, broke in the evening, two days before Thanksgiving, and after the fall fundraising season had already ended.
“The institution that taught me to seek and revere the truth has turned its back on objectivity and biological reality,” McNally wrote, adding that “a true loving approach to those struggling with their gender identity does not mean affirming misguided delusions.”
Almost all women’s colleges in the country have already established a policy admitting male students who identify as transgender females; St. Mary’s College was one of a few still committed its founding principles.
Earlier this year, Notre Dame University, the larger and openly co-ed counterpart to St. Mary’s College, stirred controversy by permitting a drag queen performance featuring at least one student to occur on campus. This move similarly drew backlash from concerned alums, current student and Catholic leaders.
Amid disputes about gender occurring in the West, Pope Francis has “re-affirmed the Church’s teaching on the sexual embodiment of the human person and has criticized various forms of gender ideology,” Rhoades says.
“To call itself a ‘women’s college’ and to admit male students who ‘consistently live and identify as women’ suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual,” the bishop continued. “This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching.”