Maryland parish was home to a dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse

— The clergymen lived and worked at St. Mark Parish in Catonsville from 1964 to 2004, according to a state attorney general’s report.

St. Mark Church in Catonsville

By Corky Siemaszko

On the day after Easter, the pastor of a Roman Catholic parish in Maryland that was home to a dozen priests accused of sexual abuse will be saying the rosary for their victims.

The Rev. Santhosh George made the announcement on the homepage of the St. Mark Church in Catonsville on Thursday, the day after that the state’s top prosecutor accused the Archdiocese of Baltimore of covering up the sexual abuse of more than 600 children for over a half-century.

“I write with a heavy heart to share the news of the release of a report issued by the Attorney General of Maryland, which outlines horrific abuse by some priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in years past,” George wrote. “In particular, is the sickening notification of several sexual abusers of children living and working here at St. Mark between the years of 1964 and 2004.”

Of the 156 priests in the report, 12 served stints at St. Mark, which was founded in 1888 about 10 miles west of Baltimore in downtown Catonsville. The attorney general said 11 accused priests served at St. Mark, but NBC News counted 12 in the report.

George, in the note to his flock, did not say how many of the 600 victims accounted for in the report were past or current parishioners. But he apologized to them all.

“While there is little I can do to make amends for this, I do offer you my prayers and extend myself to you should you want to talk,” he wrote, adding that the rosary service would be held at 7 p.m. Monday and that several more services for the victims would be held over the next few weeks.

George, which is an Anglicization of his given last name, Kozhippadan, has only been pastor of St. Mark since July 2021, long after the bulk of the alleged sexual abuse described in the report occurred.

And, unlike most of his predecessors, George had to prove he wasn’t a sex offender before taking the helm of the parish, archdiocesan spokesman Christian Kendzierski said in an email.

“St. Mark’s employees and Fr. George and anyone employed at St. Mark’s follow the same policy…criminal background checks — including a check of the sex offender registry,” Kendzierski wrote. “All employees and volunteers must complete training on preventing and reporting child abuse.”

David Clohessy, a sex abuse victims advocate at the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said that because the Catholic Church is struggling with a severe shortage of priests, the bishops “let their clergy slide on matters like this.”

While the AG’s report noted that St. Mark had been home to the biggest number of accused priests, Kendzierski insisted the parish was not a magnet for predator priests. He said the archdiocese did not know these priests were accused of sexual abuse when they were assigned to St. Mark.

“While recognizing the horrific scope of past child sexual abuse, it is not true that the 11 priests were sent to St. Mark’s after the Archdiocese had knowledge of an allegation of child sexual abuse,” Kendzierski wrote.

State Attorney General Anthony Brown, in his damning report, named 12 priests who served at St. Mark. He also said the leaders of the archdiocese knew that problem priests were being moved from parish to parish.

“Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child abuse for as long as possible,” he said. “When denial became impossible, Church leadership would remove abusers from the parish or school, sometimes with promises that they would have no further contact with children.

“Church documents reveal with disturbing clarity that the Archdiocese was more concerned with avoiding scandal and negative publicity than it was with protecting children.”

Back in 2002, when it was first revealed that a large number of accused priests had served at St. Mark, church officials dismissed it as a coincidence and noted it is one of the archdiocese’s biggest parishes, so it makes sense that a lot of priests would log time there.

Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability, a nonprofit that monitors abuse allegations against Catholic priests and officials, said it may not be a simple coincidence that so many alleged predators wound up at St. Mark. He said “clusters” of predatory priests have been found in certain parishes.

“Yes, priests who do this kind of thing do tend to congregate, they seek each other out,” McKiernan said. “But the bigger issue are the higher-ups who are aware of these priests and assign them to parishes that have had other problem priests.”

And one of the higher-ups in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the report stated, was a now-dead former priest accused of abuse named Thomas Bauernfeind.

Prior to serving as interim pastor at St. Mark from 1978 to 1979, Bauernfeind “worked as Assistant Chancellor and Vice Chancellor in the Chancery of the Archdiocese from 1968 to 1975, and he served as Chancellor from 1975 to 1978,” the AG’s report stated.

“In these roles, while he was abusing children himself, he was responsible for overseeing much of the work of the Archdiocese and was involved in many personnel matters,” the report stated.

The fact that Bauernfiend only spent a year at St. Mark is also a red flag, McKiernan said.

“To move somebody a year after he gets there is weird,” McKiernan said. “He was not accused of sexual abuse at that parish, but there had to be a reason why he was moved out of there so quickly. Also, before he was assigned to St. Mark, he was a chancellor in the archdiocese and was involved in personnel matters and things like that. So he was a problem priest who probably knew who the other problem priests were.”

Kendzierski said he could not explain why Bauernfeind only spent a year at St. Mark because the archdiocese turned over all the documents from that era to the AG’s office.

In the AG’s report, it said Bauernfeind in 1987 admitted abusing a 16-year-old girl a decade earlier. It said that in 2002 a second female victim reported “extensive abuse by Bauernfeind while he was Chancellor.”

Bauernfeind was already retired when the second woman came forward, and he died in 2003, the report stated.

During the 1970s, four other accused priests were assigned to St. Mark. They were identified in the report as Marion Helowicz, David Smith, James Dowdy and Frederick Duke.

The Baltimore Sun reported in 2002 that Smith pleaded guilty to “perverted sexual practice” after a then-45-year-old man came forward and accused Smith of plying him with beer before molesting him at the St. Mark rectory between 1973 and 1976. It is unclear whether Smith is deceased.

Helowicz pleaded guilty in 1988 to committing “perverted sexual acts” with a learning-disabled teenage boy while serving as an associate pastor at St. Stephen Church in Kingsville, which is also a Baltimore suburb, according to The Washington Post.

Records indicate Helowicz is now 77 and living near downtown Baltimore. He did not return a call placed to his home.

The other accused priests who lived and worked at St. Mark Parish were identified as Robert Lentz and Ronald Belschner, who were there in the 1960s; Edward Heilman and Charles Rouse, who were there in the 1980s; and Ross LaPorta, Francis Ernst and Henry Zerhusen, who were there in the 1990s.

LaPorta, Ernst, Duke, Lentz, Zerhusen, Bauernfeind and Heilman are listed as dead in the report. When asked if any of the other priests were still alive, Kendzierski referred to an earlier archdiocesan list of accused priests that also lacked that information.

NBC News, however, was able to track down Dowdy, who is 79 and lives in another Baltimore suburb. Reached by telephone, Dowdy acknowledged he was a former priest but declined to discuss the allegations laid out in the AG report that he repeatedly preyed on teenage boys.

“I really don’t want to talk about that,” he said.

Dowdy, who the report showed was associate pastor at St. Mark from 1975 to 1980, also insisted he did not angle to be sent to that parish.

“The idea that I had any choice in going there is a crock of crap,” he said. “I was just assigned there.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic church in Maryland slammed after sex abuse report

Kurt Rupprecht speaks about the abuse he suffered after the release of the redacted report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, April 6, 2023, in Baltimore.


While the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore has long touted its transparency in publishing the names of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse, a report released this week by the Maryland attorney general’s office raises questions about the integrity of the church’s list.

Following the report’s long-awaited release Wednesday, victims and advocates called on the Baltimore archbishop to address discrepancies — their latest demand for transparency in a decadeslong fight to expose the church’s coverup tactics.

They also celebrated a major step toward potential legal recourse: state legislation passed Wednesday that would eliminate the existing statute of limitations on civil litigation against institutions like the archdiocese in cases of child sexual abuse. Similar proposals failed in recent years, but the attorney general’s investigation brought renewed attention to the issue this legislative session. The bill has been sent to Gov. Wes Moore, who has said he supports it.

The report reveals the scope of over eight decades of abuse and coverup within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the archdiocese sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, the investigation found.

The report also names 39 people who aren’t included on the archdiocese’s list, which officials first published in 2002 and have continued to update since.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said in a statement Wednesday that some omissions “might be understandable,” but called for the archbishop to “err on the side of being more transparent” for the sake of victims and others.

The archdiocese acknowledged the discrepancies Thursday, saying none of the 39 people are currently serving in ministry in the Baltimore area, and at least 33 have died. Archdiocese spokesperson Christian Kendzierski said most didn’t make the list because they are laypeople, including deacons and teachers; they were never assigned to ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; or they were first accused posthumously and received only a single, uncorroborated allegation.

Kendzierski said the archdiocese is reviewing its list “in light of the Attorney General’s report” and expects to add more names soon. The report recommended expanding the list to include non-priests, which officials are also reviewing.

When Cardinal William Keeler released the Baltimore list in 2002, his decision earned the diocese a reputation for transparency at a time when the nationwide scope of wrongdoing remained largely unexposed. But years later, a Pennsylvania grand jury accused Keeler himself of covering up abuse allegations in the 1980s.

While Baltimore was among the first, other dioceses across the country have since published similar lists.

“But there’s always the concern that even credibly accused people have been left off these lists,” said Terence McKiernan, president of, which tracks clergy abuse nationwide. “Now, in Baltimore, we have confirmation that’s what was happening.”

Several of the clergy members not on the church’s list admitted to abusing children and teens, according to the report. Sometimes they were asked to leave the ministry but often avoided serious consequences. In some cases, church officials agreed to financial settlements with victims — actions that suggest the allegations were considered credible, McKiernan said.

For example, one victim repeatedly contacted church officials in the late 1990s and early 2000s to report abuse he experienced in the 1930s at the hands of Father Alphonsus Figlewski, who would take altar boys on Baltimore’s streetcars and touch them inappropriately, according to the report. The diocese ultimately engaged in mediation and reached a settlement, the report says — but Figlewski was never listed as a credibly accused priest.

One of the church officials who reviewed the case, Father Michael Kolodziej, was himself later accused of abuse and included on the list.

Allegations in another case surfaced in 1968 and Father Albert Julian admitted to having an “almost uncontrollable sexual attraction toward young people of the opposite sex” and said he “had yielded to temptation from time to time,” according to the report, which cites a 1970 letter from the archdiocese to Vatican authorities. Julian received psychiatric treatment and was assigned to desk work “where he would not be exposed to temptation,” the report says. He requested to leave the church in 1970 and get married.

Further allegations against Julian came to light in 2002, but he was never listed on the archdiocese’s list.

Yet another priest, Father Thomas M. Kelly — whose heavy drinking, overt racism and “bad habit of pawing women” came up during a 1971 meeting of his colleagues and superiors — was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment and allowed to continue ministering, according to the report. In 1982, he caused a car crash that killed another priest and escaped criminal charges. He died in 1987.

When a woman reported in 2006 that Kelly had sexually abused her as a child in 1971, church officials deemed her account not credible, the report says. He also was never included on the archdiocese’s list.

“They talk about being transparent, but it’s time for this diocese to take responsibility,” said David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of SNAP.

Lorenz and others advocated strongly for the legislation passed Wednesday to eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits.

Currently, victims of child sex abuse in Maryland can’t sue after they turn 38. The bill, if signed into law by Moore, would eliminate the age limit and allow for retroactive lawsuits. However, the measure includes a provision that would pause lawsuits until the Supreme Court of Maryland can determine whether it’s constitutional.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the three dioceses serving Maryland, opposed the measure, contending it was unconstitutional to open an unlimited retroactive window for civil cases.

“While there is clearly no financial compensation that can ever rectify the harm done to a survivor of sexual abuse, the devastating impact that the retroactive window provision will potentially have by exposing public and private institutions — and the communities they serve — to unsubstantiated claims of abuse, cannot be ignored,” the group said in written testimony.

Several other states have passed similar legislation in recent years, and in some cases, the resulting lawsuits have driven dioceses into bankruptcy. Just last month, the Diocese of Albany sought bankruptcy protection amid a deluge of lawsuits following a 2019 law change in New York that allowed more people to sue.

Barry Salzman, a New York attorney who has represented numerous victims of church sex abuse pro bono in recent years, said the Maryland legislation is unique in entirely eliminating a statute of limitations.

“I see this as another jurisdiction coming on the right side of things,” he said. “It would be a dramatic change.”

Complete Article HERE!

Francis: ‘infiltrators’ use Church to peddle hate

— Francis spoke to a group of ten young people in June last year, in a filmed discussion released on 5 April.

The Pope: Answers is available on the streaming services Disney+, Hulu and Star+.

By Christopher Lamb

Those using the Bible to promote hate speech and exclude gay or transgender Catholics are “infiltrators” taking advantage of the Church to promote their ideologies, Pope Francis has told a group of young adults.

The 86-year-old pontiff made his comments during an emotional discussion with ten individuals aged between 20 and 25, including Catholics, non-believers and a Muslim.

In the filmed discussion, The Pope: Answers, Francis was not just asked questions but accepted challenges and rebukes, including over the Church’s handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

On the Church’s approach to LGBTQ matters, Celia, a Spaniard who identifies as non-binary, asked the Pope what he thinks about “people or priests” who use the Bible to promote hate and exclusion.

“Those people are infiltrators,” he replied. “They are infiltrators who use the Church for their personal passions, for their personal narrowness. It’s one of the corruptions within the Church. Those narrow-minded ideologies.”

The Pope has faced deep hostility in some quarters for his refusal to take a “culture warrior” stance on sexual teaching. Throughout his pontificate, Francis has adopted a pastorally sensitive approach to LGBTQ Catholics, supported civil protections of same-sex couples and called for the de-criminalisation of homosexuality.

He has also publicly backed the ministry to LGBTQ people conducted by Fr James Martin SJ, who himself has faced sustained, at times vitriolic opposition to his work.

The Jesuit Pope told the young people that “deep within” those who promote hate are “severe inconsistencies” and that they judge other people due to their sinfulness.

“They judge others because they can’t atone for their own faults,” Francis said.

“In general, people who judge are inconsistent. There’s something within them. They feel liberated by judging others, when they should look inside at their own guilt.”

The Pope insisted that every person is a “child of God” and that when the Church stops welcoming everybody – “the blind, the deaf, the good, the bad” – it will “stop being the Church”.

The discussion, which was filmed in Rome in June 2022 and released on Disney+, Hulu and Star+ on 5 April, covered a range of topics. These include abortion, pornography, masturbation, feminism, migration, online dating, depression and the disconnect between the Church and young people.

The Pope was also asked whether he takes a salary or has a mobile phone, with Francis explaining why he has neither.

Francis, speaking in Spanish, said that the Church’s teaching on sex still needs to develop, saying that the “catechism regarding sex is still at a very early stage [‘in nappies’]. I think we Christians haven’t always had a mature catechism regarding sex.”

He emphasised: “Sex is one of the beautiful things God gave human beings. To express oneself sexually is something rich. Anything that diminishes a true sexual expression diminishes you as well, it renders you partial, and it diminishes that richness.”

One of the participants, Alessandra, told the Pope that she makes her living by posting pornographic content on social media. She was challenged by Maria, a practising Catholic, who said that pornography is harmful.

Francis responded: “Those who are addicted to pornography are like being addicted to a drug that keeps them at a level that does not let them grow.”

Quite early on in the discussion, a disagreement broke out over abortion. Milagros, a young woman from Argentina who teaches the Church’s catechism, said she supports women, whatever their choice. Francis said he tells priests to “be merciful, as Jesus is” when it comes to abortion, but hiring a “hitman” to solve a problem cannot solve the problem.

Some of the group supported Milagros and take issue with the Pope’s use of language. Others did not. Francis listened and thanked them for their sensitivity to the topic.

“A woman who has had an abortion cannot be left alone, we should stay with her. She made that decision. She had an abortion. We shouldn’t send her to hell all of a sudden or isolate her, no. We should stay by her side,” he said.

“But we should call a spade a spade: staying by her side is one thing, but justifying the act is something else.”

Later, a young man, Juan, talked about how he was abused when he was 11 years old by his teacher, a numerary of Opus Dei, in Bilbao, Spain.

Francis thanked Juan for coming forward with his story and pledged to have his case reviewed by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The young man said the dicastery was presented with details but no further action was taken. The civil courts convicted the man who abused him but with a reduced sentence.

At this point, one participant rebuked the Pope for the Church’s handling of cases pointing out that Juan “had to come here so you would say that the issue would be solved” but asking about those not afforded that opportunity.

Finally, a woman who had been in formation to be a religious sister told the Pope that she was no longer a believer. She described her training as “abusive”, that she could not talk to her family and that her communications were monitored.

She added that the “wealth and power” of the Church in Rome was partly why she lapsed.

“The true Church is on the peripheries,” Francis replied. “In the centre, there are good people, holy people, but there is also much corruption, and that needs to be acknowledged.”

He added that what she said about the abuse of power in some religious orders is “true” and that he has had several of them inspected.

At the end of the discussion, Francis thanked the participants and said this kind of dialogue should be promoted as a “path of the Church”.

Complete Article HERE!

Maryland AG report into Archdiocese of Baltimore alleges 156 Catholic clergy members and others abused more than 600 children

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown speaks during a news conference on April 5, 2023.

By and

A report from Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown released Wednesday alleges 156 Catholic clergy members and others abused at least 600 children over the course of more than six decades.

“From the 1940s through 2002, over a hundred priests and other Archdiocese personnel engaged in horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children in their communities while Archdiocese leadership looked the other way,” the report reads. “Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse for as long as possible.”

The report lists descriptions of graphic sexual and physical abuse allegations: It includes stories of how some alleged abusers provided victims with alcohol and drugs and describes in vivid detail how they coerced and forced victims to perform sexual acts.

The report’s list of abusers includes clergy members, seminarians, deacons, teachers and other employees of the Archdiocese.

Forty-three priests who “served in some capacity or resided within the Archdiocese of Baltimore” committed sexual abuse in locations outside Maryland, the report alleged. Of these 43 priests, 40 of them allegedly committed sexual abuse in only one other location, while the other three allegedly committed sexual abuse in two other locations outside Maryland, the report says.

The investigation began in 2018 and has since received “hundreds of thousands of documents,” including treatment reports, personnel records, transfer reports and policies and procedures.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office said more than 300 people contacted the office after it opened an email address and telephone hotline for people to report information about clergy abuse, and investigators interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses.

“Today certainly in Maryland is a day of reckoning and a day of accounting,” Brown said during a news conference Wednesday.

Brown said he met with survivors and advocates Wednesday morning to hear their stories.

“While each of those stories is unique, together, they reveal themes and behaviors typical of adults who abuse children, and those who enable that abuse by concealing it,” Brown said. “What was consistent throughout the stories was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and the church leadership held over survivors, their families and their communities.”

Most of the abusers listed in the report are dead and no longer subject to prosecution, the attorney general said.

“While it may be too late for the survivors to see criminal justice served, we hope that exposing the Archdiocese’s transgressions to the fullest extent possible will bring some measure of accountability and perhaps encourage others to come forward,” Brown said.

Some victims waited to report their claims of abuse until later in life, according to the report. Because Maryland recognizes a statute of limitations defense in civil cases, “victims have no recourse if they are over the age of 38,” the report reads.

Some victims did not come forward until their parents had died to “spare them the pain of knowing about the abuse,” the report reads, while others never intended to tell but were persuaded to come forward with the help of others. Others repressed their memories and recollections of abuse emerged only many years later, according to the report.

The Archbishop of Baltimore apologized on behalf of the Archdiocese after allegations of abuse surfaced in the report.

“To all survivors, I offer my most earnest apology on behalf of the Archdiocese and pledge my continued solidarity and support for your healing. We hear you. We believe you and your courageous voices have made a difference,” Archbishop William E. Lori wrote in a statement Wednesday.

“The report details a reprehensible time in the history of this Archdiocese,” Lori added, and wrote it “will not be covered up, ignored or forgotten.”

The Archdiocese began making “radical changes” in the 1990s to “end this scourge,” Lori wrote. Instances of abuse have fallen every year and every decade since cases of abuse peaked during the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote, saying, “The Archdiocese is not the same organization it was.”

“Make no mistake, however: today’s strong record of protection and transparency does not excuse past failings that have led to the lasting spiritual, psychological and emotional harm victim-survivors have endured,” the Archbishop’s statement reads.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has paid $13.2 million to 303 victims of abuse since the 1980s, according to the Archdiocese’s office.

The payments include money for both counseling and settlements, the Archdiocese’s executive director of communications, Christian Kendzierski, said in an email to CNN.

The report contains “a full accounting” of abuse in the Archdiocese and “details of repeated tortuous, terrorizing, depraved abuse.” It lists and details 156 abusers “determined to have been the subject of credible allegations of abuse.”

More than 600 children are known to have been abused by those 156 people, the report reads, but “the number is likely far higher.”

The report reveals the names of all but 10 of the 156 alleged abusers listed in the report.

Brown said those 10 names were obtained through the grand jury process and could not be disclosed without permission or a court order.

“I should emphasize that because they’re redacted today doesn’t mean they will always be redacted,” Brown said.

The report does not constitute criminal indictment, according to the attorney general.

The report recommends that Maryland amend the statute of limitations for civil actions involving child sex abuse.

“Our judicial system should provide a means for victims who have suffered these harms to seek damages from the people and institutions responsible for them,” the report reads.

Maryland’s Senate passed a bill in March that would repeal the state’s civil statute of limitations in certain civil actions relating to child sexual abuse. The bill is working its way through the House.

Complete Article HERE!

US bishops’ document on trans health care ‘harms people,’ queer Catholics say

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a document on trans health care that queer Catholics say is harmful.

By John Ferrannini

LGBTQ Roman Catholics are responding to a document from the United States bishops about how the church’s health care services should respond to requests for gender-affirming care.

The document, issued March 20, predictably does not recognize that what it terms as “gender dysphoria” and “gender incongruence” should be treated with surgical intervention, stating, “Catholic health care services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures.”

Written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on doctrine — which includes Diocese of Oakland Bishop Michael Barber — the document cites Pope Francis, who wrote in “Amoris Laetitia” (a binding document of church doctrine) that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.” Unlike homosexuality, the church’s most recent catechism does not address this issue.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care in the nation. Barber’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report but the Archdiocese of San Francisco did respond when the B.A.R. reached out Monday, stating that it “stands in solidarity with Pope Francis and the USCCB.”

“The Catholic Church has always viewed the body and soul as integral to the human person. A soul can never be in another body, much less be in the wrong body,” Peter Marlow, the executive director of communications and media relations for the archdiocese, stated. “Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body, ultimately does not help but, rather, harms the human person. Particular care should be taken to protect children and adolescents who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent.”

Paul Riofski, a gay man who’s the co-chair of Dignity SF — an affinity group for LGBTQ Catholics — told the Bay Area Reporter that “this document is just really misguided.”

“It’s just another example of the leadership of the USCCB going their own way, apart from the pastoral approach, when you deal with decisions on an individual basis, and look at how people can live fully as a Christian, a Catholic and a human being,” Riofski said. “It [the document] totally denies modern medical and scientific knowledge. It totally disregards the reality of intersex people, the fact that when you look at human biology many people are born without XX or XY chromosomes and the definition of ‘gender at birth’ is determined by the medical professional who delivers the baby.”

Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. People are born with these differences or develop them in childhood. There are many possible differences in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes.

Riofski said that the committee has failed to consider anything beyond its foregone conclusions.

“There’s nothing in God’s creation as narrow as gender is portrayed,” Riofski said.

Sara Mullin, a nonbinary person who is also a member of Dignity SF, agreed.

“I do not get the sense these particular bishops consulted with transgender and transsexual people or the science behind standards of care for trans people,” Mullin said.

Mullin also said that the document doesn’t consider the consciences of individuals.

“It takes for granted it’s not possible for a transgender person to undertake surgical or medical transition in a way that’s thoughtful, kind to oneself, and prayerful in its discernment,” Mullin said. “I think it’s concerning the conference thinks people undertaking medical transition are in best case out of a delusion and, worst case, out of maliciousness against their own body.”

New Ways Ministry, a national LGBTQ Catholic advocacy group, issued a statement of its own. Executive Director Francis DeBernardo wrote that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new document on transgender health care states its intention as continuing Jesus’ healing ministry. Yet, in neglecting the experiences of trans people and in not attending to contemporary science, it harms people instead of healing them.”

DeBernardo clarified that it’s up to each bishop to determine the policies in their own dioceses.

“Thankfully, this document is limited in its power at this point,” DeBernardo said.

“Whether it becomes a national policy remains to be seen. Each bishop can still determine for himself if the recommendations in this document are helpful for the pastoral care of the transgender people in their communities,” he added. “We hope that local bishops will turn to transgender people and to the wider medical community to decide what policies about transgender healthcare they will pursue.”

A trans man who lives in the Bay Area who did not wish to be identified by name told the B.A.R. that “I feel I was naturally born this way and if I need surgery to match the inside of what I feel, that’s what I need.”

Though he isn’t Catholic — he was a Seventh-day Adventist and Latter-day Saint when he was younger — he feels that conservative Christians often “don’t like LGBTQ people. They don’t want us to have rights and be OK with ourselves and our bodies. They don’t see it — as what I said — a surgery to match the inside of how we feel. They think of it as a religious thing, and it’s only because they don’t understand anything about it.”

Complete Article HERE!