On Monday, December 11, the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas will host an anti-transgender symposium for aspiring priests and laypeople. The symposium is part of a larger anti-transgender push within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that has been building over the course of 2017.
The December symposium, titled “Man, Woman, and the Order of Creation,” will feature several prominent figures on the anti-LGBTQ speaking circuit.
Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians will be covering The Science of Sex Differences.” Cretella runs an organization that mimics the name of a well-respected professional organization — the American Academy of Pediatrics — yet is a small group of conservative religious activists. The main thrust of the organization’s work is to push an agenda that is opposed to equity for LGBTQ people, especially youth. Her own writing has been vociferously picked apart by numerous professional organizations.
Also speaking will be Walt Heyer. Heyer has become a darling of the religious right radio and conference circuit as a “former” transgender person, a transition he credits to either a vision from Jesus Christ or a misdiagnosis of gender dysphoria instead of a “dissociative disorder that required talk therapy, not surgery.”
In addition to Cretella and Heyer, the University of St. Thomas’ seminary has invited Ryan Anderson and Bradford Wilcox, two researchers heavily tied to National Organization for Marriage’s Robert George. Indeed, the two have come under controversy for their involvement in “studies” that paint LGBTQ people in a negative light.
Finally, the symposium will include Father Paul Check, who served for 14 years as the director of Courage, the Catholic Church’s ministry committed to convincing LGBTQ Catholics to remain celibate at best — or become former “homosexuals” and “transgenders” at worst.
December’s symposium isn’t the first of its kind for the Archdiocese. On September 20, the Minnesota Catholic Conference — the Archdiocese’s public policy wing — held a conference called “Healthcare in Minnesota: A Symposium Considering Contemporary Challenges” again at the University of St. Thomas.
Sister Renee Mirkes of the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, gave a presentation about “transgender theory” at that symposium.
There are no recordings of the Catholic Conference’s symposium, but quotes from Mirkes talk referenced in the Catholic Spirit, the Archidocese’s official newspaper, match very closely to a talk that Mirkes has given before, a Trump-ishly titled talk called, “Light at the End of the Transgender Tunnel: Making Healthcare Rights of Conscience Great Again.”
Though she doesn’t appear to have any particular expertise on transgender health — her background is in music, moral theology, and theological ethics, Mirkes has been on the Catholic speaking circuit with her anti-transgender program.
In March, she gave the same talk at a Catholic group in New Hampshire, and at another group in Florida. She provided this presentation in July 2017 to the American Academy of Fertilitycare Professionals, a faith-based group closely connected to the Catholic Church and its “natural family planning” method of birth control.
Recordings from that talk — which centered heavily on transgender healthcare — are available online for a fee. Recordings from that talk — and in quotes from the Catholic Spirit — reveal the central argument of Mirkes and ostensibly the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: Health care professionals should deny health care to transgender people do that they will second guess their identity as transgender.
“By propping up health care rights of conscience, we are in no way limiting rights of transgender patients,” Mirkes said at the conference, according to the Catholic Spirit. “In fact, when a transgender patient is refused by an objecting physician, that patient has one last chance to reconsider a second opinion about what they’re doing and the medical wisdom about pursuing these hormonal and surgical interventions, that in many cases would be irreversible.”
In her earlier speech to the American Academy of Fertilitycare Professionals, Mirkes made a similar statement:
Delimiting a provider who cannot in good conscience render the controversial treatment this could be light for transgender patients. Think about this. Giving them an opportunity to hear a second opinion on the medical wisdom of pursuing these hormonal and surgical interventions that will in many instances be irreversible, this might benevolently influence transgender patients decisions and direct them to treatment that will address the real underlying physical pathology responsible for their gender incongruence. Protecting health care rights of conscience will peacefully coexist with transgender patients access to health care. That’s light at the end of the tunnel for both parties.
But the Archdiocese’s efforts haven’t been limited to anti-transgender conferences. In the Catholic Spirit, the Archdiocesan newspaper featured Emily Zinos, an anti-transgender activist closely aligned with the anti-LGBTQ Minnesota Family Council.
Another article quoted a Catholic chaplain as saying, “Children have the right not to be exposed to a world full of lies, and I do believe it’s a lie to accommodate a person’s perception of themselves [as the opposite sex] in a public manner.” Father Jim Livingston was referring to transgender people living authentically.
Also in that article, the head of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said, “We’re losing souls… People are mutilating themselves, they’re sterilizing themselves, and they’re in despair. They’re cutting off their connection to grace. Wittingly or unwittingly, they’re rejecting God’s plan. Those struggling with gender dysphoria urgently need our prayers.”