Home News Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis ramps up anti-transgender activity in 2017

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis ramps up anti-transgender activity in 2017

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis ramps up anti-transgender activity in 2017
Marketing for the Archdiocese anti-transgender event
Marketing for the Archdiocese anti-transgender event

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.”

The MCC has also recently added opposing what it calls “Gender Theory” to its list of legislative priorities, and has most recently opposed efforts at inclusion for transgender students in schools.

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


  1. The arrogance and total ignorance of these people, is astoundingly anti Christ, and I wish them the best when coming to the Pearly Gates. The Killer Pope Francis is the leader of these obtuse thoughts, and actions, completely against what modern Medical Science has learned over the past thirty five years.
    Cleft Palate can be surgically fixed so it is this Pope, and group, who are circumventing Gods personal creations [Transgender people] with their judgement of what they are doing to themselves. Example:

    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.

    Since when do you mortals get to make decisions that circumvent the choices we Trans make to live authentically. As the above states, a world full of lies, and you are the liars. Science trumps your negating what they have discovered. You have a Pope more Ignorant than the Pope of Galileo’s time. It took the Catholic Church three hundred years to agree to what Galileo stated and another 75 to apologize for it. Trans today are being killed all over this world especially in Christian Countries. Brazil and Mexico as an example.

    Science has discovered and proven in many Countries that being Transgender is a Birth anomaly. We all start in the womb as female. The brain is starting to actually run certain parts of the fetus in the first eight weeks. At around the 18 weeks time the baby will be washed with hormones to designate what sex the body will be. In The Transgender’s case the brain stays female and the body becomes male for a Trans woman. The reverse also takes place for female to male. This is a simplified description, and is coming closer to detect with modern instruments. The doctors have proven that, in dissecting the brains of deceased Trans people, that their Brains are exactly opposite, of the gender they were assigned at birth. Hence a Transwoman, actually was born with a Female brain, as science has demonstrated.

    Anything that will be said, by the speakers at this event, Science has already made them Ignorant of the truth, and it is solely to repetitiously denigrate a group of people, [Transgender] that God has created for a reason. Bible says Judge not: lest ye be judged more harshly. We just want to live as our Brains tell us too.

  2. I’m sorry, in your argument and in what you’re stating science is discovering, in simple terms, wouldn’t it make more sense that no, our body is created exactly how we were created to be, yet, something within our brain is actually what is not “seeing” or “perceiving” it to be what was intended? And that instead of mutilating what has been created, we work to heal whatever is causing that perception. I guess I’m not a scientist but, that would make more sense.

  3. E Johnson, Your group will create anything, to make yourselves correct, only in your own minds.
    We were made correctly, and we have the right to live, as our authentic selves, without your playing God, with our lives. It is documented that our brains are the same as female, and not male. You seem to allow surgery for Cleft Palate, heart problems, and you do not bother with Deaf and Blind people, using anything to make their lives better, as cochlear implants, and vocal surgery. What makes you a superior being that can decide how I should live. Please check your bible knowledge as to you usurping Gods prerogatives.

  4. What really happened was that the students, faculty, and staff who rejected this Hate Road Show organized, in just over a week, a fabulous TransSolidarity Day conference that aimed to welcome all to share messages of love, hope, and encouragement to transgender people. Every hour in the campus Women’s Center (founded by LuAnn Dummer), a different scholar with an earned PhD and published research on matters pertaining to LGBTIQ people (unlike many at the archdiocese conference who proclaimed to be authorities but…) presented informative talks to facilitate discussion and inquiry among participants. TransSolidarity Day ended with a panel presentation by powerhouse scholars who addressed an overflowing crowd in the Dorsey Commons of the Anderson Student Center. This trans-affirming symposium attracted a truly diverse cohort of people; on the other hand, those at the anti-trans event were predictably white, straight, and interested in affirming their self-proclaimed authority to police the bodies and lives of people they deem as inferior, mentally ill, or wrong. They do not, and never will, speak for the whole community of St. Thomas students, staff, faculty, alumni.

  5. There was also an openly transgender Catholic theologian (probably the only one) trying to keep tabs on what the hatemongers are saying for research purposes in order to refute them. Please try not to overgeneralize.

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