DAVENPORT, Iowa (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Thomas Zinkula recently issued pastoral guidelines on gender and sexuality encouraging “reasonable accommodations” that could allow students in schools of his Iowa diocese to cross-dress and compete on sports teams of the opposite sex.
Zinkula explained in a letter accompanying the “Guidelines for Pastoral Accompaniment of Gender and Sexual Minorities” for the Diocese of Davenport, issued October 4, that the guidelines are almost three years in the making, prompted by “sexual and gender identity issues that were beginning to arise in schools and parishes.”
The bishop makes a point of not giving clear instruction on how to deal with “gender and sexual minorities” in schools but opens the door to practices that may affirm a student’s gender confusion.
“This document does not provide all the answers, but rather a framework from which to approach these questions,” state Zinkula’s guidelines. While claiming to be “faithful to the Church’s teachings on sexuality and the nature of the human person,” the guidelines do not state that God created only two sexes or that any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. In fact, they make no mention of what the Catholic Church actually teaches regarding gender and sexuality.
Zinkula’s “Principles for Pastoral Accompaniment of Sexual and Gender Minorities” emphasize the importance of “respect for the dignity of every human person” and “a commitment to loving people first and listening for deeper understanding,” which are themselves not at odds with Catholic teaching.
However, not only do the guidelines neglect to mention the importance of guiding students towards the truth about their sex, they call for “a basic willingness to make reasonable and appropriate accommodations when possible,” which could include accommodations regarding bathroom use, sports participation, and dress that are not in accordance with a student’s biological sex.
“Blanket policies may prove ineffective and may risk doing greater harm,” the guidelines states. “A policy that is too sweeping may hurt or disenfranchise people.”
The document also says that “it should not be assumed” that a child’s gender or sexual confusion “is a phase, the result of cultural brainwashing, a desire for attention, or a fad.” It adds that the “experiences” of people with “differences in sexual orientation or gender discordance” should be accepted “as authentic.”
When asked by LifeSiteNews whether the guidelines allow for students to use opposite-sex bathrooms, cross-dress, and play on sports teams of the opposite sex, Zinkula was evasive, giving examples of what he considered “reasonable accommodations” without making clear whether the above-cited circumstances would be allowed under his guidelines.
“I think one example of a ‘reasonable accommodation’ might be to allow a student who struggles in this way to use a separate bathroom, so both that student and others feel like they have adequate privacy and are safe,” Zinkula wrote to LifeSiteNews in a Friday email.
“In regards to participation in sports, there are already some examples of sports in which females play on male sports teams, depending on the sport and the position (ex. female kickers on a football team). A case-by-case approach is helpful here too, as parents, student-athletes, coaches and administration navigate on the local level the best way forward, again depending on the person, the sport and other circumstances,” he continued.
“In terms of dress codes, some schools have already chosen to do away with ‘gendered attire’ altogether. For example, both male and female students can wear long pants or shorts and polo shirts,” Zinkula wrote.
LifeSiteNews has reached out to the Diocese of Davenport’s superintendent of schools for comment on how Zinkula’s guidelines are being implemented, but has not received a response as of publishing.
The guidelines stand in sharp contrast to those of the neighboring Diocese of Des Moines, which in January banned the use of “preferred pronouns” and cross-dressing on diocesan property while emphasizing the need to offer genuine assistance and compassion for those struggling with gender dysphoria.
“To permit the designation of a preferred pronoun, while intended as an act of charity, instead promotes the dissociation of biological sex and ‘gender’ and thereby confuses or denies personal integrity,” the Diocese of Des Moines guide states.
The Diocese of Des Moines further makes clear that dress codes also must be followed in line with biological sex to ensure that “all persons are to ordinarily present themselves in a manner consistent with their God-given dignity.”
“Participation in parish, school, and co-curricular activities must be consistent with the biological sex of the participant,” the guide continues. “Some sports and activities may be open to participation by persons of both sexes.”
Church Militant host Bradley Eli has suggested that Zinkula’s guidelines both fail to provide much-needed clarity on Catholic Church teaching to students and parents and fail to support teachers who affirm Catholic teaching.
“Teachers are getting hit, and hit hard, because there’s no one to back them up,” said Eli during a Tuesday episode of The Download, adding that he has known Catholic school teachers who “got clobbered” by teaching basic Catholic principles, even when doing so as sensitively as possible.