With a rise in social acceptance of “gender-reassignment” procedures, some U.S. seminaries have already been forced to deal with applicants who identify as men but are biologically women — and bishops and seminary formators have been warned to prepare for a potential increase in the number of such cases.
News of the need for additional screening broke late September after Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee alerted U.S. bishops of instances in which “a woman living under a transgendered identity” had been admitted for seminary formation, according to a memorandum published by a Sept. 29 CNA report.
Archbishop Listecki urged other U.S. bishops to take steps to ensure that applicants are biologically male — a requirement for valid ordination — after an undisclosed number of individuals who were admitted to seminary or houses of formation have been discovered to have been born female and living under a male identity, unbeknownst to their formators. At least one case involved a woman who had falsified her sacramental records, the memorandum advised.
This fall, Catholic News Agency and the Register investigated the cases of two individuals who were identified in public records as females until after they graduated from high school who subsequently “transitioned” to male identities and later gained admission to U.S. Catholic seminaries. Neither of these persons is still present in the seminaries into which they were admitted.
“The primary responsibility for overseeing the admissions process to seminary belongs to the local bishop,” a USCCB representative told the Register.
Meanwhile, the diocese from which the seminarian is sent and the seminary itself have “separate screening procedures,” Anthony Lilles, academic dean at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California, told the Register. That said, both are guided by the USCCB’s Program of Priestly Formation, which “requires consistent readiness thresholds and the observance of the same norms,” he added.
In screening for potential transgender applicants, Lilles said he recommends “scrutiny of the baptismal certificate,” while acknowledging the limitations of such documentation. “It’s still regarded as a tool, but as we’ve seen more recently, even that tool can be falsified,” he said. “It doesn’t always have the information that we need….”
In addition to other assessment procedures, a simple medical evaluation, which is a standard part of seminary screening, should reveal a person’s biological sex 99.8% of the time, says Dr. Patrick Lappert, a board-certified plastic surgeon and deacon for the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.
“As a plastic surgeon of 30-odd years, I can tell you, some of the work that we do is really compelling,” he said, but it is easy to discern if a woman has had genital surgery to present as male.
He added that such examinations are a normal part of medical screenings, and the process “doesn’t have to be degrading.” If, for some reason, such an examination isn’t enough to determine the person’s sex, a DNA test would reveal the biological reality, Deacon Lappert said, echoing the recommendations by Archbishop Listecki in September’s memorandum to bishops….
The above comes from a Jan. 25 story in the National Catholic Register.