The following comes from a May 12 SF Chronicle article by Jill Tucker:
Gabriel Bodenheimer could have lost his job when he recently came out as transgender to leaders of a San Francisco Catholic high school. Instead, in what some call a momentous step, the English teacher will remain at Mercy High, fully accepted as a man.
The announcement of support by an order of the Sisters of Mercy, which owns and operates the four-year college preparatory school for girls on 19th Avenue, offers a rare policy position on transgender rights from within an internationally respected Catholic order.
While there is no official Catholic policy or doctrine regarding transgender people, church leaders, including Pope Benedict, have addressed the issue, noting God created males and females and that anatomy defines identity.
“This is significant for us; we did not take this lightly,” said Sister Laura Reicks, president of the 16-state region of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community. “We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that didn’t mean it was easy.”
The order’s leaders told staff, students and parents that the sisters prayed for guidance, and conferred with San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, but ultimately came to the only decision that aligned with their values.
Cordileone, who has drawn criticism for a rigidly conservative stance regarding gay rights, neither condemned nor fully endorsed the decision in San Francisco.
“Often in such situations a balance must be struck in a way that distinct values are upheld, such as mercy and truth, or institutional integrity and respect for personal decisions affecting one’s life,” he said in a statement. He emphasized that such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, “allowing for prudential judgment.”
“Their personal lives are completely separate from their qualifications as teachers,” Sister Reicks said. “We are concerned about the education of young women and we do not consider personal criteria when we hire the best person for each position.”
Even so, the school’s employment contract does require teachers to be familiar with and support the philosophy and values of the school and to honor Catholic identity, regardless of personal faith.
Bodenheimer, who follows the Jewish faith, said he never sought to break ground in transgender rights.
“I love teaching at this school,” he said, adding that after four years it was time to come out.
School leaders told the community that counselors would be available to help students and staff members process the acceptance of Bodenheimer as a male rather than female teacher. In addition, an informal meeting for parents was scheduled for Thursday night.