Lincoln, Neb., Mar 3, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).
The Bishop of Lincoln recently spoke out against a city ordinance, recently blocked by a referendum petition, which added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to its list of protected classes.
“The state has a compelling interest in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln wrote in a Feb. 25 column, “The Truth will set us free.”
Conley is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ standing Committee on the Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
“For example, laws that seek to elevate sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes undermine this basic fact of our human biology,” he said. “Rather than protect against unjust discrimination, these policies enshrine a false understanding of the human person into our legal structures.”
Lincoln, he wrote, recently “passed a broad revision of its city ordinances related to equal opportunity” which listed “sexual orientation and gender identity as legally protected classes.”
These changes, he wrote, “reflect a false notion of human dignity.”
“This will not lead to greater human flourishing and happiness in society,” said Conley.
The bishop condemned gender ideology, which he described as a concept “that accepts the understanding that we are free to choose our own gender and even physically alter our body from the biological sex we received at birth.”
Conley reiterated that “those who find themselves confused about their own gender and identity” should be treated with “mercy and compassion,” and that people should be “slow to judge and quick to show mercy” when they encounter people who have these struggles.
This, however, does not mean that what they are feeling is reality, he said, and discouraged affirming someone’s chosen identity.
“A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth,” said the bishop. “Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy, and honesty.”
“Mercy without truth is a false kind of mercy, a mere sentimentalism,” he wrote. “And truth without mercy is a cold and cruel dictate that does not recognize the struggles and weakness of our fallen humanity.”
Further, Conley wrote about his concerns that this ideology has on children. The number of gender clinics for children in the United States has skyrocketed from zero in 2006 to more than 60 in 2021.
“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex, further, when they are given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults,” he said.
“Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm.’”
While the new ordinance only applies for the city of Lincoln, Conley warned of the potential for a “slippery slope” that would see more localities enact these kinds of ordinances.
He encouraged his flock to sign a referendum petition that would stop the ordinance from going into effect, compelling the city council to repeal it or to let voters decided whether it should take effect.
“If bad policy like the Fairness Ordinance is enacted in the City of Lincoln, it is likely that politicians in other Nebraska municipalities will seek to impose similar ordinances,” he said.
The referendum petition needed to gather 4,137 signatures by Feb. 28 to stop the ordinance from being enacted. The following day, its organizers announced they had garnered 18,501 signatories.
Biological sex, wrote Conley, “is not an accident from God or a flaw,” but rather is “a gift that helps us grow close to each other and close to God. What God has created is good, true, and beautiful.”
“Jesus said: ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Christ’s words to his disciples call Christians of every age to embrace the truth of who we are,” he said.
“We are called not only to live these truths out in our parishes and homes, but we are called to live them out in the public square for the common good.”
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