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Maryland “Catholic” Hospital Loses… Diocese Curbs Gender “Wokeness”

January 23, 2023 Frontpage No Comments


By now I think most have seen or heard about the un-woke gender policies that have been adopted by Des Moines Bishop William Joensen. As diocesan clergy, I received an advance copy of the policy but was still surprised when an old Creighton buddy called at 7:30 in the morning it was released to the public to congratulate me for having a bishop willing to take a firm stand on this gender identity nonsense infecting society.
It seems he heard of our new policy on the FOX News program Fox and Friends which I actually had on at the time. I also noticed the story was picked up nationally by Newsmax as well. Now I can’t listen to them all, but at least before 8 a.m. the story had made it to two national outlets.
But, more about that at the end, I first want to start in Maryland where a “Catholic” hospital lost a round in federal court to a transgender man — that is, a woman who is making the change — for damages when the hospital, citing Catholic ethical teachings and Catholic medical guidelines, refused to perform a hysterectomy.
The man (I guess) was suing the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), and the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, among others, over the refusal to allow the hysterectomy to be performed in its hospital. The hospital had claimed protection from the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which basically protects religious institutions from government interference.
Now, before we get into the weeds of the case, we should determine exactly how a public institution was seeking protection of a legal doctrine and federal statute designed to protect religious communities, and why it cited Catholic teaching as a reason to object to the hysterectomy request.
Long story, but to make it short, here’s why, as explained by the court:
“The medical center was owned and operated as a Catholic hospital by Catholic Health Initiatives prior to being purchased by UMMS. When UMMS purchased the medical center in 2012, a condition of the ‘Asset Purchase Agreement’ was that ‘UMMS . . . shall continue to operate [St. Joseph] in a manner consistent with Catholic values and principles including complying with a ‘formal reporting mechanism’ to ensure St. Joseph is held accountable for its ‘Catholic identity.’ Specifically, UMMS agreed to ensure that St. Joseph’s board implemented the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services (the “ERDs”), as promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in St. Joseph’s provision of health care….
“Around the time of the sale, each of the defendants entered into a ‘Catholic Identity Agreement’ with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore, which provided a ‘framework within which to continue authentic Catholic traditions and practices’ at St. Joseph. This agreement provides that, every two years, St. Joseph ‘will undergo an audit of its adherence to the’ ERDs by the National Catholic Bioethics Center.”
The court went on to explain that the ERDs — and this was key to the court’s ultimate ruling – say “[d]irect sterilization of either men or women…is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution” but that ‘[p]rocedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available” (emphasis mine.)
The last part of the ERDs quoted is what doomed the ship for the defendants. They had argued that they must comply with the Catholic teachings on gender transition that the National Catholic Bioethics Center, which audits hospital compliance, articulates as Catholic teaching in its guidance document: “Gender transitioning of any kind is intrinsically disordered because it cannot conform to the true good of the human person, who is a body-soul union unalterably created male or female. Gender transitioning should never be performed, encouraged, or positively affirmed as a good in Catholic health care.”
But the plaintiff argued that this was not a simple procedure to change gender, but that it was an allowed exception to the guidelines because it was being used to treat a known condition, gender dysphoria. It cited the testimony of the hospital’s chief medical officer as stating that hysterectomies were frequently performed at the hospital when connected with an identifiable medical condition that could not be solved by other means, “so long as [a] hysterectomy is consistent with the standard of care for a given diagnosis, the hysterectomy may be performed [at St. Joseph].”
Thus the court found that the medical ethics would have been satisfied had the hospital approved the surgery since gender dysphoria is a recognized medical disorder and the requested surgery was not for the purpose of elective sterilization but to treat this particular individual’s medical condition for which there was no other available treatment.
Accordingly, the court found that since St. Joseph was — for the purposes of this case — a “state actor” – the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply and therefore its refusal to perform the hysterectomy was discrimination on the basis of sex and granted summary judgment to the plaintiff.

The Diocese Of Des Moines

Now, getting back to my home diocese. Our bishop has issued a document, pastoral in tone, but controversial nonetheless. In it he speaks of concern for our brothers who experience gender confusion and how the Church must continue to love and assist them in their travails. Two paragraphs, I think, sum up what he is trying to say, but for space needed to be edited here:
”In a culture that advances a highly subjective conception of love, many families of an adult or child with gender dysphoria will feel a sense of obligation to support their loved one by acceding to and advocating for an uncritical sense of ‘whatever is going to make them happy’….[Family members] will likely face pressure…from the prevailing culture to affirm and validate their loved one’s newly adopted gender and, in conjunction with medical personnel, to ‘resolve’ the dysphoria by electing to pursue surgical and hormonal interventions aimed at altering the biological sex of the affected person.
“Such treatments, especially for children, are invasive and disruptive when aspects of the entire person are taken into consideration…[but] these treatments do not promote the common good of society, particularly when it comes to the institutions of marriage and family….
“For the parents of a child who presents with gender dysphoria, the overarching priority is to genuinely assist the child by acknowledging the suffering involved and to accompany him or her along the path to personal healing, self-acceptance, integration, and peace. Any response that merely ratifies and reinforces the perceived disconnect between biological sex and gender affiliation is not genuine compassion.”
Here are the diocesan guidelines:
All entities of the diocese in areas where designation by sex is required the use of the person’s biological sex shall be used and pronouns must reflect this. No preferred pronouns may be used. All persons will use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matches their biological sex.
Participation in school, parish, and co-curricular activities must be consistent with the participant’s biological sex; all persons are to present themselves in the attire of their biological sex; entry into single-sex building and instructions are restricted to persons by their biological sex; no person is permitted to have or distribute any medication for the purpose of gender reassignment on Church property.”
This, of course, is a shorthand version of the document; the full document can be found at:
Unfortunately, some have taken this as an affront to the LGBTQ community. One Democratic state senator suggested that Jesus would not be happy with this document. Sorry, senator. I think Jesus would thank the bishop for complementing His Father’s creation.
(You can reach Mike at: and listen to him every week on Faith On Trial at

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