Archbishop Aquila issues letter to Regis University community

Denver Catholic Staff

The Archdiocese of Denver and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila have issued the below letter in response to recent reports of the Provost of Regis University promoting teaching practices and urging faculty support for gender fluidity. These actions were not approved by the archdiocese and they do not conform with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

November 13, 2018

Dear Regis University community and all concerned faithful,

It recently came to my attention that Provost Janet Houser is using her position of influence to advance gender ideology in several ways at Regis University that conflict with the Catholic faith.

These efforts were detailed in an October 29th email to faculty members from Provost Houser and the Queer Resource Alliance (ORA). The provost and QRA’s guidance includes encouraging faculty to attend a student drag show, not using gender-specific pronouns in class, avoiding phrases that reinforce the gender binary, such as “ladies and gentlemen,” assigning texts from “queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and warning teachers not to take attendance using the official roster, since this might involve accidentally using a student’s “dead name.”

Some of the lay faithful of the archdiocese have brought this matter to my attention, since as Archbishop it is my responsibility to ensure that Catholic institutions maintain their Catholic identity. I want you to know that Regis University never discussed any of these initiatives with me or my staff, and that this guidance is not in conformity with the Catholic faith, despite the attempts made to justify it as rooted in Jesuit values.

On the contrary, Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the promotion of gender fluidity as a type of ideological colonization. Speaking to the bishops of Poland in 2016, he said, “In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’ Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this?”

I echo the Holy Father’s question. Why is Regis University promoting and teaching an ideology that is contrary to what we know from the Scriptures? In Genesis we read, “God created mankind in his image … male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

In Amoris Laetitia 56, the Holy Father addresses the errors of this ideology in greater detail. He wrote, “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’ It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the sociocultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.”‘

This deconstruction of human sexuality has already introduced great confusion into society and it is not in conformity with the Catholic faith. As Pope Francis emphasizes in Amoris Laetitia 56, we must “not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

For those who struggle with their sexual identity, it is important to accompany them with compassion, helping them to encounter Jesus Christ, who can bring them healing and lead them to their true identity as sons or daughters of the Father, unlike the false freedom promoted by gender theory.

Jesus teaches us in the Gospels both the importance of listening and speaking the truth with charity, as seen in his encounters with the Samaritan woman, Peter and the apostles, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, and so many others. Truth and charity are inseparable, and one cannot claim to be acting charitably while disregarding or leading others away from the truth.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

COMING UP: Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

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Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

Initiatives include independent investigation and independent reparations program

Mark Haas

With a desire to “shine the bright light of transparency” on the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has announced that the three Colorado dioceses have voluntarily partnered with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children.

In a joint news conference on February 19 at the attorney general’s office, it was also announced that the three dioceses will voluntarily fund an independent reparations program for survivors of such abuse.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” said Archbishop Aquila. “While this process will certainly include painful moments and cannot ever fully restore what was lost, we pray that it will at least begin the healing process.”

It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Discussions for these two initiatives began last year with former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and then finalized recently with Weiser. Both Coffman and Weiser praised the dioceses’ willingness to address this issue.

“It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Coffman added: “Childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution or to the Catholic Church. The spotlight is on the Catholic Church, but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on what has happened.

“[The dioceses] demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”

The independent file review will be handled by Robert Toyer, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. His final report is expected to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include a list of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, along with a review of the dioceses’ handling of the allegations. The report will also include an evaluation of the dioceses’ current policies and procedures, something that was not included in other states’ reviews, such as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

“We in Colorado have found our own way in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report,” said Weiser. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, alongside Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

“This is not a criminal investigation. This is an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church,” said Weiser.

Since 1991, the Archdiocese of Denver has had a policy of mandatory reporting of all allegations to local authorities. The procedures were further strengthened by the 2002 Dallas Charter to include comprehensive background checks, zero-tolerance policies, safe environment training, and training for children as well.

“This independent file review presents an opportunity for an honest and fair evaluation of the Church in Colorado’s historical handling of the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” said Archbishop Aquila.  “We are confident in the steps we have taken to address this issue and that there are no priests in active ministry currently under investigation.”

We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.”

The independent reparations program will be run by two nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate. The victims are free to accept or reject the award, but the Colorado dioceses are bound by what the administrators decide.

The program will have oversight provided by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the program will officially open closer to the release of the final report.

This is similar to a program instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila said it is important for local Catholics to know the program will be funded by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals, or Catholic Charities.

“With humility and repentance, we hope the programs announced today offer a path to healing for survivors and their families,” Archbishop Aquila said.

And acknowledging how painful this has been for everyone in the Church, Archbishop Aquila said he hopes this is step towards restoring confidence among the faithful.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” said Archbishop Aquila. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, so that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”

For a copy of the full agreement and a detailed FAQ, visit archden.org/promise.