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: Why stay in the Church?

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There are many people who have either left the Church or are currently considering leaving because of the scandals of recent decades. We have felt pain and righteous anger at our leaders and have suffered scandal from their betrayal. For some, the grand jury reports and lack of accountability for bishops have been the last straw. It’s hard to blame people for feeling this way, but we have to ask with Peter, “to whom, Lord, shall we go?” (John 6:68).

Significantly, this question comes after many disciples walked out on Jesus for his teaching on the Eucharist, and it is the Eucharist that should be at the center of any response to the crisis. Peter answers his own question: “you have the words of everlasting life” (John 6:68). The Church is Jesus’ own body in the world, and we are members of his mystical body, given eternal life by consuming his own flesh at Mass. Without the Eucharist, Jesus’ presence in the flesh, the very heart of the Church, where would we be?

Bishop Robert Barron echoes Peter’s question in a recent pamphlet-style book, with over a million copies in print, Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis (Word on Fire, 2019). He turns to the Bible and Church history to look for perspective on the crisis. Because of the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church, the betrayal of some of our priests and bishops takes on greater significance. They act in persona Christi at Mass, offering the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to the Father, and we depend on them for our sacramental life.

Fortunately, the validity of the sacraments does not depend upon the sinlessness of priests, but rather the holiness of God. Barron points out, however, that priests will not get off easy, given the extremely harsh words that Jesus offers to those who lead children astray: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,  it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!” (Mt 18:7-9). Barron also references the punishment of Eli, in 1 Samuel 2-4, who as priest and judge of Israel watched his own sons, who were also priests, abuse the people. Barron argues that this scene gives us the best example of God’s retribution for allowing abuse to happen and not correcting it.

Barron also looks at the tumultuous story of Church history for context on the current crisis. Although the Church is the mystical body of Christ, he references St. Paul assertion that we bear our treasure in earthen vessels, as evidenced by the human weakness of Christians throughout history. In fact, this weakness manifests the Lord’s grace guiding and preserving the Church in spite of us. Barron quotes Belloc that a proof of the Church’s divine foundation “might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight” (43). Heresies, sinful popes, and sexual perversity have not fundamentally destroyed the Lord’s work, even if they have turned many people away. God has promised to remain with his Church and his providence will guide us especially through dark moments.

The crisis challenges us and raises the question of why we are Catholic. Most of us have been born Catholic and may take our faith for granted as something we’ve inherited from our parents. We may view belonging to the Church like membership in a voluntary organization. Rather, our life as members of Christ’s Body is a gift from God that changes our identity and unites us to God and our fellow Christians. As we experience challenges to faith, it is an opportunity to embrace this identity even more strongly — not as something that depends upon myself or anyone else in the Church, but on God. We go to Church to honor and thank him and to receive his grace, not to be a part of a human organization.

The Church is a family, called together by God, but, like any family, we experience pain from our own and each other’s sinfulness. As family, we can’t give up on each other, but have to “stay and fight” as Barron exhorts us, helping each other to be faithful to the mission that Jesus gave us: to love one another as he has loved us and to share the Good News of his salvation.

Featured Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash