Catholic Healthcare Conference Sponsored by Catholic Hospitals Promotes Anti-LGBTQ Extremism


Medical professionals and Catholic leaders gathered in Denver last week for a healthcare ethics conference that promoted anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion extremism and echoed Republican Party attacks against transgender youth.

The annual conference, called Converging Roads, was hosted by the Archdiocese of Denver, regional Catholic hospitals SCL Health and Centura Health, and the St. John Paul II Foundation, a national Catholic apostolate whose mission is to “proclaim the Good News on life and the family through education and training, ”according to its website.

The annual conference aims to guide Catholic healthcare professionals through the “ethical challenges” presented by the convergence of their medical profession and Church teachings on issues such as abortion, end-of-life care, sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We help professionals understand the issues and give them tools to think carefully and systematically about growing ethical challenges,” Arland K. Nichols, president of the St. John Paul II Foundation, said in an interview. with Denver. Catholic. “Families rely on them not only to learn about their basic practices, but also to be able to advise them on the best and healthiest way forward.”

The Catholic Church and its position on health issues have a major impact on the health care system in the United States. According to a 2016 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, one in six hospital beds in the United States are in Catholic facilities, which is a 22% increase from 2001.

These hospitals operate according to “ethical and religious guidelines” put forward by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and impose restrictions on reproductive health care, including contraception, sterilization, many fertility treatments and fertility treatments. ‘abortion. The guidelines also limit end-of-life and gender-based care for transgender patients.

Despite the ubiquity of Catholic health care providers, studies show that most patients are unaware of how their medical options are limited by church teachings when they visit these facilities for care.

Last week’s conference illustrates how deeply the church’s social teachings on everything from LGBTQ issues to abortion are deeply tied to the medical care patients can expect when seeing Catholic providers.

Among the speakers at the April 10 conference was Archbishop of Denver Samuel Aquila, a very active anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ advocate.

Aquila was particularly focused on gender identity, saying at one point in her speech, “I can identify as 6’4” but I still find it difficult to put my luggage in the upper trunks of planes, “prompting laughter from the crowd.

“It is important to note that the conversation around these conflicts is informed by a secular mindset that sees freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants rather than the Catholic understanding of freedom as the ability to do good. Aquila continued. “When we don’t choose the good as defined by God, we become slaves to the devil and we never achieve true happiness.”

Aquila also suggested that marriage without procreation can be used to justify bestiality.

“Once you take the kids out of the equation, you can justify anything, so you get polyamory, you get polygamy, you can have your dog as a spouse, and that’s crazy,” Aquila said. .

Aquila has long been outspoken in his contempt for the LGBTQ community, and even once suggested that “active homosexuality in the priesthood” is a contributing factor to the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic preists.

In December, an investigation by the Colorado attorney general’s office found that 52 Colorado priests had abused at least 212 children between 1950 and 2000. The church paid out $ 7.3 million in settlements to survivors.

Between searches of LGBTQ people, Aquila offered advice to medical professionals among him to operate in what he called a “post-Christian” era.

“As cultural support for religious freedom erodes, Catholic providers will be scrutinized for not conforming to the secular code of belief, possibly under the overwhelming label of discrimination,” Aquila said.

“We will only succeed in maintaining a position of influence in our culture by becoming more Catholic,” Aquila later said. “One of the downsides of Christianity is that we have become lukewarm in our beliefs.”

Aquila urged Catholic health care providers to stay true to the church’s teachings on reproductive health and LGBTQ issues despite the refusal of other doctors or hospitals where they work.

“Having that kind of belief and attitude and speaking out, even though some doctors or some hospital staff may not like it, is essential and a testament to it,” Aquila said.

True to the Republican Party’s talking points on transgender people, Aquila criticized the equality law, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. “This will force girls and women to compete with boys and men for limited opportunities in school sports and to share locker rooms and showers with biological men who claim to identify as women,” Aquila said.

Although frequently echoed by conservatives, there is no basis for the argument that children are less safe when transgender people have equal access to bathrooms and locker rooms.

Dr Paul Hruz, professor and pediatric endocrinologist at Washington University in St. Louis, was also present at Converging Roads as a keynote speaker, who often serves as an anti-trans spokesperson for conservative and Christian publications.

Hruz testified for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ organization classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in support of banning transgender youth from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

“Dr. Hruz is NOT a member of our [Differences of Sex Development] The team, is NOR an expert in transgender health because he has never cared for a transgender person, ”University of Washington officials told the Planet Transgender trans rights blog, adding that Hruz “Is not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health care provider. of any kind, who could speak knowledgeably about transgender health.

At the root of Hruz’s anti-trans rhetoric is the implication that divergent gender identities should be fixed, ideally through “counseling”, parents “setting boundaries” and a “restorative” approach.

Much like Aquila, Hruz did not neglect to raise the issue of the bathroom / changing rooms.

“We are told that we must commit to affirming [transgender youth] into their transgender identity and doing otherwise is going to be harmful, which means we can use different names, pronouns, give them access to gender-segregated facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms, ”Hruz said. “We’re told we shouldn’t question this at all.”

Hruz speaking next to his slide on the ‘restorative’ approach

Gender affirmation is the medical standard for treating youth and adults with gender dysphoria and / or gender divergence, says Dr. Elizabeth Kvach, medical director of Denver Health’s LGBTQ Center of Excellence and professor associate professor of family medicine at the University of Colorado. . Kvach told the Colorado Times Recorder that the “vast majority of the literature” supports “the overall improvement in mental health outcomes among transgender and non-binary youth who are properly permitted to transition.”

Kvach said this includes allowing transgender and non-binary youth to choose the name they want to call, how to dress and use the pronouns they want to use. “All of these things have been supported in the literature with improved mental health outcomes, reduced rates of depression, anxiety, and reduced rates of suicidality in youth and adults,” Kvach said. , citing a large-scale national study that reported a staggering 41% suicide attempt rate among transgender adults.

“Treatment with puberty blockers and hormone therapy for young people who are properly diagnosed with gender dysphoria have also been shown to improve mental health outcomes,” Kvach continued.

Hruz’s opposition to the affirmative approach depends on children’s dropout rates, or the rate at which those with gender dysphoria ultimately stop identifying as transgender.

He claimed during his speech that normal dropout rates for children are around 85%, a statistic that serves as the basis for why minors should not be given puberty blockers or hormone therapy.

“This [statistic] is not based on current evidence or data, “Kvach said, citing studies in the Netherlands and a multi-state study in the US.” At present, there is no major American studies, but the dropout rates are certainly not that high. “

Kvach cited an article from the International Review of Psychiatry that debunks the myth of high withdrawal.

Kvach explained that medical providers who diagnose and treat young people with gender dysphoria are careful to provide appropriate treatment that serves their overall health and well-being.

“It’s our job as clinicians to really dig in collaboration with mental health care providers who have expertise in working with gender diverse youth to make sure we have accurate gender dysphoria diagnoses. , and this is part of the reason why it is recommended to use puberty blockers. in children who have entered the early stages of puberty, ”Kvach said. “… Young people who have started using blockers are usually on them for a few years and then we work closely with mental health care providers to make sure that this behavior is consistent, persistent, and pushy who’s a part of who. they are, and are, suitable candidates to move forward with hormone therapy. “

Another important way to support children with gender dysphoria is, well, to support them, according to Kvach, who says family support can help protect against the adverse mental health effects associated with the messages. negatives of society and bullying.

Hruz, on the other hand, suggested that parents should “set limits” around gender expression that might prevent children from getting the assertiveness they might need.

The anti-trans attitudes promoted by Catholic leaders, health care providers and hospitals at the conference are far from in tune with the mainstream medical community.

The American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, Pediatric Endocrine Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry all agree that gender discrimination treatment is an important option. for transgender youth.

The church’s attacks on LGBTQ people are, however, consistent with Republican lawmakers, who are pushing for a gender-affirming healthcare ban in 15 states.

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