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Gender Studies Program on the Loose

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.@NotreDame's Gender Studies Program with @KinseyInstitute panelists promotes anti-Catholic gender ideology with administration acquiescence. Click To Tweet

Gender Studies Program on the Loose

With regret, we follow our recent sunny report about the law school with an uncommonly discouraging report about the Gender Studies Program (“GSP”) and the administration.

The episode we describe below centers on a recent panel presentation sponsored by GSP that was emphatically hostile to the Church’s teaching on transgenderism. Indeed, GSP organized the presentation to counter a panel discussion last fall sponsored by Students for Child-Oriented Policy {“SCOP”) in support of that Church teaching. Although  the GSP event flouted university policy, Father Jenkins and the Dean of the College of Arts & Letters disregarded pleas to intervene.  

The panel presentation

There were four panelists, all associated with Indiana University and two of them  also with the Kinsey Institute, the world’s most prominent advocate of the corrosive notion that whatever sort of sex gives one pleasure is good and whatever gender feels right is right.

The presentations are well described in articles in the Irish Rover and the National Review, the latter by Notre Dame alumna (and new Sycamore Trust board member) Alexandria DeSanctis and the former by the Rover editor-in-chief Nicolas Abouchedid. With permission, we reproduce below the National Review article, and we urge you to read also the fine Rover account).


Notre Dame Plays Host to Transgender Ideology 

By Alexandra DeSanctis | February 20, 2020
A Catholic university should know better than to promote harmful pseudoscience dressed up as compassionate care.

It has become all the rage on college campuses to affirm “gender diversity” and embrace the notion that children can decide for themselves where they might fall on the elusive “gender spectrum.” You might not expect to see this happen at a faithful Catholic university.

Maybe these days you should.

At my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, the gender-studies program recently hosted a panel discussion entitled “Affirming Care for Gender Diverse Youth.” The panel featured four speakers, all of whom were affiliated in some fashion with Indiana University — and all of whom were entirely in agreement that boys can be girls, girls can be boys, and boys and girls can be something other than a boy or a girl, too.

According to an audio recording of the event that National Review obtained, all four speakers articulated the view that gender is “multidimensional and nonbinary,” as well as that young children must be permitted to assign their own gender and have that self-assignment reinforced by medical professionals, whether through counseling, puberty-blocking drugs, cosmetic surgeries, or some combination of the three.

“If you ask an average three-year-old, they will tell you . . . exactly who they are . . . because they know who they are,” said Dr. J. Dennis Fortenberry, who works with children and adolescents at Indiana University’s medical school and hospital. “What we take as gender-affirming approaches in our clinic is exactly that kind of perspective: A child tells you who they are. That’s who they are.”

This view went unchallenged and was echoed repeatedly by other members of the panel.

They were in agreement, too, that surgically altering children’s healthy body parts to accord with their self-conception is necessary in order to save their lives. “When we talk to insurance companies who say, ‘Well, this is all just cosmetic,’ I say this is saving these kids’ lives, and here are the data,” Fortenberry added.

Shockingly, he asserted that “there are no studies that show differently.” Though attendees at this event were none the wiser, thanks to the panel’s rigidly one-dimensional composition, this is simply not the case.

As one report from the Heritage Foundation notes, “the most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people — extending over 30 years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered — documents their lifelong mental unrest.”

That study found that “ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers.” Reassignment surgery very well might be a matter of life or death. But it’s hardly the glowing success story touted at this event.

The “expert” panelists also declared that gender dysphoria “never goes away,” insisting that a child who experiences discomfort with his gender will struggle with that feeling for his entire life if left untreated (i.e., if not attacked with a barrage of drugs and surgery in a useless attempt to force his chromosomes to comply with his psychology).

Again, this assertion is contradicted by available evidence.

Eleven papers studying “desistance” in children — their tendency to grow out of gender dysphoria as time goes on — suggest that very few persist in wanting to transition by the time they reach adulthood. As our Madeleine Kearns noted when outlining these studies in a recent article: “It consistently appears that 80 percent of gender-confused children psychologically realign with their biological sex by young adulthood or sooner when supported through their natural puberty with non-invasive therapies such as watchful waiting.”

This reality is also evident in the countless stories of individuals who underwent some form of medical transition, only to desist later in life and experience profound regret, a phenomenon attacked and derided by transgender activists but documented in several places, perhaps most ably in Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

One of Notre Dame’s student newspapers reports that “several preemptive efforts were made” to ask university president Father John Jenkins and the College of Arts and Letters dean Sarah Mustillo either to cancel or postpone the panel. The same article notes that the university’s own guidelines suggest campus events should provide a forum “in which multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard, an appropriate balance among viewpoints is maintained, and, when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, that tradition should be presented.”

Evidently, the gender-studies department preferred to ignore this instruction, and the university saw no need to enforce it. Though Notre Dame remains in many ways a place where Catholic students can flourish, incidents such as this suggest that the university administration would rather risk the wrath of faithful Catholics than condemn the prevailing dogma of modern society.

There is no reason in the world why Notre Dame should, in the name of dialogue or any other secular value, provide a space free of challenge for progressive ideologues to promote pseudoscience about gender dysphoria in children. Not only does this ideology fly in the face of Catholic teaching about human nature and sexuality, but it also risks sowing further confusion and misinformation about biological reality, which can only cause further harm.”


ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. @xan_desanctis


Futile Requests to Fr. Jenkins and Dean Mustillo

When we and others learned of the impending GSP event, dozens of alumni wrote Father Jenkins and we wrote Dr. Sarah Mustillo, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters, asking them to cancel the event because it violated the school’s policy against such a one-sided presentation.

We cited Pope Francis’s declaration that transgender theory is “ideological colonization” and the definitive statement by the Congregation for Catholic Education and pointed out: 

[T]he implication will be that the Gender Studies Program does not hold to that teaching. Indeed, we have a copy of an email from the Associate Director of the Gender Studies Program describing the event as a rebuttal of a presentation sponsored by the student organization SCOP in support of Church teaching.

Accordingly, we continued, key elements of official school policy are implicated, namely,

“A Catholic university has an obligation to sponsor academic events that consider controversial issues in the light of Catholic teaching.” Notices of events should not be “framed” or employ “language” that give the impression” that a department “endors[es] controversial perspectives. especially those directly contrary to Church teachings,” and “when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, the tradition should be presented

Neither the President nor the Dean responded.

Some Good News

In this dreary episode there are several points of light: The continued defense of Church teaching by SCOP students, who set up an information stand outside the GSP panel site; the investigative reporting by Nicolas Abouchedid, this year’s editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover; and the outstanding article by alumna and new Sycamore Trust board member Alexandra DeSanctis.

Undaunted by last year’s vicious attacks by radical students on their organizations  for supporting Church teaching, these students spoke up once again even as the administration once again remained silent. 

(On last year’s episode, which was widely reported and reached a national TV audience through Laura Ingraham’s interview of Bill Dempsey, see our bulletin here. The malevolent video is still up, testimony to the administration’s indifference.)

And Alexandra DeSanctis is among the best of those many recent graduates who excite and inspire.  The executive vice president of the Rover (and Sycamore Trust awardee) while a student and now staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, she is a “rising star” in the media industry. It is enough to know that the National Review editor opened a recent article by declaring:  

We Defend Life. And we have Alexandra Sanctis to prove it.

Conclusion – A Daily Meditation

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. (Mk 8:38)


We encourage you to read Nicolas Abouchedid’s Irish Rover article, “Youth gender transition promoted at Notre Dame,” for a campus account of the GSP sponsored panel presentation.

Leave a Reply

 Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. 

13 Responses to “Gender Studies Program on the Loose”

  1. Maybe Fr. Junkins is a nun in priest’s clothing and that is why he does or says nothing.

  2. Steve Martinek May 5, 2020 at 7:38 am

    Further response to Jim Bennett ’69, i offer these thoughts from a conservative Catholic site…

    That’s the reason things have gotten so testy, why there’s so much division in the country, as if that’s something objectively bad. It’s not bad at all. Remember, at the end of the world there will be gigantic eternal division, as there should be.

    In the meantime, in the lead-up to that final dividing, it is our role as baptized to point out the reason there is division — because evil has been quietly at work for decades in the American culture, bringing us to the point of cultural insanity — to so obscure the truth that people will forget to fight for it.

    We are now at one of those moments in history — a fulcrum point, an inflection point, where our future will be forged, for good or ill, but it will be determined. Not all generations precisely arrive at such a point. Each generation has a hand in the journey certainly, either falling asleep at the switch, overlooking or being too tolerant of evil. Earlier generations may have “set the table” as the expression goes, but now the dinner bell is ringing loudly and it is this generation that finds itself at the table.

    The only question remaining, after a sufficient number of people wake up, is will they have the stomach to fight, and not just respond in some wimpy way, but really fight? It is no exaggeration to say, the entire future of civilization is hanging in the balance. The clock is running. Will enough answer the call before time runs out?

  3. Steve Martinek May 4, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Bennett ’69 raises a profound evolutionary question. While I am not an acolyte of Darwin, perhaps his theory of evolution and natural selection of the”best, strongest, most adaptable” characteristics, has a yet un-dicscovered corollary? Perhaps there are eras in the development of mankind (intellectually, physically, and spiritually) marked by what I’ve heard referenced as “inflection points” for corresponding or complementary stages of “devolution.” In such times mankind (or some critical mass thereof) may be expected to literally lose mind and sense, and accept and follow what I might call a “dogma of deviance?”Perhaps that starts us toward answering Bennett’s incisive inquiry? Just musing here…

  4. My mother and grandmother (both strong Irish Catholics) who were so proud that I was accepted by and graduated from Her Lady’s University are now rolling over in their graves! How can the university I love have strayed so far from being a “Catholic” university?

    Jim Bennett, class of ’69

  5. Steve Martinek May 4, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Earnest “thankYou” and “God bless You” to Thomas Blakely. (My late Uncle Richard was a Double Domer during your years.) Your comments are cogent, concise, compelling–and informed professionally and spiritually. You validate my “irish Pride.”

  6. Thomas J. Blakely '52 May 4, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    It is beyond my comprehension how Notre Dame has changed under Jenkin’s administration. I really would like to know what his philosophy of education is and how it fits a university that had a reputation, until he came along, as being truly Catholic. When I attended Notre Dame the Catholic atmosphere was dominant but it doesn’t seem to be that way now. Getting educated at ND was expensive. I washed dishes and mopped floors all the way through. I was busy all the time with working and playing in the band and concert orchestra. I learned a lot especially having the opportunity to serve daily Mass and from several CSC priests who were intelligent and kind.

    Regarding this latest issue about transgender it was interesting that there was no mention of psychological development issues. I am a licensed clinical social worker with a psychiatric specialization. I have practiced my profession for over 65 years and a professor emeritus. I’ve seen many children but never one that was interested in surgery to change gender. I believe this transgender idea comes from the mistaken liberal attitude that has swept the nation in recent years that has raised moral and philosophical questions for which the guidelines of the Commandments provide an answer unless you are looking for a purely existential guide. I have seen children that have an identity problem meaning there are unsure of what gender specific feelings and behaviors are desirable. This can create a lot of psychological confusion but I believe that those who become so confused over the issue that they are aberrational can come to a mental state of believing that surgical gender change is necessary. We have come to a point in the development of our culture with all the mysteries of the evolution of technology and knowledge that we’ve lost direction. The grass appears greener on the other side of the fence but after you cross over and look back the grass is just as green as from whence you came. If you’re born a girl you are a girl. If you’re born a boy you are a boy. Make the best of it. God assigned you your gender. Now, I realize there are some birth abnormalities that occur occasionally and require substantial intervention but that’s not common. We have to quit thinking something is good if it feels good and think about the consequences. We also have to adopt behavior according to the Commandments. Life can be simpler if we think realistically and follow what we know to be rewarding.

  7. Barbara McNamara May 4, 2020 at 9:30 am

    “Neither the President nor the Dean responded.” This fact is not suprising. For Catholic Leftists, this is their MO as modeled for them by none other than the Pope himself who steadfastly refused (and continues to refuse) to answer/address the ‘Dubia Cardinals’ legitimate doctrinal concers in Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

  8. Steve Martinek May 4, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Bill & All: Prayer is not a last resort. Prayer is the first-line of defense. Prayer is the only effective strategy. In recent days I saw an article that a prelate in Rome urged troubled “members” of his flock to petition Bergoglio for aid. They are 20 transgender prostitutes, from Central and South America, unable to successfully “ply their trade” in Rome because of the Chinese-Covid virus crisis. While the article spoke of compassion toward these miscreant deviants–I read nothing about trule spiritual guidance toward confession, absolution, repentance and amendment of lifestyle. It is our Faith and Prayer that can sustain us as we see how tenuous is our nail-slipping grasp on the dogma and Truth once defended and taught by our Catholic institutions–Notre Dame, and the Catholic Church. It seems a tragic truth that the embarrassment that is Jenkins, and Bergoglio, and McCarrick, and all the miscreant clergy and episopacy–is embarrassment each and all of us must own and share. We are ND! We are the Catholic Church! The sins of our leaders are ours as well.

  9. For over 10 years I used Karol Wojtyle’s (Pope St John Paul II) Love and Responsibility as a text in my philosophy of human nature course at ND. In that work, the future pope addresses the issue of modesty in dress, especially in women and girls. This is important because of the immediacy and intensity of the male sexual response. Girls and even women need to recognize the need to cautious. Prior to my last semester at ND (Spring 2018), I was able to present this material with some discussion but almost no objection. In spring 2018, however, the response was dramatically different. A sizable and vocal minority of the student in both sections of the class insisted that the book (which was written in 1958) was outdated and that I was wrong; there is no difference between the male and the female sexual responsiveness, that all the characteristics of the male sexual response — quickly aroused and quickly satisfied, for instance — are culturally determined. There is nothing in the biological structure of males and females that determines or affects their respective responsiveness to sexual values.

    I was taken aback. What everyone used to know and understand was shown by the latest scientific finding:. virtually all our sexual behavior is culturally determined. Eventually came to understand that the source of this new doctrine was in Gender Studies.

  10. Father Jenkins is an embarrassment, he needs to go!

  11. Ann Hesenius May 4, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Kevin…Your question is the relevant and correct one to ask
    .

  12. William Dotterweich May 3, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    That Notre Dame has a weak-kneed leader has been evident for a long time. What is truly discouraging is that the trustees remain silent and the fellows remain compliant. Can they all be the doofuses they appear to be?

  13. I am still pondering the question, “Why would a Catholic University even have a Gender Studies Program?”.

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