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SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic all-girls high school is throwing its support behind a female teacher who believes she is a man.
In a statement last week, an order of the Sisters of Mercy, who run Mercy High School in San Francisco, announced that an English teacher and department chair, who now goes by the name Gabriel Bodenheimer, will be allowed to keep her job in what the sisters are describing as an act of "mercy."
"This is significant for us; we did not take this lightly," asserts Sr. Laura Reicks, president of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community. "We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that didn't mean it was easy."
Sister Reicks continued, asserting the school strives to "witness to mercy" by honoring "the dignity of each person in a welcoming culture that pursues integrity of word and deed."
According to the school, Bodenheimer, who is Jewish, has "confirmed a commitment required of every teacher to honor the Catholic identity of the school"; the school has additionally opted officially to use male pronouns when referring to Bodenheimer.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issued a statement on the school's decision, asserting that it falls within the "legitimate range of prudential judgment":
Often in such situations a balance must be struck in a way that distinct values are upheld, such as mercy and truth, or institutional integrity and respect for personal decisions affecting one's life. ... [I am] grateful that leadership of the Mercy Sisters spoke to me in advance and explained their reasoning and their plan on how to address the situation. In so doing the sisters strongly affirmed our Catholic beliefs and values and that they and the school do not advocate for policies or causes that contradict these values and beliefs.
Bodenheimer, who has been employed by the school for four years, maintains she loves "teaching at Mercy High School" and claims the responses she has received to her so-called transition have been positive. "For my own sense of authenticity in the classroom, it was important to name myself, to identify myself, to bring the whole self into the aspect of my teaching," she said. "It is important to speak to this issue, not to be silent."
Sister Reick confirmed that counselors will be made available for students, parents and faculty for "assistance with processing their views regarding the teacher."
"We also believe the Sisters of Mercy's statement of Catholic Identity for our secondary schools underscores the importance of quality relationships for everyone associated with the school," she added. "And, we strive to witness to mercy when we honor the dignity of each person in a welcoming culture that pursues integrity of word and deed."
Reick additionally praised the Mercy High School "faith community" for their "strong commitment to Mercy and Gospel values — respect for human rights and dignity, compassion for others and the courage to act — as well as its Catholic Identity."
The school's decision comes amid a nationwide debate concerning transgender rights, sparked by a handful of national corporations announcing those who identify as transgender will be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their chosen gender; additionally, a mandate was issued Friday by the Obama administration ordering that all public schools allow self-described transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
Multiple states, most notably North Carolina, have fired back against such overreach, with North Carolina's governor filing a lawsuit against the federal government over threats concerning a state house bill requiring men and women to use the public restroom of their birth gender. In Texas, state lieutenant governor Dan Patrick described the Obama mandate as blackmail, and a Southern Texas public school superintendent announced Monday the mandate is "going straight to the shredder."
"I'm going to look at the wants and needs and values of 99.9 percent of our parents and kids. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and our President is wrong," said Dr. Rodney Cavness of the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District. "I'm going to do what's right."
He went on, "Our community has spoken loudly. I've got 2,500 little girls and young ladies in our school district. I'm going to protect them and the 2,500 boys in our district."
The Catholic Church has clearly maintained its position against the push for gender identity rights, with Pope Benedict XVI proclaiming in 2012 that the "profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious."