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ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - After writing letters making false allegations, organizing protests and threatening the use of bullhorns, St. Louis transgender activists were unable to stop Dr. Paul Hruz on Saturday from delivering his lecture, "Sex & Gender in Light of Truth, Beauty and Goodness."
The lecture took place at St. Anselm Parish in suburban St. Louis but was sponsored by a local organization, CREDO of the Catholic Laity — a group founded in 1995 by a small band of faithful Catholic men who felt the Church in St. Louis was going "off track." To keep the Church "on track," CREDO has hosted lectures by noted Catholic scholars and experts. Last year, Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, was the group's featured speaker.
This year's speaker, Dr. Paul Hruz, M.D., Ph.D., a 20-year faculty member at Washington University's School of Medicine, is a pediatric endocrinologist who has been actively engaged in the debate about treatment of transgender dysphoria since 2012, when the so-called "Dutch method" of treatment came into ascendancy.
The controversial method recommends aggressively "treating" children with hormones and even surgery. Proponents of the Dutch method argue that especially in adolescence, hormone therapy allows these young people to blend in with their peers, thus reducing their anxiety and potentially preventing suicides.
Anticipating what they believed Dr. Hruz would say, the St. Louis transgender community organized to stop the lecture. Calling on their tried-and-true arsenal of tactics, activists wrote letters of protest to Dr. Helen Gelhot, president of CREDO, and St. Anselm Rector Fr. Aiden McDermott, OSB. One letter said:
I feel compelled to draw your attention that your church home is planning to host a speaker this Saturday that has ties to a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a Hate Group. ... Your church home is being seen as a place giving space to hate. Which is not the current teaching of our Pope. Your church home is welcoming someone who creates divisions, rejects caring for the hurting youth and their families and does not actually promote the messages of love and acceptance.
Before the lecture began on Saturday, Church Militant asked a group of protestors why they believed Dr. Hruz would be promoting hate. They said they had "inside sources" who knew he would be giving the audience "disinformation." They also cited an Ingraham Angle segment featuring Catholic Fox News Host Laura Ingraham, in which Dr. Hruz warns certain treatments for transgender youth are experimental and dangerous.
When activist pressure tactics were not successful in shutting down the event, they then made plans, via a Facebook events page called "Yeet the Transphobia," to disrupt the lecture with protests and bullhorns. To rally the troops, event organizers Madrissa Nees and Jordan Elizabeth Braxton, wrote on Facebook:
This physician is going to be speaking at an event held by the Catholic Church. His goal is to spread false information about trans people and further alienate biased Christians. Let's work together to show up to this event and let him, as well as the attendees, know we won't stand for this.
Dr. Hruz's presentation helped Catholics in the audience understand that individuals who experience a gender identity that does not align with their biological sex are genuinely suffering. He noted that there has been an explosion of affected young people seeking help. Though the reasons for the dramatic increase are not entirely clear, Dr. Hruz emphasized that the increase is real, as are the suicide statistics associated with transgender youth.
In a note of thanks, one member of St. Gerard Majella parish remarked, "I was very impressed with Dr. Hruz's knowledge, his communication of the reality of this trauma among the children, the reality of the challenges and confusion by parents and the level of trauma experienced by those facing it."
A Catholic school administrator wrote, "I was particularly impressed by Dr. Hruz's gentle nature and his ability to tackle a difficult and often emotional topic with kindness and honesty — always shining light on the subject through the prism of the dignity of all people."
Reaction in the transgender community was very different. In a post-event article, trans activist Terry Willits inaccurately claimed (among other things) that Dr. Hruz advocated withholding treatment from patients.
In fact, Dr. Hruz did not suggest that all forms of treatment be withheld; he said a "wait and see" approach might be in children's best interest, since some treatments ultimately lead to irreversible sterility. While patients are waiting to see if hormone therapy should be used, they should be treated in other ways, for example through counseling or anxiety-reducing drugs.
Willits also quoted an unnamed Washington University source regarding Dr. Hruz's credentials, writing, "When I contacted Washington University, I was given this information":
Dr. Hruz is not a member of our DSD team, nor is he an expert in transgender health, as he has never taken care of a transgender person. Dr. Hruz admits that he has not treated any transgender patients, patients with gender dysphoria, conducted peer-reviewed research about gender identity, transgender people or gender dysphoria; and is not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, nor mental health care provider of any kind who could speak knowledgeably of transgender health.
Since this statement is unattributed, it is unlikely this is an official statement from the university. It is more likely from second-year Washington University medical student Talia Pearl, who wrote the following email message to CREDO. Compare the language and emphasis with the statement attributed to Washington University:
I wanted to raise some concerns regarding the credentials of Dr. Paul Hruz, who will be speaking at your event "Sex and Gender." Dr. Hruz is not a member of the Disorders of Sexual Development Multidisciplinary Care Program at Washington University in St. Louis. In addtion, he has not authored any peer-reviewed manuscripts on DSDs or transgender health. His manuscripts are all in the realm of diabetes and metabolism. I am worried that his credentials are being misrepresented here to make it look like he is an "internationally renowned expert in DSDs or transgender medicine," which he is not.
In her opening remarks to attendees, Dr. Gelhot reminded them of Abp. Fulton Sheen's famous words: "Who's going to save our Church? It's not our bishops, it's not our priests and it is not the religious. It is up to you, the people."
Later, Gelhot told Church Militant, "Over the 25 years of CREDO's existence, our promotion of truth has never made us a lot of friends, but that's not why we are here. We are about truth, beauty and goodness and not everyone appreciates that."