This week, the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy High School in San Francisco announced their decision to support and accept teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenhiemer after he publicly came out as transgender.

“This is significant for us; we did not take this lightly,” Sister Laura Reicks, president of the 16-state region of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that didn’t mean it was easy.”

There is no official policy regarding transgender individuals in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, though doctrinal teachings clearly equate birth anatomy with gender. The Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod, convened in October 2014, debated several issues related to LGBT inclusion but did not address questions regarding transgender church members. While the experience of transgender Catholics varies depending on their communities, in September 2015, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for enforcing Catholic doctrine, did not permit a transgender man in Spain to serve as a godfather effectively barring transgender Catholics from serving as a baptismal sponsors.

In San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has long been known for his combative language against LGBT people, characterizing same-sex attraction as “self-destructive,” speaking out against employment protections, and calling marriage equality “harmful to individuals and society as a whole.” He supports a Constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality. Documents presented to teachers today by the archdiocese characterized LGBT sexual relationships as “gravely evil.”

While HRC will continue to hold Archbishop Cordileone accountable for his continued exclusion and rejection of LGBT Catholics, we are appreciative of his decision to not interfere with the Sisters of Mercy decision to stick to their principles and ideals in supporting Mr. Stein-Bodenheimer’s ongoing employment at Mercy High School.

“We have not had any other teachers ask for any kind of coming out before,” Reicks continued. “This is just our way of continuing to live out what our founders of Sisters of Mercy had always said, that regardless of what type of prejudice or feeling in society, we have to take a higher road and look at the person and how we can be supportive of each person.”

HRC applauds Mr. Stein-Bodenheimer’s courage to live openly and authentically and thanks his colleagues for exemplifying the principles of justice and inclusion, which are core to the Catholic Faith and so often ignored by many.

To learn more about LGBT equality in the Catholic Church, click here.

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