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Transgender Students Not Welcome at Sioux Falls Catholic Schools; Diocese Sees Gender Dysphoria as Disorder to Be Fixed

If Calvin Hillesland wants to get back into teaching, the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools appear to welcome his attitude toward transgender students. KELO-TV reports that Bishop Donald DeGrood has told the Sioux Falls faithful that boys will be boys and girls will be girls and that anyone saying differently is undermining marriage and God’s will:

Human beings are male or female. In Holy Scripture, we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Male and female complementarity reflects God’s image because it is a communion of persons that bears fruit in new human life. In this way, the marriage of a man and a woman, where “the two become one flesh,” is an icon of the Holy Trinity, itself a fruitful communion of divine persons. Transgender ideology contradicts and undermines this nuptial principle inherent in male-female differences, which are for “communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”

There is a “given-ness” to male-female human sexuality, too, that is not fluid or changeable. Human identity as male or female is a gift to be received, not an individual choice that can be selected or changed….

Regardless of whether we are male or female, married or celibate, understanding our bodies as gifts from God is important to living healthy, happy, and holy lives. This gift is oriented towards fatherhood and motherhood. Transgender ideology undermines the very basis for marriage and family, which are foundational to human society itself. This problem is so very concerning, as all children need and have a right to a mom and a dad [Bishop Donald DeGrood, letter to “All Catholic Faithful” of the Sioux Falls Diocese, 2022.08.04].

Bishop DeGrood says “all the baptized” have a “duty” to “joyfully announce” the immalleable binarity of gender. To this end, the Diocesan Policy on Human Sexuality in Education Settings, effective July 1, 2022, imposes these restrictions on all students in Sioux Falls Catholic schools:

Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express same-sex attraction in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events. When discussing homosexuality or homosexual inclinations, the use of the term “same-sex attraction” is preferred, as it is a more appropriate description in accordance with the truths of Catholic faith and morals. For the purposes of this policy, advocating for civil unions between individuals of the same sex and/or civil rights to be granted to the individuals participating in the union shall be considered equivalent to advocating for individuals experiencing same-sex attraction.

Students may not advocate, celebrate, or express transgenderism in such a way as to cause confusion or distraction in the context of Catholic school classes, activities, or events… [Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, “Diocesan Policy: Conforming with the Church’s Teaching on Human Sexuality in Education Settings,” effective 2022.07.01].

The policy admonishes pastors and school administrators to avoid “material cooperation and scandal” because “cooperation with individuals experiencing gender dysphoria can be viewed by the parish or school community as an implicit form of endorsement.” All administrators “should seek to counsel as early as possible individuals who experience gender dysphoria, especially explaining Church teachings based on natural law,” with the aim of helping students “discover and resolve the underlying issues that gave rise to their perceived incongruence between their biological sex and perceived gender identity” and “learn to accept and align their sense of self with their biological sex.”

Schools must alert the bishop to any applicant or student “who claims to be transitioning or transitioned.” The bishop decides whether that child may enter or remain enrolled in a Sioux Falls Catholic school. No student who expresses “gender, sexual identity, or sexuality” that causes “confusion or disruption to other students in the Catholic school system” may attend any Sioux Falls Catholic school.

All students will use the bathrooms and locker rooms aligned with their biological sex. The schools may not create or designate “transgender” bathrooms.

In sports, boys will play on boys teams and girls will play on girls teams. If a Catholic school team hosts a team which has “individuals whose gender is opposite his/her teammates,” the school may not allow those mixed team members to share a locker room. To avoid litigation, the school is to advise the visiting team that “a locker room may not be available for their use during competitions” and that the visitors may need to find their own location to dress for competition.

In a similar vein, Sioux Falls Catholic schools may not provide meeting space for any organization that doesn’t support the strict binary definitions in this policy.

All Sioux Falls Catholic school documents are to reflect students’ biological sex “as determined from conception and manifest at birth and at the time of the student[s’] enrollment.” If students or alumni legally change their names, the Catholic schools may not erase original names; all subsequently issued records must bear students’ original names along with their new legal names.

Students, teachers, and staff at the Catholic schools must also adhere to biological sex in speaking to each other:

All students, teachers, and school personnel must use accurate gender references and language in all circumstances and at all times.

  • No references to an individual student through the use of a pronoun that correlates to the opposite sex shall be made by teachers, administrators, and staff members. (e.g. Christopher will always be “he,” “him,” etc. and Theresa will always be “she,” “her,” etc.)
  • Whenever a class/schoolmate of a student experiencing gender dysphoria uses a pronoun that is inconsistent with the student’s sex, this behavior shall be addressed immediately with instruction given to refrain from using the incorrect gender-specific pronoun.
  • When a student who discloses that he/she is experiencing gender dysphoria, his/her proper name shall always be an acceptable and proper reference for that student so long as the name reflects what is on the child’s birth certificate. If the student has legally changed his/her name, proper documentation to support this change must be provided before the changed name is to be used in the context of the school [Diocesan Policy, 2022.07.01].

In case those policies don’t deter every transgender person from engaging with the Sioux Falls Catholic school community, the policy forbids “those who chose to live a transgender lifestyle publicly and declare such his/her intent in either word or action” from serving as “lectors, music ministers, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion during liturgies celebrated at a Catholic school.” The Diocese reminds the miffed that this policy is the same for all grave sinners and makers of scandal:

While this policy is intentionally exclusionary, it is essential to note that this same reality exists for any member of the parish whose actions place them in a state of grave sin or public scandal (sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, homosexual union, etc.). All persons may attend liturgies, consistent with the norms of the Church [Diocesan Policy, 2022.07.01].

The Diocese prohibits hiring any teachers, administrators, or staff who live a transgender lifestyle, are transitioning, or even consider transitioning. “Particular consideration for this expectation must be given when evaluating candidates for positions that involve direct ministry with youth and which have a high probability of the adult spending extended time alone with youth,” because, well, you know….

The Sioux Falls Diocese extends this interpretation of gender dysphoria beyond its schools to parish ministries. Individuals “publicly living a transgender lifestyle or undergoing a transition are to refrain” from taking communion “until they fully accept the teachings of the Church.” (If you’re just thinking about transitioning but haven’t told anybody, you can still sneak in for wine and wafers, which undergo their own remarkable transition.) Confirmation and adult baptism “should be delayed” for people who have transitioned, are transitioning, or are thinking about transitioning. The Diocese permits baptism of children of transgendered parents, but it forbids transgendered or transitioning adults from serving as godparents, confirmation sponsors, or members of bridal parties. Just like school records, baptismal records must always bear the baptised’s original name; they may not indicate any “self-determined change in gender.” At your funeral, if you’ve transitioned, the priest will refer to you by your birth name and gender and prohibit the circulation of any obituary at the funeral Mass that “publicly endorses the false notion” of your “transition”.

The Catholic Church and its schools are a private organization. They may accept or reject whatever students, employees, and worshippers they wish. While the Church welcomes all to the faith, this policy for the Sioux Falls schools and parishes makes clear that the Church rejects the idea that there is any identity between or beyond male and female as established at conception.


  1. Donald Pay 2022-08-14 13:52

    Such an anti-science policy does not speak well for any education students might receive at O’Gorman. I hope this jerk doesn’t have anything to do with what is taught in science courses at the school. The Bible is not a scientific treatise, and much of what it says reflects a pre-science understanding sex and gender.

    People are not “male” or “female” at conception. We don’t need to go into all the science of other species, some of which do change sex back and forth. Let’s just say the Bible is wrong about other species, but that sex and gender in humans is less mobile than some other animal species. Still, things can happen that don’t go as simply as “God’s plan.”

    Humans have sex chromosomes, but we all start out at conception with tissue that is capable of being either male or female. The sex chromosomes don’t express themselves in body structure for several weeks. In this the Bible is correct in one aspect: for God, there is no male or female. Everyone starts out as an “it,” with the potential to be male, female or a bit of both, depending on what happens during a complex fetal development process. In the absence of a normally functioning Y chromosome, certain tissues will not develop a male gonad. That, of course, takes numerous chemical reactions mediated by numerous cells. If the Y chromosome functions correctly and all these cells mediate chemical reactions as expected, male gonads from, which begin to secrete testosterone. The amount and timing of this may be crucial in development of sex. It is testosterone associated with other chemical reactions, not the Y chromosome, that changes the normal female path of sexual development of other tissues into male sexual organs. It is extremely complex, and not so cut and dried as the jerk heading up the diocese in Sioux Falls claims.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-14 14:39

    I’ve seen O’Gorman do some impressive theater and oral interp. I wonder if this policy will have any impact on the plays, poetry, and prose their students can perform.

  3. WillyNilly 2022-08-14 14:44

    When my mother was barely into her teens she felt abandoned by the Catholic church. Her terrible sin?… trying to escape crushing poverty by going off with a man who said he would take care of her (food, clothing and shelter in those days). When he didn’t and she returned home she faced the deep disapproval and rejection of the good Catholics. Their treatment of trans-gender students is just as harsh and just as unreasonable. These are children, for Heaven’s sake.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-14 14:49

    Donald, this policy would suggest that Bishop DeGrood can have everything to do with what is taught in science class with respect to human sexuality, who gets to teach it, and who gets to learn it.

    Speaking theologically, not scientifically, if we are created in God’s image, and there is only one God, then does that God encompass maleness and femaleness? If we are only halves of the whole image, and if we achieve completeness only in Church-blessed male-female unions, is the true image of God the beast with two backs? Or are only we fellas created in the image of a male God while women are mere derivatives?

  5. larry kurtz 2022-08-14 14:50

    Contrast the Sioux Falls Diocese with Santa Fe’s Archbishop John Wester.

    The archbishop’s Mass centered around the seventh beatitude according to Matthew, primarily Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers: For they shall be called the children of God.” Wester said the Catholic Church is making a dramatic shift in its stance on nuclear weapons under the leadership of Pope Francis. Wester condemned the Department of Energy’s budget expansions at both Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, saying the money could be spent more effectively in other places.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-08-14 15:36

    The Catholic leaders quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship”: “We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering.”

    “It is our Catholic duty to affirm the dignity of transgender people and to defend them from harm,” the group said in its statement.

    “St. Bonaventure wrote that ‘we are led to contemplate God in (all creation),’ This is no less true of our transgender siblings,” the Catholic leaders said.

    “Transgender people have always been members of our local parishes and the witness of their lives has leads us to greater contemplation of God and the mystery of our faith,” they said. “To our transgender siblings, may you always know that the image of God resides in you, and that God loves you.”

  7. Francis Schaffer 2022-08-14 15:39

    So has anyone read the Diocese of Sioux Falls policy for faculty and staff on attraction to prepubescent children? They must have one as that has been more of an issue.

  8. P. Aitch 2022-08-14 15:49

    Publicly, Pope Francis has worked to reduce prejudice against LGBTQ people, reassuring them that God “does not disown any of his children” and endorsing same-sex civil unions.
    There’s a reason South Dakota got a Bishop who isn’t welcome in most dioceses. Overly radical and too stubborn to adapt to changes among Catholic followers.

  9. Karen 2022-08-14 19:37

    Thank you, Bishop DeGrood, for your courage to speak the truth. You remind me of another who was greatly criticized, hated, slandered, called names and finally put on the cross to die by those who rejected the truth. In this day and age of saying that “wrong is right and right is wrong” Biblical wisdom is not welcomed, understood or embraced by those whose minds are darkened. “The people perish because of a lack of knowledge.” We should not be surprised by the negativity…it is all predicted in Revelations that in the end times many would depart from the truths of God’s Word.

  10. DaveFN 2022-08-14 21:15

    The Vatican drew the line. As is the case in most any belief system, someone lower on the totem pole—the local diocese in this case—will enforce it.

    From a philosophical standpoint, it’s biological and social determinism enforced from the top down, promulgation of essentialism over and as opposed to existentialism, the latter a push from the bottom up. The dialectic between two will forever exist.

  11. JO 2022-08-14 21:36

    Hypocritical to the extreme. I attended O’Gorman high school from ‘69-‘73. Despite letters and meetings with Bishop Hoch from family members and the sexually abused boys at the time, all was ignored, denied or swept under the rug without any consequences for those abuser priests except their transfer to another parish only to continue the abuse. The Catholic church has extremely poor priorities. I get the gist that they are overwhelmed by the LGBTQ community. How non Christian of Bishoo DeGrood.

  12. DaveFN 2022-08-14 21:43

    …Not that beliefs from the bottom up can’t gain ascendancy and become dominant, although they, too, are always already preconditioned—dare we say “predetermined”— by the externally dominant, top-down forces which more often than not bottom-up discourses likewise strive to overcome. And that every bit as much as dominating discourses also require their opposing counterpart if they are to function.

    Ying and yang understood by the Western mind is but a simplifying analogy. The ying and yang reside in each individual discourse. They are not split between two but reside in the one.

  13. larry kurtz 2022-08-14 21:46

    Lambert Hoch was an Elkton boy so was Dick Kneip.

  14. DaveFN 2022-08-14 22:13

    Hypothesis: There is no discourse that does not require an opposing discourse upon which to prop itself up in order to sustain and convince itself of its very existence, an existence which does not exist.

    I in no way resort to the reification of the biological bicameral mind—left and right cerebral hemispheres —in this hypothesis. Any such default to the biological is but an analogy.

  15. jim 2022-08-14 22:55

    Abusive priests were tolerated and defended. Trans kids are expelled. Figures.

    They will drive these kids away. Just like they do when they refuse communion to people that they disagree with.

    Jesus fed the multitudes. As far as I know, he didn’t place conditions on who was worthy. Read your Bible, bishop.

  16. Jenny 2022-08-15 02:26

    What did you expect in the State of Trumpistan? Teach them to be hateful little Christians. “Hail, Trump!, hail Degrood!”

  17. Judy Westegaard 2022-08-15 07:43

    So much for peace, love and understanding from the Catholic Church.Just what part of hate doesn’t Bishop DeGrood not understand? Has the church asked themselves “What would Jesus do?”

  18. cibvet 2022-08-15 08:43

    Churches are dying out, so something is built in human DNA that fulfills
    the need for people the be mindlessly led around without question?
    If so, that would explain trump followers who believe anything he says.
    I’ll give credit where its due and he is one of the greatest con men of my time, but also a very dangerous one.

  19. larry kurtz 2022-08-15 10:11

    A MAGA wave is sweeping though the Roman church and through other religionist sects. “Christian extremists of various stripes have formed an alliance to force Christian nationalism on the US. Bannon, Milo, & Ali are working w/ Catholic extremists & Stone/Flynn/MTG are working w/ evangelicals in the New Apostolic Reformation.” Jennifer Cohn

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-15 10:12

    Bishop DeGrood’s friendliness with the earthly powers makes me question Karen’s effort to analogize him to that carpenter turned truth-speaking political outsider from Nazareth.

    Remember, Bishop DeGrood happily accepts the state’s subsidy of his Catholic schools. Jesus never got subsidies from Pilate for his operations.

  21. All Mammal 2022-08-15 13:13

    At family reunions as a kid, we flew the Irish flag. The priest would drive up into the hills in his jalopy, unaware of his inability to drive home later due to the tradition where the padre must finish the remaining wine not consumed during communion by all the sinners in my very Irish, very Catholic side of the fam. It was always a raucous joke how drunk the poor priest would get with that policy at a Clifford get-together. My atheist, 100% Black Russian mom would always take communion. I think just because she felt sorry for the boy priest. None of the anties and uncles were wine drinkers anyways. My dad used a horse trailer to haul the beer and liquor up to the reunion. I overheard that my grandpa was disowned from his family for marrying a poor Irish girl. I come from black sheep from way back.

    There was a lot of love from what I remember from my Catholic rellies. My granny did so much for the sick and poor. She sponsored families and volunteered at the hospital in Rapid City for decades. The playground at St. Elizabeth Seton is in her name. The church’s contribution to the community almost always came from the selflessness of the Women of the church. The Women never had a say or any power or title, but anything positive that came from the church is always a manifestation of Their devotion and actions.

    I believe the Sioux Falls diocese is part of a faction of the church dissenting from the current Pope’s radical reformation. The policy of any school in denial of a whole wavelength of kids is happening in America? Holay! I guess they just found new vulnerable ones to pick on. My adopted antie wasn’t accepted into the church until her Lakota name was replaced with Mary. She went back to her natural name since.

    The question need not be placed upon anything the amoral Sioux Falls cult leader decries- the question needs to be all on what that freak is up to. What is he doing when he feels entitled and irreproachable? When he feels safe or anonymous? I guarantee he’s doing something even worse than we can come up with in our illest of dreams. Just wtf is that slippery little man with an onion hat up to when he’s not up in a pulpit, shaming and speaking in tongues and soliciting the poor, old and lost for their last dime? Something worth asking and looking into. Their whole job requirement sounds like devil worship to me.

    I stand with all our Winkte young people. They have gifts not accessible in everyone. We need all the wavelengths in the spectrum to make the rainbow. Life is simply how we all interpret light. Toltec Wisdom could teach the church some holy truths.

  22. P. Aitch 2022-08-15 13:25

    “I guess they just found new vulnerable ones to pick on.” excerpt wisdom from All Mammal

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