In the March 26, 2017 Church Bulletin from St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco there appeared a blub about an upcoming lecture at the University of San Francisco (USF) concerning “Transgender Health in California.” The lecture is being presented by the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions. In 2015, a “dialogue” was organized by two USF Professors who are also from the School of Nursing and Health Professions; they are both still members of the faculty. According to the published report about the event:
After much discussion and checking with various members of the transgender and gay and lesbian communities, we decided to ask three transgender individuals and one Jesuit priest to be our speakers…The Jesuit priest was an out gay man who had experience ministering to a transgender population.
The name of the “one Jesuit priest” is never revealed by the authors.
Here are some excerpts from the same report:
The first speaker was the Jesuit priest. He spoke from the Jesuit tradition of his discovery of a God who was, in some interpretations, transgender, since God can be seen as one who can cross and transcend all boundaries. He also referred to the Jesuit principle of social justice as being applicable to all transgressive people, including transgender people.
The experience of the university’s priest (whose views are shared later in this issue) exemplifies this struggle to reconcile the contradictory church teachings of acceptance, social justice, and love with the denunciation of homosexuality and transgender identity…
He ended his talk by urging the acceptance of transgender people as part of “God’s glorious diversity.”
In a 2015 article, “Community Dialogue on Transgender Phenomenon: A Reflection,” published in “Jesuit Higher Education: A Journal,” Donal Godfrey, S.J., wrote:
In the summer of 2014, two members of the faculty at our Jesuit institution, the University of San Francisco, approached me to participate in a community dialogue on the transgender phenomenon, the lived experiences of transgender individuals. I participated in the event, which included several members of the transgender community.
Here are some excerpts from his “reflection:”
Roman Catholic moral teaching of course can and does evolve. With regard to transgender people it needs to listen to their experience, allow this experience to dialogue with the best of the tradition, and let this bring forth teaching that is both life-giving and Gospel centered for transgender people.
As a gay man who has had to struggle with the positions taken by my church, I have always had a passionate desire to build the kind of Church Pope Francis speaks of: “May we become a church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everybody…
I have come to believe in a God who not only crosses the boundaries of sexual orientation, but also those of gender.
Many trans Christians feel a sense of resurrection in that one part of them dies and another is reborn in their new gender…they are transfigured and resurrected in a way that defies categorization.
The late Edward Kessle, a former professor of biology at the University of San Francisco where I work, is best known for his 1983 paper proposing parthenogenesis and phenotypic sex-reversal as a possible explanation for the virgin birth of Christ. While I am not a scientist, I think this means that Jesus would have had two X chromosomes, so he would have been chromosomally female yet phenotypically male. In such an understanding of Jesus, which to my mind is perfectly orthodox, Jesus does not only dissolve divine and social boundaries, but moves beyond the binary, and dissolves all sexual and gender boundaries.
Certainly I believe that God who is, in a sense, transgender, one that crosses all boundaries and social constructs.
One transgender person I will call Jacinta comes from a very traditional Catholic family. I have had to help her to ignore certain priests who told her it was God’s will to accept her biological gender…In terms of Ignatian discernment I hope I have encouraged her to listen to those voices and energies within her that lead to life, authenticity, and love. And for her I believe this includes her transitioning.
In my own spiritual path I am discovering a God who celebrates all of my differing identities…
Donal Godfrey is a frequent homilist at St. Agnes in San Francisco; in 2015 Godfrey preached the Young Adults retreat for Most Holy Redeemer Parish (MHR); also in 2015, he was at MHR for the screening of the pro-transgender film “Deep Run;” and in 2017 he made an appearance at the LA Religious Education Congress as one of the priests distributing Holy Communion for a Mass presided over by Bishop Robert McElroy. He is currently the Associate Director for Faculty/Staff Spirituality at USF.