Bishops Approve Devotional Titles for Saint François de Laval, Saint Brother André and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and Reflect on the Troubling Question of Transgenderism

Friday, September 30 2016

Plenary 2016 - 22(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Catholic Bishops of Canada have concluded their 2016 Plenary Assembly, which began on September 26 at the NAV CENTRE, Cornwall, Ontario. On the last day of their annual meeting, the Bishops unanimously agreed that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issue a decree approving devotional titles for three Canadian Saints: Saint François de Laval as patron saint of the Bishops of CanadaSaint Brother André (Alfred Bessette) as patron saint of family caregivers in Canada, and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha as protectress of Canada. The day began with the celebration of Morning Prayer and Eucharist presided by the Most Reverend Lionel Gendron, P.S.S., Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil and CCCB Vice President. Yesterday afternoon, the Bishops reflected on transgenderism.

andreAcknowledging the strong popular devotion in Canada to Saint Brother André, Saint François de Laval and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha even before they were declared Saints by the Universal Church, the Bishops underscored the perennial and contemporary significance of these saints for the Church in this country. Since the death of Saint Brother André, countless Montrealers and other Canadians in their moments of sickness and disease have prayed for his intercession and do so in our own day. Following the humble example of Saint Brother André, caregivers continue to care for their loved ones, thus contributing to a culture that respects the dignity of each human person. Since Saint Brother André encouraged each person to discover the sacred and precious dimensions of human life, as well as the comforting presence of God, especially during grave illness, the Bishops propose that this devotional title be a means to help encourage and sustain families and friends in caring for the sick and dying.

Saint François de LavalSaint François de Laval, first Bishop in North America north of the Spanish colonies, is known for his life dedicated to apostolic ministry and a spirit of total devotion and prayer in service of the poor and the sick, as well as for the parishes for which he was responsible. The legacy of Saint François de Laval lives on. He continues to inspire the various initiatives of the Church with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, and is likewise an example for renewed and strengthened efforts in the New Evangelization.

kateri 2When Pope Benedict XVI canonized Saint Kateri Tekakwitha on October 21, 2012, he invoked her as “Protectress of Canada“. She was the first Indigenous woman from North America to be canonized, and is a model of how the Christian faith can be enculturated as part of the heritage of the Aboriginal peoples. By attributing to her the devotional title of Protectress of Canada, the Bishops today invite Canadians from all cultures and backgrounds to listen attentively and welcome the Word of God, and to respect our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in their respective way of living out the Catholic faith.

The last day of the Plenary Assembly included the reports of the National Commissions of the Conference, as well as from the Standing Committee which works with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, together with the organization’s annual activity report. The Bishops also approved the 2015 CCCB financial statements and its 2017-2019 budgetary estimates.

Gender dysphoria

On Thursday afternoon, the Bishops reflected on the question of transgenderism, assisted by Dr. Moira McQueen, Executive Director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. A centre for interdisciplinary research in ethics in the areas of health care and the life sciences, it is part of the University of Saint Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. Invited to speak to the Plenary Assembly on what had been described earlier in the meeting as the “troubling question of transgenderism”, she focused on gender dysphoria. Particular attention to this condition is included in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the most recent version of the classification and diagnostic tool used by the American Psychiatric Association.

Gender confusion, Dr. McQueen explained, is not a biological or genetic disorder, nor a physical disease or disability. It is experienced psychologically, and its diagnosis is generally made by mental health care providers. However, a large proportion of the controversial and still unproven treatment currently being used depends on major reconstructive surgery and lifelong massive hormone injections. She noted that Catholic teaching is based on the moral principle that everyone should acknowledge and accept their sexual identity as man or woman (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2333, 2334). Pope Francis has criticized gender theories which do not recognize the order of creation. In his Encyclical Laudato Sí (no. 155), he states that “Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning is an essential element of any human ecology.”

Dr. McQueen reported that a leading medical centre in the Unites States has ceased performing so-called sex-change operations, since it found that surgery did not resolve the psychological condition and accompanying depression. It is important to understand that those with gender dysphoria can be deeply anguished, she said. At the same time, we should respect both the common good as well as the dignity of each human person, she explained.

New Assistant General Secretary

Earlier in the day, the Plenary Assembly approved a new Assistant General Secretary, Dr. Robert J. Di Pede, PhD. Originally from Toronto, he is currently Director of the Newman Centre at McGill University in Montreal and Coordinator of Catholic Studies at the Newman Institute of Catholic Studies, as well as teaching at both McGill University and Concordia University. He will commence fulltime work next spring.

Plenary 2016 - Bede and Bishop CrosbyPapal honour conferred on Mr. Bede Hubbard

Earlier in the week, the Bishops gathered, as well as staff and guests present, to honour Mr. Bede Hubbard, who has served as Assistant General Secretary since 1992. They likewise rejoiced at his receiving the papal honour of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. By the conferral of this eminent papal recognition, the Bishops wished to highlight extraordinary, dedicated and loyal service for the past quarter of a century.

Plenary 2016 - 21

Coverage of the Plenary by Salt + Light TV

For the sixth time in the history of the CCCB, the Canadian Catholic television network Salt + Light broadcast a number of the events of the Plenary Assembly, both on the Internet and television. The texts published by the 2016 Plenary Assembly, including the President’s letter to the Holy Father as well as the daily news releases, are available on the Conference’s website.