A Catholic parenting group in Anchorage continues its monthly meetings at St. Benedict Church in Anchorage to explore pressing issues associated with modern parenting. Open to the public, the discussions are hosted by Liz Loeffler, campus minister and teacher at Lumen Christi High School, and Bob McMorrow, director of evangelization and catechesis at St. Benedict’s.
The next meeting, Feb. 12, features a presentation with facilitated discussion on the topic: “What do teens want? Getting teens to talk to us.” The gathering runs 4-5:45 p.m. in Lumen Christi High School, room 109.
Below are responses from McMorrow about the Jan. 15 meeting that dealt with gender identity and chastity.
What issues did you cover?
We discussed the transgender issue in general, school policy and what they are teaching our children, and the basic Catholic response to this issue. We also listened to or read thoughts from Father Tad Pacholczyk, Father Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron.
What specific concerns did parents raise?
I think the biggest concern was how to deal with this issue in a Christian way while still keeping our families firmly grounded in reality. What do parents do when their children have friends that used to be girls and are now dressing and acting as boys?
There was also a deep concern for our society. How do we raise kids in a world that no longer cares about what is real? Truth is being pushed aside because of how people feel.
We discussed an article about a husband who abandoned his wife and seven children because he believed he was now a six-year-old girl, and another where a 20-year-old woman believed she was a trans-species cat so she was living her life as a cat.
The sense in the room is that of confusion, like we woke up one day and we were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. How come we can’t figure out such basic things? Similar to “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” I think we are waiting on the voice of a child to say, “But you are not a boy, you are not a six year old girl, you are not a cat.” And then the fog will clear and we will look around at each other, a little embarrassed, and say to ourselves, “How did we get here?”
The hope for the world right now is the clear and reasoned thinking of the Catholic Church. Let us pray that we have the courage to enter the discussion.
What ideas surfaced in terms of how to address what kids are learning in the wider culture, which is often contrary to Catholic faith?
We discussed the benefit of having discussion groups like this to encourage and help each other live out the faith in a secular culture that is becoming more hostile to our beliefs. We also encouraged each other to keep some of the craziness from our children when they are young and have open discussions when they are old enough to understand.
Did you talk about the difference between being tolerant, while also being a strong witness to the truth?
Bishop Robert Barron challenged us to share the truth with our society, with passion and conviction. And, we need to share Jesus’ mercy with people — not one or the other, both.
Authentic love demands that we share the truth in a compassionate way with people. Mercy allows a message of hope for those acting outside of God’s plan.
Secular studies show that most children, 70-80 percent, who suffer from gender dysphoria (feeling one’s psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex) will grow out of this as they become adults. Statistics also show that those who have sex reassignment surgery have an extremely high rate of suicide. It is a path that leads to a lot of suffering and despair. Authentic love would be courageous enough to discourage people from this lifestyle, sharing truth with love, and helping a person remain and flourish in reality. Authentic love would help other parents realize that encouraging gender dysphoria in their kids is hurting the situation and not helping.
The Feb. 12 meeting is set to discuss what teens want from their parents and how to get teens to talk? Why is it important for parents to think about how they communicate with their teens?
The adolescent years and early adulthood are very formative. Having good communication is very important, especially in the years when our children will begin discerning important decisions that will influence the rest of their lives: education, vocation, career, spouse, etc. Young people want a good relationship with their parents but if we forget or never learn how to communicate with them then they will not benefit from the parent’s wisdom. If our young people are not learning wisdom from home, then they are probably learning from the television and the internet.
Who do you think would benefit from attending?
Any parent who wonders how to improve communication with their teenager. There are no perfect solutions but it helps to join others who want to grow in their vocation of being good parents. We can benefit from sharing ideas.