The Bishops of England and Wales have “concerns” about the laws around transgender pupils, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster diocese has said.
Speaking at a press conference after the bishops’ conference annual plenary meeting, Bishop John Sherrington said: “It’s an ongoing subject for our reflection.”
He added: “The schools system has to work within the law, but secondly, there are concerns that we have about the law.”
Asked what the concerns were, Bishop Sherrington said: “I can’t really be very specific at the present time.”
But he said it was important to practise the “pastoral accompaniment of children and young people in this complex world”, and that the bishops wanted to help develop strategies to “ensure that there is no bullying of any sort”.
He added: “I do have a concern that Catholic teaching understands the complementarity of male and female, and we have to reflect further on the meaning of that… Not everybody accepts that, and we need to find ways to communicate the teaching and at the same time pastorally accompany” young people.
It follows the news that a Catholic all-girls school has asked children to use the “preferred pronouns” of pupils who do not identify as female.
The Government is planning a bill to make it easier to legally change one’s gender. Under the current system, individuals need to go through an official process involving medical assessment.
At the same conference, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark said that the bishops were still in the process of studying Amoris Laetitia. The Pope’s apostolic exhortation is a “very rich document”, Archbishop Smith said, and “we need to study it fully”.
The Pope “has not in any way changed the teaching of the Church”, Archbishop Smith said.
The archbishop also commented on the Pope’s recent motu proprio on liturgical translation, Magnum Principium, which gives bishops’ conferences more power to issue their own translations of liturgical texts without Vatican oversight. He noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship had clarified that it would not apply to texts already published, but only to liturgical books published in future.
“It’s going to upset some people, but there you are,” Archbishop Smith said.
The bishops’ conference plenary meeting, held this week at Hinsley Hall, Leeds, covered a range of topics, including planning for two events next year: the Vatican synod on youth and vocation, and the Eucharistic congress which will be held in Liverpool next October.
The bishops received 3,000 responses to their survey of young people ahead of the synod, which revealed, they said in a statement, young people’s struggles in a “highly pressured and highly fragmented society”, and their desire for community and vocation.