A Catholic all-girls college has reversed its decision to admit men following widespread backlash.

Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, announced to its faculty in November that starting Fall 2024, it would “consider undergraduate applicants whose sex assigned at birth is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”

That is, St. Mary’s would continue admitting women – and begin admitting men who present themselves as women.

Of course, as each person learned in their elementary biology class, sex is not “assigned” at birth; it is recognized as an innate and inherent biological trait.

Parroting the leftist jargon of “inclusion” and “equity,” St. Mary’s President Katie Conboy emailed the college’s faculty its updated nondiscrimination policy, which said:

The mission of Saint Mary’s College is to empower women, through education, at all stages in life. Essential to this mission is fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus experience. This mission is inherently tied to the vision and values of our founders and sponsors, the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Through these values, Saint Mary’s is committed to respecting the dignity of each person and valuing what each individual brings to our community.

The college did not explain how admitting and educating men, who would be receiving the spots and scholarships and rightfully belong to women, was consistent with the college’s mission to “empower women.”

After the policy was announced in November, many students and alumnae of the college protested by expressing their outrage at the decision.

“St. Mary’s College is no longer Catholic,” junior Saint Mary’s student Claire Bettag told the Daily Signal. “It is no longer a women’s institution. This is fraudulent misrepresentation at best,” she said, adding,

Every student should be entitled to a refund for fraudulent misrepresentation. An attorney should file a class action lawsuit against the college. They have abandoned their faith, and they’ve abandoned the women. No woman should be forced to share a bathroom or living quarters with a man.

Additionally, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, where St. Mary’s is located, issued a strongly worded statement denouncing the college’s new admissions policy. The bishop also intervened by meeting with President Conboy.

In his statement, Bishop Rhoades said that he was disappointed he was not originally consulted on the matter.

“In this new admissions policy, Saint Mary’s departs from fundamental Catholic teaching on the nature of woman and thus compromises its very identity as a Catholic women’s college,” the bishop wrote, adding,

To call itself a “women’s college” and to admit male students who “consistently live and identify as women” suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual. This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching.

All of this led President Conboy and the Board of Trustees to return to its original admissions policy of only admitting women.

In a December email, President Conboy said that the outcry from the college’s students and alumnae “has weighted heavily on our minds and in our hearts.”

She said that the initial decision was intended as a “reflection of our College’s commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community” … but “the position we took is not shared by all members of our community.” She added:

Some worried that this was much more than a policy decision: they felt it was a dilution of our mission or even a threat to our Catholic identity.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the Board has decided that we will return to our previous admission policy.

Despite President Conboy’s assertion that the admissions policy was an attempt to live the college’s “Catholic values,” the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality is clear: God has created human beings either male or female. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2333) states:

Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. 

It’s a great victory that St. Mary’s has reversed its admissions policy – though it’s also tragic that an ostensibly Catholic college needed such an intervention by its community and bishop in the first place.

Yet, this incident should give Christians who believe in the reality of male and female great courage. It reminds us to stand fast, never surrender, and push back against our culture’s pervasive gender ideology. If we do, we can win.

Focus on the Family exists to help families, and that includes help navigating the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism. Focus offers a free, one-time counseling consultation with a licensed or pastoral counselor. To request a consultation, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) or fill out our Counseling Consultation Request Form.

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The Journey Back to My True Identity

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