Students for Child Oriented Policy hosts event on transgenderism

Students for Child Oriented Policy hosted speakers Mary Rice Hasson and John Bursch for a talk entitled “Responding to the Transgender Moment: Presenting a Legal and Philosophical Vision of the Human Person” on February 17. The speakers discussed the incompatibility of transgender ideology with the teachings of the Church through the lens of both theology and legality.

Students for Child Oriented Policy is a student club that advocates for children by promoting marriage, education, and adoption and defending against the harms of pornography and drug and alcohol abuse. SCOP invited the speakers to provide a perspective on how Catholics should respond to the growing movement for transgender medical procedures and legal representation, as well as societal pressure to support these ideologies.

Speaking first, Mary Rice Hasson, Co-Founder and Director of the Person and Identity Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and USCCB consultant, reviewed human sexuality and gender ideology from the perspective of Christian anthropology. She emphasized above all the importance of love in conversations within this realm. Catholics, she expressed, must have a firm commitment to the truth and engage with charity, always cognizant of the pain surrounding this difficult subject.

Hasson began with a base view of the human person as “a created being made by love and for love.” She argued the most important identity of humanity is being sons and daughters of God and that the foundational conflict between the two sides of the transgender debate cannot be reconciled. The incompatibility, said Hasson, lies in the fact one views persons as purposefully crafted by God, and the other promotes the idea of self-creation and self-discovery. Hasson, after highlighting these fundamental differences, laid the foundation of “responding to the transgender movement” with the love of Christ.

Drawing on church teachings, Hasson cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2333: “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. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”

It is important, Hasson said, that human flourishing be the foundation of the conversation, and she consequently articulated how Church teaching can provide such a foundation.

Hasson re-emphasized in conclusion both the incompatibility of the ideologies and the necessity of approaching every person with care, dignity, and love: “Catholic teaching values every person,  and God values every person. A person in pain needs us to walk with them, to be with them, to help them find ways to be better, but not at the cost of repudiating the truth of who they are.”

Mary Biese, a senior at Notre Dame, noted how refreshing it was to hear someone “speaking the truth in love,” as she told the Rover. Biese shared that she appreciated how Hasson’s career is centered around dialogue with both sides: religious and non-religious people.

John Bursch, former Solicitor General for the State of Michigan and Senior Vice Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom, followed Hasson with an account of the legal perspective of gender ideology. He recounted how litigation in recent years has resulted in a change in the meaning of discrimination on the basis of sex.

Citing cases such as Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), Minton v. Dignity Health (2021), Meriwether v. The Trustees of Shawnee State University (2019), Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Co. (2022), Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District (2022), and Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools (2022), Bursch argued that the way law is moving right now “makes sin a legal right” and furthers the conflict between our legal system and what the Church believes.

Outlining the case in Bostock, in which an employer made the decision to fire an employee who would not comply with sex-specific workplace attire, the Supreme Court effectively stated that termination based on sexual orientation and gender identification is always discrimination under Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “The Supreme Court changed the facts of the case in the opinion so that it could fit its vision of what it wanted to do with Title Seven,” Bursch argued.

Abraham Figueroa, a sophomore studying political science and constitutional law shared: “The panel highlighted [a topic that is] a great concern for many. The court has restricted what constitutes protected speech, but there is now litigation asking the court to go further and compel speech. If the court adopts this position, people will be forced to utter things that they do not believe or that violate their conscience.”

Bursch explained how the decision in Bostock contributed to a new development of the idea of discrimination on the basis of sex: “​​The decision ensconced in the law the notion that gender identity is a legal right,” he said, identifiying this as a monumental development that altered the trajectory of the meaning of sex under law.

Like Hasson, Bursch reiterated the legitimate foundational conflict between Catholic theology and what the law now states about sex and gender. “The Catholic belief that God created us male and female is being called discrimination,” he said.

Calling on Catholics at Notre Dame and beyond, both Hasson and Bursch emphasized the importance of truth in dealing with these situations. Bursch explained: “Love is willing the good of the other, and that has two components. It requires us to be charitable and kind to others … but it also requires us to be truthful.”

The Rover reached out to several student leaders and members of PrismND, Student Government, and the Menard Tocqueville Family Fellowship for comment, but all declined to comment.

Merlot Fogarty is a sophomore studying political science, theology, and constitutional studies. Contact her via email to chat, she’d love an excuse to drink a cup (or two) of coffee with you! 

Kylie Gallegos is a sophomore studying theology and American Studies. She can usually be found near a fire, making a pretty latte, or doing yoga. Contact her at

Photo credit: Hasson and Bursch speak in Carey Auditorium, Hesburgh Library on February 17th, 2022; Photo by Students for Child-Oriented Policy