The Name Game

Ideologues call living in accord with Catholic teaching 'dysfunctional'

I recently applauded Worcester Bishop Robert McManus’s newly promulgated policy requiring Catholic schools in the diocese to use a child’s legal name, not a gender-ideology driven substitute, when addressing a child (and not just in official documents). The policy even goes further in establishing one’s given name identity: if, after attaining the age of majority, someone legally changes his name, school records may be annotated but must also include the person’s given name when he was enrolled.

Three questions arise:

First, Robert McManus is one bishop. What policies, if any, do the other 193 ordinaries (i.e., heads of dioceses) have in place? If none, why not?

Second: Going all the way back to the 1950s, Msgr. John Tracy Ellis said Catholic higher education was not an “educational leader” (in part because it wasn’t imitating the Ivies). How about Catholic elementary and high schools across America publicly leading and witnessing by unanimously refusing to play the secular name game?

Third, I argued in my earlier essay [here] that, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, a child’s given name is not just an arbitrary label somebody (i.e., a parent) attached to a child but part of a whole vision of whom a person-as-gift is. Constitutional lawyers out there: is there anything here on which to make a First Amendment case against revisionist school boards not just for violating parental rights but for impairing their religious freedom?

I also wrote in that prior piece that, as my son began high school this year, I had to fill out the usual dense form indicating what I authorize the school to do if Karol experiences a health issue. Could the school give him Tylenol? An Advil? Does he require any daily medications? If so, what are they and what are their dosages? Will you deposit the authorized drugs with the school nurse?

Notice that the general principle of required parental consent for medical interventions remains pro forma intact. The school board would not allow those medications or interventions absent a consent form, aware of their exposure to liability.

The general principle remains intact. In that way, the sexual revolutionaries cover their tracks. The dirty little secret is the carve-out they give themselves.

It started in the wake of the now happily dead Roe decision. You couldn’t give a child an aspirin without parental consent, but you could take her to an abortion clinic without parental knowledge. Planned Parenthood v. Danforth erected the fiction that, in the name of “children’s welfare,” a parent’s refusal of consent to an abortion could be negated by judicial bypass. (When the kid was hurt or depressed, did Harry Blackmun take care of her?)

Now that Dobbs has removed that obstacle, why aren’t parents in every state demanding that loophole be closed? Now. Regardless of whatever else they think about abortion? Even people who may not otherwise support a comprehensive ban on abortion could support protecting parental rights in this area.

The Danforth precedent allowed the Sexual Revolution to second-guess parental rights in the name of a child’s “welfare.” That’ll remain the sob story they advance: “you know, many kids live in dysfunctional homes with uncaring parents, etc.”

Except what that really means is that a family that lives according to Catholic values is, by their definition, “dysfunctional.”

The same game with your child is now being played by gender ideologues. “This should be a conversation between parent and child” but, if parent does not say, “Oh yes, John, — er, I mean, Sue – by all means!” then that parent is uncaring, maybe dysfunctional. In the minds of some “progressive” legislators, he may even be “unfit,” a candidate for state child protective services investigation.

Let’s take them on their own terms. If chemical castration and physical mutilation are really “gender-affirming health care,” why don’t they fit under the same rubric as health care for dispensing a Tylenol? Or is the pain of a real migraine incomparable to the “pain” of frustrated gender “affirmation?” Isn’t there really another agenda here?

The name game is the latest front in efforts to geld parental rights, to switch the gravamen of the old axiom from in loco parentis to nonnumquam in loco scholae (sometimes in place of the school).    

Bishop McManus struck a blow for parental rights. Let’s bear witness to the principles he defended.


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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