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‘Back to basics’: University to offer gender, sexuality studies program from Catholic perspective

Classes on ‘human flourishing,’ ‘what it means to be man and woman’ will challenge popular ideas

The University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas has just begun offering a new graduate certification program that teaches gender and sexuality from a Catholic perspective.

“We are at a cultural moment where we have to go back to basics and re-establish ground truths philosophically and scientifically,” program Director Kevin Stuart told The College Fix in a recent email.

Stuart, the director of the Nesti Center for Faith & Culture at the private Catholic university, is working with his team to implement the four-course online program in time for the fall semester.

“There is tremendous interest because of the need to respond to difficult cases today, especially in schools, hospitals, legal cases, and other professional environments with the truth of what it means to be human — what it means to be man and woman,” he told The Fix.

Stuart said St. Thomas has enlisted “some of the very best thinkers and leaders in these areas” to work with faculty and serve as guest speakers. These include Erika Bachiochi, an author and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Classes will cover various topics in philosophy, history, and science, according to the program description on the university website.

They include “Human Person: Body and Soul,” “History of Sex and Gender,” “Science and Social Science of Sexuality and Gender,” and “Sex and Gender in Professions” — “a practical applications course that includes a 5 day in-person seminar,” according to information the university sent The Fix.

There have been many interested applicants for the fall, according to Leah Jacobson, manager of the program.

While the program will teach gender and sexuality “from a faithful Catholic perspective,” Jacobson told The Fix the course study “goes far beyond religious denominations,” so non-Catholics should apply, too.

“We are dealing with human flourishing and truth, which are areas where there is much agreement amongst faithful Christians,” she said.

Stuart also affirmed the university “welcomes all students in pursuit of the truth.”

“In fact, I spent most of my life as a Protestant and so I can confidently say how welcome people of all faiths will feel in our classes,” he told The Fix.

Not a typical college ‘sexuality, gender’ program

Jacobson said the program will not be like the typical university “sexuality and gender” programs.

“[T]hat might ruffle some feathers at other institutions that prefer conformity …” she said. “We are committed to handling our discussions with charity and sensitivity, but we are also committed to exploring the truth and going beyond popular rhetoric and ideologies.”

However, Father Jeffrey Kirby, a Catholic priest and adjunct professor of theology at Belmont Abbey College, told The Fix in an email he is concerned about the language being used to describe the program and how it might be perceived by popular culture.

“In a culture where the first battle is language, we have to be highly cautious about what language we use. Oftentimes, we can use terms that have popular definitions that cause us to surrender more than we gain,” Kirby said.

“Sometimes terms like ‘women and genders study’ cannot be baptized. They are too ingrained in the popular culture’s understanding and vocabulary. No matter how much energy is put into them, they will never be understood from the Christian perspective and great resources will be exhausted,” he told The Fix.

Meanwhile, Stuart said he anticipates criticism of the program will come because the topic is so hotly contested in today’s social climate.

“That said, our goal with this program is to get beneath the surface to the real depths and truths about human sexuality and gender,” he told The Fix. “That’s how we give people the formation to be confident and compassionate in holding to what they know is true.”

MORE: ‘This college belongs to the Catholic Church’: Alumni, students fight for authenticity

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Colleen Dean is an graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, currently pursuing an M.A. in Catholic Studies. She received her undergrad degree from Franciscan in political science with two minors in Spanish and human life studies. She has also written for Lone Conservative.