Meet the Controversial Spiritual Adviser to Trans People

A Catholic nun has provided religious counseling for hundreds of transgender people throughout the U.S.

BY Michael O'Loughlin

March 07 2014 11:39 AM ET

For over three decades, a Catholic nun has led a robust, though secret, ministry to transgender people all over the country, according to a report from Al Jazeera America by Nathan Schneider.

The nun, whose name was not used in the article at the request of her religious community, began ministering to trans people in the 1990s. She is referred to in the article by the pseudonym Sister Monica, and she says she is a bit uncomfortable in a role that seems to challenge the Catholic hierarchy.

“Swimming upstream, fighting authority — that’s not what comes naturally to me,” she told Schneider. “I’m more of a follower.”

Still, Sister Monica said she has often felt isolated and misunderstood — for instance, her mother couldn't see why she would join a religious community — and this has helped her identify with LGBT people. She is straight but has a gay brother and lesbian sister, and when she started meeting transgender people she felt a call to minister to them.

One trans person to whom Sr. Monica acts as a spiritual adviser said the nun's outreach to educate Catholic priests about trans issues has been especially important.

“What priests say really can be the difference between life and death for people like us,” this person said in the article.

The Catholic Church had no position on transgender issues when Sister Monica began working with trans people, and while some Catholic leaders, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, have made comments suggesting that the church frowns on transgender identity, the article suggests the jury is still out.

“The interesting thing about the Catholic Church is that there isn’t an official policy about this,” said Elizabeth Bucar, a professor of religious studies at Northeastern University.

Read the full article here.

Follow Michael O'Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.
 

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