Indiana Catholic Women’s College Reverses Transgender Admissions Policy

In an email obtained by CNA on Thursday, Conboy — along with the chair of the school’s board of trustees, Maureen Smith — said the college would “return to our previous admission policy.”

Woman with transgender symbol on her hand.
Woman with transgender symbol on her hand. (photo: Juanje Garrido / shutterstock)

Saint Mary’s College — a Catholic women’s school in Notre Dame, Indiana — is reversing its controversial transgender admissions policy, the school’s president revealed in an email on Thursday. 

President Katie Conboy had last month confirmed a new transgender-friendly admissions policy for the college, stating that the institution would consider not just women but any students who “consistently live and identify as women.”

The policy drew criticism and backlash, including from Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who said the policy was “at odds with Catholic teaching” and who urged the school to reverse the decision. 

In an email obtained by CNA on Thursday, Conboy — along with the chair of the school’s board of trustees, Maureen Smith — said the college would “return to our previous admission policy.”

“When the board approved this update, we viewed it as a reflection of our college’s commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community,” the letter said. “We believed it affirmed our identity as an inclusive, Catholic, women’s college.” 

“It is increasingly clear, however, that the position we took is not shared by all members of our community,” the email continued. “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.”

“As this last month unfolded, we lost people’s trust and unintentionally created division where we had hoped for unity,” the message said. “For this, we are deeply sorry.”

The letter said that the school in January would begin a series of “listening sessions” meant to “explore what it means to embrace our values as a Catholic, women’s college.” 

“We will continue to work toward understanding how a college like ours can become a true home, a place of open doors and open arms, where everyone, with all their differences intact, belongs,” it said. 

A school spokeswoman had told CNA last month that the intention behind the new admissions rule was to “clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive.”

“When the college’s board of trustees approved an update to the school’s policy in June, it included a shift in our language about who we will consider for admission as well as about how we will support employees across the continuum of gender expression,” the spokeswoman said. 

The school’s roots date back to 1844 when it was opened by four Sisters of the Holy Cross who had immigrated from Le Mans, France.

In March, Pope Francis called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”

“Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added.

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