A prominent all women’s Catholic college in Indiana says it will begin accepting biological men who identify as women as part of a new policy that is drawing pushback from the head of the region’s Catholic diocese.

The president of Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., pointed in an email last week to a board-approved nondiscrimination policy that “considers admission for undergraduate applicants whose sex is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”

Catholic News Agency reported on the controversy. According to its website, Saint Mary’s “tradition of empowering women with excellent academic programs and spiritual support began with our founding in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.”


Lisa Knox, a spokeswoman for the college, told Catholic News Agency that “in today’s environment, we needed 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,” Knox said.

The college “reflected carefully” on its role as a Catholic institution and “what it means to be an inclusive educator of women in society today,” Knox added.

Katie Conboy, the college’s president, said it was “by no means the first Catholic women’s college to adopt a policy with this scope.”

Kevin Rhoades, bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, criticized the new policy. He said he found it “disappointing that I, as bishop of the diocese in which Saint Mary’s College is located, was not included or consulted on a matter of important Catholic teaching.”

“To call itself a ‘women’s college’ and to admit male students who ‘consistently live and identify as women’ suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual,” Rhoades said, according to Catholic News Agency. “This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching.”

“The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem,” Rhoades said. “The problem is a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic.”