The bishop of St. Paul and the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan are joining Calgary Bishop Fred Henry in rejecting the province's new gender identity guidelines meant to provide the basis for mandatory policies supporting LGBTQ elementary and high school students.

Education Minister David Eggen has given the province's 61 school boards until March 31 to come up with policies to support and protect students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The guidelines state students have the right to self-identify their gender and be addressed by the name and pronoun of their choice.

In separate pastoral letters released this week, Bishop Paul Terrio of the Diocese of St. Paul, and Grande Prairie-based Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, expressed their opposition to the new guidelines. 

Terrio took issue with the guidelines that allow students to self-identify their own gender expression or identity.

He called this a "major problem for Catholic Education."

Bishop Paul Terrio

Bishop Paul Terrio has now weighed in on the province's new guidelines for LGBTQ students. (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops )

"To mandate that 'self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation' and in fact, by totally excluding biological fact, contradicts our common day-to-day life experience and also repudiates the goodness of Creation," Terrio wrote.

"Therefore, the 'Guidelines for Best Practices' as a policy statement is flawed from the beginning because of a false premise and initial principle."

In his letter, Pettipas said that the church teaches humans are created in the "image and likeness of God ... male and female he created them."

"The Church believes that one's physiological gender is not arbitrary, but determines the identity that we grow into. This process of growth in identity must be respected," he added.

Pettipas also referred the government to the Life Framework document which was prepared by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association. 

"I believe that this document respects the spirit and intention of government legislation, while doing so in a way suited to Catholic education," he wrote.

Waiting for response from fourth bishop

The two missives come a week after a controversial letter from Calgary Bishop Henry.

In it, Henry rejected the province's guidelines as "anti-Catholic" and called gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances "highly politicized ideological clubs."

GSAs and QSAs are extracurricular clubs run by students that seek to support and end bullying against LGBTQ students. 

The province's guidelines say students must be allowed to use the washroom they are most comfortable with and that all schools must have at least one single-stall washroom, but students should not be forced to use it unless they want to.

Terrio said he agrees with the intention of Eggen's guidelines and doesn't think it's right for people to be ostracized or rejected because of sexual orientation. However, he says the Catholic church relies on teachings from the Bible. 

"From the Bible, femininity and masculinity are gifts and callings from the Creator," he told CBC News. 

"I'm not denying that there is such a thing as self-identification of gender other than the biological one, and we have to be respectful, supportive and positive and loving."

Terrio said he sent his letter to parishes in northern Alberta as well as to the Catholic school boards in Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, Bonnyville and Lac La Biche. 

There are four bishops in Alberta: the bishop of St. Paul, the bishop of Calgary, the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan in Grande Prairie and the archbishop of Edmonton.

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith has been out of the country since the guidelines were released and hasn't made himself available for comment.

Eggen plans to meet with the bishops next month. 

Pastoral letter from the Bishop of St. Paul, Alberta

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Pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan

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