One of many thought-provoking presentations at MCC Annual Assembly

Washington University associate professor of pediatrics, biology to address science and ideology of gender dysphoria


What is the best way for parents to help a child who is struggling with a pending math exam?

“Telling them that they don’t have to take the test will certainly alleviate their anxiety, but does this really help the child?” stated Dr. Paul W. Hruz, a medical doctor who is associate professor of pediatrics and associate professor of cellular biology and physiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Hruz applies this and a host of other helpful analogies to the ethics surrounding the treatment of gender dysphoria.

This condition, in which a person identifies as a gender other than the one corresponding with his or her biological sex, has received a lot of attention in the public-policy arena in the past few years.

Dr. Hruz and Father Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Brendan parish in Mexico, will lead one of break-out sessions on an array of provocative, relevant topics at this year’s Missouri Catholic Conference Annual Assembly.

The free event will be on Saturday, Oct. 5, in the State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Catholics from throughout the state are encouraged to attend this free event and learn ways to give witness to their faith in matters of public policy.

The theme for this year’s assembly will be: “Raising the Next Generation of Catholic Advocates.”

Dr. Hruz’s and Fr. Schrader’s break-out session will be titled, “Medical Interventions for Gender Dysphoria: Separating Science and Ideology.”

He said a primary goal of his talk will be “to distinguish between ideological assertions and claims that can be supported by scientific evidence.”

He noted that people who identify as a gender other than what their genes and anatomy would indicate frequently experience psychological distress and serious health difficulties.

Medical approaches to this condition have recently been developed that include the suppression of puberty as well as cross-sex hormonal therapy directed toward inducing physical changes corresponding to an individual’s identified gender.

Efforts to pass laws accommodating these treatments and accommodation of patient gender preferences have generated intense debates among lawmakers and policymakers throughout the country.

While Dr. Hruz’s talk will focus primarily science and best medical practices, the relationship between faith and reason will be evident throughout his talk and the accompanying presentation by Fr. Schrader.

Dr. Hruz said a preponderance of misinformation on gender issues continues to circulate in the popular media.

“While many people correctly question what they are being told, most feel intimidated or unprepared to offer any challenge to the dogmatic assertions of transgender activists,” he said.

People who attend this breakout session will learn about the biological relationship between sex and gender, the evolution of the currently endorsed treatment approach for gender dysphoria, the known and potential risks of gender-affirming hormonal and surgical interventions, and the existing evidence on the short- and long-term effects of this approach.

Dr. Hruz noted that this topic frequently raises strong emotional reactions, which need to be recognized and accepted.

“Nevertheless, we must be willing to step back and enter into the discussion with objectivity and the purpose of love, which by its very nature is directed outwardly rather than inwardly,” he said.

He believes many of the controversies on sex and gender come from a widening cultural divide over the very understanding of the human person.

“While this divide includes differing philosophical and theological beliefs, it is based upon a denial of a fundamental biological purpose of sex in relation to procreation,” he stated.

Respected authority

As a physician-scientist at a leading academic medical center, Dr. Hruz has extensive training and experience in critically evaluating scientific studies and medical treatments.

As a pediatric endocrinologist, he regularly participates in the care of infants and children with disorders of sexual development.

In his HIV-related research, he has worked extensively with marginalized populations.

He has frequently served as a reviewer of basic science and clinical research grants for the National Institutes of Health.

He has certification in healthcare ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

An Internet search brings up a trove of recordings of talks and radio appearances given by Dr. Hruz. The most recent of these, recorded with Dr. Mary Anne Urlakis on her “Inter Vitam et Mortem” (“Between Life and Death”) program, can be found at

His first published article on the topic, “Growing Pains,” can be found on the New Atlantis website at

He plans to begin this discussion by touching on the general question of identity, which is something all people strongly guard.

“Collectively, people who experience a gender identity that is discordant with their biological sex have alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety, homelessness, substance abuse, eating disorders and other morbidity,” Dr. Hruz noted.

“Compassionate concern for their very real suffering necessitates that we critically evaluate what is being offered as help to these individuals,” he said. “As in other areas of medicine, this needs to be done within established ethical frameworks.”

By way of illustration, he will briefly describe the experience of Walt Heyer, who lived many years presenting as a woman before recognizing that gender transition was not the solution to his suffering.

“There is much that can be gained in discussing ways to reinforce the human dignity of people with gender dysphoria and act with true compassion while maintaining the truth regarding human biology,” said Dr. Hruz.

A panoply of issues

Also at the Annual Assembly, nationally recognized Catholic activist David Bereit, founder of the global 40 Days for Life Campaign, will share a message of faith-fueled vigilance and tenacity.

Four seasoned Catholic advocates will also share their experiences advocating on Catholic education, social justice, criminal justice, and pro-life. 

These will include:

  • Marian Sister Cecilia Ann Rezac, director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau;
  • Mike Halterman, former CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph;
  • Lois Thomas of Jefferson City, diocesan liaison for prison ministry at the Algoa Correctional Center;
  • Deacon Samuel Lee, a pro-life lobbyist and director of Campaign Life Missouri.

In addition to Dr. Hruz’s and Fr. Schrader’s afternoon break-out sessions:

  • A panel from the Jefferson City area will offer effective strategies and real-life examples of citizens effectively lobbying state lawmakers.
  • Jacinta Florence of Students for Life will lead a session on using biological facts and philosophical ethics to defend the pro-life perspective in everyday conversation.
  • Katie Jansen Larson, parish administrator of St. Francis Xavier parish in St. Louis, will lead a session on “Becoming an Anti-Racist Parish.”
  • A panel of experts from the St. Louis area will lead a session on immigration realities at the U.S.-Mexico border. They will present a picture of current day life at the border and talk about next steps in addressing immigration issues and how people in Missouri can help.
  • Bishop James V. Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will give a meditation on “Christus Vivit!” (“Christ is Alive!”), Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People.

A schedule of youth-oriented events for sixth-graders and older will also be offered.

Child care is available for those who register for it by Sept. 23.

A free lunch will be served in the third-floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

When and how

As he prepares to give his presentation, Dr. Hruz asks for prayers for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the minds and fill the hearts of all who are affected by challenges related to human sexuality, and for God’s will to be accomplished in this gathering at the Missouri Catholic Conference.

The MCC, the public-policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses, organizes the Annual Assembly each year.

Registration for the Annual Assembly will start at 9 a.m. on Oct. 5, with the opening session and keynote address starting at 10 a.m.

The day will conclude with a Mass concelebrated by all the Catholic bishops of Missouri at 2:30 p.m. in nearby St. Peter Church.

Advance registration is requested for planning purposes.

Visit to register, or call 1-800-456-1679