On June 10, 2019, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education released a reflection on human sexuality entitled: ” ‘Male and Female He Created Them’: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education”
The document is the fullest exposition of the concept of gender (gender identity, gender fluidity, ‘transgenderism,’ etc.) that has been released from the Vatican to date. It is concerned with the “educational crisis… in the field of affectivity and sexuality” (no. 1) and reiterates Catholic anthropology, rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. “The Christian vision of anthropology sees sexuality as a fundamental component of one’s personhood” (no. 4).
The document seeks to combat the dualism that is operative in the idea that “one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex. The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society” (no. 20). This is precisely what legislation such as the Equality Act does.
There will be further reflection on this document in the coming days and weeks, so watch this space!
And here’s a reminder of a few resources that the USCCB has created or made available on the issue of gender:
Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders (December 15, 2017)
The complementarity of men and women does not mean that men and women are half-people walking around looking for their other half (sorry, Plato). This episode explores complementarity with stories from Andy Lichtenwalner, Deborah Savage, Joseph Capizzi, Pat and Elisa Fleming from Verdant View farm.
NOTE: I have just learned that the Flemings’ barn, which housed their 60 cows, burned down last week. Please pray for them.
And here are more clips from MUR videos about this theme:
Today, the USCCB and a number of ecumenical and interreligious leaders released an open letter entitled, “Created Male and Female.”
Here is the text of the letter and its signers:
December 15, 2017
As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.
We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.
We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.
Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.
The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.
Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America
The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
Most Rev. James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Bishop, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic
Anglican Church in North America
Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Imam Faizal Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of the Washington Area
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville
Chairman, USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty
Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Orthodox Church in America
The Rt. Rev. Eric V. Menees
Bishop of San Joaquin
Anglican Church in North America
Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, III
Founder and Director
Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies
Church of God in Christ
Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz, PhD
The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty
The Rev. Paull Spring
The North American Lutheran Church
Rev. Tony Suarez
Executive Vice President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The Rev. Dr. L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America
Director of Policy Studies
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
The Rev. Dr. David Wendel
Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism
The North American Lutheran Church
Paul Winter Elder
Bishop Mark Davies in Shrewsbury, UK, wrote to his Catholic schools at the end of September regarding gender ideology. Excerpts of his letter follow:
Dear Headteachers, Chairs of Governors and Heads of Religious Education,
There are now many questions arising in the world of education concerning the ideology of gender which underlies transgenderism. I am not thinking in this letter of individuals who, for a variety of complex reasons, experience difficulty identifying with their biological sex, be that of male or female. Our Christian approach to persons in any kind of confusion and suffering must always be one of respect, compassion and understanding, together with a commitment to seeking appropriate help.
However, today we are being encouraged – sometimes forcefully – not only to accept but to embrace an ideology of gender which is beginning to permeate social consciousness with farreaching consequences. I have often warned that, in that vacuum left by the loss of Christian faith within contemporary society, new ideologies would emerge. For decades the Popes, from Saint John Paul II to Pope Francis, have warned that the radical ideology of gender would challenge the truth about the human person. In this short letter, I write to remind you of their words: When Pope Francis spoke to Bishops at World Youth Day 2016, his comments gained widespread attention in the secular media.
“We are living a moment of the annihilation of man as image of God,” the Holy Father observed, “of ideological colonisations … one of these I say clearly with name and surname is gender! Today children – children! – are being taught in school that one can choose one’s sex.”
Echoing Pope Benedict’s words, Pope Francis went on to urge us to reflect that we are living in “the time of sin against God the Creator” (cf. transcript of the Holy Father’s dialogue with the Polish Bishops, 27th July 2016). At Christmas 2012, Pope Benedict had already spoken of this ideology:
“According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of; it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, whereas in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 12th December 2012).
We are thus faced with claims that our physical characteristics do not determine who we are as a man or as a woman, and that gender is no more than a ‘social construct.’ And yet we know that sex is determined by physical characteristics which start to develop from conception. The Scriptures speak of these sexual differences being willed by God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27); they come into existence when we are conceived, as science universally affirms; and this complementarity of man and woman is ordered to procreation in which father and mother collaborate with God in the coming to be of a new person.
(Read the full letter at the Catholic Herald UK)
Archbishop Chaput, incoming chairman for the Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, shares segments from the report on sexuality and gender from The New Atlantis in his column this week.
He notes: “We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the ‘Sexuality and Gender’ report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.”
A new extensive report on sexuality and gender has been issued by The New Atlantis: A Journal of Science and Technology. The report examines a number of claims about the topic in light of the available data.
Doctors Mayer and McHugh have also answered some frequently asked questions about the report.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has once again surprised the media (this is just one example) with a brief and frank comment about gender ideology. This comment was made during an open discussion with the Polish bishops during the pope’s trip for World Youth Day.
The comment was in response to a question about migrants and is as follows:
I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!
In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.
One might ask, how is what the pope said such a surprise?
Pope Francis has commented a number of times on the “ideology of gender” and even the “ideological colonization” that attacks the family. (See, for example, Amoris Laetitia, no. 56; his Meeting with Families in Manila on January 16, 2015; his Address in Naples on March 23, 2015; his General Audience on April 15, 2015; his Address to the bishops of Puerto Rico on June 8, 2015; and his Address to Équipes de Notre Dame on September 10, 2015.)
This is in addition to the numerous times that the Holy Father has insisted (reflecting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2333 and 2393) that all men and women are called to accept their sexual identities (see Amoris Laetitia, nos. 285-286 ; Laudato si’ no. 155) and that the family, based on the marriage between one man and one woman, is essential for children’s development (see, for example, Lumen Fidei, no. 52; Address to the Bishops of Malawi, November 6, 2014; Address to the International Catholic Child Bureau, April 11, 2014; Message for the 49th World Communications Day, January 23, 2015; and Welcome Ceremony in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015).
Does this mean that the pope is somehow out-of-step with his own declarations about the mercy of God and the abundance of love that God has for each person? Surely not. In fact, these assertions by the Holy Father are no doubt uttered with profound love for those who are harmed by the confusion and pain that gender ideology causes. For if we are created by the loving God as male and female, then we will not find happiness or fulfillment by rejecting this fundamental fact of our existence. Out of love, then, Pope Francis points out the errors in gender ideology and encourages bishops and all Catholics to do the same.
Cardinal Wuerl has published a piece on his blog regarding the nature of man as male and female.
He writes, “This body is not extraneous, but goes to our very essence… Before all else in this world, before we are able to form a single thought or make any decisions, from the very moment of our origin and conception, we have a body that is intrinsically sexually differentiated and constituted male or female in a way that cannot really be changed. Furthermore, the body reveals that man and woman are made to complement one another – they are made for love, the reality that forms the basis of family.”
Addressing the current cultural situation, Cardinal Wuerl says, “Last year we saw a societal redefinition of marriage and family. Today, the concept of humanity itself is called into question with an aggressive ‘gender’ ideology which holds that whether a person is male or female is not an objective reality, but is subjectively determined. Increasingly, those who do not go along with this new order are denounced and ostracized as bigoted. It is as if we all must now affirm that the world is flat lest we be condemned of discrimination.”
The Cardinal’s piece echoes parts of the MUR video Made for Freedom, released last week. He also cites the statement from Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas regarding the “transgender” directives to public schools.
“Gender” – as distinct from “sex” – is a term widely used today, but it is quite a new concept in history. While the term “gender” was used to denote masculinity and femininity as early as the Middle Ages (for example, in grammar), the idea that a human person’s masculinity or femininity could be separated from his or her bodily reality did not exist formally until the 1950s. Even then, the person at the origin of this concept – John Money – should give us pause, considering the controversy that surrounds him. There are many articles and books that examine the false separation of “gender” as a psychological experience and sexual difference as a biological reality, but that is not the purpose of this post.
MUR is sharing a simple resource document: a compilation of quotes from the last three pontificates, as well as other Church documents that address this phenomenon of “gender ideology” or “gender theory,” which is a position on anthropology (who a human being is) that is in conflict with the Christian one.
Please share this resource. Teachers, catechists, youth ministers, family life directors, and parents may find this compilation helpful in understanding and communicating about this topic:
Archbishop Listecki of the Archdioces of Milwaukee wrote a piece on his blog about the recent headlines regarding Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal.
The archbishop reminds us that, “[F]reedom is never exercised in a vacuum. Freedom demands responsibility and that is a responsibility to truth, beauty and goodness…” and “we have characterized “truth” as whatever we want to make of it. Therefore, truth is only accountable to the individual.”
Finally, Archbishop Listecki says, “We have lost the sense of sacred and in so doing, everything becomes profane and is subjected to our own individual appreciation.”
Today we are happy to share a blog post from Bishop Seitz of El Paso, Texas! Go to his blog directly to leave a comment!
“Mommy, how are boys different than girls?” Most children ask this question or some variation of it in the early years of their lives. Even now, long after I learned about the physical differences between the two genders, I am still learning about the many differences between men and women and, frankly, I’m still trying to understand the opposite sex. Even science is adding to our knowledge about the differences between the genders. Recently research came out pointing to different ways in which the brains of most men and women are women are wired.
Yes, Johnny, boys and girls are different and I thank God for that! The physical differences between the genders are more than skin deep. They are differences meant to create a complementarity that is directed toward a profound union of life and love. I think we could all agree that the differences between the genders have been overly stereotyped in the past by cultures and that, in many cases, women have not been given their full role in society and the Church. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently addressed this in his Wednesday Audience as he continued his teaching on the family. He said much more work is needed to give women their full voice. But he also warned against going to the other extreme and losing sight of the essential complementarity of the genders: “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God.”
According to Pope Francis, the gender difference between man and woman is directed toward their union and through that union, to the potential for the generation of new life. It is not about superiority of one over the other or about competing claims. Our Holy Father sees the differences as a call to unity that is intended to be a model for the rest of humankind. He wonders if the efforts to minimize these differences, to suggest that the differences of our bodies are not important, is perhaps a capitulation to the challenges involved in making the deep, life-giving union of man and woman a reality.
Here is how Pope Francis says it: “Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it.”
The Pope goes on to assert that running from the challenge is not the solution. I’ll let Our Holy Father have the last word: “Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society.”