Vat­i­can po­si­tion on gen­der up­sets LGBT Catholics


VAT­I­CAN CITY — The Vat­i­can is­sued an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment Mon­day re­ject­ing the idea that peo­ple can choose or change their gen­ders and in­sist­ing on the sex­ual “com­ple­men­tar­ity” of men and women to make ba­bies.

The doc­u­ment, pub­lished dur­ing LGBT Pride Month, was im­me­di­ately de­nounced by

LGBT Catholics as con­tribut­ing

to big­otry and vi­o­lence against gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple. Ad­vo­cacy group New Ways Min­istry said it would fur­ther con­fuse in­di­vid­u­als ques­tion­ing their gen­der iden­tity or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and at risk of self-harm.

The text, “Male and Fe­male He Cre­ated Them,” was in­tended to help Catholic teachers, par­ents, stu­dents and clergy ad­dress what the Vat­i­can’s Con­gre­ga­tion for Catholic Ed­u­ca­tion called an “ed­u­ca­tional cri­sis” in the field of sex ed­u­ca­tion.

It called for a “path of di­a­logue” and lis­ten­ing on the is­sue of “gen­der the­ory” in ed­u­ca­tion. But even pri­estly ad­vo­cates for LGBT Catholics noted that the text ap­peared to have re­lied en­tirely on pre­vi­ous pa­pal pro­nounce­ments, Vat­i­can doc­u­ments and philoso­phers and the­olo­gians.

“The real-life experience­s of LGBT peo­ple seem en­tirely ab­sent from this doc­u­ment,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Je­suit priest who wrote a book on im­prov­ing Catholic Church out­reach to the LGBT com­mu­nity, ti­tled “Build­ing a Bridge.” “We should wel­come the con­gre­ga­tion’s call to di­a­logue and lis­ten­ing on gen­der, and I hope that con­ver­sa­tion will now be­gin.”

Pope Fran­cis has re­peat­edly ar­gued the po­si­tion that peo­ple can­not choose their gen­ders. But the doc­u­ment rep­re­sents the first at­tempt to put the Vat­i­can’s po­si­tion, first ar­tic­u­lated fully by Pope Benedict XVI in a 2012 speech, into a com­pre­hen­sive, of­fi­cial text.

The doc­u­ment called for a new al­liance among families, schools and so­ci­ety to of­fer a “pos­i­tive and pru­dent sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion” in Catholic schools so chil­dren learn the “full orig­i­nal truth of mas­culin­ity and fem­i­nin­ity.”

It called gen­der flu­id­ity a symptom of the “con­fused con­cept of free­dom” and “mo­men­tary de­sires” that char­ac­ter­ize post-mod­ern cul­ture. It re­jected terms such as “in­ter­sex” and “trans­gen­der” and said the pur­pose of the bi­o­log­i­cal “com­ple­men­tar­ity” of the male and fe­male sex or­gans was to en­sure pro­cre­ation.

Fran­cis Debernardo, head of New Ways Min­istry, said such concepts are out­dated, mis­in­formed and ig­nore con­tem­po­rary science on fac­tors be­yond vis­i­ble gen­i­talia that de­ter­mine gen­der.

“Gen­der is also bi­o­log­i­cally de­ter­mined by ge­net­ics, hor­mones and brain chem­istry — things not vis­i­ble at birth,” Debernardo said in a state­ment. “Peo­ple do not choose their gen­der, as the Vat­i­can claims, they dis­cover it through their lived experience­s.”

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