Dutch Cardinal’s Gender Request May Be Impossible to Fulfill

A Dutch cardinal has asked the Vatican for what is seemingly impossible to do.  He wants the pope to write an encyclical or other high-end church document condemning so-called “gender theory.”  The reason that this is impossible to do is that nobody really understands what church officials mean when they talk about gender theory.  It’s like a monster under the bed.  It sounds scary, but does it really exist?

In a recent interview with Catholic News ServiceCardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands, said:

“It (gender theory) is spreading and spreading everywhere in the Western world, and we have to warn people.

“From the point of moral theology, it’s clear — you are not allowed to change your sex in this way.”

Of course, even though gender theory is a red herring, it’s obvious what the cardinal is referring to is gender transition.   And it might be good for the Vatican to issue a document about gender transition, but it should be a document which supports it, not condemns it.

Cardinal Willem Eijk

Like so many other church leaders in the past year, including Pope Francis, Cardinal Eijk reveals that he does not understand what gender transition is all about.  For Eijk and others, they view gender transition as a choice, and what’s worse, they seem to consider it a frivolous choice.

The cardinal’s words reveal that he does not have a clear understanding of gender transition. The Catholic News Service article reported that Eijk wants to “counter the spread of the new theory that gender can be determined by personal choice rather than by biology.”  The article further reported:

He said even Catholic parents were beginning to accept that their own children can choose their genders partly because “they don’t hear anything else.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that people are not choosing their genders.  They are responding to self-discoveries where they come to realize that the gender they were assigned at birth, based on their genitalia, is not the gender that they recognize that they are.  Instead of being a “choice vs. biology” situation, when a person decides to transition, it is often based on biological facts such as hormones, genetics, and psychological and emotion compositions.

Obviously, if the cardinal sees gender transition as a choice, and a frivolous one at that, he has not sat down and spoken with transgender people, and has not come to realize the often painful struggles they experience before reaching the fulfilling joy of living their true gender.

Eijk made his remarks in an interview before delivering the Anscombe Memorial Lecture at Blackfriars, a Dominican house of studies in Oxford, on the theme, “Is Medicine Losing its Way?”

Eijk’s further comments show that he thinks that people are not clearly understanding Church leaders.  The article reported:

” ‘It is like euthanasia and assisted suicide,’ Cardinal Eijk continued. ‘When people first began to discuss them they were unsure,’ but many people have now become so acquainted with such practices they are now deemed ordinary.”

However, as with many gender and sexuality topics in the Church, people do understand the magisterium’s position clearly.  They just don’t accept it because it does not account for more complex understandings of gender and sexuality which people have come to realize.  More importantly, the teaching does not fit with people’s lived experiences.  People aren’t believing “gender theory” the way they accept an academic theory.  Instead, they have accepted “gender reality” because of the many ways they have come to see that newer ideas about gender and sexuality help them live more healthy and holy lives.

Eijk explained that even though the Church’s teaching may not be popular, he believes it should still be taught, and that the result will be, as in Pope Benedict XVI’s vision, a smaller, “purer” Church. Eijk stated:

“It will be a tiny church, but a convinced church, and it will be willing to suffer.”

The Catholic Church has historically been a “big tent” church, until prelates appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI started realizing they were losing “culture wars,” and opted instead for this minimized vision.

The 2014 and 2015 synods on the family brushed against questions of gender, but they did not take them up for a full examination.  So, yes, I agree with Eijk that the magisterium should study this issue.  But it should be a study which includes opinions on many sides of the issue, that takes into account new understandings of gender instead of immediately condemning such views before even knowing what they say.  Most importantly, any study of this sort needs to listen to the voices of people who experience gender outside of what has been the traditional, and often stultifying, binary.

So many of the Church’s vexing discussions from a truly open and unbiased examination of gender.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, November 14, 2016


8 replies
  1. miriamtf
    miriamtf says:

    Very fine. I hope and pray we don’t fall into the tendency of many LGBT’s to morally permit abortion. Of course, there are many horrible circumstances which mitigate guilt in performance of abortion.

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      What has abortion to do with this issue? Where do you get your facts to say that ‘many LGBT’s morally permit abortion”? In the LGBT community, there are many different opinions on many different issues including abortion.

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    The real shock to me is that this nonsense is coming from a Dutch cardinal — since the Netherlands are purportedly one of the Church’s most progressive and socially-engaged Provinces, particularly when compared to the situation in places like Poland and Austria. Apparently the social and theological damage inflicted by JPII and Benedict XVI is deeper than most of us realized. So it’s no wonder our that young people are fleeing the Church in droves, once they reach college age or their early twenties, and suddenly realize what their parents have “signed them up” for!

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Yet again a cardinal forgets Jesus’ and Pope Francis commands to get to know the sheep – us- awareness of gender discovery is relatively new as a general topic so perhaps the cardinal should talk to people involved rather than ask the Vatican to pass a ruling on something about which they haven’t got much of a clue either. Not being educated or thinking about moral situations, but relying on an official statement will not be an excuse on Judgement Day.

  4. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    This cardinal’s serious and panicky mischaracterization of gender transitioning is not the only troubling thing about him: there is also his flaky prediction, of a church destined to be “tiny” and “willing to suffer”.

    Needless to say, there is an echo of Calvinism in this prediction, of a pre-determined number of souls (an elect) set apart for salvation. This is the very antithesis of Jesus’ incarnational mission, which was to seek out not the so-called “righteous”, but sinners; in other words, to seek out all, since no-one falls outside this human category. And not only to seek them out, but to persist in doing so.

    Cardinal Eijk’s attitude to those who, through experience and conscience, disagree with him on such issues as gender transitioning (along with lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation, it can seem to be the ONLY issue preoccupying Catholic prelates these days, including Pope Francis) is to wash his hands of them…while looking forward, with a supposed marytr’s zeal, to a smaller, “purer” Church.

    But perhaps the most troubling thing of all about Cardinal Eijk is his masochistic and faux ecclesial spirituality: he appears to understand the quintessence of Church witness as a willingness “to suffer”. It is depressing to learn that 2000 years after Jesus’ death and ressurrection, a Catholic prelate should think in these gloomy and morbid terms.

    It is not through Jesus’ suffering that humankind was redeemed, but through his love of the Father, which was manifested by obedience to the Father’s will (and for which Jesus suffered). Cardinal Eijk has got matters the wrong way round, has muddled his priorities. And so, too, historically have far too many Catholics, which is why they presented Jesus as such a grey and unappealing figure.The joy of the Lord is his love; it is not human suffering, a symptom of moral imperfection. If there is no joy in Christian witnessing, then there can be no love, no presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

    If only more Catholic prelates like Cardinal Eijk were eager to love (which would include a willingness to listen to, and the humility to learn from, the socially marginalized ) and less set on glorifying themselves through suffering, they would express more of Jesus’ spirit to the world, and less of their judgemental and joyless egos.

    • Larry
      Larry says:

      But don’t forget that Cardinal Eijk will be a bigger fish in the smaller pond of a purer Church – a Church that will be perfectly aligned with him because all the dissenters [heretics] will be gone. Again, it always about power.

  5. ermadurk
    ermadurk says:

    Since when did Jesus send His disciples forth to block as many people deemed nonconforming, in order to maintain and actually be satisfied with, a “small Church” – of followers who blindly accept the unsubstantiated fears of certain Church hierarchs. Who was it, in the past, that said something about – the blind leading the blind?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *