Bishops in Spain and the United Kingdom have criticized policies aimed at protecting transgender youth and advancing LGBT equality, and they based their criticisms once again on fears of an alleged gender ideology.
Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary for the Diocese of Westminster (London), said bishops in England and Wales were concerned about educational policies aimed at supporting transgender and questioning youth. Asked to elaborate about their concerns, he simply replied, “I can’t really be very specific at the present time.”
The Catholic Herald reported further on the bishop’s comments, which he made after a meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops for England and Wales:
“[Sherrington] added: ‘The schools system has to work within the law, but secondly, there are concerns that we have about the law . . .I do have a concern that Catholic teaching understands the complementarity of male and female, and we have to reflect further on the meaning of that… Not everybody accepts that, and we need to find ways to communicate the teaching and at the same time pastorally accompany’ young people.”
Sherrington also affirmed the need to accompany youth pastorally and to ensure they are not bullied.
Meanwhile, in Spain, the Assembly of Bishops of Southern Spain voiced their opposition to a new non-discrimination law in the region of Andalusia, reported The Tablet:
“‘We urge all society, and especially Christian people, not to remain passive before the danger posed by this law’s postulates. . .Although it appears to pursue the good end of honouring all people, it also assumes the whole linguistic fabric of gender ideology, which aims to eliminate the concepts of male and female, dismantle corporal identity and deconstruct the human body, marriage and family. . .
“The Church in Andalusia said it respects ‘all people, regardless of sexual orientation’, but considered it unjust that ‘an anthropology should be imposed in the name of the common good’, which in reality ‘compromises freedom of thought, conscience, education and teaching, as well as religious freedom.'”
The law bans discrimination on the basis of “expressions of gender and sexual characteristics” with accompanying high fines. The law requires libraries to remove non-affirming books, and it allows hormone blocking for minors fines. The Tablet claimed other regions in Spain will likely pass a similar law.
Finally, in Scotland, the Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office Anthony Horan voiced church leaders’ opposition to a proposed education plan that would better accommodate transgender children. The Herald quoted him as saying, “These proposals should be considered thoughtfully, sensibly, and with considerable caution given these alarming statistics. . .In reality this is unlikely to happen.” Horan opposed the idea that children could change genders. The Scottish government was set to hold a consultation process over the policy when Horan made his comments last November.
One response to Horan, published in The Herald, is appropriate for all the bishops in the United Kingdom and Spain who have voiced fears of gender ideology and who have opposed efforts to protect and include transgender people. Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network wrote:
“This is not about allowing young people to ‘pursue a gender change’; it is about recognising the gender that they already are. The Catholic Church leadership may not like it, but trans people exist, and their gender identity does not match the sex they were assumed to be on the basis of the appearance of their genitalia at birth.
“We would ask Mr Horan to consider what his life would have been like as a young person if all those around him had insisted that he was really a girl, and on treating him as such, when of course he knew he was a boy. No doubt he’d agree that would have been pretty unbearable. That’s what life is like for a young trans person, without the acceptance that comes with empathy and understanding of their situation.”
Last week, Bondings 2.0 highlighted how transgender issues are taking the spotlight in the quest for LGBT equality. Though equality advances have been made, the spotlight on trans issues has also meant Catholic leaders’ opposition is intensifying. While there are pastoral efforts being made, as when Pope Francis personally affirmed one nun’s ministry and met with a trans man, public opposition by bishops to non-discrimination laws and common sense education policies continues to the detriment of LGBT people worldwide.Language of “gender ideology” and “ideological colonization” is thrown around without much basis in reality, even by Pope Francis. Before speaking, these bishops and church leaders everywhere should emulate one of their peers and start first with listening.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 26, 2018