Will there someday be a world without gender? This possibility is explored by theologian Ilia Delio in a recent piece for Global Sisters Report. Her writing does not directly address LGBT issues, but the points she makes about science and faith, technology, and gender are certainly applicable. In one of the more relevant points, she inquired:
“How can the church hope to instill a consciousness of integral ecology when it cannot own up to modern biology? Instead of trying to defend the elite fallen male, the church might face up to the reality that Adam and Eve never existed as a single couple responsible for a defect in the species. If the church cannot accept modern biology and a deeply enmeshed biological God, then how in the world will we ever be set free?”
Too often today, church leaders’ harsh attacks on “gender ideology” reveal their ignorance about not only people’s lives, but contemporary understandings of gender identity. For instance, they appeal to the book of Genesis’ creation story as evidence that human beings only come as male and as female, and this identity is known at birth and fixed. Yet, to argue that position denies the reality of intersex people whose bodies do not meet medical standards for male or female. And they deny the reality of transgender people whose brains and bodies may differ in respect to gender. Similarly, church leaders suggest same-sex acts are unnatural while science has found such sexual activity common in nature. These claims and others show that church leaders, in Delio’s words, “cannot own up to modern biology.”
Ignorance is not the only path for church leaders when it comes to LGBT issues. Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, is praiseworthy for its integration of contemporary knowledge alongside theological reflection. If the magisterium’s reflections on gender identity and sexuality could follow Laudato Si’s method of integrating science into theology, it would be revolutionary. Pope Francis should lead the way. But until this other path is taken, Delio is right that the institutional Church will remain bound by false ideas and continue to hurt people as a result.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 14, 2018