What is the problem with gender-neutral children’s clothing? It is “satanic” and “demonic” according to one Catholic priest.
Fr. John Esseff, who serves as an exorcist in Pennsylvania, offered his thoughts in an interview with a conservative Catholic news outlet, according to Romper. The priest was commenting specifically on a new children’s clothing line from singer Celine Dion known as Celinununu. He said:
“‘I’m convinced that the way this gender thing has spread is demonic, It’s false. I don’t even know how many genders there’s supposed to be now, but there are only two that God made. The devil is going after children by confusing gender.”
Esseff said further that the “organized mindset” behind the clothing line allegedly trying to influence children was “definitely satanic.”
This incident is the latest in priests using extreme rhetoric in relation to issues of gender and sexuality. Last year, a priest in Calgary said the rainbow flag was “nothing short of spitting and laughing in God’s face.” In Chicago, a priest defied Cardinal Blase Cupich by burning a rainbow flag in order to “cleanse” the parish to which he was assigned. In Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin described Pride celebrations as “morally offensive.” Language like these statement which polarizes and harms people is not appropriate, especially from pastoral ministers.
But this incident also speaks to underlying problems with Church teaching and strictly proscribed gender norms. Youth are greatly affected by these proscriptions, as when a lesbian student at a Catholic high school was ejected from prom for wearing a suit or when a Catholic school suspended a student for wearing a uniform divergent from their assigned sex. Bondings 2.0 has previously posted commentaries on how beliefs about gender complementarity are harmful to not only LGBT people, but many others.
Children’s clothing can be neither “demonic” nor “satanic” despite Fr. Esseff’s claims. But beyond just being wrong, his interview comments reveal once again that Church leaders need to reconsider both their pastoral approach to and theological understanding of gender. The current approach makes hyperbolic and damaging comments like Esseff’s far too permissible.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 21, 2019