Excerpts from “Male and Female He Created Them,” the Vatican’s Latest Document on Gender

The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document on gender yesterday entitled “Male and Female He Created Them.” Bondings 2.0 will be providing reactions, critiques, and analysis as the week continues, but today’s post features excerpts from the document highlighting key LGBTQ-related themes. These excerpts are not exhaustive, many of these themes are touched on elsewhere in the document, too, but were chosen to give readers a sample of the argumentation.

For the full text of the document, click here. For New Ways Ministry’s response to the document, click here.

What are your thoughts on these excerpts or anything else in the document?  Please share your ideas in the “Comments” section of this post.

 

On Gender Theory

Section 6. While the ideologies of gender claim to respond, as Pope Francis has indicated, “to what are at times understandable aspirations”, they also seek “to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised”, and thus preclude dialogue. However, other work on gender has been carried out which tries instead to achieve a deeper understanding of the ways in which sexual difference between men and women is lived out in a variety of cultures. It is in relation to this type of research that we should be open to listen, to reason and to propose.

Section 10. Over the course of time, gender theory has expanded its field of application. At the beginning of the 1990’s, its focus was upon the possibility of the individual determining his or her own sexual tendencies without having to take account of the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relationships, nor of the procreative end of sexuality. Furthermore, it was suggested that one could uphold the theory of a radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the latter. Such a goal was seen as an important stage in the evolution of humanity, in which “a society without sexual differences” could be envisaged.

Section 19. Gender theory (especially in its most radical forms) speaks of a gradual process of denaturalisation, that is a move away from nature and towards an absolute option for the decision of the feelings of the human subject. In this understanding of things, the view of both sexuality identity and the family become subject to the same ‘liquidity’ and ‘fluidity’ that characterize other aspects of post-modern culture, often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence.

Section 20. In all such [gender] theories, from the most moderate to the most radical, there is agreement that one’s gender ends up being viewed as more important than being of male or female sex. The effect of this move is chiefly to create a cultural and ideological revolution driven by relativism, and secondarily a juridical revolution, since such beliefs claim specific rights for the individual and across society.

On Transgender & Intersex Identities

Section 11. The problem here does not lie in the distinction between the two terms, which can be interpreted correctly, but in the separation of sex from gender. This separation is at the root of the distinctions proposed between various “sexual orientations” which are no longer defined by the sexual difference between male and female, and can then assume other forms, determined solely by the individual, who is seen as radically autonomous. Further, the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism) [sic].

Section 24. In the light of this reality, we can understand why the data of biological and medical science shows that ‘sexual dimorphism’ (that is, the sexual difference between men and women) can be demonstrated scientifically by such fields as genetics, endocrinology and neurology. From the point of view of genetics, male cells (which contain XY chromosomes) differ, from the very moment of conception, from female cells (with their XX chromosomes). That said, in cases where a person’s sex is not clearly defined, it is medical professionals who can make a therapeutic intervention. In such situations, parents cannot make an arbitrary choice on the issue, let alone society. Instead, medical science should act with purely therapeutic ends, and intervene in the least invasive fashion, on the basis of objective parameters and with a view to establishing the person’s constitutive identity.

Section 25. The process of identifying sexual identity is made more difficult by the fictitious constract [sic; presumably “construct”] known as “gender neuter” or “third gender”, which has the effect of obscuring the fact that a person’s sex is a structural determinant of male or female identity. Efforts to go beyond the constitutive male-female sexual difference, such as the ideas of “intersex” or “transgender”, lead to a masculinity or feminity [sic] that is ambiguous, even though (in a self-contradictory way), these concepts themselves actually presuppose the very sexual difference that they propose to negate or supersede. This oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’, and one which, in fact, ignores the suffering of those who have to live situations of sexual indeterminacy. Similar theories aim to annihilate the concept of ‘nature’, (that is, everything we have been given as a pre-existing foundation of our being and action in the world), while at the same time implicitly reaffirming its existence.

On Sexual Orientation

Section 11. The problem here does not lie in the distinction between the two terms, which can be interpreted correctly, but in the separation of sex from gender. This separation is at the root of the distinctions proposed between various “sexual orientations” which are no longer defined by the sexual difference between male and female, and can then assume other forms, determined solely by the individual, who is seen as radically autonomous. Further, the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism) [sic].

Section 12. In a growing contraposition between nature and culture, the propositions of gender theory converge in the concept of ‘queer’, which refers to dimensions of sexuality that are extremely fluid, flexible, and as it were, nomadic. This culminates in the assertion of the complete emancipation of the individual from any a priori given sexual definition, and the disappearance of classifications seen as overly rigid. This would create a new range of nuances that vary in degree and intensity according to both sexual orientation and the gender one has identified oneself with.

On Marriage & Relationships

Section 9. According to such theories, the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families. Thus, the institutional model of the family (where a structure and finality exist independent of the subjective preferences of the spouses) is bypassed, in favor of a vision of family that is purely contractual and voluntary.

Section 13. The duality in male-female couples is furthermore seen as in conflicting with the idea of “polyamory”, that is relationships involving more than two individuals. Because of this, it is claimed that the duration of relationships, as well as their binding nature, should be flexible, depending on the shifting desires of the individuals concerned. Naturally, this has consequences for the sharing of the responsibilities and obligations inherent in maternity and paternity. This new range of relationships become ‘kinship’. These are: based upon desire or affection, often marked by a limited time span that is determined, ethically flexible, or even (sometimes by explicit mutual consent) without any hope of long-term meaning. What counts is the absolutely free self-determination of each individual and the choices he or she makes according to the circumstances of each relationship of affectivity.

Section 36. The family is “an anthropological fact, and consequently a social, cultural fact”. On the other hand, to “qualify it with ideological concepts which are compelling at only one moment in history, and then decline” would mean a betrayal of its true significance. The family, seen as a natural social unit which favours the maximum realisation of the reciprocity and complementarity between men and women, precedes even the socio-political order of the State whose legislative freedom must take it into account and give it proper recognition.

Section 43. The transformation of social and interpersonal relationships “has often waved ‘the flag of freedom’, but it has, in reality, brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. It is ever more evident that the decline of the culture of marriage is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills that disproportionately affect women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis”.

On LGBTQ Parents & Assistive Reproductive Technology

Section 28.The physiological complementarity of male-female sexual difference assures the necessary conditions for procreation. In contrast, only recourse to reproductive technology can allow one of the partners in a relationship of two persons of the same sex to generate offspring, using ‘in vitro’ fertilization and a surrogate mother. However, the use of such technology is not a replacement for natural conception, since it involves the manipulation of human embryos, the fragmentation of parenthood, the instrumentalization and/or commercialization of the human body as well as the reduction of a baby to an object in the hands of science and technology.

On Discrimination & Bullying

Section 15. From the whole field of writing on gender theory, there have however emerged some positions that could provide points of agreement, with a potential to yield growth in mutual understanding. For instance, educational programmes on this area often share a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination, a requirement that can be shared by all sides. Such pedagogical material acknowledges that there have been delays and failings in this regard. Indeed, it cannot be denied that through the centuries forms of unjust discrimination have been a sad fact of history and have also had an influence within the Church. This has brought a certain rigid status quo, delaying the necessary and progressive inculturation of the truth of Jesus’ proclamation of the equal dignity of men and women, and has provoked accusations of a sort of masculinist mentality, veiled to a greater or lesser degree by religious motives.

Section 16.Another position held in common is the need to educate children and young people to respect every person in their particularity and difference, so that no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults or unjust discrimination based on their specific characteristics (such as special needs, race, religion, sexual tendencies, etc.). Essentially, this involves educating for active and responsible citizenship, which is marked by the ability to welcome all legitimate expressions of human personhood with respect.

On Pastoral Accompaniment of Children

Section 56. This can be achieved through a way of accompanying that is discrete and confidential, capable of reaching out to those who are experiencing complex and painful situations. Every school should there- fore make sure it is an environment of trust, calmness and openness, particularly where there are cases that require time and careful discernment. . .It is essential that the right conditions are created to provide a patient and understanding ear, far removed from any unjust discrimination.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 11, 2019

2 replies
  1. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    The Church’s language to describe gender dysphoria, questioning, and transition is inept, but that is partly because its theology of sexuality is inadequate. The Vatican wants us to believe that God makes boxes marked Male and Female and that the plan is for each of us to fit into one of them based on anatomy. No thinking involved, no questioning, no construction of self. Odd, because we construct self in every other way. Educators learned long ago that we construct knowledge. Information is not passively received but actively incorporated into existing knowledge structures in order to become OUR knowledge. This is how God made us–actively questioning, not passively accepting. The same appears to be true of gender, and gender questioning is probably far more widespread than we have been led to believe. I am a cisgender woman, for example, but I often do not identify with other women and have some discomfort around being a woman. Being open to and continuing to discover one’s gender identity is something people do over a lifetime.

    One of the big problems with the document apparent in some of the sections reproduced above is how it trivializes and distorts both the process of questioning gender identity and the therapeutic intervention. This indicates that the Vatican declined to read the protocols for affirming/transitioning developed by gender clinics in Europe and the Americas, many of which are associated with world-class hospitals. If the writers had done their homework they would know that when children begin to question their given sex, this is the start of a long process punctuated mostly by “Let\s wait and see” and that no one is advocating rushing into things, There are criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association for simply initiating the process–and boys liking pink is not one of them–and at every point along the way, there are checks and criteria to be met before the application of any intervention. Hormone blockers, if they are begun, can also be stopped if it comes to that. There is nothing in the process that is flippant or selfish; it is all directed at affirming true human identity, which surely must be considered something holy.

    The head of adolescent medicine at the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago has a PowerPoint online that’s really instructive and reviews all the steps and stages in understanding gender non-conformity, It’s worth reading to appreciate how cautious and thorough the process is for kids and parents, and what these kids are up against if no one is willing to help them. https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/solgbt_webinar_transition_garofalo.pdf

    It’s really a shocking lapse that the writers of this document did not consult either trandgendered people or the medical professionals who work with them before condemning their feelings as selfish or ephemeral. You would think they’d have learned their lesson by now. I guess not. I welcome further discussion on New Ways.

    Reply
  2. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    “From the whole field of writing on gender theory, there have however emerged some positions that could provide points of agreement, with a potential to yield growth in mutual understanding. For instance, educational programmes on this area often share a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination, a requirement that can be shared by all sides.”

    Two problems with this. The first problem is that the teachings of the discriminating side are based on prejudice, ignorance and false beliefs. The second is the word “unjust,” which creates a wide opening for discrimination by religious groups and individuals who claim their discrimination is “just.”

    How can there be common ground, when one side denies the validity of the reality of the other, and seeks to deny to the other the rights they deem to be “unjust”?

    Reply

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