Transgender Catholics and Their Parents React Against New Vatican Document on Gender

Jane Fae

Today, Bondings 2.0 begins a series of posts about reactions to the Vatican’s recent document on gender identity, Male and Female He Created Them.  

Transgender Catholics and their parents have been sharply critical of a new Vatican document on gender, Male and Female He Created Them, released last Monday. To read excerpts from the document, click here. For New Ways Ministry’s statement, click here.

Jane Fae, a transgender Catholic from England, wrote about the document for Gay Star News. Fae described the Congregation for Catholic Education, which released the document, as “a talking shop with very limited direct influence on church policy and doctrine in this area.” She said the document was therefore “ultimately inconsequential” when it comes to Church teaching, but would still have “real consequences for real people”:

“[I]t is hardly surprising that yet again the Church has fixed its baleful gaze on an issue that is difficult, divisive and highly sensitive showing scant regard for who gets stomped on in the process.

“Of course I know all this. And I am sick to death of having to excuse what is in essence nothing more than ill-mannered, arrogant posturing: a blatant disregard for the repercussions of its thinking out loud for some of the least powerful in our society.

“Because make no mistake: careless words cost lives.

“And the church’s continued navel-gazing around LGBTI issues, combined with its failure to match this with speaking out on anti-LGBTI violence is contributing directly to the death and murder of my queer siblings.”

Vox carried an article that covered reactions from five more transgender Catholics. Two of those interviewed said they refused to read the document, one of whom, identified by one name, Scotty, explained, “I’m sick of being abused by those who are supposed to be my family. I can’t make room in my life for that anymore.” But others, like Colleen Fay and Hilary Howes, were more defiant. Colleen said:

“All in all, this is a rear-guard attempt to defend a hyper-conservative Catholic view that, especially in light of the sex abuse/church cover-up scandal, seems almost laughable were it not so tragic.

“Does this all leave me in doctrinal limbo? Well, it certainly sends a signal that some folk in the higher echelons of the church are trying to turn back the clock. However, if you’ll forgive me bowdlerizing Ira Gershwin’s fabulous lyric, when it comes to the church, ‘they can’t take that away from me.'”

Hilary said she would be one of the few trans Catholics who seeks to dialogue like the Congregation allegedly desires, but found the document overall “heartbreaking” because many people will just leave the Church or suffer violence because of the document.

The parent of a trans Catholic child, who chose to remain anonymous, also responded to the document in The Guardian. The anonymous parent wrote that while the Vatican can make claims about transgender people, local communities like their family’s Catholic parish and school can instead choose compassion:

“As I said at the start, I have two teenage daughters [one who is transgender]. Both now attend our local Catholic secondary school. Both are thriving and happy. Pope Francis envisions an inclusive church – our experience as a family is a reminder that God welcomes all, even and especially those whom society rejects. Our community is made up of people living their faith with compassion through their actions. That, to me, is true Christianity.”

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 published a response from another parent, Deacon Ray Dever, who has a trans daughter and is “deeply concerned there will be many transgender students and their families and friends that will be hurt by this document and its recommendations.” To read his full reflection, click here.

These trans Catholics and their families are precisely who the Vatican should have listened to before issuing “Male and Female He Created Them” which, despite its claims to seek dialogue, completely omitted insights from the lived experiences of real people. With rumors that another Vatican document on gender is being prepared, it is not too late to start listening to and learning from LGBTQI people so Church teaching and policy can be more responsively pastoral. Indeed, good theology and the demands of justice require as much.

Today’s post is part of Bondings 2.0’s continuing coverage of reactions to the Vatican’s document, “Male and Female He Created Them.” For previous posts, click here. To receive future updates on the latest Catholic LGBTQ news, opinion, and spirituality, enter your email here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 15, 2019
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