A top bishop in the Netherlands has formally requested that Pope Francis issue an encyclical against so-called “gender theory,” reiterating a previous 2016 call for such a teaching document.
Cardinal Wim Eijk of Utrecht made his request while the Dutch bishops were on their ad limina visit to the Vatican. According to Katholiek Nieuwsblad (via Google Translate):
“‘I asked whether it would not be good if the pope issued an encyclical on gender thinking,’ Cardinal Eijk said on Wednesday evening during a press conference halfway through the ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops that will take place this week.
“‘The gender theory is being pushed in all kinds of organizations and we as the Church have not said much about it,’ says Eijk. According to the cardinal, there is a need for an encyclical, an important papal document in which the teachings of the Catholic Church are explained and, if necessary, expanded or further developed.
“The request to the Pope was officially deposited with Cardinal Kevin Farell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, during one of the working visits of the Dutch bishops to the institutions of the Roman Curia.”
Before submitting this current formal request, Eijk also raised the concern in 2016 that the Vatican should release a teaching document about gender issues. The purpose of such a document would be to “warn people,” said the cardinal, and he continued by comparing gender transitions to euthanasia, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Eijk’s record on LGBTQ+ issues is rather negative. In 2015 in his own archdiocese, Eijk forced a parish to remove a transgender Catholic, Rhianna Gralike, who was serving as treasurer. Parish leaders protested, as the parish had long come to welcome Gralike, but to no avail.
More broadly, Eijk has become a prominent critic of Pope Francis, particularly after the release of Amoris Laetitia. Earlier this year, he issued a condemnatory letter against the Flemish bishops’ new pastoral initiative that included blessing queer couples, seeking intervention from the Vatican.
Cardinal Eijk’s desire for the Vatican to issue a magisterial document on gender is misguided at this time. It is true that the Catholic Church needs to engage questions of gender identity more deeply. But many bishops, including Pope Francis, often reveal their ignorance about current gender developments in the statements they make. The solution, then, is clearly not an encyclical.
Rather, the solution is to engage in a period of learning and discernment. A time when church’s leaders listen to transgender and nonbinary people and when contemporary knowledge and the church’s tradition are put into conversation. Someday, there may be an opportune moment for the Magisterium to issue more-defined teachings on gender. That time, however, is not now.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 7, 2022