Vatican Calls Sex Change Threat to Human Dignity

The Vatican rejected the concept of gender fluidity in a document released recently and declared that sex change is a threat to human dignity — one of the sharpest criticisms to date of behaviors the Catholic Church regards as immoral. The 20-page declaration, called “Infinite Dignity,” represents an effort to clarify the church’s stance on divisive moral issues as polarization between progressive and conservative Catholics grows. Under Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has shown greater openness toward the LGBTQ+ community, including by recently lifting the ban on blessings by priests of same-sex couples, a move that displeased conservative bishops in the U.S., Africa and elsewhere. The new document shows the limits of the church’s progressive shift under Francis, reaffirming the Vatican’s view that gender identity can’t be distinct from biological sex at birth and that the complementarity between men and women is a fundamental aspect of human life.

The document, issued by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, includes one of the church’s most explicit rejections of gender-affirming surgeries — a practice it puts in a similar category to abortion and euthanasia in terms of the damage it could cause to human dignity. “Any sex change procedure, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity that a person has received from the moment of conception,” it says, describing the human body as a God-given gift. It added that exceptions can be made for medical procedures aimed at addressing genital abnormalities present from birth. Progressive Catholics were disappointed, but not surprised, by the Vatican’s declarations on gender identity and sex change. “The document’s attempt to uphold and defend human dignity is weakened by its stunning lack of awareness of the actual lives of transgender and nonbinary people,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics. “The Vatican is again supporting and propagating ideas that lead to real physical harm to transgender, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ people.”

The document on human dignity, which has been in the works for five years, described the concept of gender fluidity, which it calls gender theory, as “very dangerous,” criticizing it as a form of “ideological colonization.” It denounced attempts to blur the differences between men and women as in line with “the ancient temptation by humans to play God.” Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, said that it is an idea that hurts, rather than enhances, human dignity in its attempt to erase differences between men and women. “In this context, gay marriage, or the very elimination of differences, seems unacceptable,” he said. At the same time, the Vatican’s document denounced forms of punishment, aggression, and violence against gay people as contrary to human dignity. Fernández said he was dismayed by Catholics who believed the contrary. The doctrinal office released its document partly in response to bishops around the world asking to clarify Catholic teachings on moral issues as LGBTQ+ rights have become a focus of public debate and policy.

Since Fernández took over as head of the doctrinal office last summer, he has issued several statements promoting Francis’ relatively conciliatory approach toward the LGBTQ+ community without formally changing church teachings. In September, the Vatican said transgender people can be baptized as Catholics and that they can serve as godparents, reversing the church’s earlier position. It also said children of gay couples, including those born to surrogate mothers, may be baptized. In December, it published guidelines for priests, allowing them to perform such ceremonies at their discretion but stressing they shouldn’t imply the blessings are equivalent to heterosexual marriage. Conservative bishops sharply criticized the guidelines at the time, considering them contrary to church teaching about homosexuality and saying they would ignore them. The new document also addresses surrogacy, a practice Francis has frequently condemned, calling on the international community to ban it worldwide.

Source: Dow Jones Newswire

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