Transgenderism is in the news. Most recently, the Obama administration in the United States issued an order saying that all schools that receive federal funding must treat students according to their “gender identity” rather than their biological sex.
This sharp distinction between biological sex and gender identity is often referred to as “gender theory.” While the ideology has been around in academia for decades, it’s just started to go mainstream more recently. And for many liberals, those who reject it should be considered hateful bigots.
Pope Francis has the reputation among many liberals of being a “progressive” pope who’s less interested in conservative dogma and more open to liberal ideas. So what does Pope Francis think of gender theory?
It turns out he completely rejects it and has taught against it throughout his papacy. (But should that really surprise us?)
The Confusion of “Gender Theory”
They are modern-day “Herods,” he said in an interview published in January 2015, who “disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.”
“Let’s think… of gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation. With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator. […] The design of the Creator is written in nature.”
During a general audience a few months later, he hit on the subject again: “I ask myself if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”
Around the same time in a meeting with young people he condemned “the mistake of the human mind – gender theory – creating so much confusion,” saying that it was one reason why “the family really is under attack.”
“The sin of trying to replace the Creator”
But his most complete rejection of gender theory has come fairly recently, when he condemned it in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
“Another challenge [for the family],” he writes in a passage worth quoting at length,
is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.
This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’
It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised.
It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’ On the other hand, ‘the technological revolution in the field of human procreation has introduced the ability to manipulate the reproductive act, making it independent of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. In this way, human life and parenthood have become modular and separable realities, subject mainly to the wishes of individuals or couples.’
It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.
Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.
So it’s pretty clear where he stands on the issue. It should be of no surprise that this is the same position the Catechism takes and that previous popes took.
Love and Truth
Of course, those who sincerely experience gender dysphoria should be treated with compassion and love, as persons created in the image of God. All bullying or unjust discrimination should be condemned.
That does not mean, however, that people should enable or support their confusion, much less that the government should force others to do so. Rather, Catholics should live in accord with the truth – and lovingly point others toward it as well.