Another confusing papal statement, this time on gender ideology

Another confusing papal statement, this time on gender ideology

By Phil Lawler | Oct 04, 2016

Another papal trip, another in-flight press conference, another statement to confuse and dismay the faithful.

Last Saturday, in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Holy Father denounced gender ideology in ringing terms. “Today there is a world war to destroy marriage,” he said, and gender theory is an important part of it. He urged the people of Georgia to resist such “ideological colonizations which destroy—not with weapons but with ideas.” Strong words, these; the Pope took an uncompromising stand on a controversial question.

Then the next day he backed away from that stand. In fact, in his off-the-cuff exchange with reporters on the flight back to Rome, he showed himself willing to give gender theorists what they want most: the freedom to change pronouns.

In answer to an American journalist’s question about his condemnation of gender theory, the Pope delivered a convoluted yet revealing reply. (The quotation that follows comes from a verbatim transcript of the interview, translated by the Catholic News Agency.)

Last year I received a letter from a Spaniard who told me his story as a child, a young man, he was a girl, a girl who suffered so much because he felt he felt like a boy, but was physically a girl. He told his mother and the mom…(the girl) was around 22 years old said that she would like to do the surgical intervention and all of those things. And the mother said not to do it while she was still alive. She was elderly and she died soon after. She had the surgery and an employee of a ministry in the city of Spain went to the bishop, who accompanied (this person) a lot. Good bishop. I spent time accompanying this man. Then (the man) got married, he changed his civil identity, got married and wrote me a letter saying that for him it would be a consolation to come with his wife, he who was she, but him!
Pay careful attention to that last line: the Pope’s reference to “he who was she, but him!” Those words are not included in the Vatican press office summary of the interview, but the telling phrase was reported by other news agencies, with only small variations in the translations. The Pope said that a “she” became a “he.” According to the official Vatican summary he introduced the individual, born female, as “a Spanish man.” He accepted the change of sexual identity as a fact.

The Pope went on to say that he had met with the Spanish couple, “and they were very happy.” Nowhere did he suggest that the “he who was she” was a troubled individual, or that he had done anything wrong. Indeed the Pope’s full statement, in response to the reporter’s question, suggested only that it was wrong to teach gender ideology in schools, “to change the mentality” of students. In this case, the Spanish girl apparently made her own decision to manipulate her sexual identity, and the Pontiff registered no objection. He applauded the Spanish prelate who “accompanied him greatly.” Did that bishop urge the girl not to disfigure herself, not to rebel against God’s plan for her life? If he did, Pope Francis did not mention it.

A young girl who is unhappy as a girl surely does need sympathy, support, and loving care. But if she thinks of herself as a boy, she should not be encouraged in that delusion. A girl is a girl, and a boy is a boy, and neither medical procedures nor hormone injections can change that reality.

When God established the human race, the Book of Genesis tells us, “male and female He created them.” The distinction between male and female identity is the great divide, which is an integral part of God’s plan—not just for humanity as a whole but for each and every one of us.

So what happened in the case of that unfortunate Spanish girl? Did God make a mistake? The suggestion is ludicrous if not blasphemous. Then did she rebel against God’s plan? If so, she certainly needs pastoral help, but definitely not encouragement. And the same is true for other confused young people who might hear about this case, and conclude (mistakenly, I’m sure, but understandably) that the Pope would support their decision to change their sexual identities.

Even for those who do not believe in a benign Creator, the sudden rise to power of gender theory should be cause for alarm, because when we are asked to treat a biological female as a man, or a biological male as a woman, we are being asked to deny reality: to say something that we know is not true.

Gender theory is indeed an assault on marriage and the family. It is also an assault on objective truth. In that momentous battle, the defenders of truth and of family life have just been hit by friendly fire.

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2 comments on “Another confusing papal statement, this time on gender ideology

  1. The Pope’s confusing statement on gender theory: a follow-up

    By Phil Lawler | Oct 05, 2016

    Several readers have written to me overnight, saying that I was mistaken in saying that Pope Francis had sent mixed messages about gender theory. Let me respond to that concern.

    When he spoke in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Pope was admirably clear in his denunciation of gender theory. (I said that much in my piece yesterday [see above].) When he was pressed on the issue during his in-flight press conference, with a question from a National Catholic Reporter correspondent, he was not clear at all.

    Let’s review what the Pope said in that exchange with reporters that, in the view of some readers, showed his opposition to gender ideology*:

    He mentioned a French man who objected when his 10-year-old son was taught gender theory in school. Then he said: “It is one thing that a person has this tendency, this option; and even those who change sex. It is another thing to teach along this line in schools, to change the mentality.” Thus he implied—perhaps unintentionally—that his objection was to teaching gender ideology, not necessarily to sex-change procedures.

    “Sin is sin,” the Pope said. “Tendencies or hormonal imbalances cause many problems…” Later he added: “It is a moral question. It is a problem.” Yes, but what is the nature of that problem: a hormonal imbalance, an emotional illness, or a mistaken gender assignment? What is the solution: conversion, counseling, or surgery?

    “I wish to be clear,” the Pope said. In the more complete transcript furnished by CNA, he elaborated: “Please don’t say, ‘The Pope sanctifies transgenders.’” (Curiously that line was omitted from the official Vatican summary.) Unfortunately, wishing to be clear does not guarantee clarity. Surely the Holy Father did not set up transgender people as models. And we can all agree that the Pope does not endorse sex-change operations. But if a confused young person read through the Pope’s answer, looking for some reason not to change his sexual identity, he would not find it.

    Yet this lack of clarity is not, in my view, the major problem with the Pope’s answer. My greater concern was his willingness to accept his Spanish visitor’s self-identification as a male. Right now, in the field of gender theory—which the Pope, in Tbilisi, rightly identified as a war on marriage—the main battleground is over the use of pronouns. The gender theorists insist that if a man identifies as a woman, or a woman as a man, we must use the pronouns those individuals prefer, rather than the pronouns that match objective reality. On that critical issue, the Pope yielded.

    There are some unfortunate people who suffer from anorexia, and persist in thinking that they must lose weight even when they are dangerously undernourished. These people need our help, our support, our love. But they do not need us to reaffirm them in the mistaken perception that they are fat. They might harm themselves by continuing to diet; if we really love them we should try to correct their self-image, to usher them back to reality. So too with people who suffer from other warped perceptions of reality, including men who think they are women and women who think they are men.

    During his press conference Pope Francis said that the problem of sexual identity “must be resolved as is possible, always with God’s mercy, with the truth, as we have said in the case of marriage.” [Emphasis added.] Telling the truth about sexual identity is the only effective way to counter the propaganda of the gender theorists.

    * Except in the one case indicated above, I have taken quotations from the “summary” of the press conference produced by the Vatican press office, rather than from the full transcript, since the official summary presumably is a better indication of what the Pope intended.

  2. Okay, fair’s fair. Lawler is trying to distinguish and clarify in the midst of a whirlwind of massive confusion caused by the one he is trying to defend. In itself, that’s an admirable effort. After all, the papacy is a divine institution, no matter who holds it at any given moment in history.

    Were this pope to just come right out and admit that his non-stop musings at 35,000 feet above terra firma leave contrails being dissected, upon floating down to earth, like entrails at the hand of pagan witch doctors and men of good will alike – and were he to just STOP IT, it would be a papal act of authentic mercy.

    Before the most infelicitous in-council of 1962, no pope would dare release ANY form of authoritative statement without extensive consultations with his top theologians. Now, since finding one of those in the Vatican is like trying to find hens’ teeth, even that practice has gone the way of prayers at the foot of the altar.

    The dogma of the Church stands firm, despite the chaos today. So, too, the Summa, the rich heritage of the works of the greatest theological minds of the past 2,000 years – and the true Rite of the Latin Church.

    While genuinely illiterate folk may need help appropriating such a treasure, it is not at all impossible that, bit by bit, year by year, the war against mere opinion can still be won.

    Meanwhile, were Alitalia to cancel HH’s frequent flyer privileges, the cause of restoring the grandeur of the papacy would be in no small way assisted.

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