Trans Today, What Tomorrow?

6/28/17 – Matthew Hanley on our deteriorating view of sexuality: When there is no objective truth to defend, everything else becomes defensible, even pedophilia.

In the spiritual life, there is no standing still. You are either advancing or retreating. Like many other true things, this is necessarily taxing, especially when just treading water seems like a triumph.

There is no standing still on the societal front either. Look how quickly the transgender movement followed Obergefell.  It would be folly to imagine that this “achievement” would placate progressives – as if transgenderism were the goal to end all goals.  So one logical question is: what comes next?

It seems there are only two general options.  We might recover a saner appreciation of reality and tradition, or we will continue to degenerate in yet other destructive ways. My guess, unfortunately, is that the latter is more likely.

Polygamy is a somewhat obvious candidate for the next wave to crash ashore. As predicted, Muslims in the West have begun advocating for its acceptance based upon legal precedent sanctioning “gay marriage.” Why should “love” lose in a polygamous context?

The point is not hard to appreciate: they got theirs by throwing reason out the window, why shouldn’t we get ours? There is also now a special term for incest – “Genetic Sexual Attraction” – designed to give it a scientific aura and thus a kind of respectability; well, if that is what we are calling it now, it’s ok then.

But we may also have to contend with an attempt to normalize pedophilia.  I hate to even write this, but you tell me what is beyond the pale nowadays – and why?  Providing a reason it should be singled out as verboten is not so easy, given the justifications we now accept for other transgressions.

A few months ago, I saw an episode of Chicago Med – a hospital-based TV drama – in which one of the patients facing a life-threatening medical emergency happened to be a pedophile. He did not want to continue being an offender and thus chose to forego treatment in order to ensure his death.

While cast in this sympathetic light, his medical team was eager to find explanations for his “condition”: there was talk about new “scientific” indications that pedophilia could be classified as a disease – traced back to a gene or some neurological trigger. This explains the title of that episode: “Born This Way.”

Pope Francis seems comfortable with that mindset if, as per media accounts, he really did tell a “gay” person – a victim of clerical sexual abuse! – he was born that way. Whatever Francis’ actual view, the impression remains that he might have actually confirmed him in that lifestyle; if so, why could he theoretically not say the same for a polygamist or even a pedophile?

And why does this justification only pertain to sexuality: was Bernie Madoff born to defraud the unsuspecting out of their life savings?

The Chicago Med program aired on NBC, an indication they suspect the public may be prepared to accept the concept that pedophiles (like gays) simply act as their biology determines them to act. You see, biology is unalterable (LGB), except, of course, when it is alterable (T).


Biology is what we say it is, when we say what it is. Got the reasoning there? Good, then you see the attempt to classify pedophilia as a disease for what it is: the first step towards normalization. Disease can become benign just as bad can become good – when we say so.

Netflix is streaming a drag queen superhero cartoon, and some public libraries have hosted drag queen story time – yet further indications that some want sexualizing children to go mainstream. UC Santa Barbara also apparently sees this stance as permissible. Are we really going to let the standard “argument” for the gay-rights lifestyle expand to include “access” to kids as a right?

In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Pope Francis spoke strongly against pedophilia – and yet had an unfortunate lapse in so doing. Perhaps it was another case of a poor word choice, but he said:

Towards pedophilia, zero tolerance! And the Church must punish such priests who have that problem, and bishops must remove from their priestly functions anyone with that disease, that tendency to pedophilia, and that includes to support the legal action by the parents before the civil courts.

That disease?  This is the linguistic opening through which zero tolerance morphs into exculpation.

If it is an enfermedad, why would we be talking about zero tolerance? Should a priest with arthritis or diabetes be shown “zero tolerance” when manifestations of those diseases resurface? Trying to reclassify the act of abusing an innocent person as a “disease” should be met with resounding repudiation.

But what do we really repudiate anymore? When there is no objective truth to defend, everything else becomes defensible. Perennial Catholic teaching may be difficult, but it is coherent and its truths fit together as a whole. Take away a seemingly small part of it, and the whole is bound to unravel.

Notice how children are viewed in our post-truth era: unwelcome (contraception), out of the equation (gay), malleable innocents to be steered towards destruction (LGBT indoctrination), and unworthy even of protection from violence (abortion).

Children can also become, through technology, objects engineered to suit the wishes of adults. If we accept these “reasons” to treat children in such a disinterested and ruthless manner, why cannot they also be used as sex objects?

Pushing the envelope in that direction may be packaged by some radical Westerners as “progress.” Yet the practice of abusing boys is already entrenched in Afghanistan.  Take PBS’ word for it.

Such is our mental landscape. Nihilistic willfulness is in charge; humane regard for others is on the chopping block. Appeals to reason are as welcome as appeals to religion. Maybe, after all, there is something to categorizing sin – as the Catechism does – as an offense against reason and truth.

We are so estranged from reason nowadays that we are poorly positioned to resist even greater harms lurking ahead.

Matthew Hanley is senior fellow with the National Catholic Bioethics Center. With Jokin de Irala, M.D., he is the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Hanley’s and not those of the NCBC.


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One comment on “Trans Today, What Tomorrow?

  1. [Speaking of “What’s next” questions]

    Physician Assisted Suicide and the Rise of Suicide Cults

    by Grace Emily Stark – June 27th, 2018

    Assisted death proponents argue for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on the grounds of promoting autonomy and suspending suffering. Suicide groups like the Dutch Coöperatie Laatste Wil ask the next logical question: why is physician involvement needed at all?

    The push for legalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in the United States continues to gain traction, with the state of Hawaii becoming the seventh state in the union to sanction assisted death via physician-prescribed, life-ending medication. The Aloha State joins an ever-growing cohort of PAS-friendly states, including Oregon, California, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, and Washington. After a controversial vote in 2016, our nation’s capital also implemented its own assisted suicide legislation in July 2017.

    Fortunately, a few barriers have recently popped up on the downhill slide toward assisted death for all: the American Medical Association reaffirmed its position opposing PAS, and a judge in California overturned that state’s assisted suicide law. But we are a long way from witnessing a sea change in public and professional sentiment toward PAS. A growing number of state-level medical associations are ending their traditional opposition to PAS, the California decision will most assuredly face legal challenges in court (reportedly, the law was supported by 76 percent of Californians), and the movement continues to gain ground internationally as countries like Spain and Finland consider implementing PAS and euthanasia laws.

    One of the most active and vocal groups leading the push for legalized PAS in the United States is an organization called “Compassion and Choices.” Overwhelmingly, the campaign waged by PAS interest groups like Compassion and Choices is fueled by promises of ensuring personal autonomy (“choices”) and easing of suffering (“compassion”) at the end of life. But the very arguments used to promote PAS in the United States and around the globe raise the question of why physician involvement is necessary at all when one wants to end one’s life. In fact, a disturbing movement of pro-suicide organizations is growing around the globe. These organizations promise a way out without the (minimal) red tape imposed by PAS and euthanasia “safeguards” that exist where those practices are already legal.

    The “Last Wish Cooperative”

    One such organization is the Dutch Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW) (“Last Wish Cooperative,” in English). The bioethics newsletter BioEdge reports that

    The Dutch Public Prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into the Last Wish Cooperative (Coöperatie Laatste Wil), which claims to distribute a deadly powder to people who want to commit suicide. Despite the notoriety of Dutch end-of-life legislation, assisted suicide without the help of a doctor is strictly illegal. But after a 19-year-old girl killed herself with a lethal powder last month, public attention has focused on CLW’s activities, even though it appears that she did not obtain the substance through CLW. CLW announced last September that it would make available a suicide agent, which it called “X,” to its members. Therefore the public prosecutor suspects that CLW members are “participating in an organization that aims to commit crimes.

    Whether or not the Dutch Last Wish Cooperative (CLW) is responsible for the 19-year-old girl’s death remains to be seen. What is obvious, however, is that CLW is nothing more than a glorified suicide cult. Its members see the involvement of doctors in end-of-life decision-making as not only unnecessary, but an infringement on personal autonomy. CLW’s website states that “Cooperative Last Wish accommodates people who favor the concept of assisted suicide and self-euthanasia without intervention or doctors and want to make early preparation by joining with others who share their views.”

    The reality is that the arguments presented by assisted death advocates—whether they are promoting euthanasia or PAS (for the purposes of this essay, the difference between the two acts is not morally significant)—pave the way for suicide cults like the Dutch CLW. By grounding a legal right to PAS in personal autonomy and misbegotten conceptions of compassion and dignity, even if they advocate that the right only be exercised under the jurisdiction and protections of the medical establishment, PAS advocates around the world all but ensure the explosion of suicide cults in every country where their campaign of death is waged.

    Autonomy as Our Greatest Good

    Preservation of personal autonomy is among the greatest goods sought by PAS promoters and seekers. Studies show that maintaining autonomy (often described as “choice”) and a “sense of self” at the end of life are among the top reasons patients with terminal illnesses desire to end their lives with the help of physician-prescribed lethal agents. This key fact is not lost on groups like Compassion and Choices, which is precisely why they use the language of “choice” to promote their cause.

    As I’ve written before at Public Discourse, the “Cult of Autonomy” in our country makes Americans particularly receptive to the idea of PAS when it is presented as a means of preserving autonomy. Vulnerable patients facing poorly controlled or uncontrolled pain, uncertain prognoses, or the fear of being a burden to others may be particularly attracted to the false promises of the PAS movement, seeking to make one final (and fatal) decision “on their own terms.” In a world where we no longer accept the existence of objective truth, we each create our own “truths,” making us our own gods. It is little wonder that under these circumstances, the impulse to preserve the illusion that we are all the true “masters of our fate” is so diabolically strong that we would rather end our own lives than have our perception of control wrested from us.

    Set aside the logical inconsistencies in the idea that killing oneself—an act that permanently destroys one’s ability to make autonomous choices—is truly the ultimate act of autonomy that advocates assure us it is. Even so, it should be obvious that this enshrinement of autonomy as the greatest of goods raises the question of why physician involvement is necessary for anyone—terminally ill or otherwise—to end his or her own life. If preservation of autonomy is our greatest good, then nothing and no one should stand in the way of our exercise of that autonomy.

    Suicide-promotion groups like the Dutch CLW therefore recognize that submitting to the expertise and evaluation of a physician or bureaucratic review board constrains a person’s ability to act autonomously. Sanctioned suicide outside the constraints of the medical establishment is simply the next logical step.

    Preserving Autonomy While Ending Suffering: A Discordant Message

    While other countries have made the dystopian leap to allow non-terminally ill individuals (and even children) to end their own lives, in the United States, PAS advocates seek only to end the lives of the terminally ill—at least for now. American PAS proponents specifically appeal to those with diseases such as terminal cancers with the twofold false promise of a way to “regain” control at the end of one’s life and a way to end suffering on one’s “own terms.” American PAS advocates frame the suffering that these kinds of patients endure as meaningless, presenting assisted death as the truly “compassionate” choice. But PAS advocates not only misuse the word “compassion” (which is from the Latin “com pati,” which literally means “to suffer with”), but in grounding the right to PAS in an individual’s subjective experience of suffering, they open the door to a slippery slope of abuses that will inevitably lead to a general increase in suicides outside the medical establishment’s jurisdiction.

    Indeed, proponents of suicide and opponents of PAS alike should ask how a PAS medical review board could ever adequately assess the degree to which a person experiences suffering. A doctor might employ statistical measures or standardized questionnaires designed to tease out the precise nature of a person’s suffering and then compare it to normative standards. However, to employ such measures and make a yes/no determination on whether the patient should be allowed to kill himself by definition erodes the autonomy of the patient’s decision: it is now no longer the patient’s decision, but a determination made by a third party board of “experts.” Furthermore, to apply normative standards of suffering to an individual case does not capture the individual’s suffering well at all; after all, it applies an objective measure to something that is a purely subjective experience. Even though the downstream effects of suffering can be objectively characterized and subjected to statistical analysis (pain scales, depression ratings, etc.), such measures can never fully capture the patient’s subjective self-view.

    Imagine, for example, that Jane Doe suffers from well-controlled diabetes, but the mental, emotional, and physical anguish of living with her disease causes her such suffering that she desires PAS. By every American PAS law currently on the books, she does not qualify for PAS because her disease (in its well-controlled state) is not terminal in nature; a third party has objectively determined that her subjective suffering is not great enough for her to merit PAS. John Smith, however, has a terminal cancer, but for whatever reason (faith in a higher power, excellent family support, etc.) his suffering has not led him to believe that PAS is necessary for himself. John Smith does qualify for PAS by every American PAS law currently in place, should he so choose. In both cases, a third party has made an objective judgement about the highly subjective suffering of both Jane Doe and John Smith, and as a result, the autonomy of each patient has been infringed by the existence of legalized PAS.

    From these fictional (albeit very realistic) examples, it is clear that if the right to PAS is based on preserving a person’s autonomy and ending a person’s suffering, then organizations such as the Dutch CLW are correct that third parties (doctors and bureaucrats) should have no role in determining a person’s suitability for suicide. In short, by upholding autonomy and the ending of suffering by any means necessary as the greatest of goods, one is pointed away from supporting physician-assisted suicide, and toward simply supporting suicide.

    The Safeguards Cannot Stand

    Once PAS is sanctioned as a legally acceptable means of ending one’s life, it is laughable to insist that the practice of suicide must be kept within the safeguards of the medical establishment. Particularly in the face of the abuses seen in every jurisdiction where PAS and euthanasia are legally sanctioned, it is easy to see that the supposed “safeguards” that aim to protect vulnerable populations from being subjected to euthanasia are flimsy at best. In the Netherlands, medical personnel have euthanized the intellectually disabled and have held down an elderly, demented woman and euthanized her against her will. In Belgium, an elderly, demented women with Parkinson’s disease was euthanized at the request of her family, and, reportedly, a thirty-eight-year-old autistic woman was euthanized without proper documentation after she ended a love affair. In Oregon, officials have granted PAS requests to the depressed without first referring them for psychiatric evaluation. And yet no move has been made by the authorities in any of these jurisdictions to halt the practice of PAS or euthanasia in the face of these incredibly serious abuses. Assisted death is seen as a good so great that even heinous abuses of the system enshrining it in law are not enough to make governments question its legality. So, we must ask, if the logic of assisted-suicide proponents is correct, why is the involvement of the medical establishment required at all?

    The answer, of course, is that it isn’t.

    CLW made this easy jump in logic, and others will soon follow. As long as our culture continues its death march toward assisted suicide for all, more and more people will conclude that everyone has the right to kill himself—by any means necessary.

    Grace Emily Stark is a writer whose work has been featured in multiple outlets including The Linacre Quarterly, Public Discourse, the National Catholic Register, the Federalist, the American Conservative, Aleteia, and Natural Womanhood. Mrs. Stark holds an MA in Bioethics & Health Policy from Loyola University Chicago, and currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son. You can find her collected writings at

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