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Vatican Says Gender Change and Surrogacy Are Threats to Human Dignity

WorldEuropeVatican Says Gender Change and Surrogacy Are Threats to Human Dignity


The Vatican on Monday issued a new document approved by Pope Francis stating that the church believes that gender fluidity and transition surgery, as well as surrogacy, amount to affronts to human dignity.

The sex a person is born with, the document argued, was an “irrevocable gift” from God and “any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.” People who desire “a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes,” risk conceding “to the age-old temptation to make oneself God.”

The document also unequivocally states the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to surrogacy, whether the woman carrying a baby “is coerced into it or chooses to subject herself to it freely” because the child “becomes a mere means subservient to the arbitrary gain or desire of others.”

The document was intended as a broad statement of the church’s view on human dignity, which included the exploitation of the poor, migrants, women and vulnerable people. Though five years in the making, it comes just months after Pope Francis upset more conservative corners of his church by explicitly allowing L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics to receive blessings from priests and by allowing transgender people to be baptized and act as godparents.

While the church’s teaching on culture war issues that Francis has largely avoided are not necessarily new, their consolidation now was likely to be embraced by conservatives for its hard line against liberal ideas on gender and surrogacy.

The document was also likely to cause deep consternation among advocates for L.G.B.T.Q. rights in the church, who fear the document will be used as a cudgel to condemn transgender people, even as it also warned of “unjust discrimination,” especially in countries where they are criminalized and imprisoned and in some cases put to death or face and aggression or violence.

“The Vatican is again supporting and propagating ideas that lead to real physical harm to transgender, nonbinary and other L.G.B.T.Q.+ people,” said Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that advocates for gay Catholics, adding that the Vatican’s defense of human dignity excluded “the segment of the human population who are transgender, nonbinary or gender nonconforming.”

He said it presented an outdated theology based on physical appearance alone and was blind to “the growing reality that a person’s gender includes the psychological, social and spiritual aspects naturally present in their lives.”

The document, he said, showed a “stunning lack of awareness of the actual lives of transgender and nonbinary people” and that its authors ignored the transgender people who shared their experiences with the church and “cavalierly,” and incorrectly, dismissed them as a purely Western phenomenon.

Though the document is a clear setback for L.G.B.T.Q. people and their supporters, the Vatican took pains in it to strike a balance between protecting personal human dignity and clearly stating church teaching, reflecting the tightrope Francis has tried to walk in his more than 11 years as pope.

Francis has made it a hallmark of his papacy to meet with gay and transgender Catholics and has made it his mission to broadcast a message for a more open, and less judgmental, church. But he has refused to budge on the church rules and doctrine that many gay and transgender Catholics feel have alienated them, revealing the limits of his push for inclusivity. The church teaches that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

The Vatican acknowledged that it was touching on hot button issues, but said the Vatican argued that in a time of great tumult around these issues, it was essential, and it hoped beneficial, for the church to restate its teachings on the centrality of human dignity.

“Some topics may resonate more with some sectors of society than others,” Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who leads the Vatican’s office on doctrine, wrote in the introduction to the document, “Declaration Dignitas Infinita, on human dignity,” which he said on Monday was of high doctrinal importance, as opposed to the recent statement allowing blessings for same-sex Catholics, and was intended to provide clarity.

“Nevertheless, all of them strike us as being necessary,” he wrote, “so that we may not lose our way and open ourselves up to more wounds and profound sufferings amid the numerous concerns and anxieties of our time.”

Though receptive to gay and transgender followers, the pope has also consistently expressed concern about what he calls “ideological colonization,” the notion that wealthy nations arrogantly impose views — whether on gender or surrogacy — on people and religious traditions that do not necessarily agree with them. The document said “gender theory plays a central role” in that vision and that its “scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts.”

Using “on the one hand” and “on the other hand,” language, the Vatican’s office on teaching and doctrine writes that “It should be denounced as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation.”

“At the same time,” it continued, “the Church highlights the definite critical issues present in gender theory.”

In his introduction, Cardinal Fernández described the long process of the drafting of a document on human dignity, which began in March 2019, to take into account the “latest developments on the subject in academia and the ambivalent ways in which the concept is understood today.”

In 2023, Francis sent the document back with instructions to “highlight topics closely connected to the theme of dignity, such as poverty, the situation of migrants, violence against women, human trafficking, war, and other themes.” Francis signed off on the document on March 25.

The long road, Cardinal Fernández wrote, “reflects the gravity” of the process.



#Vatican #Gender #Change #Surrogacy #Threats #Human #Dignity

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