June 29th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY John Setka, for all his faults, is the perfect scapegoat

FIGHTING FUND NCC president Patrick J. Byrne outlines the goals for 2019

SPECIAL FEATURE Author Rod Dreher brings St Benedict to bear on our decline and fall

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One million protest China's attack on Hong Kong's freedom

GENDER POLITICS Vatican issues document on gender ideology

POLITICS AND SOCIETY New secularist strategies to bury Christianity

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 4: Ancient Jewish view of the cosmos

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal: An account from the live streaming

BANKING FEATURE Greed works ... at least for a while and for a few

IDEOLOGY Feminist claims for equality, Part 2: What feminism should be

IDEOLOGY WARS Roger Scruton and the Tories: a sorry tale

MUSIC Melodic abundance: John, Paul, Duke and Antonio

CINEMA The End: Staging the apocalypse

BOOK REVIEW Scenes from Dante's Inferno

BOOK REVIEW Mrs Gould: she who drew the pictures



NATIONAL AFFAIRS A Q&A to clarify issues in Cardinal Pell's appeal

HUMOUR A Western flop lob-story and that

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Vatican issues document on gender ideology

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, June 29, 2019

On June 10, 2019, the Vatican issued a new document to provide Catholic educators guidance on dealing with gender issues.

The document is entitled, “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education”.

Despite its sometimes rather archaic, theological and philosophical language, which can make it hard to read, the reader can manage to make out statements of the Church’s teaching on the nature of human sexuality:

“The data of biological and medical science shows that ‘sexual dimorphism’ (that is, the sexual difference between men and women) can be demonstrated scientifically by such fields as genetics, endocrinology and neurology.” (p13)

There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated. The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself’ what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But, if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.” (p19)

It also makes statements on the Church’s teaching on family and on parents’ rights and responsibilities in the moral formation of their children:

“The family, seen as a natural social unit which favours the maximum realisation of the reciprocity and complementarity between men and women, precedes even the socio-political order of the state, whose legislative freedom must take it into account and give it proper recognition. … fundamental rights, which stem from the very nature of the family, must always be guaranteed and protected. Firstly, the family’s right to be recognised as the primary pedagogical environment for the educational formation of children. This ‘primary right’ finds its most concrete expression in the ‘most grave duty’ of parents to take responsibility for the ‘well-rounded personal and social education of their children’, including their sexual and affective education, …” This right “… is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others” (pp20–21)

“Schools and local communities are called, in particular, to carry out an important mission here, although they do not substitute the role of parents but complement it.” (p24) And their role must be informed by the principle of subsidiarity: “All other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorisation.” (p24)

These statements should be of assistance to Catholic parents, schools and all those involved in Catholic education.

Call for ‘dialogue’

However uncertainty is introduced when the Congregation states that the “path of dialogue … appears the most effective way towards a positive transformation of concerns and misunderstandings, as well as a resource that in itself can help develop a network of relationships that is both more open and more human.” (p29) “More open and more human” than what? What does this mean? And who is to be included in this dialogue?

Then there is the statement that Catholic teachers (“formators”) have the mission to “teach (students) sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication.” (p30) What is meant by “different expressions of love” that students are to be taught to have “sensitivity” to? At the very least this introduces uncertainty and can be interpreted in different ways.

Stan Zerkowski, executive director of Fortunate Families, a Kentucky-based Catholic organisation that is trying to build a bridge between the Church and the LGBTIQ community, sees the new document as an opening:

“I think that document shows that the Church is evolving,” he said. “I see it as a step forward in terms of dialogue. While it can appear condemnatory, it opens the door toward communication.

“I wish the document had embraced every sister and brother the way they are, but for sisters and brothers that are out there experiencing something that is not yet understood, this document helps enable discussions about the language used and the things not fully understood.”

Fr James Martin SJ comments on the statement: “The congregation’s new document should be praised for its call for ‘listening’ and ‘dialogue’. The subtitle is important: ‘Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education’. It is an explicit call for dialogue, which all should welcome. It speaks of a ‘path’, which indicates that the Church has not yet reached the destination (my emphasis). It focuses on the ‘question’ of gender theory in education, which leaves some degree of openness …

“This traditional view, however, is contradicted by what most biologists and psychologists now understand about both sexuality and gender. These contemporary advances in understanding human sexuality and gender have been set aside by the Congregation in favour of a binary understanding of sexuality. … it ignores the real-life experience of LGBT people.

“If more people had been included in the dialogue, the Congregation would probably find room for the now commonly held understanding that sexuality is not chosen by a person but is rather part of the way that they are created.”

These views indicate uncertainty around “listening” and “dialogue”. Does the “path for dialogue” allow for the idea that Catholic position on human sexual identity can “evolve” – that the Church’s teaching is not true and correct?

Two clarifications

While the Vatican statement deal with gender ideology, it does not mention gender dysphoria, which was diagnosed as a body identity, psychological disorder (like anorexia) long before the ideology came into existence in the 1990s. Further, it does not explain that the rare cases of intersex condition are not evidence of transgender, whereas the Intersex Society of North America says intersex is a disorder of sexual development, and insists that it not evidence of a third sex or gender.

Had the document made these matters clear, it would have reinforced its position that the “path to dialogue” meant “to promote the realisation of man and woman” (p29), and it would have narrowed any space for those who are now attempting to interpret the words “path to dialogue” to mean that the Church has not yet reached a destination, not yet made a judgement, on this issue.

As the statement says: “Catholic schools must … treat each person with the maximum of respect. This can be achieved through a way of accompanying that is discrete and confidential, capable of reaching out to those who are experiencing complex and painful situations.”

Such support and assistance, to truly love and respect the child or young person, must include taking note of the very real dangers/harm of transitioning gender. Catholic schools must inform themselves of the well-documented dangers and risks.

There are very good reasons not rush into social or medical transitioning treatments for children or young people:

(a) The desistance rates for children with gender dysphoria who do not transition are very high. Why should the option of assistance to “wait and see” – rather than supporting a child to gender transition – be the only option not freely available?

(b) Detransitioning is common.

(c) There are known dangers of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones:

  • There is evidence that puberty blockers effect a child’s growth and bone development.
  • The effects of puberty blockers are not fully reversible.
  • There is research showing puberty blockers have an effect on brain development.
  • Infertility: People who medically transition gender will require a permanent regime of sex hormone suppressants to maintain the appearance of the opposite sex. This renders them infertile and there is no guarantee this can be reversed.
  • Suicide: Medical transitioning raises the choice later to have gender reassignment surgery, which carries a highly increased risk of suicide: “A 30-year follow-up study of transgender post-operative patients from Sweden found that the rate of suicide among post-operative transgender adults was nearly 20 times greater than that of the general population.”
  • Psychological co-morbidities. Most children and teens with gender dysphoria also have multiple other psychological issues. The danger is that these co-existing psychological conditions (such as anxiety and depression) will be overlooked or go untreated if the gender dysphoria alone is the focus and priority in the treatment of these children and young people.

If schools support gender transitioning at school and a child suffers harm such as described above, then the school could be legally liable for that harm to the child.

There has already been a case in Victoria brought against the Monash Medical Centre Gender Dysphoria Clinic and practitioners there by a man who had gender reassignment surgery and suffered mental trauma and the physical damage of never being able to have sex again.

East German athletes have already sued for the damage they suffered as a result of taking testosterone, given to enhance their athletic performance. Testosterone is used in female-male gender transitioning. Who will be responsible?

If schools support gender transitioning at school, then they will risk being a party likely to be held responsible.

The statement points out (on p26) that: “Catholic educators need to … be fully informed about both current and proposed legislation in their respective jurisdictions.” It is important that legislative protections for faith-based schools that allow these schools freedom to make decisions to preserve the values and ethos of the school be retained.

In Australia, it is unlawful under state and federal laws to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are protected attributes, which means one cannot discriminate against another person on these grounds.

However, Section 38(3) of the federal Sex Discrimination Act provides an exemption for an “educational institution that is conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed, if the first mentioned person so discriminates in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion or creed”.

Most state anti-discrimination laws have similar provisions.

So, currently the law does not require religious or faith-based schools to support students to transition gender at school if it is not in accord with the tenets or doctrines of their faith.

Catholic schools do not wish to discriminate but wish to conduct the edu­cation of students consistent with the doctrines and tenets of the Church and to provide true pastoral care to students with the long-term welfare of the student as the guiding principle.

Most children will grow out of gender dysphoria and the necessary supports for children to do this should be encouraged. Catholic schools need counsellors to whom they can refer families for such support.

Exemptions in anti-discrimination laws, federal and state, currently provide the Church and the Catholic education system the opportunity to work out protocols/policies for Catholic schools around issues of sexual identity which are clearly in accord with the Church’s teachings on the truth and meaning of human sexuality. This would offer true hope to students and their families facing difficulties or challenges in relation to their sexual or gender identity.

Catholic schools need specialists (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatric endocrinologists) to whom they can refer children and young people presenting with gender dysphoria (and their parents) to assist the child or young person to resolve their feelings of distress and to affirm their biological/birth sex.

The other group who must be involved in the “dialogue” recommended by the Congregation for Catholic Education are parents. Most parents who send their children to faith-based schools do so because they want their children in an environment that reflects their religious and moral beliefs and values.

Others who are not religious nevertheless also want their children to be educated in an environment that reflects their traditional beliefs and values around sexuality and relationships.

Not only the parents of children who may be experiencing distress around their gender but the parents of all the other children in the school must be included in the dialogue. Their voices should be heard as to how it affects them and their children and therefore their families.

What about the parents of a child who is confused because another child is transitioning at school, or a boy who identifies as a girl wears the girl’s uniform and uses the girl’s toilets?

The Congregation for Catholic Education statement does state the Catholic teaching on gender but the “path of dialogue” introduces some uncertainty about exactly what that dialogue means when it comes down to guidelines for schools. The dialogue, to be authentically Catholic, surely must be engaged in within the parameters of Catholic teaching, yet this is not clearly stated.

Is the Church to conform to the world on these fundamental issues rather than it be the Church offering a confused and hurting world the strength of its teaching on the truth and beauty of human sexual identity?

Catholic schools (and indeed all faith-based schools) need to develop clear protocols for handling issues of gender, which the protections provided by the exemptions in anti-discrimination laws in Australia at least currently allow them to do.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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