“Dear Father, as a parent I am very concerned about the approach taken in some of our schools, even Catholic ones, to children uncertain of their gender. Has the Pope said anything about this?”
Pope Francis has spoken and written about this issue many times and it is good that we be aware of what he has said.
What is more, in February this year the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education issued an important document on the question for the benefit of Catholic schools and other educational institutions. I will write about it in my next column.
One of the strongest statements of Pope Francis comes in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016), where he speaks of gender theory, which “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 programs 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” (n. 56).
Elsewhere in that same document he writes that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it” (n. 285).
In a closed-door session with the bishops of Poland during a visit there in July 2016, Pope Francis said: “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender.” The Pope blamed what he called “ideological colonising” backed by “very influential countries” which he didn’t identify, adding: “this is terrible.”
He told the bishops he had spoken about the issue with Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who said: “Holiness, this is the epoch of sin against God the Creator.”
Pope Francis commented: “He’s intelligent! God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite.”
In an extensive interview with French journalist Dominique Wolton entitled Politics and Society: Conversations with Dominique Wolton, the Pope said: “It’s true that behind all this we find gender ideology. In books, kids learn that it’s possible to change one’s sex. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature? This leads to this error.”
In his encyclical Laudato si (2015) he spoke of a “human ecology” that respects “our dignity as human beings” and the necessary relationship of our life to the “moral law, which is inscribed into our nature” (nn. 154-155).
In November 2014, in an address to the International Colloquium on the Complementarity Between Man and Woman sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of the family formed by a man and a woman for the proper development of children.
“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s growth and emotional development. This is why, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I stressed the ‘indispensable’ contribution of marriage to society, a contribution which ‘transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple’” (n. 66).
And in July 2010, when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires and the Argentine parliament was debating a bill to legalise same-sex “marriage”, he wrote a letter to four monasteries of contemplative nuns in the country asking them to pray that the bill would be defeated.
In it he stated: “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.
“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”