The Vatican

Church and gender ideology, the reasons why not (and how to fight it)

Recently, Pope Francis has called gender ideology "the worst danger of today". This article reviews some key moments in which the Church has exposed the dangers of this ideology.

Andrea Gagliarducci-March 5, 2024-Reading time: 5 minutes

Couple in front of St. Peter's Basilica ©OSV

Today's worst danger? Gender ideology. These are words of Pope Francis, who emphasized this in his address at the congress "Man and Woman. Image of God" on March 1. The Pope added that he has asked for a study on the topic of gender, but this is nothing new, as Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, has also announced in several interviews that there will be a document on this topic.

But the preoccupation of the Catholic Church with the question of gender ideology is not only of now. Among other things, because for years the question of sexual orientation has been included, more or less directly, in international conventions that should have nothing to do with the question of sexual or gender orientation. Because this is how a language is introduced, a point of view, a precedent that will then be used in other documents, to the point of completely changing the meaning of rights and the common good.

The Church againstgender ideologyin diplomacy.

For this reason, the diplomatic battle of the Holy See focuses above all on the details, in order to avoid the appearance in the documents of categorizations that leave aside the human being and his dignity, which comes from being the image of God.

It seems unbelievable, but this issue came to the fore during the debate on the Global Compact on Refugees. The year was 2018. In the discussions of the Standing Committee, which is integrated within the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a document entitled "Update on Age, Gender and Diversity" was included, which copied the terminology found in the draft of the Global Compact on Refugees. The Holy See's concern was that the terminology could be incorporated into the Pact, thus creating a sub-category of refugees defined by their sexual orientation.

It would not be the first time. In 2008, the Holy See succeeded in getting the right to victim assistance included in the International Convention on Cluster Munitions. But a lobby immediately emerged that wanted victim assistance to be defined with respect to sexual orientation. This, after all, had nothing to do with assistance, which is provided without discrimination and without categories.

However, this is the general situation. The Holy See has repeatedly called for a "holistic" approach to the human person, noting that the categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" do not have a clear and consensual definition in international law.

Already in 1995, at the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Holy See had to fight an important diplomatic battle, reiterating that the word "gender" could only be interpreted in the sense of "biological sexual identity, male or female", while discarding any dubious interpretation that would satisfy what was then called "new and different purposes".

It is also a humanitarian issue. When new categories of the human being are defined, even when there is no agreement on the terms and there is no need, the work of the many Catholic or other faith-inspired organizations working in the field is undermined, simply because the rules of the game are given in ambiguous language that has no shared consensus at the international level, and that cannot be shared by these associations.

Therefore, the philosophical and theological questions fall, as always, to diplomatic issues and, therefore, to concrete humanitarian aid.

Catholics in politics and gender ideology

Incidentally, the doctrinal position on gender was reiterated by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2021, when a bill was being debated in Italy that sought a higher penalty for so-called gender discrimination.

On that occasion, the Pro-Life and Family Association had collected several doubts on the subject, raising three questions: whether the laws and proposals against homotransphobia contradicted the faith, Sacred Scripture or Catholic doctrine; whether the Catholic faithful should systematically oppose the approval of these laws; whether Catholic politicians should vote against these laws and publicly position themselves against them.

And the then Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to the questions with a clear answer, dated October 1, 2021: no to gender ideology has been reiterated several times by Pope Francis, and Catholics working in politics are called to oppose bills that go against Christian convictions.

ProVida y Familia also points out that, in countries where similar laws have been passed, the freedom of Christians is at risk. In particular, it cited the case of Pastor John Sherwood, arrested in Great Britain on charges of homophobic statements, and that of Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, under investigation in Spain for homophobia following an interview he gave on sexuality and procreation.

In its response, Doctrine of the Faith recalled that the Pope had already defined in 2017 before the Pontifical Academy for Life as "not correct" the proposal to promote the dignity of persons by radically eliminating "sexual differences", because this proposal would go "simply to eliminate" the difference "by proposing procedures and practices that make it irrelevant to the development of the person and of human relations".

In 2016, Pope Francis denounced together with the Polish bishops the "ideological colonization" promoted also by gender ideology, by which "children are taught that everyone can choose their sex," while in 2015, Francis stressed, addressing the Equipes Notre-Dame, a French movement of conjugal spirituality, that the missionary identity of families is all the more important in a world in which "the image of the family as God intends it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and growth of children, is deformed by powerful adverse projects supported by ideological tendencies."

Also at the general audience of April 15, 2015, Pope Francis referred to this issue wondering if "the so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation that seeks to erase sexual difference because it no longer knows how to deal with it", and even, in 2016, during his trip to Georgia, he said in his meeting with priests that there was "a world war to destroy the family".

No to gender ideology, a compromiseamong religions.

In short, the Church's commitment against gender ideology goes back a long way. And it is such a central theme that it was cited by Benedict XVI in his last greeting address to the Roman Curia on December 12, 2012, when he spoke of the crisis of the family and explained that it could be traced back to the rejection of the original duality of the human creature. Because - Benedict XVI denounced - "in the name of the philosophy of gender" being male and female becomes the product of an individual decision, but "if the duality of male and female does not exist as a fact of creation, then the family no longer exists as a pre-established reality of creation. In the struggle for the family, man himself is at stake. And it is clear that where God is denied, man's dignity is also dissolved. Whoever defends God, defends man".

Therein lies the philosophical and theological root of the response to gender ideology. The Church is not alone in this battle. It is a battle of all faiths. So much so that Benedict XVI, at the time, agreed with what was written by the Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim, who had delivered to the French president and prime minister an essay against the same-sex marriage bill on October 17, 2012.

A paper on gender can only start from here. And it will be a decisive issue.

The authorAndrea Gagliarducci

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