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Another confusing papal statement, this time on gender ideology

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 04, 2016

Another papal trip, another in-flight press conference, another statement to confuse and dismay the faithful.

Last Saturday, in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Holy Father denounced gender ideology in ringing terms. “Today there is a world war to destroy marriage,” he said, and gender theory is an important part of it. He urged the people of Georgia to resist such “ideological colonizations which destroy—not with weapons but with ideas.” Strong words, these; the Pope took an uncompromising stand on a controversial question.

Then the next day he backed away from that stand. In fact, in his off-the-cuff exchange with reporters on the flight back to Rome, he showed himself willing to give gender theorists what they want most: the freedom to change pronouns.

In answer to an American journalist’s question about his condemnation of gender theory, the Pope delivered a convoluted yet revealing reply. (The quotation that follows comes from a verbatim transcript of the interview, translated by the Catholic News Agency.)

Last year I received a letter from a Spaniard who told me his story as a child, a young man, he was a girl, a girl who suffered so much because he felt he felt like a boy, but was physically a girl. He told his mother and the mom…(the girl) was around 22 years old said that she would like to do the surgical intervention and all of those things. And the mother said not to do it while she was still alive. She was elderly and she died soon after. She had the surgery and an employee of a ministry in the city of Spain went to the bishop, who accompanied (this person) a lot. Good bishop. I spent time accompanying this man. Then (the man) got married, he changed his civil identity, got married and wrote me a letter saying that for him it would be a consolation to come with his wife, he who was she, but him!

Pay careful attention to that last line: the Pope’s reference to “he who was she, but him!” Those words are not included in the Vatican press office summary of the interview, but the telling phrase was reported by other news agencies, with only small variations in the translations. The Pope said that a “she” became a “he.” According to the official Vatican summary he introduced the individual, born female, as “a Spanish man.” He accepted the change of sexual identity as a fact.

The Pope went on to say that he had met with the Spanish couple, “and they were very happy.” Nowhere did he suggest that the “he who was she” was a troubled individual, or that he had done anything wrong. Indeed the Pope’s full statement, in response to the reporter’s question, suggested only that it was wrong to teach gender ideology in schools, “to change the mentality” of students. In this case, the Spanish girl apparently made her own decision to manipulate her sexual identity, and the Pontiff registered no objection. He applauded the Spanish prelate who “accompanied him greatly.” Did that bishop urge the girl not to disfigure herself, not to rebel against God’s plan for her life? If he did, Pope Francis did not mention it.

A young girl who is unhappy as a girl surely does need sympathy, support, and loving care. But if she thinks of herself as a boy, she should not be encouraged in that delusion. A girl is a girl, and a boy is a boy, and neither medical procedures nor hormone injections can change that reality.

When God established the human race, the Book of Genesis tells us, “male and female He created them.” The distinction between male and female identity is the great divide, which is an integral part of God’s plan—not just for humanity as a whole but for each and every one of us.

So what happened in the case of that unfortunate Spanish girl? Did God make a mistake? The suggestion is ludicrous if not blasphemous. Then did she rebel against God’s plan? If so, she certainly needs pastoral help, but definitely not encouragement. And the same is true for other confused young people who might hear about this case, and conclude (mistakenly, I’m sure, but understandably) that the Pope would support their decision to change their sexual identities.

Even for those who do not believe in a benign Creator, the sudden rise to power of gender theory should be cause for alarm, because when we are asked to treat a biological female as a man, or a biological male as a woman, we are being asked to deny reality: to say something that we know is not true.

Gender theory is indeed an assault on marriage and the family. It is also an assault on objective truth. In that momentous battle, the defenders of truth and of family life have just been hit by friendly fire.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Bernadette - Oct. 09, 2016 6:06 PM ET USA

    I know Francis is the pope and I am trying to be respectful; but his off-the-cuff comments to reporters on flights are simply that, off-the-cuff opinions and they are caus great damage in the eyes of the world, misunderstandings about the Church and Her teachings, even leading people to sin. If this is what the pope means by "accompaniment," then I want no part of it. Not only is Pope Francis faulty in his theology, but scientifically, as well.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 05, 2016 6:40 AM ET USA

    It is very difficult not to see a pattern. The Holy Father appears simply to restrain himself from communicating repentance clearly. Whether discussing Protestants, Orthodox, Catholic sinners etc- when push comes to shove- the best that can be said is that confusion remains. "Please don't say: 'the Pope sanctifies transgenders.' Please, eh! Because I see the covers of the papers." He admits can he "see" the damage. Sadly, all things considered, it's not at all clear how friendly the fire is.