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Catholic World News News Feature

Sex- Change Operations Ruled Invalid by Vatican January 31, 2003

VATICAN, Jan 31, 03 (CWNews.com) -- The Catholic Church cannot recognize the validity of a sex-change operation, the Vatican has declared.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released a secret directive to bishops and religious superiors, indicating that an individual who has undergone a sex-change operation cannot be a candidate for the priesthood or religious life, and cannot enter into a valid marriage. The document also instructs pastors that they should not alter an individual's sacramental record to change the person's gender.

The Vatican document was released in 2000, but its existence and contents were tightly guarded until earlier this month. The directives were reportedly sent at first to papal delegates in each country, and later to the heads of episcopal conferences. Vatican officials confirmed the existence of the document after the Catholic News Service reported on it, but the full text is not available to the public.

The Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains that an individual's physical characteristics-- which can be altered surgically-- constitute only a part of his gender identity. While the body can be changed, the sexual identity cannot, the Congregation says.

The Vatican document indicates that if a bishop or religious superior learns that an individual has undergone a sex-change operation, "that person cannot validly be admitted into a religious institute or society of consecrated life." The document adds that if a transsexual is now living in a religious order, "he must, for the good of souls, be expelled from the religious house."

The Vatican document was reportedly given greater circulation after a query from an American bishop, prompted by a dispute within a religious order in his diocese.

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