Parents beware: A Catholic statement against gender ideology
I’m a Catholic of the Diocese of Arlington, and on Friday Bishop Michael Burbidge called our attention to a new statement issued by the Diocese, entitled “A Catechesis on the Human Person & Gender Ideology”. Indeed, gender ideology has also been strongly criticized by Pope Francis, not only in several addresses but in his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation following the synods on the Family, Amoris Laetitia (see no. 56), and his 2015 encyclical on the environment Laudato Si (see no. 155). It has not, however, been a major focus of his teaching documents which, it must be admitted, tend to emphasize concerns far more popular in the secular world.
Consequently, in those regions plagued by gender ideology, there has been considerable need for bishops to speak out clearly against it, and indeed to teach anew the profound Christian understanding of the human person, which is rooted in God’s disclosures in both natural law and Divine Revelation. It is vital that such statements be firmly grounded in a proper understanding of the God-given nature, dignity, and ends of the human person. I am not sure how many dioceses around the world have issued significant statements on the problem. But this new statement authorized by Bishop Burbidge in Arlington is the best I’ve seen. It fills an important need.
It is not a long statement—probably in the range of 4,000 words—but it is firmly rooted in the given nature of each human person as either male or female, possessed of both natural and supernatural destinies which inhere not only in their human nature but in the complementarity of their given sexual identity. God has made each one of us not only for ourselves and each other but for Himself as recipients of his infinite love, which unites us with Him in glory. Every insecurity, discontent, self-doubt, temptation and sin we may experience is both a consequence of Original Sin and an opportunity to turn to God in a redeeming dependence and love.
The deliberate promotion of self-doubt and discontent with our given natures is, of course, a serious violation of the good of the person. It fosters not only estrangement from God but many forms of confusion, self-abhorrence, abuse, personal mutilation, and despair. Moreover, it is perhaps the supreme temptation of Satan to regard ourselves as autonomous creators of our own being, sole architects of our own destiny, determined to undermine, distort and reject the goods of which we have been made stewards.
In a lighter vein, one is reminded of the eager modern mother who told her little daughter again and again that she could be anything she wanted when she grew up, and kept asking her what she wanted to be. The child finally answered, “I think I would like to be a horse.”
The point is that both sanity and personal happiness lie along the path of recognizing that who we are, in the full dimensions of our human nature and our human destiny, is a precious and prodigious gift—without which we would simply not exist. We find our joy in recognizing and responding to our Creator, who infinitely loves each of us the way He has made us, and yearns to fulfill us completely by drawing us to Himself. We can never find happiness through alienation—through a rejection of what we were deliberately made to be by God, and the rejection of the perfect love we are now invited to share.
In the introduction to this catechesis on the human person and gender ideology, the text roots the discussion in the very nature of things, explains “gender dysphoria” as a psychological condition, and points out that “in responding to [such problems] justly and charitably, one cannot deny or obscure the truth of our created nature and human sexuality. Indeed, charity always requires the clear presentation of the truth.” The longest section of the document is entitled “Goodness/Gift of the Human Person and Human Sexuality”. There follows brief sections on our transcendent purpose, our wounded human nature, gender dysphoria, and the witness of science. These sections outline a proper cognitive understanding of the entire problem.
Then the text goes on to discuss how the Christian must respond to these realities, and offers advice on the use of language (e.g., “the faithful should avoid using ‘gender-affirming’ terms or pronouns that convey approval of or reinforce the person’s rejection of the truth”). The document closes with specific guidance for clergy, catechists and teachers; for parents; and for those struggling with gender dysphoria.
In addition to the 24 footnotes, there is a “Further resources” section which lists sources of support (including Courage and EnCourage, Partners for Ethical Care, the Sex Change Regret website, and the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine. There is also a list of sources for further information which leads to, among other things, the American College of Pediatricians and the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
Schools: A special challenge
I hope it comes as no surprise that, with the advent of gender ideology, the so-called culture wars have escalated beyond anything most of us imagined even a generation ago. This is true throughout the information and entertainment industries, throughout corporate America, and throughout government. This dramatic escalation of the culture wars was already foreseen by Pope St. Paul VI in 1968 when he issued his key encyclical, Humanae Vitae. But the problem is particularly acute for parents of children who are still in school.
While the Arlington document encourages parents of public school children to remain alert to the threats posed by gender ideology in the public schools, I would go much farther at this stage and state what should have been obvious to good Catholics fifty years ago: It should be one of the highest priorities of parents either to homeschool their children or to send them to (faithful) Catholic schools, if necessary moving to a location where this is possible. Moreover, they must make sacrifices and seek whatever financial help they need to provide their children with a sound education in a healthy environment.
As the Arlington Catechesis points out, Pope Francis had already said in 2016 that “today children—children!—are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this?” In another statement in 2017, Francis emphasized: “Let us not play with truths…. Let us call things by their names.” Insofar as Catholic parents send their children to public schools, as a general rule they are subjecting them to constant indoctrination in falsehood. Gender ideology is only the latest in a long line of falsehoods that are deliberately inculcated in children through state-controlled education.
Grandparents and other close relatives with few or no children need to help struggling families in this regard, as do parishes, dioceses and Catholic foundations. Moreover, provisions in some states which support home schooling need to be used constructively by Catholic families to ensure that their children are not raised in a network of ideologies, falsehoods, lies, statistics, and damn lies. Meanwhile, parents must do their best to protect their children against the worst excesses of a depraved education.
The old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song “Teach Your Children” is very catchy, and mostly stupid. But a large part of the Final Judgment of parents will surely depend on whether they really did make serious sacrifices to “teach your children well”—and to keep them out of the hands of those who inculcate and enforce lies. After all, the greatest danger is not that we must suffer under yet another ideology. The greatest danger is that we will believe it.
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Posted by: chapman18668 -
Aug. 18, 2021 1:58 PM ET USA
Good article and glad to read about this, but the title is quite misleading. I kept waiting to read about why we should beward of this particular statment but that actually was not what the context was about.
Posted by: miketimmer499385 -
Aug. 18, 2021 11:43 AM ET USA
The revival of Catholic elementary education has been my ardent wish for the last 20 years. You could not have made a more comprehensive and compelling plea. The sacrifices will probably be judged too great by the majority of Catholics with varying degrees of receptivity to the perils you've identified. The continual debauchery of the dollar will make the prospect of the financial success of this project marginal. I'm all in for trying and pray for all who will likewise support the revival.
Posted by: FredC -
Aug. 17, 2021 6:19 PM ET USA
The roots of the gender problem go back 500 years, when philosophers first claimed that truth (what is real) is found in the mind, not in the world outside of us. They didn't imagine today's idea that if you think you are female, you are female.