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US bishops’ doctrine committee: Catholic health care services must not perform transgender procedures

March 21, 2023

The US bishops’ Committee on Doctrine has issued a 14-page Doctrinal Note on the Moral Limits to Technological Manipulation of the Human Body.

After referring to proposals for “cybernetic enhancement,” the bishops stated:

What is widely in practice today, however, and what is of great concern, is the range of technological interventions advocated by many in our society as treatments for what is termed “gender dysphoria” or “gender incongruence.” These interventions involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient’s body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof. In the case of children, the exchange of sex characteristics is prepared by the administration of chemical puberty blockers, which arrest the natural course of puberty and prevent the development of some sex characteristics in the first place.

These technological interventions are not morally justified either as attempts to repair a defect in the body or as attempts to sacrifice a part of the body for the sake of the whole. First, they do not repair a defect in the body: there is no disorder in the body that needs to be addressed; the bodily organs are normal and healthy. Second, the interventions do not sacrifice one part of the body for the good of the whole. When a part of the body is legitimately sacrificed for the sake of the whole body, whether by the entire removal or substantial reconfiguration of a bodily organ, the removal or reconfiguring of the bodily organ is reluctantly tolerated as the only way to address a serious threat to the body. Here, by contrast, the removal or reconfiguring is itself the desired result.

Instead, rather than to repair some defect in the body or to sacrifice a part for the sake of the whole, these interventions are intended to transform the body so as to make it take on as much as possible the form of the opposite sex, contrary to the natural form of the body. They are attempts to alter the fundamental order and finality of the body and to replace it with something else. (nos. 14-16)

“Catholic health care services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures,” the bishops continued. “They must employ all appropriate resources to mitigate the suffering of those who struggle with gender incongruence, but the means used must respect the fundamental order of the human body. Only by using morally appropriate means do healthcare providers show full respect for the dignity of each human person” (no. 18).

The Doctrine Committee is chaired by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville (TX), whom Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, recently named to the seven-member preparatory commission for the Synod of Bishops in October.

“With the release of the USCCB document on Catholic healthcare directives for people with gender dysphoria, including transgender people, it’s important to hear from transgender Catholics themselves,” Father James Martin, SJ, tweeted in response, as he shared a “most compelling” story by a man who had been married for 29 years, with two children, and who now identifies himself as a “transgender Catholic woman.”


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