Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director.

Pope Francis’ shocked lament about schools teaching children they can choose their gender says more about the pope’s knowledge of LGBT issues than it does about the reality of gender identity.

Pope Francis at a World Youth Day event

His statement that “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children! – that everyone can choose their gender” reveals a serious blind spot about educational systems and transgender people.  The pope made this comment in a private conversation with Polish bishops during his recent meeting with them during World Youth Day events in Poland. The Vatican just made these remarks public yesterday.

Nobody chooses a gender identity. They discover it. Transgender people come to know themselves in a process is similar to the way that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people discover their sexual orientation.  It is not a choice, but a given. In fact, heterosexual and cisgender people go through the same process.  It’s just that in their cases, the wider culture and society approves and supports their discoveries, and so these self-revelations seem unremarkable.

Pope Francis claimed that this education about gender was happening because influential donors and nations were promoting such education, though the pontiff neglected to identify who he thinks these parties are.  Because he did not identify them, it becomes very suspicious that the pope or the Vatican have any hard evidence to back the claim.

No reputable educational material would talk about gender identity in terms of choice because no reputable scientific source would subscribe to such a claim.

Moreover, most reputable scientific experts say that allowing children to transition in youth is both a physically and psychologically healthy thing for them to do in most cases.  This idea, though, is worlds away from encouraging children to choose their gender. Accepting gender transition in youth is done for children who have consistently and persistently been aware that their true gender did not match their biological sex.  These decisions are not whims, as Pope Francis’ comment implies, but true discernments by child, parents, and medical professionals.  It would be great to add “pastoral counselors” to that list of people, if the Church would just encourage such involvement, as a British monsignor suggested last year.

Labeling this supposed educational material as “ideological colonization,” as Francis has done in the past and which he reiterated at his meeting with the Polish bishops, has the earmarks of fear-mongering, something that is below the higher standard that Pope Francis has established for the way church officials should lead.

Equally troubling were the pope’s endorsement of remarks shared with him by the retired Pope Benedict XVI.  Francis told the bishops “God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite. . . .We must think about what Pope Benedict said — ‘It’s the epoch of sin against God the Creator.’ ”

How can such discovering and affirming one’s gender identity be a sin against God the Creator when what is really occurring is that the person in question is actually affirming and fully living the identity which God created?

The pontiff’s remarks are further evidence that church officials need desperately to educate themselves about the lives and experiences of LGBT people.  Church leaders need to update their understandings of gender identity and sexual orientation.  The best way they can do this is for the Vatican to establish a commission to look into these topics with an open and objective approach.  The commission should include scientific and theological experts, but also LGBT people themselves so that they can share their stories of joy, struggle, and faith with church leaders.  The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics has already called for such a commission, and New Ways Ministry endorses this idea.  Pope Francis recently took the bold step of establishing a commission to examine the possibility of ordaining women as deacons. He can do the same for LGBT issues, too.

Pope Francis has remarked on ideological colonization or gender identity issues before.   His strongest negative remarks about gender identity came in his encyclical on creation, Laudato Si, and his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.   While this latest remark was not his first ill-informed comment, let’s hope it will be his last.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

USA Today: Pope: It’s ‘terrible’ kids taught they can choose gender”

 

 

19 Responses to Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot

  1. Friends says:

    So much for any doctrinal notion of “Papal Infallibility”. This is a shockingly disturbing, and indeed a downright ignorant set of statements — especially coming from a man whom we desperately want to uplift and affirm, because we all sense his underlying goodness of heart and his good intentions. Where do we go from here? The floor is open for positive suggestions.

  2. Luk says:

    The point of the matter is the Pope wasn’t discussing gender identity per se. He was talking about the concept of “Gender theory” (Italian Teoria del Gender), a bogus boogieman that was created by the Catholic Church itself and lumps together gay parenthood, trans* people’s right to identity, feminism and intersex issues and mixes them up on purpose (“they want our children to be born without sex and then they can “choose” what they want to be when they’re older! Do you want this for your children?!”).
    Again, the witchhunt attitude against gays and trans folks of the Catholic Church cannot be understood outside Italy. This is all part of the elaborate scare tactic that culminated in several rallies against teaching sex ed in schools. They’re purposefully creating the equation gay people = child molesters in the vastly uneducated Italian middle class.

  3. John Calhoun says:

    For the popes scientific knowledge never trumps their “natural law” arguments embedded in “papal magisterium” – the nexus between their approved philosophy and theology. An excellent compendium of articles on this topic is “Natural Law and Theology: Readings in Moral Theology No. 7 ,” Charles E. Curran and Richard A. McCormick (eds.), New York: Paulist Press, 1991. – Twenty + years old but still valuable for understanding why you’ll complain again.

  4. SHARON Guild-Stitt says:

    Frank, you wrote& explain things so well. Thx

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE smartphone

  5. Sebastian Fernandez says:

    I agree in that sexuality is a gift and creation of God, and that cannot be “chosen”. Nevertheless the vision of a flexible, individual sexuality exists and is basis for many supporters of different “gender ideologies”. This is what the Vatican sees, and I can understand their full rejection. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160627-i-am-gay-but-i-wasnt-born-this-way

  6. lynne1946 says:

    Let’s pray that with help our Holy Father will recognise that we don’t choose or change our gender, we just have to accept it as what we are given.

  7. Loretta says:

    I find interesting that these comments were made “in a private conversation with Polish bishops” and that “the Vatican made these remarks public”. I don’t discount the overall, long standing ignorance of Catholic hierarchy regarding the mystery and science of sexuality nor am I surprised by what he said. Intention. Is Francis not free to voice his perspective about teaching kids that one can “choose” their gender? If that is happening, I would be opposed as well simply because, as we know, one does not choose sexuality or the gender of their psychological and sexual make-up. There’s nothing really new here, i.e., it wasn’t too long ago and it still exists in some corners the belief that one chooses his/her orientation. My primary point here focuses on the intention of those in the Vatican who made his private comments public. To what end? I think we know their intention. As Michelle Obama recently said, “when they go low, we go high.”

  8. […] DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBT advocacy group, said that the Pope was ignorant about LGBT […]

  9. […] “The pontiff’s remarks are further evidence that church officials need desperately to educate themselves about the lives and experiences of LGBT people,” said New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis De Bernardo. […]

  10. The Pope’s comments will further embolden African prelates, who urge on homophobic heads of state to increase harassment of LGBTQ citizens. Pope Francis is personally very familiar with state terror directed at non conformers. Recall that Father Bergoglio (now our Pope), as Jesuit provincial in Argentina remained silent in the 1979s as the government arrested, tortured and killed Catholic Sunday school teachers, deemed subversive by the authorities. Fr. Bergoglio even sanctioned Jesuit priests, who had been arrested and abused by the Argentine military. Today, in turning against gender nonconformists, Pope Francis knows exactly what he is doing – because he had done it before – inviting brutal, even lethal abuse, to be directed against the defenseless. The Pope’s complaint that gender diversity is “taught” to children by outsiders is as silly as it is demonstrably false.

    • Loretta says:

      He said nothing and knew of their torture and murder?!?!!

      • Loretta, of numerous reports that Father Bergoglio acted against both lay Catholucs and Jesuits, who were being targeted by the Argentine military dictstorsjip, permit me to cite a 2015 item from Commonweal:

        “More on Bergoglio and the Dirty War,” by Charles Kenney, Professor of Political Science University of Oklahoma specializing in Latin America

        “….After much discussion and debate, Bergoglio gave [Jesuit priests, Yorio and Jalics] a letter ordering them to leave the community they were serving within 15 days; Jalics was to be transferred to Germany. Bergoglio told them that their only alternative to leaving the community was to leave the Jesuits. Yorio indicated in writing on March 19 [1976] that this was his intention, but also said he never received a response. Until his arrest he thought he was still a Jesuit and still communicated intensely with Bergoglio. Only after his release and exile in Rome did he find out that Bergoglio had expelled them from the Jesuit Order shortly before their arrest. . . .

        On May 14 five catechists (and two of their husbands) who worked with Yorio and Jalics were arrested and eventually murdered by the regime without it ever acknowledging that it held them. One of these catechists was Monica Mignone, the daughter of former Education Minister and Catholic activist Emilio Mignone. If Bergoglio withdrew his protection, he did so knowing what risks the priests were facing. After their arrest, Yorio and Jalics were interrogated extensively about the catechists. Neither the priests nor any of the seven arrested the week before the priests were ever found to be involved with the guerrillas. None of the seven was ever seen again.

        Bergoglio is accused of blocking the efforts of a sympathetic bishop to receive Yorio and Jalics. The bishop reportedly told others that he was fearful for their lives and sought to protect them, but that even after personally meeting with Bergoglio to plead his case Bergoglio did not cede. . . .

        Yorio and Jalics told others in person and in letters that they thought Bergoglio was responsible for their arrest and that he had told others that Yorio and Jalics were involved with the guerrillas. Other Jesuits told Yorio and Jalics that Bergoglio was responsible. The priests’ beliefs are not evidence that Bergoglio facilitated their arrest, but this does show that they thought the accusation highly credible. . . .

        Bergoglio is accused of having presented to the regime a written petition to renew the passport for Fr. Jalics on December 4, 1979, while Jalics was in Germany and for fear of his life could not return to Argentina. The written petition supports Jalics’ request and carries Bergoglio’s signature. Another document was found attached to the first. It states that Jalics’ passport should not be renewed, and carries the signature of a government official. There is a third document attached that states the following:

        “Father Francisco Jalics:
        Dissolute activity in the women’s religious congregations (Conflicts of obedience)
        Detained in the Naval Mechanical School 5/24/76 [- ] XI/76 (6 months), accused with Fr. Yorio
        Suspected of guerrilla contacts
        They lived in a small community that the Jesuit Superior dissolved in February 1976 and they refused to obey, requesting that they be allowed to leave the Jesuits on March 19; the 2 were expelled, [but] Fr. Jalics not because he had solemn vows.”

        NB: this information was furnished to Mr. Orgoyen (the government official handling the passport renewal request) by Fr. Bergoglio himself, the signer of the original petition, with special recommendation that the petition not be granted. Below this is the signature of Orgoyen.

        In other words, Bergoglio is accused of having acting visibly and in writing to support Fr. Jalics’ petition, and of having acted invisibly and not in writing to undermine his request.

        He is accused of making numerous charges against Jalics, including that he was in contact with the guerrillas. . . .

        Emilio Mignone, whose daughter Monica was arrested a week before Yorio and Jalics, became a leader in the human rights movement in Argentina. He held that Bergoglio had responsibility in her disappearance. His colleague in the human rights movement, Alicia Oliveira, was Bergoglio’s friend and knew of his efforts to help some of those persecuted by the regime, and defended him. Neither knew at the time of the “passport document” discovered only recently, which seems to show Bergoglio acting in defense of Fr. Jalics publicly while undermining and accusing him in secret….

        The concern about Bergoglio’s role cannot be understood while focusing only on two Jesuit priests who survived. It must be understood that Monica Mignone and hundreds of lay church activists like her were brutally tortured and murdered, being guilty of nothing more than serving the poor and thinking the wrong thoughts; that dozens of priests and religious were likewise murdered in Argentina for the same crimes, and that the murderers were praised and blessed for their work by still other priests and religious. . . .

        Bergoglio has said in the past that we should not focus on his public silence, but know that in private he sought to aid the persecuted. He does appear to have helped some of the persecuted, but if the documents uncovered regarding his assistance in getting Fr. Jalics’ passport renewed are an indication of what he did in private, it appears that there may be still another, even more private level at which he acted, and for which he has much to answer.”

        Source:

        “More on Bergoglio and the Dirty War,” by Charles Kenney, Professor of Political Science University of Oklahoma specializing in Latin America

        Source: Commonweal Blog. March 17, 2015
        https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/more-bergoglio-and-dirty-war

  11. The Pope’s comments will further embolden African prelates, who urge on homophobic heads of state to increase harassment of LGBTQ citizens. Pope Francis is personally very familiar with state terror directed at non conformers. Recall that Father Bergoglio (now our Pope), as Jesuit provincial in Argentina remained silent in the 1979s as the government arrested, tortured and killed Catholic Sunday school teachers, deemed subversive by the authorities. Fr. Bergoglio even sanctioned Jesuit priests, who had been arrested and abused by the Argentine military. Today, in turning against gender nonconformists, Pope Francis knows exactly what he is doing – because he had done it before – inviting brutal, even lethal abuse, to be directed against the defenseless. The Pope’s complaint that gender choice is “taught” to children by outsiders is as silly as it is demonstrably false.

  12. […] by Pope Francis that schools are teaching children they can choose their gender, a result of alleged ideological colonization, drew swift and sharp criticism from Catholics and […]

  13. […] Bondings 2.0: “Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot” […]

  14. […] result of alleged ideological colonization, the pope suggested. You can read his initial remarks here, and a first round of reactions to them here.  New Ways Ministry’s response can be read […]

  15. […] by U.S. Catholic, and it is a poignant message in view of Pope Francis’ recent remarks about gender […]

  16. […] did not address LGBT issues in any of his public addresses at World Youth Day, though he did refer negatively to gender issues in a private meeting with Polish […]

  17. […] Bondings 2.0:  “Pope’s Lament About Children and Gender Identity Reveals Serious Blind Spot” […]

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