Pushback has continued against transgender-negative remarks made by Pope Francis during his meeting two weeks ago with Poland’s bishops.
Francis expressed concern about schools teaching children they could choose their gender, the 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 here. For an insightful alternative view on the pope’s remarks, click here.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) said it “laments the recent words of Pope Francis” and “regrets the lack of empathy” within them. GNRC’s statement continued:
“[Especially when] he mentioned Benedict XVI´s verdict that ‘we are living in an age of sin against God the Creator’, in reference to a conversation they previously had on gender issues. Such a statement, related to transgender and intersex people, does not express God’s love for those people, Catholic or not, who are usually and constantly questioned by the society, the Church and their families, for being whom they are. It might even be seen as reinforcing the condemnation and bullying of [transgender and intersex] people, even though the Pope surely did not intend it to be so.”
GNRC said it prayed for greater understanding from the church, offering its help in facilitating that process as all “walk the same path for a more truthful merger between our faith and our sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
Journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams, noting the conflicted relationship some progressive Catholics have with this pope, wrote at Salon:
“Ever since becoming pope three years ago, Francis has had a confusing relationship with the LGBT community. . .So what does one do with a leader who’s better than others in the past, but still not nearly good enough?”
Catholic feminist Celia Wexler described Francis as “the pope of two minds” for The Huffington Post, writing:
“Time and time again, Pope Francis reveals the clash of two sides of the same man: the Pope of love and tolerance versus the Pope who closes the door on the possibility of change, and sees the world through the eyes of a 79-year-old celibate cleric. . .The Pope’s discomfort with changing attitudes, and emerging science, about gender identity keeps his instinct for generosity and kindness in check. Having Benedict reinforce that streak in his successor is very disillusioning.”
Pamela Valentine, the mother of a transgender son, wrote a letter to the pontiff on her blog, Affirmed Mom. Saying she would give Francis the benefit of the doubt, Valentine interpreted the pope’s words as if they were a mistake. She wrote:
“Last week, you announced that school children were being allowed to choose gender. I prefer to think you meant forced. And you are correct.
“All people in our modern society are forced to choose gender, to pick a team, from birth on. . .And so you took a stand. You said, enough. Stop forcing our children to choose, stop dressing them up as exaggerations of some idealized version of what men and women should look like. Stop thrusting them into roles that they don’t understand, don’t want, or don’t fit. Because Adam didn’t wear pants in the Garden of Eden and Eve didn’t wear a dress and make up. You know what they wore? Absolutely nothing and that’s exactly how God wanted it.
“I know that many will leap to defend your accusations that I let my child choose. Only I know that you’re smart enough to know that nobody gets to choose their gender. . .For you to make any other claim about your gender means that you do not understand it, and I would certainly hope the leader of a major religion would not speak on matters he didn’t understand.”
Valentine concluded by noting that her trans son expresses an interest in becoming Catholic, knowing love from Jesus and being affirmed by his family. She challenged Pope Francis “to expose a gross oversimplification of gender in our world. . .to change the world and make it better for future generations.”
Finally, Eliel Cruz, the executive director of Faith in America, told Edge Media Network:
“It is incredibly naïve Pope Francis believes the image of God is anything close to binary. . .In believing that God is only represented in male or female, Pope Francis is effectively eliminating the diversity and complexity of the image of God. Francis also ignores the reality of intersex individuals in his complementary lens. Pope Francis is denying the full image of God when he denies the transgender community.”
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of gender identity issues in the Catholic church, visit the “Transgender” category on the right-hand column of this page or click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry