Pope Francis Defends Human Nature Against Gender Radicals

Disappointing progressives yet again, Pope Francis has now condemned contemporary gender theory as denying “the order of creation.” In an interview published in a new book, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills, by Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, (portions of which were also published last month in the Italian daily La Stampa), Pope Francis appears to reject the postmodern conceptualization of gender as a moveable point along a spectrum that is fluid and changeable. He does not accept the progressive claim that gender is socially constructed rather than God-given and instead appears to embrace gender in a traditional “binary” category of male and female. For progressives, this is heresy.

Because of his unwillingness to view gender as malleable—and shaped by the will of the individual, The Daily Beast has denounced Pope Francis as having a habit of “dissing women and marginalizing sexual minorities.”   Pointing to the pontiff’s interview in which he states that requiring schools to teach children only the modern theories of gender is “comparable to the educational policies of Hitler and the destructive possibilities of the nuclear arms race,” The Daily Beast concludes that the Pope’s denunciation of the “academic perspective that sees gender identities as a spectrum … has important ramifications for how we think about biology and sexuality … the recognition that gender exists on a spectrum has provided part of the intellectual foundations for both LGBTQIA advocacy and women’s rights.”

Indeed, this is exactly what the Pope is denouncing. Pope Francis, like Pope Benedict XVI, is condemning the progressive march to destroy the natural moral law that maintains the order of creation—the natural order. Pope Francis, like Benedict, maintains—as the Catholic Church has always maintained—that people may not change what Benedict has called “their very essence.” In a speech at the Vatican on December 23, 2008, Pope Benedict directly addressed transgender issues by cautioning Catholics about “destroying the very essence of the human creature through manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices.” Pope Benedict warned that “when the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God.” In December, 2012, Pope Benedict reiterated this message when he decried same-sex “marriage” as a “manipulation of nature.”

For Pope Benedict, attempting to manipulate the nature of the human being leads to a “self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator,” and likewise, for Pope Francis, gender theory does not recognize the order of creation: “With this attitude man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator. The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate…. The design of the Creator is written in nature.”

 

That is the real problem for progressives: the idea that anything is “written in nature” is repellent to them. In fact the very concept of “human nature” is so repellent to progressives that when Sally Mason, President of the University of Iowa recently said that “given human nature it is unrealistic to think that we will never have another sexual assault,” she was roundly derided and has had to offer public penance by holding “listening post” so that students could air their grievances. Yet, it was not too long ago that most philosophers, sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists actually believed—like the classical Greek philosophers and the Catholic Church—that a good human life was the one in accord with nature. It was uncontroversial that human nature was the source of ways of thinking, feeling and acting that occur “naturally”—independently of the influence of culture. Human nature was traditionally viewed as a source of norms of conduct as well as a way of presenting obstacles or constraints on living contrary to one’s nature. But, aside from some evolutionary and developmental psychologists, the idea of a fixed nature is now taboo in academia.

For the Church to continue to maintain that we cannot “manipulate” the essence of a human being puts her once again in the uncomfortable position of being “out of step” with the culture. While Church teaching allows for the possibility of a biological reason for gender identity disorder, it also accepts other possible dimensions to this disorder—a sociological dimension and a psychological dimension—that can never be addressed through cross-dressing or surgical intervention.

But, in the secular world, it has become heretical even to suggest such a thing. In fact, it has become heretical even to suggest that we should not be celebrating the LGBTQ movement. Last year, Parker Molloy pointed out in the LGBTQ publication The Advocate—well before the latest interview over gender in La Stampa—that “the Pope [Francis] has never tone corrected the Church’s views on transgender individuals.” Pointing to what Molloy called Pope Benedict’s “anti-transgender statements,” Molloy faults Pope Francis for “not saying a word in defense of transgender people…. Why has he remained silent in our plight?”

Likewise, The Advocate’s Stevie St. John appears bewildered by Pope Francis’s “lack of policy changes and critical statements about same-sex marriage and nontraditional families.” Claiming that the bishops’ meeting last year initially seemed “promising for LGBT inclusion,” St. John cites the fact that the New Ways Ministry—the ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics—was “given VIP seats near Pope Francis for the pontiff’s weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square” as harbinger of good things to come for the LGBTQ community. But, now, St. John seems genuinely disappointed that things have not turned out the way he had hoped.

In 2013, a Colorado school district was accused of discriminating against a six year old boy because it would not allow him to use the girls’ bathroom. According to a report by the state’s Civil Rights Division released by the family’s attorney, the child has “identified as female since an early age,” and has attended school as a girl since kindergarten. He used the girls’ restroom in kindergarten since late 2012 when the principal informed the parents that little Coy would have to use the boys’ restroom or a gender neutral staff lavatory. Coy’s parents withdrew him from school and filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

These kinds of lawsuits will be coming to a Catholic school soon. K-12 textbooks are already normalizing gender theory—in the same ways that Pope Francis has decried as an example of the educational policies of Hitler—but in a federalized educational system that has reached into the Common Core classrooms of even Catholic schools, parents will have little say in the matter. Proponents of gender identity theory say they are the vanguard of a new civil rights movement. If critics are not vigilant in their opposition, the gender revolutionaries will march through the culture leaving many ruined lives in their wake.

Anne Hendershott

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Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

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