Liberal Catholics Criticize Vatican Document Reaffirming Church Teaching on Marriage and Gender

News: Commentary
by Ryan Everson  •  •  June 11, 2019   

Media, Fr. James Martin, New Ways Ministry take shots at Church teaching

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Monday, the Vatican released an official document criticizing liberal "gender theory" and affirming the Church's position on LGBT topics. Many mainstream media and liberal Catholic outlets, including New Ways Ministry and America magazine, have criticized the document for being "harmful" and "ignoring new scientific understandings of gender identity."

The document, titled "Male and Female He Created Them," was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi and Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the prefect and secretary (respectively) of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The statement begins by acknowledging the presence of "new anthropological theories" that have become increasingly popular in the secular culture.

The document affirms the exact same positions on marriage and gender that the Catholic Church has always held. To call this position 'a step backwards' is laughable.

"According to such theories, the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families," the document states.

Later, the document addresses the secular ideology that has portrayed gender as a changeable and non-binary characteristic chosen by the individual.

The document states:

In a growing contraposition between nature and culture, the propositions of gender theory converge in the concept of "queer," which refers to dimensions of sexuality that are extremely fluid, fexible, and as it were, nomadic. ... This has led to calls for public recognition of the right to choose one's gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The New York Times described the document as "a significant step backward" because it did not present a "more inclusive and understanding approach to L.G.B.T. people." But this critique is misguided on multiple counts.

First, the document affirms the exact same positions on marriage and gender that the Catholic Church has always held. To call this position "a step backwards" is laughable. The Church did not step backwards. In fact, the Church stepped nowhere at all by staying in the exact same place it has always been on these issues.


Secondly, the document did couch its strong theological statements with some more pastoral language. The document laudably issued a clear directive to "combat all expressions of unjust discrimination" as well as the necessity to "respect every person ... so that no one should suffer bullying, violence, [and] insults." Any critique that the document was too cold is simply off the mark.

However, this did not stop New Ways Ministry, a "Catholic" group known for supporting unorthodox liberal teachings, from condemning the statement.

New Ways Ministry said in a Monday statement:

The Vatican's new document on gender identity, "Male and Female He Created Them," is a harmful tool that will be used to oppress and harm not only transgender people, but lesbian, gay, bisexual people, too. By ignoring new scientific understandings of gender identity, and by refusing to engage in dialogue with LGBT people about their lived experiences of self-understanding and faith, the Vatican remains in the dark ages, promoting a false teaching that relies on myth, rumor, and falsehoods.

New Ways Ministry claims their unorthodox liberal views on sexuality are supported by "new scientific understandings," but oddly, its statement did not provide any sources for these claims.

The New Ways Ministry statement continues:

The Vatican maintains the idea that gender is determined solely by visible genitalia, which contemporary science has shown is and incorrect and harmful way to categorize people. ... People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims: they discover it through their lived experiences. The Church should respect and encourage this process of discovery.

While the Church should certainly respect the inherent dignity of all human people, the "discovery" of fictitious genders, and the sexual promiscuity that frequently accompanies LGBT culture, is obviously not something any rational Catholic can expect the Vatican to condone.

America magazine subtly tried to discredit the document by noting that Pope Francis did not sign his own name on the document.

"[N]owhere is it said that Pope Francis has seen or approved the document. This would suggest that the text ... is not meant to be seen as a final answer on this controversial subject" America wrote. This is an odd comment, as the document is a statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education, not a papal encyclical, and there was no reason to expect Pope Francis to sign his own name on it.

Furthermore, speeches and encyclicals from Pope Francis himself are clearly cited throughout the document. For America to claim these particular teachings are not a "final answer" would be to reject the words of Pope Francis himself.

Science supports the Catholic position on these issues.

Predictably, Fr. James Martin also weighed in on the matter by taking to Twitter, where he claimed the document "will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn't even exist."

Father Martin continued, "The document is mainly a dialogue with philosophers and theologians, and with other church documents; but not with scientists and biologists, not with psychologists, and certainly not with LGBT people, whose experiences are given little if any weight."

Father Martin repeating New Ways Ministry's claim that the document rejects science (again, without citing any evidence) is odd and foolish. Contrary to these claims, science supports the Catholic position on these issues.

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said changing one's sex is "physically impossible" as fake genitalia cannot change an immutable biological characteristic, such as the sex chromosomes in every cell of the body.

"This shouldn't be controversial," Anderson says. "Sex is understood this way across sexually reproducing species. ... Farmers and breeders rely on this easy distinction for their livelihoods. It's only recently, and only with respect to the human species, that the very concept of sex has become controversial."

The Vatican may have released a new statement yesterday. However, there is nothing new about it, and sadly, there's nothing new with unorthodox Catholics on the Left trying to change infallible Catholic teachings either.

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