Eliminating any difference between sexes ‘is not right,’ pope says

| Junno Arocho Esteves | October 5, 2017 | 11 Comments

Pope Francis gestures after addressing the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican Oct. 5. CNS photo/Paul Haring

While societies must find a way to overcome the subjugation of women, pretending there are no differences between men and women or even using technology to change a person’s sex is not the answer, Pope Francis said.

Using science “to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman, is not right,” the pope said Oct. 5, opening the Pontifical Academy for Life’s general assembly.

“The biological and psychological manipulation of sexual difference, which biomedical technology now presents as a simple matter of personal choice — which it is not — risks eliminating the source of energy that nourishes the covenant between man and woman and makes it creative and fruitful,” the pope said.

Pope Francis offered several reflections for the academy’s consideration of humanity’s relationship with technology, particularly in a culture he described as egocentric and “obsessively centered on the sovereignty of man — as a species and as individuals — in relation to all of reality.”

“This approach is not harmless: It forms a person who is always looking at himself in the mirror, who can’t look others, or the world, in the eye,” the pope said. “This approach has negative consequences for all one’s affections and relationships in life.”

Although real scientific and technological progress should “inspire more humane policies,” the pope said that men, women and children today suffer “with bitterness and sorrow from the false promises of technocratic materialism.”

Relationships are essential, he said, noting that God entrusted “creation and history to the covenant between man and woman,” which is seen especially in marriage and the transmission of new life.

But the partnership between men and women goes beyond individual families, he said. “It is an invitation to become responsible for the world, in culture and politics, in the world of work and in the economy, and in the church as well.”

Meeting new challenges “is not simply about equal opportunity or mutual recognition,” he said. “Man and woman are called on not only to speak about love, but to speak to each other, with love, about what they must do to ensure that our lives together can be lived in the light of God’s love for every creature.

“Speak to each other, ally with each other, because neither man nor woman can shoulder this responsibility without the other,” he said.

And, in a culture where some people consider the transmission of new life “a degradation of woman or a threat to societal well-being,” he said, the church is called to affirm new life “as a gift.”

“Generating life gives us new life,” he said, it “makes us richer.”

Compassion for children and the elderly is also crucial, the pope said, because there are “areas of the soul and of human sensitivity that demand to be heard and acknowledged, guarded and appreciated, by individuals and by the community.”

Pope Francis thanked the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life for their commitment to defending the “responsible accompaniment of human life from conception and throughout its years to its natural end” and engaging in dialogue with people and scholars with different views to “bring a more authentic wisdom about life to the attention of all peoples.”

“Open and fruitful dialogue can and must be established with the many who are seeking the true meaning of life,” the pope said.



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Category: From the Pope

  • Dominic Deus

    Dominic Deus here. I love Pope Francis for what he is, not what I want him to be. When I hear him offering a decidedly traditional view of social justice or human relationships, or science and technology, I sometimes need to remind myself is that the has long been a conservative churchman who tempers his faith in action with mercy and special compassion for the poor and the suffering. I love him for that.

    The emerging field of gender studies, encompassing biology, psychology, endocrinology, and many humanistic fields is so new, so revolutionary, and so surprising that no one can be reasonably expected to embrace or understand it all. I certainly don’t expect anything but but caution and skepticism from Francis. I am skeptical on some of the claims myself.

    That doesn’t mean that the Pope is right in all he says or writes. There are times when I wish he would just say nothing for atom but that is not his style. He speaks publicly, spontaneously and does not engage a committee of curia to curate his every word. So we get a Pope who engages as real people do, sometimes from the head, sometimes from the heart, sometimes from God knows where.

    The world doesn’t need nor does mercy suggest a definitive human judgement on transgender human experience. What human experience suggests is that we should all listen more than we talk and render no judgement unless required. We rarely are and it rarely is.

    We belong to a mystical faith and yet so many of us rush to declarations that seek to extinguish mystery. Why? What happened to our faith that it demands certainty?

    • Virginia_Culhane

      “What happened to our faith that it demands certainty?” Nothing has happened. Jesus said “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” That certainty has been there from the beginning. You need not use the political term “conservative.” There is truth, and there is non-truth. There is nothing new under the sun that cannot be judged according to that truth. There are mysteries of the faith, not of sin.

      • Dominic Deus

        Virginia–thank you for you comment. Without readers like you to succinctly illuminate the dimensions of their religious belief, meaningful discussion on the pages of the Catholic Spirit would be impossible.

        I have engaged with many Christian believers on the matter of faith over the years. What I have conclude is there is a great deal of miscommunication over the rather slapdash ay we use the term–or terms.

        There is faith and then there is Faith–or “the Faith.” The latter is a formal but brief terminology that stands in for our religion and the devotion practice thereof. We are all free to choose a Faith or not and to imbue it with whatever qualities we or it requires. Tragically, the history of humanity is filled with examples of devoted Faithful of all beliefs willing to destroy other humans with whom they disagree, but that is discussion for another day.

        Discord arrises in the discussion of faith–the virtue that originates in love, inspires belief, and allows us to to experience the virtue of hope which, in turn allows us to summon the possibilities of how to move forward in knowledge and wisdom, exploring the whole of Creation including the nature of God.

        Notice that this faith is not based on truth or anything to do with truth. It’s origins and driving force is rooted in our humanity, ignorant and unwashed as we are but we still posses love and it is the root virtue, the spark of life, given by God. It is singular. It depends on nothing for its existence but its creator.

        DRAFT***** I’ll finish later, grandaughter just arrived.

        • Charles C.

          Another understanding of faith: after accepting a proposition as true, maintaining that acceptance despite circumstances which make that belief difficult.

          That is not believing without proof, it is being consistent after reaching a conclusion based on evidence.

          “To ‘have faith’ is to believe without proof.” That’s what people do dozens of times each day. We believe that the car on the cross street will stop at the stop sign. We believe that the coffee coming from the vending machine is not contaminated with anthrax. We believe that none of our co-workers will shoot us.

          We have evidence, in the form of past experience, in each of these examples. We accept them as true and live our lives as though they are true. If we start living as though the car will run the stop sign, the coffee is poisoned, and the co-worker will kill us if we don’t strike first, we risk a diagnosis of paranoia.

          Living and believing, on the basis of evidence, in a way that is not shaken by emotion or temptation is “faith,” and is, I believe, the type of faith the Church wants us to have.

          We have to believe without proof, because there are so few things in life that can be proven. `Various philosophers have questioned whether there is any reality at all. All we have, they claim, is what our senses reveal and they can be mistaken, manipulated, or even created as part of a global computer program.

          The questions at the heart of all this are: 1.) Do you accept the evidence that has been made available? 2.) Do you understand what conclusions that evidence points to? 3.) Will you be faithful to those conclusions and live by them? That’s all Jesus asks us.

          The Magesterium, their authority, and truth? Maybe next time.

          • Dominic Deus

            Charles–very well done! I am almost afraid to say to but I am almost in agreement on almost everything! I will read this agin with close attention to what I think and what I think you think and I may have questions.

          • Charles C.

            Dear Dominic Deus,

            You have encouraged me to take what is perhaps my biggest gamble of the year. Here goes.

            I think I understand who you are. No, not your name or profession, you’ve provided that, but what is your core belief, your summum bonum, your driving philosophy, the end in itself. And I think it also applies to Paula Ruddy and many other Catholics.

            I believe that you are driven to relieve human suffering, whether it is material or emotional. All else takes second place to that. If I recall correctly, you said that Jesus’ mission was to inspire us to be loving and caring and to create a better world, (please correct me if I misremember), so you are simply following His marching orders.

            If I’m correct, and that’s why I say this is such a huge gamble, that may be the reason at the root of our disagreements.

          • Dominic Deus

            Dear Charles–I awoke to your generous post which is not only more than I deserve but now challenges me to live up to it. I thank you–with humility. I have a busy day of catching up on procrastinated stuff but will sit down to reply to you this evening. Hope you have a great day!


          • Dominic Deus

            Dear Charles–you are correct but I did such poor job of it earlier that now I feel late to the party.

            Paula speaks for herself, of course, but, in my view, subscribes to all those things and more, and has been acting on them for many years.

            Charles, I am not searching for the root cause of our disagreements. Without you, I would have not been called to account for my opinions and ideas as I have. I witness you as a good person, an intelligent and caring person and a right thinking person. I feel fortunate to have you as a correspondent.

            It is my duty to seek to understand your “situatedness”–that is, what brought you to believe as you do, and my own.
            I cannot claim a legitimate voice if I don’t recognize yours.

            We are engaged in a Great Conversation because that’s what we, as human beings, are meant to do.

            Thank you again for your post.


          • Charles C.

            Dear Dominic,

            Honest, thoughtful, discussion has many benefits. I’m grateful to share those benefits with you.

            It seems like it may be important for me to understand “situatedness” and “legitimate voice.” Now, please let me babble for a bit.

            It may be that situatedness is related to each person’s priorities, or summum bonum. I believe ours are different. That may result in us having different situatedness and coming up with different positions?

            For “legitimate” or “authentic” voices, all I ask is that the person I’m speaking with be able to use logic and reason, and be willing to change their beliefs and conclusion if truth requires it.

            So let’s see where truth leads us. It’s usually a long trip, but worth it.

  • Paula Ruddy

    How does transitioning to another gender eliminate the difference between genders? Is the experience of gender dysphoria really a personal choice? Doing something about it is a choice. I wonder if Pope Francis understands the experience of people who are gender non-conforming. Is his teaching that, no matter the dysphoria, adults who were assigned male or female at birth should mate and have children? Does it matter what their mental and emotional state is as parents? I wish he would consult widely before pronouncing more on this. He has made so many valuable points in this report that I wonder why the focus is on “eliminating the difference between genders.”

    • Charles C.

      Dear Paula Ruddy,

      You bring up several interesting points, may I deal with just one?

      “How does transitioning to another gender eliminate the difference between genders?”

      I agree that the transitioning itself doesn’t eliminate the difference, but we should look at the reason for the change. In some cases the change is based on sincerely held and thought out beliefs about an individual’s sexual identity. Some cases are based on less well thought out motivations.

      Regardless of the reason, the result is that the individual says “I am the sex I think I am.” As we know from activists who have persuaded school boards and organizations, this “gender identity” could change from time to time based on what the person is believing at the moment.

      In short, there is no external or physical evidence which can be relied on (say the activists) to determine sex. Without any evidence of difference which can be observed by an outsider or scientific test, there is no difference. Two things are the same if we can’t detect any difference.

      I agree that people may have different thoughts about their sex, but that doesn’t change the sex itself.