The Vatican considers gender-affirming surgery, surrogacy and gender theory to be violations of human dignity

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Monday declared gender-affirming surgery and surrogacy as grave violations of human dignity, putting them on par with abortion and euthanasia as practices that it said reject God’s plan for human life.
The Vatican’s doctrine office issued “Infinite Dignity,” a 20-page declaration that has been in the works for five years.
But its message was also consistent with the Argentine Jesuit’s long-standing belief that while trans people should be welcomed in the church, so-called “gender ideologies” should not.
In its most eagerly anticipated section, the Vatican repeated its rejection of “gender theory,” or the idea that one’s biological sex can change.
It distinguished between gender-affirming surgeries, which it rejected, and “genital abnormalities” that are present at birth or that develop later.
The document is something of a repackaging of previously articulated Vatican positions, read now through the prism of human dignity.
In a newly articulated position, it says surrogacy violates both the dignity of the surrogate mother and the child.
Francis has ministered to trans Catholics, including trans sex workers, and insisted that the Catholic Church must welcome all children of God.


VATICAN CITY (AP)—On Monday, the Vatican ruled that gender-affirming procedures and surrogacy were grave breaches of human dignity, ranking them alongside euthanasia and abortion as actions that, in its view, contradicted God’s design for human life.

“Infinite Dignity,” a 20-page proclamation that had been in the works for five years, was released by the Vatican’s doctrine office. Pope Francis approved it on March 25 and gave the go-ahead for its publication after it underwent significant revisions in recent months.

Trans Catholics saw the document as a shock, if not a predictable one, coming from a pope who has made reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community a hallmark of his papacy. However, its message aligned with the Argentine Jesuits’ long-held conviction that, although transgender people ought to be accepted in the church, so-called “gender ideologies” ought not.

The Vatican reiterated its denial of “gender theory,” or the notion that a person’s biological sex can change, in the part that was most anticipated. It said that God made man and woman to be biologically distinct, unique creatures and that people should not try to “make oneself God” or tamper with that. “.

The document stated, “It follows that any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.”.

It made a distinction between “genital abnormalities” that are present from birth or develop later, and surgeries that promote gender identity, which it rejected. It stated that those anomalies could be “resolved” with medical assistance.

The document was swiftly attacked by proponents of LGBTQ+ Catholics as being out of date, damaging, and going against the declared intention of acknowledging the “infinite dignity” of every child of God. They cautioned that it might have negative real-world repercussions for transgender persons, escalating prejudice and anti-trans acts.

The statement “does not apply this principle to gender-diverse people, despite laying out a wonderful rationale for why every human being, regardless of condition in life, must be respected, honored, and loved,” was made by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ Catholics.

The Vatican, according to Nicolete Burbach, lead expert in social and environmental justice at the London Jesuit Center, “simply dismisses as supposedly subjecting both the body and human dignity itself to human whims” the document demonstrating queer and feminist approaches to the body. “.

As per Burbach, a trans Catholic theologian who studies transness and the Catholic Church, “I think the main difficulty faced by the document is that it attempts to affirm the church’s authentic commitment to human dignity in the face of a troubling history on the part of the church itself around attacks on that dignity.”.

A close confidant of Francis, Argentine Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirmed the document’s existence in recent weeks, despite it having been rumored since 2019.

After writing a more controversial document that approved blessings for same-sex couples and drew criticism from conservative bishops worldwide, particularly in Africa, Fernández portrayed the document as somewhat of a nod to conservatives.

However, the document specifically targets nations that outlaw homosexuality, including many in Africa, in what appears to be an effort to strike a balance. In a 2023 interview with The Associated Press, Francis stated that “being homosexual is not a crime,” and this suggestion was reinforced. “.

The new document attacks the practice of imprisoning, torturing, and even depriving people of their basic human rights in certain places based only on their sexual orientation, calling it “as contrary to human dignity.”. “.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of the White House stated that President Joe Biden, a devoted Catholic, was “pleased” to see that the declaration “furthers the Vatican’s call to ensure that LGBTQ+ (individuals) are protected from violence and imprisonment around the world.”.

Jean-Pierre emphasized that Biden should not “litigate internal church policy” when it came to the specifics of gender theory. ”.

When questioned about how the pope’s strong belief that gender is fluid “rather than helping to recognize dignity, impoverishes the vision” of a man and woman coming together to create new life, Fernández responded that the welcome for transgender people remained.

From the perspective of human dignity, the document reads like a repackaging of previously stated Vatican positions. Along with restating well-known Catholic teaching against abortion and euthanasia, it also highlights some of Pope Francis’s primary concerns, including the dangers poverty, violence, human trafficking, the death penalty, and forced migration pose to human dignity.

It claims that surrogacy infringes upon the dignity of both the child and the surrogate mother in a recently stated stance.

In spite of the fact that the Vatican claims that the child “has the right to have a fully human (and not artificially induced) origin and to receive the gift of a life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver,” much of the discussion surrounding surrogacy has focused on the potential exploitation of poor women as surrogates. “.

It stated, “Given this, the right to a child cannot be transformed into a ‘right to a child’ that fails to respect the dignity of that child as the recipient of the gift of life.”.

When the Congregation for Catholic Education emphasized the complementarity of biologically male and female sex organs to create new life and rejected the notion that people can choose or change their gender, the Vatican published its most well-articulated stance on gender in 2019.

Though it softens the language, the 2019 education document is quoted in the more recent document from the more respected Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. It’s noteworthy that it rejects the Vatican’s teaching, which holds that homosexual behavior is “intrinsically disordered,” and instead states that homosexuals should be treated with respect and dignity. “.

Fernández admitted that the wording “intrinsically disordered” was quite strong during a press conference to introduce the document. He said that there might be a better way to convey the church’s view of marriage as a means of producing new life “with other words.”.

Francis has advocated for the acceptance of all God’s children by the Catholic Church and ministered to transgender Catholics, including transgender sex workers.

However, he has also attacked “gender theory,” calling it the “ugly ideology” that threatens to erase the distinctions between men and women that God has given us, and the “worst danger” that confronts humanity today. He has targeted the West’s “ideological colonization” of developing nations, wherein development assistance is occasionally contingent on embracing Western conceptions of gender, in particular.

When the document was first released, transgender activists denounced it as “hurtful” and claimed that it lacked the experiences and voices of actual transgender people, particularly with regard to the distinction it made between intersex-specific and gender-affirming surgery.

“It is not only hurtful but dangerously ignorant to suggest that transgender people’s dignity is at risk or diminished by gender-affirming health care, which has saved the lives of so many wonderful trans people and allowed them to live in harmony with their bodies, their communities, and (God),” stated Mara Klein, a nonbinary transgender activist and participant in Germany’s church reform project.

Klein claimed that the document’s endorsement of intersex surgery—which, if done without consent, particularly on minors, frequently causes immense physical and psychological harm—furthered the Vatican’s “hypocrisy.”. “.

The document is being released at a time when there is opposition to transgender persons, particularly in the US, where state legislatures led by Republicans are debating new legislation that would limit the medical care that transgender children and, in certain situations, adults can receive.

Klein stated via email, “We are faced with a church that does not listen and refuses to see the beauty of creation that can be found in our biographies, on top of the rising hostility towards our communities.”


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