The Vatican under Pope Francis is consolidating its opposition to “gender theory,” the notion that maleness and femaleness can be separated from biological sex, according to veteran Vatican analyst John L. Allen, Jr.
Although prior popes were also critical of gender theory, Allen writes in a March 15 essay, opposition “has intensified on Francis’s watch.”
The pope has repeatedly warned against the dangers of ideologies that separate sexual identity from biology, decrying gender theory as “against the nature of things.” It seems, Allen writes, that folks at the Vatican have picked up on Francis’ war on gender theory and have decided to throw themselves into the fray.
As an example, Allen cites a conference at Rome’s Santa Croce University this week that featured a forceful critique of gender theory, notably during a panel chaired by German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, aide to emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and currently the Prefect of the Papal Household.
The paper was prepared by canon lawyer Vincenzo Turchi, which served to throw some doctrinal heft behind the pope’s sometimes casual statements on the subject.
Allen condenses the Church’s opposition to gender theory into three bullet points, all contained in Turchi’s talk:
– It undermines the objective moral norms governing sexual behavior by proposing that sexual identity and orientation are not given in nature, but rather the result of contingent historical and cultural factors.
– In the hands of educators, it jeopardizes the right of parents to be the primary teachers of their children.
– It threatens traditional Christian morality by casting it as discriminatory and bigoted.
Gender theory is based on “the primacy of culture over nature,” Turchi’s paper read. Since gender theory views nature and biology data as “marginal,” sexual differences are fluid and changeable and can be fashioned on the basis of “individual self-determination.”
Commenting on educational programs where gender theory is currently employed, Turchi spoke of a pilot curriculum in Spain where children are encouraged to pretend that they are members of the opposite sex to break down their natural identification with their bodies.
This includes acting out fairy tales, where boys are encouraged to “play the part of Little Red Riding Hood,” while girls are invited to play “the part of the wolf,” Allen notes.
Added to this, Turchi cited developments in northern Europe, such as the adoption of “gender-neutral” pronouns in Swedish schools and sexual education in Denmark that includes the possibility for guest speakers such as a transsexual prostitute.
Francis denounced gender theory for its denial of “the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman” and for its dream of “a society without sexual differences” in a lengthy 2017 teaching letter on marriage and the family called “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia).
“An appreciation of our body as male or female,” he wrote, is “necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves” and is far from the “unisex utopia” that some would like to impose.
Efforts to blot out sexual differences based on anatomy are symptomatic of a sick society that “no longer knows how to deal with it,” he added.
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