Over 50 years ago, when I was a seminarian at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, New York, Christine Jorgensen, the first American to undergo a sex change operation, made a guest appearance at the Eastman-Kodak plant, then the heart of the city’s industry. Observers noted that the celebrity cut quite a figure upon stepping out of the limousine. Jorgensen at that time merely made newspaper headlines but today the challenge of sexual re-alignment is being felt at the workplace, in school rooms, in legislative halls and, most uncomfortably, at home. Transgender terminology and nomenclature, transgender locker rooms and bathrooms, and transgender considerations in sports, in the military and even in prisons are giving pause to much of American society. But parents especially must be torn between the expectations they have held for their offspring since birth and the prospect that their child now proposes in early adulthood. The contest between truth and charity must be painful.
Gender confusion proposes a most awkward challenge for Christians. The blending of Catholic truth and Christian love is often not easy. Yet, authoritative secular and religious sources, including Pope Francis, the hierarchies of the Ukraine and Peru, the bishops’ conference of Nebraska and the scholarly publication Ethics and Medics, among others, have made pastoral but frank statements on gender re-assignment. Actually the best of medical science, social science, philosophy, and theology agree. As Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan Anderson puts it, they “reveal that sex is a biological reality, that gender is the social expression of that reality, and that sex reassignment surgeries and treatments are therefore not good remedies for the distress felt by people with gender dysphoria. The most helpful therapies for gender dysphoria, therefore, will be ones that help people live in conformity with the biological truth about their bodies.”
A group from John Hopkins University concurs when they note that approximately 80 percent of gender dysphoric children grow comfortable in their bodies and no longer experience dysphoria. The Catholic bishops of the Ukraine have taught: “Gender ideology clearly contradicts the teaching of Holy Scripture and Christian anthropology, it also does not correspond to objective scientific data, and is instead based on subjective hypotheses and pseudoscientific assertions made by interested parties.” Pope Francis has boldly declared: “Gender Ideology is demonic!” But more temperately, the Holy Father has taught, “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”
On a practical level, reacting to the trend to open lavatories and shower rooms indiscriminately, the bishops of Nebraska observed: “It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools.”
The National Catholic Bioethics Center issues a newsletter that surveys current issues from a wisely Catholic perspective. The October issue reads: “Whenever a husband and wife engender a child through the marital act, they are cooperating in the creation of a new human person. While mother and father contribute the biological seeds of creation, God creates the human soul.”
Transgenderism would say, in effect, that God made a mistake. He placed a male soul in a female body or, vice versa, he placed a female soul in a male body. Catholics and all persons of good will must remind themselves in challenging times that every single human person is uniquely created by God Himself. Human souls are not the result of evolution — as one might argue about the human body. Human souls are the direct result of God intervening in human history, infusing the proper soul into the appropriate embryo. Furthermore, human beings are not actually made up of body and soul, as if two separate entities were joined together, like a hand into a glove. Rather, human beings are embodied souls or spirited bodies; they are one entity.
The above mentioned newsletter insists that humankind are “…body-soul unities.” If their bodies are sexed, then the soul must be sexed as well and sexed appropriately. The “separately sexed soul” is rationally and theologically unacceptable. Dividing the body from the soul usually results in exalting the soul over the body, elevating the spirit over the flesh. Authentic Christianity will allow the spirit to animate the flesh, never to denigrate or deny the flesh — certain pious practices notwithstanding. In the end, humans do not have a body; humans are a body just as much as humans are a soul. Humans must love their own God-given bodies and souls — warts and all.