I. Male and Female Sexuality in the Christian Vision of Man
II. LGBT+ Movements in a Democratic Society
III. LGBT+ Persons in the Catholic Church
IV. The Church’s Position on the LGBT+’s Approach to the Sexual Education of Children and Young People
- At the core of the Church’s mission is the duty to bear witness to the truth flowing from the Gospel and Divine law. Whenever the Church would confirm someone in error or turn a blind eye to their loss, she would betray Her Master, She would betray that person, and She would betray Herself since “man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: man is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself.” Therefore “every threat to human dignity […] must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart […] and engage her in its mission” (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor hominis. Rome, 1979. No. 14; Encyclical Evangelium vitae. Rome, 1995. Nos. 2 and 3 respectively).
- This teaching is also motivated by the unvaryingly valid invitation of Jesus Christ to open our heart to Him – without prejudice and fear, wide open (See John Paul II. Open wide the doors for Christ. Holy Father John Paul II’s homily delivered during the solemn Holy Mass inaugurating his pontificate. Rome, 22.10.1978). Only He is able to heal the painful personality and moral tears in those who identify with LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). Only He is able to bring peace and inner harmony into their lives. The Lord Jesus addresses them in a special way: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). The key that opens the way to spiritual and moral healing are the words He spoke at the very beginning of his public activity: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
- In carrying out Her ministry, the Church is open to dialogue with every “man of good will”, who seeks the truth and enquires, like the young man from the Gospel: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Today, Pope Francis remains an example of this attitude of the Church by meeting people who identify themselves with LGBT+, kindly extending his hand to them, expressing understanding for their inclinations, but at the same time without avoiding a clear presentation of the Church’s teaching on gender ideology and practices contrary to human nature and dignity found in her official documents and presented synthetically in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see Nos. 2357-2359).
- The challenges faced by the human and ecclesial community today have their origins in what is known as the “sexual revolution”, and its accompanying cultural and moral changes. The rejection of traditional morality has led to profound changes in the understanding of human sexuality. A particular expression of these changes is the gender ideology and attitudes characteristic of LGBT+. They proclaim the right of the individual to self-determine his or her gender without reference to objective criteria determined by his or her genome and anatomy, and a radical separation between biological (sex) and cultural (gender) sexuality, the primacy of socio-cultural sex over biological sex, as well as the desire to create a “society without sexual differences” (see Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 10). At the same time, they give priority to sexual inclinations that deny gender complementarity between men and women, and thus at least implicitly undermine their parental vocation. As one of their goals, they wish to legally equate homosexual relationships with heterosexual marriages. As a result, throughout this process, human sexuality is increasingly deprived of its personal meaning and value as a special gift, a sacred gift, given to woman and man by the Creator Himself.
I. Male and Female Sexuality in the Christian Vision of Man
- Problems with sexual orientation and gender identification are not a new phenomenon. Such tendencies and behaviors are already mentioned in accounts dating back to distant times. So far, however, they have not been publicized, much less widely promoted. Members of the LGBT+ community generally treated their intimate life as a protected area of privacy. Today, they not only publicly manifest their presence in the public life, but also demand that their various demands be met.
- When assessing the desiderata of the LGBT+ community, of people who advocate the gender ideology and who represent radical feminism, Christians make reference to both rational and logical arguments and to God’s work of creation. In the personalistic vision of man, contemporary Christian anthropology combines these two streams of reflection, whereby a person who bears the likeness of God is a rational, free and loving being. Seeking the true meaning of life and objective truth compatible with one’s conscience, he or she is able to maintain his or her identity in solidarity and just harmony with others.
- The area of contemporary discussion on philosophical and theological anthropology, open to the achievements of human sciences, is Christian ethics. Within its framework, apart from the question of the moral good, questions are still being asked about the nature of woman and man, the vocation to family of both of them, and their mutual responsibility, including parental responsibility. Contemporary discussions conducted by Christian ethicists have provided a further opportunity to reflect on the corporeality of man, including the meaning of his sexuality. The essence of this discussion is found in the teaching of the Church, expressed in numerous documents by popes and dicasteries of the Holy See in the last century.
- This teaching assumes that in many areas of modern knowledge about man, one can find important elements that better integrate human sexuality into the structure of the person. They indicate the nature of the human person as a spiritual and bodily unity, i.e. all inclinations, both spiritual and corporeal, and all other properties that enable him to achieve his goal (see John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis splendor. Rome, 1993. No. 48). In this sense, sexuality is a fundamental component of a person’s personality, a way of being and communicating, which includes experiencing and expressing human love (see Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Towards a Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education. Rome, 2019. No. 4).
- Although biological, psychological, and social conditions are extremely important in the correct understanding of human sexuality, in order to truly understand the identity of woman and man, it is necessary to overcome materialistic-naturalistic approaches. Man and woman are confirmed in their sexual identity through mutual dialogue, through a community of love that participates in the creative love of God. Masculinity and femininity are mutually complementary forms of the human person. The rejection of this truth contradicts not only the Christian truth about the creation of man and woman by God, but also their nature expressed in objective criteria, ranging from anatomical and functional body structure, through psychical features, to spirituality.
- One of the consequences of not taking into account the reciprocity and complementarity of the relationship between man and women, and the denial of the procreative purpose of sexuality, is the radical separation of biological sex (sex) from socio-cultural sex (gender), which has already been emphasized in the introduction. Biological-anatomical sex (sex) is based on biological-psychological criteria. Socio-cultural sex (gender) defines the experience and the implementation of the differences between the sexes in a specific culture. The erroneous separation of biological and cultural sexes, which in fact consists of relativizing biological sex, leads to “distinctions proposed between various ‘sexual orientations’, which are no longer defined by the sexual difference between male and female, and can then assume other forms, determined solely by the individual, who is seen as radically autonomous. Further, the concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person (transgenderism).” (Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 11).
- Therefore, there must be fundamental opposition to an attitude of disregard for the biological and psychological elements of human sexuality. According to gender ideology, sexual roles, behaviors, and attributes specific to women and men have been constructed by society. Sexologists emphasize that, among the ten sex criteria, only two can be considered gender-specific: mental sex (sense of belonging to particular sex) and social sex (determined at birth on the basis of the structure of external genitals). Sex understood in this way determines the category of man or woman to which one belongs and defines the social roles associated with it.
- Geneticists, endocrinologists, and neurologists point to the importance of sex criteria related to human biological structure. Among the topics mentioned in this context are: chromosomal sex, determined at fertilization by the sex chromosomes (XX female, XY male); gonadal sex, set from seven weeks after fertilization and determined by the sex glands (testicles and ovaries); hormonal sex, determined by different levels of male and female hormones; metabolic sex, determined by the type of enzyme apparatus of certain metabolic systems; and cerebral sex, resulting from the typical sexual differentiation of the brain (see Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 24).
- A consistent, philosophical interpretation of these facts in a person’s structure not only contradicts the ideological claims of so-called „neutral sex”, sometimes referred to as the „third sex”, but also confirms the truth that the difference between woman and man is constitutive for human identity. Apart from by Christian personalism, this is confirmed by those currents of philosophy that do not succumb to the temptation of materialistic reductionism (negating the spiritual dimension of the person) and idealism (negating the truth about corporeality). Both of these positions misinterpret the reproductive purpose of the sexual drive and its social conditions.
- Christian anthropology integrates corporeal and spiritual elements in the concept of the nature of the human person. The concept of nature involves not only a positive assessment of the biological and physiological structure of human sexuality connected with its maturation and development. Human nature also indicates the essence of female and male sexuality, the meaning of their reproductive capacity, the control over sexual desire, and the ability to mutually sacrifice oneself for the other out of love (making a gift of oneself). The sexual identity of woman and man defined in this way assumes spiritual and subjective responsibility, in accordance with a properly formed conscience, for one’s own masculinity and femininity and for their complementary relational bond in marriage and family. In this way, human sexuality is inscribed in rationality, freedom and the ability to love another person.
- Consequently, woman and man stand before the task of rationally reflecting on their biological sex. This means first and foremost understanding the biological and psychological structure of one’s own sexuality. Human rationality allows one to discover the meaning of sexuality through the realization of human life goals. Such a thorough reflection cannot ignore the complementarity of sexuality on the biological, mental and spiritual levels. It also leads to the discovery of the different meanings of love (erotic, friendly, and sacrificial), without excluding the parental function of man and woman.
- As free persons, woman and man they are called to direct their own sexual expression. This means that they are capable of distinguishing between passion and drive. In such a way, the difference between lust and desire is revealed, the strength of drive and the ability to sublimate it, not to mention the ability to integrate sexuality into one’s personality. The process of integration is all the more necessary given the greater impact of false theories of sexuality, perpetuated by structures of evil such as pornography or prostitution.
- As individuals, woman and man experience their sexuality in a social context whose most elementary expression is complementarity of sex. Male and female sexuality introduces them to a network of references that can reach the level of care capable of the highest sacrifice, but at the same time in danger of exploitation, harm and humiliation. In the latter case, stereotypes, unequal treatment, and even violence against women and men may arise. Therefore, a personal approach to relations between the sexes implies respect for their personal dignity and their rights, and also implies just social and cultural structures and the primacy of conscience based on objective truth of the moral good.
- The Church interprets this truth within the framework of the theology of the body, which cannot be overlooked in discussions with gender and LGBT+ ideology but also must be addressed in particular in connection with moral theology, catechetics, homiletics and Catholic social teaching, as well as education and pedagogy. The Church sees man and woman as a mutual gift. “The body expressing femininity […] and masculinity reveals the reciprocity and communion of persons. It expresses it through the gift as the basic regularity of personal existence. It is a body that bears witness to creation as the basic endowment, and thus testifying to love as the source from which this endowment and gift was born. Masculinity/femininity or sex is the primary sign of creative endowment, which man becomes aware of as a man/woman.” (John Paul II. Male and Female He Created Them. Rome, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1986. Page 59).
II. LGBT+ Movements in a Democratic Society
- “The Church respects the legitimate autonomy of the democratic order and is not entitled to express preferences for this or that institutional or constitutional solution” (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus. Rome, 1991. No. 47). At the same time, it must be remembered that the sustainable existence of a democratic society calls for reference to universal moral principles, in which truth about man is at the center. Without this truth, society easily loses the sense of its mission and is prone to manipulation by changing ideas that take the shape of fashionable ideologies, leading to the domination of the majority over the minority, and the stronger over the weaker. These processes ultimately result in the destruction of just human relationships, harmonious coexistence and even result in the trampling upon the right to life of the weak and defenseless (See ibid. No. 44). A democratic system itself, if it is subject to these tendencies “easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism” (Ibid. No. 46).
- Christianity is not an ideology that aims to enslave, humiliate and impose its truth upon others. In the course of two millennia of proclaiming the Gospel, the Church has already testified many times that it is a prophetic “sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person” (Second Vatican Council. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes. Rome, 1965. No. 76; hereinafter abbreviated PCC) and, as a result, the truth that it teaches about man is a guarantor of his personal dignity, and conditions the freedom that liberates him that is the basis of a just social order. “Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand, or together they perish” (John Paul II. Encyclical Fides et ratio. Rome 1998. No. 90). For these reasons, on the one hand, the Church is not afraid to proclaim the obligation to respect the personal dignity of every human being, including that of LGBT+ people, while on the other hand, for the same reasons, it must use reserve, and in specific cases, strong opposition, when referring to the gender ideology and forms of activity of the LGBT+ movements that ignore this truth about man, and to their social projects and the objectives they set for themselves.
- In response to such an attitude, whether of the society or of the Church, people affiliated with LGBT+ talk about discrimination or homophobia, and advocate overcoming it. This is also true of Catholics who become involved in these movements to varying extents. This discrimination supposedly is based on a so-called oppressive heterosexual normativity of traditional societies, that is the belief that only a relationship between a man and a woman may be called marriage, and that it should enjoy special rights and privileges. That “heterosexual normativity” is also supposedly to be the primary source of suffering of those who experience their sexuality differently than as it is in traditional marriage. Therefore, in order to build a fairer society, it is necessary, they say, to legally expand the terms of marriage and family to equivalate the rights and privileges of heterosexual and homosexual marriages, to recognize partnerships formed by same-sex couples with the regulation of property, alimony and inheritance, and enable same-sex unions to adopt children and grant people from 16 years of age the right to determine their gender (among others: Declaration of the LGBT+ Congress of 30.03.2019).
- While being aware of the radical nature of the postulated cultural transformation and of the demands of a society without gender differences (Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 2), LGBT+ movements propose the use of a method of small steps in order to force a slow transformation of morality and culture through the gradual familiarization of society with behaviors that, until recently, were considered non-acceptable or morally reprehensible. Some social media support these projects by propagating gender ideology, promoting the alleged attractiveness of divorce, infidelity, sexual promiscuity and ridiculing fidelity, virginity, chastity and religiousness.
- The sexual education of children at a pre-school age also serves this purpose. Even though some of the demands of the LGBT+ people for children’s education acknowledge values that are also fundamental for a interpersonal communion in a heterosexual marriage, such as love, mutual respect, a sense of shared responsibility, most of the proposed measures, methods and purposes go far beyond the framework of education for the integral well-being of children and young people. A responsible upbringing cannot be reconciled with sharing materials that reveal human intimacy and teach children to “manipulate” their sexuality for pleasure, introducing them to early sexual experiences. In fact, the proposed form of education results in the sexualization of children and adolescents, leads to the breaking of the protective barrier of shame, the arousal of carnal desire and “sexaholism” (which has a destructive impact on the emotional sphere of the young person and leads to compulsive masturbation and to sexual obsessions difficult to overcome), often results in early sexual initiation, teenage pregnancy and, quite often, abortion, the use of contraception or early abortion measures that destroy the reproductive sphere of a young girl and make it difficult for her to get pregnant after reaching maturity, increase the risk of infection with sexually transmitted diseases, and finally becomes the cause of traumatic experiences of young people and personal dramas in later life.
- In the context of the above observations, it should be recalled that – according to natural law – only the parents have the right to bring up their own children. That right is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland: “Parents have the right to bring up their children in accordance with their own beliefs. The upbringing should take into account the degree of maturity of the child, their freedom of conscience and religion and also their convictions” (Article 48.1; see also: Article 96 §1 of the Family and Guardianship Code). The right to decide about the religious and moral upbringing of children is also granted to parents and legal guardians under numerous international agreements (See, e.g. Article 18.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 13.4 of the International Covenant on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 14.3 of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union; and Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child).
- Schools should be a support for parents in the sexual upbringing of children and young people. The school system has great potential in doing so, since teachers and educators – while being parents themselves – are usually aware of this responsibility and have the appropriate sensitivity to the important moral values and the goals of the education process. However, the participation of the school system in the process of sexual education should only be auxiliary, which means that it should be an extension of the upbringing that takes place in the family home; schools should cooperate “in the same spirit that animates the parents themselves” (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. Rome 1981. No. 37; hereinafter referred to as FC; see, Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 46).
- Given the importance of the obligation to educate children and young people, the Church encourages all those involved, i.e. the family, the school system and the competent authorities, to engage in dialogue with a view to finding appropriate solutions and educational programs to help children and young people in their sexual and emotional adolescence, taking into account the specific physiological and psychological nature of subsequent phases of their growth and neurocognitive adolescence, as well as shaping the “healthy” treatment of the human body, in particular with regards to the sexual dimension (See: The Congregation for the Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Nos. 39-51; see also Pope Francis. Speech on the seminar on the complementarity between man and woman (17.11.2014) L’Osservatore Romano (Polish-language issue) 25:2014 No. 12 page 37 No. 3; The Core Curriculum of the Catechesis, pages 54, 99). These programs should have, as a priority, every child’s life vocation to love, be it in a heterosexual marriage, in a life dedicated to God, or a life dedicated to serving others in society.
- This dialogue should continue with the aim of uniting forces “in educating children and young people to respect each person in his or her particular and different condition, so that no one is subjected to abuse, violence, insults or unfair discrimination based on his or her personal circumstances (such as disability, race, religion, emotional tendencies, etc.). It is about raising an active and responsible citizen characterized by an ability to accept, with respect, all the reasonable expressions of a person” (The Congregation for the Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Nos. 15-16).
- It is desirable that one of the actors preparing this dialogue be (free from ideology and pursued in the spirit of responsibility) research studies on the psychical, emotional, cognitive and sexual development of children under ever-changing cultural and social conditions, and on the protection of children against sexualism in the media generally accessible for children (in particular the internet, i.e.: computer or smartphone). In view of the expansion of global economic migration and tourism, it is also advisable to conduct responsible studies regarding gender issues in order to “achieve a deeper understanding of the ways in which the difference of sex between man and woman is experienced in different cultures” (The Congregation for the Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 6).
- Certain members and supporters of the LGBT+ movement have set goals different from those presented above. Their priority is not a cultural, legal or educational revolution, but rather the counteraction of violence, bullying, stigmatization and social exclusion, even within one’s own family. Sometimes Catholics also participate in “pride parades” (orig. Polish: „tęczowych marszach”) to draw attention to these problems of LGBT+ people. In this context, it should once again be emphasized that the postulation of respect for every person, including those who identify themselves as LGBT+, is absolutely right, and a democratic state under the rule of law should take care to ensure that none of the fundamental rights of these people, if not manifestly contrary to human nature or the common good (such as same-sex relationship or the adoption of children by such people in such relationships) is violated. Therefore, any acts of physical or verbal violence, any forms of hooliganism or aggression towards LGBT+ people are unacceptable. Analogously, like all other citizens, they may present their postulations within the frameworks provided by law with a view to building a fairer society and implement them through democratic transformations.
- In parallel to the abovementioned rights of LGBT+ people, it is important to emphasize the legitimate expectations of the entire society for the respect of the rights of its other members, in particular especially their religious feelings, the moral principles they recognize and the principles of public order. The positive attitude of members of the community striving to avoid social tensions and to respect each other’s rights is also expressed in the willingness to come to the aid of people who are open to dialogue in discovering the socio-political dimension of the personal dignity of every person, especially dignity understood integrally as a spiritual-physical integrity. This postulation in particular refers to the role which the family, the school system and catechesis should play in the education process.
- The obligation to respect people affiliated with the LGBT+ movement does not mean the uncritical acceptation of their views. On the contrary, it means analyzing and verifying them carefully in light of the objective truth regarding human sexuality and the principles of the common good. The ideology of these movements and their postulations are charged with numerous errors harmful to social life, such as the accusation of intolerance, which quite often hides an ideology that negates the difference and natural complementarity of man and woman, and the reference to nature is usually concealed by human biology, cultural option, sexual drive or psychosexual emotionality (See Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Nos. 21 and 23).
- The legalization of same-sex relationships also exceeds the framework of due respect. In the long run, the legal recognition of such relationships leads to a weakening of the institution of marriage, which, on the part of the State, would constitute a serious “failure of its duty to promote and protect an essential institution for the common good which is marriage.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Comments on projects to legalize relationships between homosexual people. Rome 2003. No. 6). Only a union between man and woman, in which fertile love is based on the complementary nature of the sexes, constitutes the proper environment in which to give birth and raise children, and thus the foundation of a healthy society. For this reason, it enjoys special legal protection and numerous privileges. Undermining this basic belief in the legal system would entail significant changes to social practices, including the education and upbringing of the young generation. Therefore, the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith cited above emphasizes that “if, from a legal point of view, a marriage between two persons of opposite sexes were regarded as only one of the possible marriages, the concept of marriage would radically change, to the serious detriment for the common good” (Ibid. no. 8).
- The Polish Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its position of 13 March 2019, also drew attention to the demands contained in the LGBT+ Charter that violate the rules of social justice and, in the name of counteracting discrimination, can lead to discrimination against those who think differently. The demands of the Charter include a proposal that “psychosexual orientation” and “lifestyle” should be taken into account when considering recruitment and promotion in the workplace. The institutions that would adhere to these principles and are associated within “rainbow employment networks” (orig. Polish: „tęczowych sieciach pracowniczych”) would be given preferential treatment by local communities, while employers suspected of intolerance would be stigmatized and excluded. The Polish Bishops once again emphasize that, the “possible introduction of the above quoted postulations may cause a significant change in the functioning of democracy in our country, resulting not only in the restriction of children’s and parents’ rights, but also of the rights of all citizens, including teachers and representatives of local governments, to freedom of speech, including the freedom to express a conscientious objection, freedom of instruction and, in the future, maybe also the freedom to teach religion. It may also lead to a serious restriction of economic freedom, which would be subordinated to ideological demands” (Position of the Polish Bishops’ Conference on the so-called LGBT+ Charter. Warsaw 13.03.2019. No. 5).
- The sexual revolution that is continued today through gender ideology and the LGBT+ movements poses an increasingly more dangerous threat to marriage and the family also in other dimensions. Increasingly common signs of such threats include the widespread acceptance of contraception, the individualistic and quite often selfish understanding of sexuality, as well as the breaking of the relationship between the unifying and procreative meanings of sexual intercourse. The changes have led to the trivialization of the bond between man and woman, and to the association of love as being a short-term feeling, quite often without taking responsibility for the other person and for the new life conceived (See: Francis, Exhortation Amoris laetitia. Rome 2016. No. 39; hereinafter AL). This process is intensified by certain mass media that undermine moral sensitivity to marital infidelity and downplay sexual promiscuity. The availability of pornography and prostitution has led to a crisis of faithful love and the collapse of the culture of chastity. This sad picture is complemented by the legally sanctioned killing of unborn children.
- These cultural changes have a negative impact on the personal maturity of men and women. An experience of parental divorce, growing up in a family where there is no father or mother and having an experience of harassment are quite often a source of difficulty in achieving a healthy sexual identity. Today, many people of various ages experience their own sexuality as a source of great suffering and injury.
- While expanding upon the negative effects of the spread of gender and LGBT+ ideology, the positive changes in culture related to human sexuality are not to be denied. Among other things, it is necessary to appreciate the value of human sexuality in light of the integral personal dignity of woman and man, of its importance in the various aspects of social life, of a greater sensitivity to women’s rights and of emphasis on the equality between men and women. This new sensitivity resulted in specific postulates aimed at building a more just society, such as the pursuit of equal pay, of a fair division of labor within the family, of the protection against domestic violence and harassment. Thanks to the greater knowledge of their own body and the dynamism of human procreativity, spouses, in particular women, are able to plan procreation in conformity with moral principles so that it poses no threat to their health and that of the child to be born, so that their responsible parenthood may take into account their financial situation, so that it doesn’t interfere in their employment or social promotion, very often in those areas and professions that – until recently – were unavailable to women.
- As a result of these positive transformations, women are shown respect and gratefulness for their fidelity to the female vocation, for their awareness that “God entrusts a human being to them,” thanks to which both society and the Church enjoy growth, and also for “realizing different forms of affective, cultural and spiritual maternity, which has an invaluable effect on the development of a person and on the future of society.” Both society and the Church owe them particular gratitude for their “feminine genius” that “secures the sensitivity to a human in every situation: because they are human”; which thereby enriches human relations with their particular wisdom of heart, delicacy and sensitivity to the powerlessness of the weakest, the vulnerability of a child, the loneliness of those bedridden, the disability of those handicapped, the helplessness of the needy, the fatigue of hard laborers, and for the sacrificial “toiling in various fields of education: in preschools, schools, universities, day care centers, parishes, associations and movements” (See Paul VI. Encyclical Humanae vitae. Rome 1968. No. 10; hereinafter HV; John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem. Rome 1988. No. 30; the Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Nos. 17 and 18).
- In view of the challenges posed by gender ideology and the LGBT+ movements, and especially in view of the difficulties, suffering and spiritual dissonances experienced by these persons, it is necessary to establish counselling centers (also with the help of, or within the structures of the Church) to help those wishing to regain their sexual health and natural sexual orientation. Even where a full sexual transformation proves to be too difficult, such counselling centers have a sense as they can greatly help in coping with psychosexual challenges. The postulation of such counselling centers is in clear contradiction with the official opinions prevailing in LGBT+ circles, with positions considered as being scientific and with so-called “political correctness.” However, one cannot ignore the testimonies of people who have come to realize that their different sexuality is not an irrevocable judgment or an irreversible encryption but a symptom of wounds at different levels of their personality. In their sincere desire to heal the pain they have experienced, they have made a long, sometimes heroic effort, with the help of competent people, to regain a healthy identity and spiritual harmony, or at least to achieve an ability to live in harmony with themselves, in inner peace. The above statements are not intended to inflict new wounds, but for all those in search of healing they are meant to be an important light at the beginning of a new way of life and an encouragement to follow it.
III. LGBT+ Persons in the Catholic Church
- As we reflect on gender and LGBT+ phenomenon, a question arises about the religious identity, moral attitude and Church affiliation of those people who identify themselves with such movements and who support them. All positions regarding this matter should bear in mind God’s paternal love encompassing every person, the universal extent of Jesus Christ’s work of salvation, who “a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matt 12:20) and, consequently, the mission of the Church and the purpose of Her teaching. The Second Vatican Council recalls that the Church “is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely-knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. Rome, 1964. No. 1) and wills that “all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium. Rome 1964. No. 5; hereinafter: the CL; cfr. 1 Tim 2:4). Hence, belonging to the LGBT+ community, identifying with its ideology and publicly expressing solidarity with it cannot automatically result in exclusion from the Church community. Ties with the Church are severed when there is an official expression of will which, according to precepts of the Church, constitutes an act of apostasy resulting in moral culpability and liability under penal canon law (Code of Canon Law. Poznań 1984. Can. 751 and 1364 § 1; hereinafter the CCL).
- The Catholic Church cannot remain silent regarding the moral assessment of gender ideology, homosexuality and transsexuality in its various forms. In Her assessment, She unequivocally rejects the attitude which disregards a person’s sex as being a gift from God and, with respect to homosexuality and transsexuality, distinguishes between inclinations towards and internal acceptance and action. Inclinations in and of themselves do not result in moral culpability. However, their internal acceptance, stimulating them internally, disseminating them and behaving in a way that gives in to such inclinations, i.e. homosexual acts and so-called sex changes, are unequivocally assessed negatively. In the moral consideration of such behavior, the Church does not rule out the possibility that “circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance;” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. Rome, 1986. No. 11). However, it would be wrong to assume that inclinations are always and entirely the effect of an internal compulsion and, therefore, inculpable: “What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God’s liberating grace.” (Ibid.)
- Mindful of the above moral assessment of homosexual and transsexual practices, anyone who experiences such inclinations “is called to chastity”, namely, to refrain from homosexual acts and to remain in a state of celibacy (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Poznań Pallottinum 2002. No. 2359; hereinafter: CCC). This choice must also be accompanied by a constant effort to overcome a compulsive concentration on sexuality. A devoted prayer life, the sacrament of penance and the faithfully undertaking of the path towards a supernatural community with God are the principal ways to achieve victories of the spirit and will (see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. No. 12).
- The presence of people representing attitudes characteristics of LGBT+ in the Church does not negate Her holiness. Its source is the Person of Jesus Christ, who “is always present in His Church” (LC No. 7) and acts through the Holy Spirit, continuing the work of sanctification and salvation of humankind. The Church carries out this work not only among saints, but also among sinners (see 1 John 1:8), modelled on Christ, who “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Consequently, the Church cannot close Her doors to anyone who approaches Her. Jesus Christ’s words have a universal reach: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). Pursuant to theological, moral and canonical rules, no confessor can refuse absolution to a person who expresses sincere contrition for their sins and declares an attitude of conversion, even if it cannot be fully excluded that they will commit them again.
- The Church does not stop at a moral assessment of the practices discussed here and does not remain indifferent to the problems experienced by homosexuals and transsexuals in their life. To the best of Her abilities and the supernatural means that She has been given in deposit, the Church wants to accompany these people and assist them in the understanding of the essence of sin, as well as the avoiding of all occasion to sin. Therefore, She perceives the need to engage both lay and ecclesiastical experts in dioceses, who are ready to offer spiritual and therapeutic assistance to those experiencing the mentioned problems with their sexuality and who want to receive such assistance. Individual pastoral care aims to offer assistance to these people in carrying out God’s will in their lives, in uniting themselves and the difficulties they may encounter due to their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross (see CCC No. 2358). Ideally, every diocese should engage well-known experts in psychology and sexology who, while adhering to Christian principles of morality, would be capable of assisting such people.
- Faithfulness to the truth about man finds its binding force in the Word of God. The first Book of the Holy Bible emphasizes that God created man as a sexual being: “God created man […]; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This distinction concerns their biological and physiological specificity as well as their inter-relations, i.e. the complementarity of the personal bond engaging their souls and bodies. In the Creator’s divine plan, this mutual complementarity of man and woman expresses their calling to parenthood (“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth” – Genesis 1:28) (Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. No. 31).
- At the same time, this description of Creation emphasizes that man, in his spiritual and corporal integrity, was endowed with inalienable dignity (“God created man in his image” – Genesis 1:27). It also points to an inseparable “bond uniting reason and free will with all the faculties.” Therefore, this dignity is bestowed equally on man’s spirit and flesh. This means that man’s free will can never treat the flesh arbitrarily or as an object. The spiritual sphere also cannot passively submit to the impulses of the flesh, which go against its dignity. In other words, man as a rational and free being, recognizing the gift, meaning and moral value of his body, should make a constant effort to overcome drives and strive to achieve internal harmony and unity of moral attitudes with “the rational order whereby man is called by the Creator to direct and regulate his life and actions and in particular to make use of his own body” (John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor. Rome, 1993. No. 50; see also Nos. 48-50). Pope Benedict XVI warns against abandoning these efforts emphasizing that: “When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.” (Address of Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia (21.12.2012)).
- These considerations help us to better understand the teaching of the Old and the New Testaments. They unequivocally refer to marriage as a union between man and woman. In all of Biblical tradition, it is an “evident and normative reality.” At the same time, there are no testimonies that would allow a “union” between persons of the same sex.
- Some of today’s interpretations consider the teachings of Sacred Scripture on the subject of homosexuality as nothing more than a manifestation of contemporary culture, a “simple reflection of an archaic and historically conditioned mentality,” and reject its moral significance for today’s society. This issue was treated upon by the Pontifical Biblical Commission when it discussed Biblical texts with references to homosexuality. The Commission presented a new interpretation of the Old Testament story about the destruction of Sodom, which was traditionally understood as punishment for the sin of homosexuality among its inhabitants. Modern-day exegesis analyzing this episode in the broad context of Biblical texts with references to the “sin of Sodom” see it as being a general stigmatization of sinful behavior (see Isaiah 3:9) or unfaithfulness towards God’s law (see Isaiah 1:10). In addition, Jerusalem is compared to Sodom (and Gomorrah), because its inhabitants practice “adultery, living in lies, siding with the wicked,” (see Jeremiah 23:14). In light of other texts, the “sin of Sodom” involves pride (see Sirach 16:8), or characterizing people who are “proud, sated with food, complacent in their prosperity, and gave no help to the poor and needy” (see Ezekiel 16:49). Consequently, today’s interpretation recognizes that the “Biblical tradition, confirmed by the prophets, gave Sodom (and Gomorrah) a symbolic, but a general title of a wicked city” (see Deuteronomy 32:32-34). The sin of its inhabitants “consisted [then] in the lack of hospitality, hostility and violence towards a foreigner.” It does not associate the history of Sodom with the stigmatization of homosexuality (see Pontifical Biblical Commission. “Che cosa è l’uomo?” (Ps 8:5). Un itinerario di antropologia biblica. Rome, Nos. 187-188).
- Leviticus clearly condemns homosexual intercourse. It enumerates sinful sexual acts, which also include homosexual relations between men: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13). Homosexual intercourse is also placed among the condemned sins of incest (Leviticus 18:6-18; 20:11-12.14.19-21-21), adultery (Leviticus 18:20; 20:10) and zoophilia (Leviticus18:23; 20:15-16) (see Pontifical Biblical Commission. “Che cosa è l’uomo?” No. 189).
- In the New Testament, the sin of homosexuality is clearly mentioned in the Letters of St. Paul the Apostle: Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Timothy 1:10. In the first case, St. Paul writes about female and male homosexuality, calling such behavior an offence against nature, that is contrary to the truth about the difference and purposefulness of male and female sexuality as intended by God in the act of Creation (see Romans 1:26-27: “Their females [of heathen men] exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males.”) In the other two texts: 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, St. Paul lists homosexuality as one of the sins that close the path to salvation for man (1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”) (See Pontifical Biblical Commission. “Che cosa è l’uomo?”. Nos. 194-195).
- In the face of various biblical and theological-moral interpretations that deny the moral wrong of homosexual behavior, the Church recalls that its teaching in this matter is based on the Word of God, the living Apostolic Tradition, and natural law. Hence, its nature is universal, constant over time and space, and infallible. This teaching is accompanied by the assistance of the Holy Spirit (see Second Vatican Council. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei verbum. Rome, 1965. No. 10; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. No. 5).
- Attempts to undermine this teaching lead to the negation of the existence of a permanently defined, in the sexual dimension, nature of man and woman. Such attempts also lead to the undermining of the meaning of the basic cell of social life: first, of marriage as a union of man and woman, i.e. persons called to a community in spirit and body, and secondly, their vocation to create a family as a community of both parents and children, thanks to which humanity develops into societies that build a local and universal common good, a basic condition of civilizational progress and integral human development.
- Putting into question the biologically determined sexual nature of man also leads to an aberration of human procreation as the fruit of a union between a man and a woman; as the “fruit of marriage” (See Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Instruction Donum vitae. Rome,1987. II, A; hereinafter DV; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Dignitas personae. Rome, 2008. No. 6). In the case of same-sex unions, male or female, procreation is replaced by biotechnological procedures that undermine the dignity of the donors of reproductive cells and the dignity of the child (this usually applies to in vitro-type procedures; in the case of male unions, with the help of surrogates). Studies on the effects of artificial procreation (a practice carried out in many research centers around the world and presented in respected and prestigious scientific journals) clearly indicate a significant increase in the health risk to the genetic mother and, to an even greater extent, to the life and healthy development of the child. This procedure regularly causes the destruction of human embryos, particularly those that do not promise healthy development. Confronted by the spread of various mistaken opinions and incompetent misuse of Aristotelian-Thomist philosophical concepts, the Church continues to recall that “the human embryo has, from the very beginning, the dignity proper for a person” (Ibid. No. 5).
- In the above context, one cannot ignore the fundamental right of the child “to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage” (DV II, A). This is so because “in accordance with the order of creation, marital love between a man and a woman and the transmission of life are subordinated to each other” (AL No. 81). Precisely in the family context, under the care of the father and mother, integral formation and discovery of one’s own gender identity are possible.
- The fulfilment of one’s own vocation, be it to unmarried life or to marriage together with a vocation to parenthood, implies the ability to exercise self-control and to live in chastity. Every person is called to live in chastity according to their own vocation. “This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality […]” (1 Thess. 4:3). This ability affirms the achievement of personal freedom, is an indispensable condition for the fulfillment of one’s vocation and in undertaking responsible relationships with another person; in every case, it makes possible the gift of self to others – a starting point for overcoming difficulties manifesting themselves in the sexual sphere, as well as a necessary condition of undertaking a vocation in the Church, whether ministerial or religious. In the light of this perspective, the Church unambiguously formulates its teaching on the particular inclinations manifesting themselves in people identifying themselves as LGBT+, or on the subject of attitudes that are practical expressions of gender ideology.
Homosexual persons and relationships in the Church
- With regard to homosexual inclinations, whether male or female, the Church emphasizes that “even though [the inclination] is not a sin in itself, it creates a more or less strong tendency to engage in acts that are intrinsically evil from the moral point of view. For this reason, the tendency itself must be considered as objectively disordered” (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. No. 3). This does not mean that homosexual people are always responsible for this inclination, but homosexual acts usually deepen it. At the same time, the Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful since “by their very inner nature they are disordered. They are contrary to the natural law” (CCC No. 2357; also Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Declaration Persona humana. Rome 1975. No. 8).
Homosexual persons – candidates for the priesthood and to religious orders
- Considering the nature and the specificity of homosexuality, and well as the disorder related to it, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for Clergy, and, more recently, also Pope Francis, have recommended that people “who practice homosexuality, show deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture” are not be admitted to seminaries or admitted to ordination. “Such people […] find themselves in a situation that seriously prevents them from having a correct relationship with men and women” (Congregation for the Catholic Education. Instruction on the criteria for discernment of vocation with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in the context of their admission to seminars or ordination. Rome 2005; Congregation for the Clergy. Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis. Rome 2016. No. 199; see also nos. 200-201).
- Pope Francis gives the same directives for candidates to the religious life, whether in male or female religious Institutes (See The Strength of Vocation. On consecrated life and Improvement of Relations in the Church. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Święty Wojciech 2018).
Homosexual people and marriage
- The Church does not deny the ability of homosexual people to love other people. However, emotional-sexual experiences cannot be identified with marital love in the sense of the order of creation and the norms of ecclesiastical law, i.e. with the love that, by its nature, is complementary, fertile and aims to awaken new life. This means that any act of intimacy between a husband and a wife should “mean unity and parenthood” (HV Nos. 9, 12). For these reasons, the Church cannot recognize relationships between persons of the same sex and cannot bless these relationships in any manner.
- In accordance with the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, “marriage is a deep community of life and love between man and woman” (PCC No. 48; see also CCL can. 1055 §1). Ecclesiastical law demands that candidates for marriage should be “able to take on important matrimonial responsibilities” (CCL can. 1095 § 3). In light of the above provisions, well-established homosexuality, as a deeply rooted inclination to a person of the same sex and an absence of emotional-sexual complementarity between homosexual persons, is in clear contrast with the above definition of marriage. Furthermore, if people with such inclinations experience difficulties in ordering these inclinations and their emotional experiences, the more difficult the challenge to make a gift of themselves towards a sexually different spouse (despite the ability to have sexual intercourse) and in establishing a lasting and integral personal relationship. As many experts point out, a “forced” heterosexual relationship, even if through the decision of the homosexual person themself, cannot free them from these tendencies; on the contrary, it can further deepen them and push them towards marital infidelity. Consequently, the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota regularly pronounces that profound homosexuality is one of the causes of an inability to contract marriage. The judgments are based in particular on can. 1095, no. 3 of the Code of Cannon Law.
Children of persons living in homosexual unions
- The Church is strongly opposed to the adoption of children by people living in homosexual relationships (whether male or female), including those in which one person has changed his or her gender (a transgender person). By expressing Her objection, the Church defends the dignity, rights and mental needs of every child. Harmonious development, which includes the formation of a true image of marriage and family requires the presence of both father and mother.
61 As emphasized above, a woman living in a same-sex relationship can conceive and give birth to a child using the gametes taken from a consenting man or from a sperm bank. It is not possible, a priori, to rule out the possibility that such a child will have guaranteed both religious education and baptism. However, under no circumstances can two women be registered in the Baptismal Register as the parents of such a child. If the sperm donor is unknown, the father’s rubric is left empty (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Opinion of the Pontifical Council regarding the admission of two non-Catholics as witnesses to a baptism and the annotation of persons of the same sex and the so-called „transgender people” as parents in the baptismal register. Prot. N. 15986/2017. Vatican 15.11.2017).
Transsexual persons in the ecclesial community
- The presence of transsexual people (transsexual, transgender, transvestite) in an ecclesial community presupposes that their problems with sexual auto-identification are taken into account. This usually concerns transsexuals and transvestites. The first group is characterized by an inconsistency between the genetic and anatomical structure of the body and gender awareness. Such a discrepancy is connected with the desire (of varying degrees of severity) to “change sex”, both in terms of social acceptance, record entries, dress, behavior and playing specific roles (sometimes only in this dimension), as well as in terms of changing the genital gender through hormonal and surgical treatment (at the anatomical level).
- Guided by the objective criterion of human sex, i.e. their genetics (woman XX, man XY), the Church undertakes the position that hormonal and surgical intervention regarding do not cause its actual change. Such practices are treated solely as an act of self-mutilation. In the same manner, the Church perceives civil-legal procedures limited to registering “gender change”, or its omission in official documents.
Sacraments and LGBT+ people
- The Church does not deny transsexual people the right to be a part to the Church and, therefore, does not deny them baptism, nor the other sacraments, if they meet the fundamental conditions for a valid and licit reception. However, in upholding the sanctity of the Sacraments, the Church cannot agree to their untruthful celebration in those cases, in which their valid and licit celebration or reception is related to or dependent upon human sex. This is especially true of the sacraments of baptism, ordination and marriage. It is the genetic sex that is decisive, not the subjective sexual self-determination of a person. Consequently:
- In accordance with the official teaching and traditional practice, the Church does not accept the ideologically-driven postponement of a child’s baptism until the child has determined its own gender. If the canonical conditions are met, the Church baptizes a young child who is not yet aware of his or her gender, according to his or her genetic sex.
- The Church does not agree to giving a child a name at baptism that is incompatible with his or her genetic sex. The Church cannot accept the request to omit the sex of a child during registration in parish sacramental registries (e.g.: in waiting for the child itself to determine its gender over time), even if this is possible in civil public documents.
- The Church does not deny baptism to an adult who has in the past, through will of their parents or by their own choice, had a so-called “sex change” in any form. In practice, this implicitly implies that the person preparing for baptism has acquired during the course of the Catechumenate a different view regarding the “change” of his or her gender. Given that a surgical change of genital gender is irreversible, sincere regret should be considered sufficient and the person should not face difficulties or experience unpleasantly in undertaking religious practices, including in the reception of the Sacraments, unless their validity is related to sex. Bearing in mind situations in which social honesty plays an important role with moral consequences of contrary attitudes, these people should avoid ambiguities as to their gender (e.g. an intention to marry a person who is unaware of the actual sex of a transsexual person). For these reasons, they should also adopt a sex-specific name at baptism, and this name should be recorded in the baptismal register. Furthermore, in accordance with Canon 863 of the Code of Canon Law, the priest preparing such a person for baptism must inform his diocesan bishop (because it is an adult baptism) of this fact.
- The Church does not agree to record in parish registers a sex that is incompatible with genetic criterion, and cannot agree to change the registration to a sex inconsistent with the genetic criterion. The Church cannot change the gender of a child or adult along with their first name if that person has changed the gender designation in public documents or has undergone surgery. If possible, this fact should only be noted “in the annotations,” stating the name of the civil document, the registry number and date of issue.
- In accordance with the position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a transsexual person publicly presents an attitude that is contrary to Christian morality. Therefore, given the role that godparents play in relation to the person being baptized, a transsexual person cannot perform this function. Such a decision does not discriminate against that person, but only indicates an objective shortage in terms of the requirements that are necessary to fulfil that task.
The sacrament of Holy Orders
- A woman who has “assumed” the male sex, be it through a birth certificate or surgery, cannot take Holy Orders in any of the three degrees (diaconate, presbyterate, episcopate). According to the Catholic doctrine, “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly” (CCL canon 1024; referring to Holy Orders: John Paul II. Pastoral letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, Rome, 1994 Nos. 1 and 4). In accordance with the Church’s teaching, a birth certificate or surgical “change” of female genital sex to male genital sex does not change the sexual identity of a woman defined at the genetic level. According to the precepts of Canon law, a woman who attempts to receive ordination, and the bishop who attempts to ordain the woman, incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, from which only the Holy See can release (see Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei. Decretum generale de delicto attentatae sacrae ordinationis mulieris (19.12.2007). AAS 100:2008 s. 403), and the Holy Orders imparted are invalid.
- Holy orders also cannot be taken by a man who has “assumed” the female sex. Although such interference does not actual cause a change in sex, but the public declaration of one’s sex as being female is a serious impediment since it misleads the faithful regarding the candidate’s sex (or, later, presbyter) and becomes a source of doubt regarding the validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders received and the functions performed. Another impediment is the lack of a candidate’s correct self-identification with the male sex and the lack of a positive attitude towards it, manifested by his sexual instability and the creation of serious uncertainty regarding his attitude towards his own sexuality in the future (see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Note concerning the canonical consequences of transsexuality with respect to marriage and priesthood. Rome, 2002).
- According to the precepts of canon law, a candidate who “has mutilated himself or another gravely and maliciously […]” (canon 1041 par. 5) is irregular for receiving orders. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts explains that this irregularity occurs also when a candidate for receiving orders has mutilated himself or another person while not yet being Catholic, or baptized, or as a non-believer, or when professing another faith or religion (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Risposta autentica al can. 1041, Nos. 4‐5 CIC. Rome, 2016). It is possible to receive dispensation from the above irregularity, but in the case of a surgical sex change, a mutilated man cannot receive dispensation for reasons stated above. Such dispensation may be received by the surgeon who carried out such an operation (the one who performed the mutilation), if he were to wish to receive the Sacrament of Orders afterwards.
- The Church cannot consent to a marriage between transsexual people who have “changed” their sex. According to the canonical definition and the Catechism, marriage is a union – a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for the whole of life, and which is open by its nature to the procreation and education of offspring, (see CCL canon 1055 §1, 1057 §2; CCC1601, 1652; HV No. 9; FC No. 29). A marriage union, at its starting point, should also have sufficient grounds to create a lasting and harmonious bond encompassing the spiritual and the corporal spheres. The creation of such a union presupposes the ability to control one’s own sexuality. Hence, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declares, “A ban on marriage becomes absolute in the case of a transsexual who has undergone a sex-change operation, which can restore a certain state of emotional calm, but is not able to reach into the depth of mental pathology, nor does it change the sex, only its external appearance at most. In the event of an already contracted marriage, in which one of the spouses discloses the existence of the mental anomaly described here, proceedings for declaring that marriage null and void should be started, in line with canons 1674-1675 of the Code of Canon Law” (Note concerning the canonical consequences of transsexuality with respect to marriage and priesthood).
- In the case of strong transsexual obsession, the local Ordinary, after having examined the case, should prohibit the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage until it becomes certain that this obstacle has been removed (ibid.). Milder cases, sometimes experienced only periodically, in which the transsexual person provides sufficient evidence of controlling such an inclination, should be treated with prudence. They should involve consultations with experts on sexuality and psychology. The basic criterion remains a permanent ability to fulfil conjugal and family responsibilities.
- All of the observations above do not apply to sexual development disorders in the form of androgyny (hermaphroditism, intersex). The karyotype of such persons contains various combinations of sex chromosome pairs (different from the correct ones – XX, XY). The canonical situation of persons suffering from such disorders is different from the ones presented above and assumes professional analyses and their canonical assessment often requires a referral to the Holy See. These situations cannot be considered arguments in favor of the justness of gender ideology. In response to such attempts, the Church emphasizes, “In cases where a person’s sex cannot be defined, it is medical professionals who can make a therapeutic intervention. In such situations, parents cannot make an arbitrary choice on the issue, let alone society. Instead, medical science should act with purely therapeutic ends, and intervene in the least invasive fashion, on the basis of objective parameters and with a view to establishing the person’s constitutive identity.” (Congregation for Catholic Education. “Male and Female He Created Them” Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education, No. 24).
IV. The Church’s Position on the LGBT+’s Approach to the Sexual Education of Children and Youth
- Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis recalls the need for “a positive and prudent sexual education” addressed to children and youth. It should be adjusted to the age of children and should use “the latest advances in psychology and the arts and science of teaching” (Second Vatican Council. Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum educationis. Rome, 1965, No. 1; hereinafter DCE; see AL No. 280-286; see also Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them Nos. 19-21). Sexuality – as the Pope stresses – can “be understood only in the context of education for love, for mutual self-giving” (AL No. 280).
Marriage and family as key values of sexual education
- Sexual education is sometimes understood as the transmission of information about human sexuality, sexual intercourse, methods of contraception and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, as if it only dealt with hygiene. Whereas the proper aim of sexual education is the preparation of children and young persons for future marriage so that they may have the ability to build a lasting, stable and happy family.
- To accomplish this goal, it is necessary to bring children and youth to firmly believe in the profound value of conjugal love, of both paternal and maternal love and, in general, in the profound value of family love. Love, however, requires effort and sacrifice. A correct understanding of sexual education is one that leads children and young people to firmly believe that marriage is the proper place for sexual activity, and that children born into that marriage, for whom a loving environment in the family must be ensured, are a gift and blessing.
- To accomplish this goal, it is necessary to assist children and young people in developing self-control, in controlling their sexual impulses, subjected those impulses to the significance that conjugal love represents. Thanks to such inner strength, young people may be able to put the good of their marriage, family and children above momentary and transitory pleasure.
The family as the natural environment of sexual education
- The most basic method of sexual education is having children participate in family life, where they are witnesses to the mutual love of their parents. “The family environment is therefore the normal and usual place for children and young people to consolidate and exercise the virtues of charity, temperance, fortitude and chastity. As the domestic church, the family is the school of the richest humanity” (Pontifical Council for the Family. Instructions for Education in the Family. The truth and meaning of human sexuality. Rome, 1995. No. 48; see FC Nos. 39, 51-54).
- The “individual love” of the father and the mother is not enough for a child. Children need not only this individual love, but also to participate in their parents’ mutual and complementary love. In this way, the child learns about himself as a sexual being, i.e. as a man or woman. In this way, the child develops an internal notion of conjugal and family love, of manhood and fatherhood, of womanhood and motherhood, based on the bond of love the child observes between its father and mother. The child’s awareness that life is the fruit of both their father’s and mother’s love is the most important “information” and “good news” that can be learned through sexual education and is a witness to the beauty that the gift of human sexuality is.
- The lack of such a context to the child’s sexual development, for example through divorce or adoption by a same-sex couple, risks not only distorting the child’s awareness of the nature of marriage and family, but also carries the serious threat of distorting the image of the child’s own sexuality.
- When the child lacks the experience of his parents’ mutual love, sexuality could then present itself to the child as a “force” or experience that functions outside of a relationship based on love. When human sexuality is not tied to the experience of love, closeness, sacrifice, and mutual devotion, then it may be associated with feelings of anxiety, unhealthy curiosity, a misplaced feeling of guilt or focus on oneself.
- Parents sometimes feel unprepared to accompany their child along the path of psychosexual development. In many homes, there is an atmosphere of taboo in dealing with issues of sexual education. Questions shyly asked by children are ignored, dismissed with silence or misinterpreted. The child then turns to a different source of information on the subject that intrigues him. Such situations are often taken advantage of by dishonest people or demoralized communities, who then draw profits from this and cause scandal. Instead of assisting the development of a proper attitude towards sexuality, “they ‘play’ on man’s weaknesses, and thus make him increasingly weak and defenseless” (John Paul II. Letter to Families Gratissimam sane. Rome, 1994. No. 13).
- State authorities and various organizations (including those at an international level) that are not concerned for the moral good of children, and whose aim is to enforce a model of demoralizing education that is inconsistent with the parents’ beliefs, may try to take advantage of such lacks during the period of sexual education. Such attempts by the State of organizations in overriding parental rights are always an abuse and form of violence. Fathers and mothers have the right to defend their children from such abuses. They also have the right and duty to promote the good of their children and to demand from authorities laws that will prevent and eliminate the exploitation of the sensitivity of children and adolescents” (Pontifical Council for the Family. Human sexuality. No. 45).
Integral vision of man
- Man’s sexuality encompasses the entire human person: the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and moral dimensions. Thus, it is not limited to genital activity alone. An adequate sexual education has to take into account all the above aspects, and its essential goal is to engage pupils in the process of linking emotional and physical experiences with love and responsibility for oneself and for those with whom they become involved with through friendship or loving relationship. As observed earlier, the relevant subject-matter presented must take into account the child’s perceptive abilities and the degree of psychosomatic development.
- By its nature, human sexuality builds inter-personal relations at the emotional, spiritual and corporal levels. Hence, it is necessary for the people involved in the process of sexual education to have not only a good knowledge of human physiology and psychology, but solid knowledge of morality and spirituality as well. An educator who does not have the appropriate skills or who does not know how to respect the age and moral sensitivity of the pupils may make them anxious or even demoralize them, rather than reassuring them and developing their moral sensitivity. Or, on the contrary, the educator may reassure them too much rather than inspiring a responsibility and gradually revealing to them the world of the values of human sexuality.
Formation to chastity
- Sexual education should be a school in chastity. The family is the appropriate place for such a dimension of sexual education. “It is in it that […] social models, natural modesty and strong tendencies inherent in a human being’s bodily nature meet.” It is in the family that “this purity of mind and body helps develop true self-respect and at the same time makes one capable of respecting others, because it makes one see in them persons to reverence,” (Pontifical Council for the Family. Human. sexuality. No. 17). Chastity, when speaking in terms of sexuality, flows from love and serves love. Love is the source of chastity, and chastity in turn leads to the development of love. A proper upbringing towards chastity emphasizes the need for self-control. It presupposes virtues such as modesty, temperance, respect for self and for others (See Congregation for Catholic Education. Education guidelines. No. 35).
- Pope Francis emphasizes that “A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value. (…) It is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used. Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviors that distort our capacity for love” (AL No. 282).
- It should also be remembered that true chastity is not only the fruit of one’s own effort, or the effort on the behalf of parents and educators, but is also a gift of Divine grace, personal asceticism and a regular approach to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance. Hence, an integral education for chastity and its preservation should take into account development of supranatural life.
Defense against moral depravity
- Sexual education is related to the formation of conscience. People learn how to make a mature moral assessment through the practices of examining their conscience, the sacrament of reconciliation and personal prayer. Systematically ignoring one’s conscience in matters of love and sexuality leads to a moral disorder that destroys personal bonds and becomes a source of egoism and harm inflicted upon oneself and others.
- Human frailty in the sexual dimension cannot be ignored in the process of sexual education. Hence, in addition to the above-mentioned care for the religious formation of children, parents and ministers should also teach children and young people how to properly discern moral responsibility in order to “maintain the necessary sensibility in judging their subjective responsibility” (Congregation for Catholic Education. Education Guidelines. No. 99). Young people who succumb to weaknesses of the flesh should be supported, raised in spirit and kept up in their hope that they will be able to attain self-control and live a life in chastity.
- Young people often carry an enormous burden of problems and internal conflicts associated with reaching psychosexual maturity. Sometimes, when they do not trust their parents enough to talk to them about their problems, they look towards their peers, towards people they meet by chance, to the internet or other social media, where they often find aggressive offers of pornography and encouragement to commit immoral acts that may sometimes lead to disordered addictions.
- A consistent sexual education must strive towards protecting the child against such forms of depravity and sexual abuse. The basic method of protection of parents of their child is building trust, mutual understanding and engaging the child to open dialogue, in which the child may feel comfortable in sharing things that raise curiosity and anxiety. Parents can, in this way, keep watch over the child’s psychosexual development. An unhealthy interest in the sexual dimension becomes manifest in those children, who cannot ask the questions that are bothering them in an atmosphere of safety and trust, in this way expressing their anxieties and fears, and as a result, do not have access to reliable information that would satisfy their curiosity in a safe way for them.
On the challenges of adolescence
- During adolescence, many young people often dramatize certain sexual sensations. They experience them with feelings of anxiety, guilt and apprehension. Sexual anxieties combined with excessive curiosity sometimes push adolescents to make immature attempts and trails in engaging in sexual experiences, which are rather attempts in proving their own manhood or womanhood rather than symptoms of hedonism or satisfying their desire. That is why young people need solid advice and support so that they may come to accept their own sexuality as a beautiful gift and important task. Such support should come from their families and schools, where they the young person can receive the necessary support on how to responsibly approach their own sexuality and, if there are any difficulties, can be encouraged to seek appropriate help. Proper sexual education should be an important assistance for young people in de-dramatizing difficulties and in overcoming anxieties associated with psychosexual development.
Sexual education adequate for the different stages of development
- Sexual education should take into consideration the different stages of psychosexual development of children and young people. Parents and educators (including catechists) should take into account their sensitivity and developmental needs. In individual sexual education in the family, the child itself – usually through questions – gives clear signals as to what information is required at a specific stage of development. The bond of trust that exists between both parents and the child will make it easier for the child to ask about things that they are interested in knowing.
- Knowledge about human sexuality should be expanded in keeping with the intellectual and emotional maturity of pupils. Children and adolescents should never be forced nor exposed to contents and behavior that are inadequate and inappropriate for a specific stage of their psychosexual development.
The family and the school in sexual education
- Sexual education as part of the school system (as well as an element in catechesis, as discussed further on) is always difficult because it cannot take into account the sensitivity and individual needs of every child. “Every child is unique and inimitable and should receive individual formation” (Pontifical Council for the Family. Human sexuality. No. 65). It is primarily the parents who, having contact with their child every day, are able to fully understand them; only they can fully understand the sensitivity, needs, and be able to discern the manifestations of their child’s sexual maturity, problems and concerns (See ibid.). Parents are capable of spotting more easily and accurately spot the appropriate moment, in which to communicate to their child important information about human sexuality in conformity with their child’s physical, emotional and spiritual development. For this reason, it should be emphasized once again that parents remain the best people for the task of educating children about sexuality. (See Permanent Council of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. Sexual Education. Responsibility of Parents. Jasna Góra – Częstochowa, 27 August 2019).
- Parents can responsibly fulfil the education mission in the scope of sexuality, as long as they are prepared for it. There exists, therefore, the need for relevant Church structures (e.g. parishes or dioceses) or lay institutions that will embrace Christian principles of morality so as to organize preparatory courses for parents, assisting by the support of trustworthy experts, psychologists, teachers and sexologists.
- Those who teach the subject of formation towards family life or, optionally, speakers invited by the school to speak on the subject to children, should never communicate information nor hint at matters that would go against the moral principles declared by the children’s parents, or against their expectations. Such classes should be based on testimonies of positive experiences. They cannot cause scandal.
- An important trait of a person entrusted with the task of teaching formation towards family life (whether teacher or catechist) is the ability to inspire trust. Children and adolescents gain courage to openly raise issues relating to human sexuality during class and in private conversations only if they feel they can trust their teacher. Trust is also the basis of children’s positive attitude towards the things they learn. The person teaching the class should assume the role of a guide-guardian, however always in full cooperation with the parents of the children entrusted into his care.
Catechesis and the sexual education of children
- Catechesis has an important role to play in the sexual education of children and young people. Catechists teaching catechesis should not replace parents in their role, but should base their mission on the principle of subsidiarity, which means – as emphasized earlier – that “all other participants of the educational process act in a way on the parents’ behalf, based on their consent, and to some extent even to their order (Congregation for the Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them. Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education, No. 46). The aim of this cooperation is to accompany the child in the educational process regarding sexuality as appropriate for the child’s age and development. This formation is an element of moral education, which is integrated with faith and the representation of Christian perfection in the Person of Jesus Christ. This catechesis is, therefore, not one of the many theories of good human behavior. It presents the nature and vocation of every human being from the very first years of life, the mystery of one’s creation and the dignity that is also inherent of the human body, the internal unity of a person’s spiritual, biological, psycho-emotional and social dimensions, as well as the beauty and purpose of being a sexual person, woman or man. At the same time, this catechesis aspires to present a true model of achieving one’s own humanity as girl or boy, and ultimately as woman or man on the path of practicing love and self-sacrifice in a personal community throughout one’s life, or in a celibate life dedicated to God and the Church. The core curriculum of catechesis also points to the need to educate towards chastity, and ways to remain in chastity, as an essential part of the catechesis. At the same time, catechetical programs should include the presentation of the Church’s respectful attitude towards homosexual or transsexual people, however, without forgetting the moral evaluation of such behavior (See Declaration on Christian Education No. 1; Congregation for Catholic Education. Educational Guidelines in Human Love. Rome 1983 No. 35; John Paul II. Exhortation Catechesi tradendae. Rome 1979 No. 38; Core curriculum of Catechesis of the Catholic Church in Poland. Częstochowa: Edycja Świętego Pawła 2018 pages 71, 113).
Against abuses in sexual education classes
- The Pontifical Council for the Family strongly advises against making use of erotic material in sexual education, irrespective of the age of the children and young people. This must not be done either in individual meetings or in group activities, which is required by the basic “principle of decency”. (Human Sexuality. No. 126). The same principle applies to all forms that involve children and young people in the sexual education classes and, in particular, in catechesis. No one should be persuaded in any way, let alone obliged, to engage in any behavior or action that may objectively offend modesty, cause depravation, encourage unchastity or subjectively hurt personal sensibility, shame and privacy (See ibid. 127).
- Focusing on contraception and “protecting themselves” against the consequences of sexual intercourse is also an abuse of the sexual education of children and young people. Making young people believe in the need to “protect themselves” actually harms their ability to engage in a truly human, full, faithful and fertile love (See HV no. 9). Only love that is an exclusive and complete gift of self-giving within the conjugal union is truly safe, and the path to it is a prudent and integral sexual education that is based on moral order. No measure can make sexual activity safe if a young person’s life is controlled by sexual promiscuity and the belief that a condom is an effective form of protection against conception or infection. The negative connotation of the word “to protect oneself” is also pointed out by Pope Francis. “The word creates a climate of negative attitudes towards the natural, pro-creative purpose of sexuality” (AL No. 283). It is a show of “narcissistic aggression” deprived of any kindness to a new life (ibid.).
- The Church’s contemporary teaching on sexual problems, therefore, defends the moral principles based on natural law and divine revelation. At the same time, it shows sexuality from a “human” perspective, pointing to its nature that enriches the human person and demonstrating the responsibility one bears for this “fragile” gift: what to do with it, how to relate to it and how to use it.
Jasna Góra, August 28th, 2020
(Polish original, English translation for consultation. Translation by K. Górska-Łazarz / Office for the Foreign Communication of the Secretariat of the Polish Bishops’ Conference)