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Avoid ‘dualistic’ gender ideology and language, Roman Catholics told

31 May 2024

RC Bishops’ Conference calls for pastoral sensitivity in church schools and parishes

Alamy

An independent review, chaired by Dr Hilary Cass and published in April, found that gender services for children were steered by ideology rather than “normal principles of pediatrics and mental health”

An independent review, chaired by Dr Hilary Cass and published in April, found that gender services for children were steered by ideology rather than ...

THE Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has called on church schools and parishes to exercise pastoral sensitivity, but to avoid being drawn into “dualistic” gender ideology and its language.

“There are pressures in the spheres of education, healthcare, business, wider society and our own pastoral settings actively to affirm and encourage adults and children to conform with the other gender to resolve their gender dysphoria,” the Bishops write.

“Many do not find ultimate happiness with this transition. What we are able to affirm in each and every pastoral situation is the truth that the individual person, no matter how distressed and disturbed in their own sense of self and reality, is known and loved by God in all their complexity, including confusion about their gender identity.”

The Bishops’ 4800-word “pastoral reflection”, Intricately Woven by the Lord, says that a “new language” has evolved around terms such as “transgender” and “gender fluidity”.

“Those who propose these ideas are generally at odds with a holistic understanding of the human person; they adopt a dualistic understanding, totally separating the material from the psychological and spiritual. Such a view of the human person is highly pervasive across sections of society, raising significant and pressing pastoral challenges for the Church, as well as challenges in the fields of law, medicine, education, business and religious freedom.”

This has led to “education programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female”, and an ideological outlook in which “human identity becomes a choice for the individual, one which can also change over time.”

The document says: “We should never seek to cause offence to another, even where the other person advocates a view of reality different from the Church’s vision of the human person. Yet care should be taken to resist the temptation to adopt the language of gender ideology in our institutions.”

The reflection follows growing controversy over gender ideology in Britain, where transgender citizens made up 0.5 per cent of the population of 67.85 million in the 2021 census; but sex-change requests have also increased sharply.

NHS doctors stopped prescribing puberty-blocking hormones to young people with gender dysphoria on 1 April, referring to safety concerns. An independent review, chaired by Dr Hilary Cass, found that gender services for children were steered by ideology rather than “normal principles of pediatrics and mental health”.

In Scotland, a new Hate Crime and Public Order Act, in force since 1 April, makes it a potential criminal offence to question a person’s transgender identity or “varied sex characteristics”. This has been condemned as contrary to church teaching by the Scottish Bishops’ Conference.

In their reflection, the Bishops say that male and female roles are determined not just by “biological or genetic factors”, but also by “temperament, family history, culture, experience, education and the influence of friends, family members and respected persons”.

But, they write, medical interventions should be “resisted” where “reassigning gender” destroys the body’s fertility or sexual function, along with a “misleading view” of the human body which fosters “a limited and flawed view of the human person”.

The Bishops say that a recent declaration from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas Infinita (Leader comment, 12 April), “solidified” RC teaching on gender, highlighting the importance of pastoral care for “those experiencing gender dysphoria or identifying as transgender”, but also reminding Roman Catholic parishes, workplaces, and schools to reflect “the foundational Catholic understanding of the human person” in their work.

While “rigid cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity” are “unfortunate and undesirable”, people “across different spheres of society” share the RC Church’s belief, founded on Genesis, in “the importance of the human body as created”.

“Pastoral accompaniment is complex, encompassing legal, medical, psychological, theological, spiritual and pedagogical elements. It takes place within the context of ever-changing and polarising developments in the political, cultural and commercial spheres,” the Bishops write. “Those who offer particular pastoral accompaniment to gender dysphoric persons need a clear understanding of the Catholic vision and understanding of the human person and a holistic view of human sexuality.”

Presenting the pastoral reflection, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, told a press conference that the document was in “absolute harmony” with the Vatican, but should also be viewed as a “pastoral accompaniment” rather than a statement of “rigorous teaching”.

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