A rising push for gender ideology will have deep consequences, but Catholics can respond in the right way, an English bishop has told education leaders in his diocese.
“We must always show genuine love and understanding to those who are swayed or fall victim to the errors of our times,” Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said.
“However, we can never compromise the truth of our faith nor allow the truth about the human person to be obscured, for that would be a false charity.”
The letter, released Oct. 6, is dated Sept. 29, the Feast of the Holy Archangels. It is addressed to head teachers, school governors and heads of religious education in his diocese in western England.
“There are now many questions arising in the world of education concerning the ideology of gender which underlies transgenderism,” he said, distinguishing the ideology from caring for those who are confused or suffering.
Bishop Davies said Catholics have a duty to welcome people who may “experience difficulty identifying with their biological sex.”
“Our Christian approach to persons in any kind of confusion and suffering must always be one of respect, compassion and understanding, together with a commitment to seeking appropriate help,” he said.
The bishop warned schools against accepting and promoting gender ideology, saying the mindset is “beginning to permeate social consciousness with far-reaching consequences.”
Among gender ideology’s claims, the bishop indicated, is the claim that physical characteristics do not determine who a person is as a man or a woman; the claim that gender is merely a “social construct”; and the claim that personal choice is sufficient to determine a person’s gender.
“And yet we know that sex is determined by physical characteristics which start to develop from conception,” he countered.
“Today, the Church is being called to defend this very truth of the human person,” Bishop Davies said. “We find ourselves at a moment when we must ponder more deeply God’s love for us revealed in the human nature he gives us in creation - it is the same human nature which, in the mystery of the Incarnation, God the Son took to himself in becoming flesh.”
Bishop Davies said the Scriptures, like the Book of Genesis, describe sexual difference as something willed by God from the beginning. These differences “come into existence when we are conceived, as science universally affirms.”
The bishop said the complementarity of the sexes is “ordered to procreation in which father and mother collaborate with God in the coming to be of a new person.”
Bishop Davies cited the writings of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a March 2016 statement by the U.S. bishops on federal education rules.
In Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si,” for instance, the Pope said learning to accept one’s body and to respect its “fullest meaning” is “an essential element of any genuine human ecology.” This includes valuing one’s body in its femininity or masculinity. He criticized the attitude that would “cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
In the Pope’s exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” the pontiff criticized education programs and legislation that promote “a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.”
Bishop Davies said the diocese hoped to organize opportunities for reflection on the implications of this “radical, ideological challenge.”
His letter was released days after Pope Francis criticized gender theory as “a great enemy of marriage.” During his visit to the country of Georgia, he advocated the countering of “ideological colonization.”
At an Oct. 2 in-fight press conference en route to Rome, the Pope stressed the need to accompany those who struggle with their sexuality or sexual identity. He also rebuked “wickedness which today is done in the indoctrination of gender theory,” citing a story of a man who believed his 10-year-old son was being taught gender theory in school.