The Vatican’s newly-released document “Male and Female He Created Them” affirms (once again) the Christian vision of the human person proclaimed and defended by the Catholic Church for more than 2,000 years.
The vision set forth in “Male and Female He Created Them” is one of an integral anthropology. That is, one that presents an understanding of man (and woman) that fully respects the physical, psychological and spiritual realities of each individual and holds these three elements in a fine balance.
With this new document, the Church rejects “gender theory” — the misguided ideology that replaces the reality of physical identity with the longings of the psyche — and, in doing so, renounces the sexual differences that form the natural basis of the family.
Issued by the Pope’s Congregation for Catholic Education, “Male and Female He Created Them” is meant to be a light for parents and educators who have been stumbling in the dark trying to teach children about sexuality amid a rapidly changing popular culture.
It seems like only yesterday that sexual education primarily consisted of explaining the fundamentals of human reproduction within the context of marriage. The goal was to save sex for the safety of a committed and permanent marriage. All this could be easily illustrated with terrifying pictures of STDs and by ultrasound images of the endearing fetuses sacrificed by the hundreds of thousands on the altar of so-called sexual liberation through abortion. No more. These days, by the time adults get around to explaining sex (around fifth grade) we find that the gender theorists have been long at work. They’ve already instilled in young children the concept that one’s identity is entirely divorced from one’s physical and bodily reality.
Consider what you’ll now find on the shelves of public preschools and kindergartens. Or what’s being read aloud in public libraries across the country. Picture books like Red: A Crayon’s Story and I Am Jazz. Illustrated for 4-year-old audiences, Red tells the story of a blue crayon that has been mistakenly labeled as red. No matter how hard Red tries, he can only draw blue lines. Similarly, Jazz is a biological boy whose “true” identity is decidedly female — which he discovers in the frilliest pink, and in a gauzily stereotypical fashion. Happiness for one and all comes only through the general acceptance and celebration of Red’s and Jazz’s “inner sense” of color and gender, sex organs be damned.
In these new preschool readings, then, human identity is a choice, an inner disposition for understanding adults to discover and foster. Forget the stark physical reality of each body’s billions of cells carrying XX or XY sex chromosomes. Never mind the complicated cascade of hormones and secondary sexual characteristics (manifested during puberty) that makes each of us male or female.
Today’s gender theorists would simply set aside all this as insignificant at best, or a barrier to be demolished at worst. In personal relationships, the only things that matter are one’s “inner sense” of gender, and romantic feelings between individuals — “sexual differences and procreation be damned.” The result, according to the authors of “Male and Female He Created Them,” couldn’t be clearer: “[T]he institutional model of the family (where a structure and finality exist independent of the subjective preferences of the spouses) is bypassed, in favor of a vision of family that is purely contractual and voluntary.”
The Church, by contrast, reminds us that a wholesome understanding of sex insists on the integration of the biological element into the totality of the person. Accepting what is physically true of one’s self, with all the particular abilities, capacities and joys that come from being male or female, is the road to sexual and psychological health. This is especially so in light of the fact that hormonal and surgical alterations are only superficial alterations and do not — indeed, cannot — create a new person.
It is helpful to us here in the United States that this document has been released during “LGBT Pride Month.” For the document stands in sharp relief against this “celebration” by pointing out the dangers posed by gender theories that move us away from nature and toward an absolute reliance on feelings and desires.
Rainbows on storefronts, and prominent listings of the countless pronouns that accompany the postmodern culture’s denial of these perennial truths of existence, remind us that we all need light in this new darkness. The Church responds with a bright beacon: the sensible and timely reminder that man and woman are indeed man and woman. A radical move indeed.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association.