The Embodiment of Truth
A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Why we can be grateful for the U.S. bishops’ new document on gender identity.
By the end of March, at least 21 state legislatures across the United States were considering bills that would restrict medical interventions that aim to alter a young person’s biological sex. Ten states already passed such laws to protect children from making decisions that would harm their bodies for a lifetime. State-level action intensified after the federal government imposed the Health and Human Services’ “Transgender Mandate” in 2016, which requires health-care providers to perform gender-transition procedures. The mandate has been held up in various courts because it offers no religious exemptions.
It’s in this context that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a new document that cogently clarifies why it is categorically wrong for medical personnel to undertake hormonal and surgical procedures that purport to realign a person’s biological sex with an opposite “gender identity.” The bishops have taken special care to emphasize that the healing ministry of Christ demands that all human beings are to be cared for with dignity. And the fact that Catholic facilities treat more than one-in-seven patients in the U.S. alone demonstrates Catholic commitment to health care.
The purpose of the U.S. bishops’ doctrinal note was carefully measured: to provide guidance to Catholic health-care providers about why their participation in these so-called “gender transition” procedures is morally impermissible. But as is always the case these days when someone dares to challenge transgender orthodoxy — which holds that human sexual identity is a purely subjective phenomenon that can be altered at will — the hostile response from transgender activists to the doctrinal note was notably less measured.
In their statement, the U.S. bishops highlight a few salient facts about the reality of human existence that can’t be ignored or rejected, in the context of gender transitioning. First, we have been divinely created by God as individuals who have a unity of both body and soul. Second, echoing the Book of Genesis, our bodies are permanently created as either male or female.
Third, these bodies are not “objects” that we are at liberty to change in any way we like. That’s because, as the document states, they are “a constitutive part of the human subject, a gift to be received, respected, and cared for as something intrinsic to the person.” Therefore, medical treatments that permanently alter the body are justifiable only when they remedy a bodily defect or, in cases such as an amputation, are necessary for the entire body’s welfare.
And fourth, these medical interventions can’t ever be justified in the case of altering our bodies to resemble the opposite sex. That’s because, in this circumstance, the procedures are neither correcting a bodily defect nor protecting the overall welfare of our God-given bodies. In fact, they are doing the exact opposite.
The doctrinal note stresses that such procedures are even less defensible in the case of minors, who because of their youth lack the intellectual capacity to make informed decisions about such a life-changing matter. This is equally true with respect to the damaging puberty-blocking drugs that are prescribed to younger children who are confused about their sexual identity, in order to prevent their bodies from maturing sexually prior to undergoing so-called gender-transition procedures.
In a saner time, it wouldn’t have been necessary to make these points. Common sense should be sufficient to guide anyone away from the outlandish notion that it’s beneficial to compromise bodily integrity, in a futile attempt to conform a person’s immutable biological sex to a false belief that he or she is actually a member of the opposite sex.
But in contemporary America, unfortunately, that reservoir of common sense has drained away to the point that our nation’s Catholic president, Joe Biden, claimed recently that it’s “close to sinful” for state governments to pass laws banning gender-transition procedures from being inflicted on minors. Theologically as well as scientifically, the president’s statement was preposterous. It’s also out of step with the 46% of Americans who do not support medical interventions for minors and the 68% who are largely unaware of the legislative efforts around “transgender health care,” according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.
With absurd claims like this one, political leaders like Biden have unquestioningly bought into the rhetoric of transgender activists who willfully ignore the mountain of evidence that supports the truth of what the bishops are pointing out in their doctrinal note.
For example, a central claim of the transgender lobby is that denial of gender-transition procedures heightens the risk of suicide and of other serious mental issues. But, in fact, scientific studies indicate that suicide rates and the incidence of other mental-health problems are not reduced by gender-transition procedures.
In light of the emerging evidence of the damage caused by inflicting these disfiguring procedures on minors, countries such as the U.K., Sweden and Finland — hardly bastions of social conservatism — have walked back their policies of making them freely available to children.
The constant downplaying of the permanent negative consequences that everybody who undergoes chemical and surgical transition procedures will be forced to endure has been subject to claims of medical malpractice. The under-reported consequences for those individuals who undergo chemical interventions include remaining on opposite-sex hormones throughout their lives, despite the known and potentially severe side effects associated with long-term use of drugs that are ill-suited to their natural physiologies. And in the case of surgical interventions, along with the numerous other permanent harms associated with these irreversible bodily disfigurements, they have in many cases been rendered sterile.
One such case is that of Chloe Cole, an 18-year-old young woman who “detransitioned” after realizing that she had made a disastrous mistake by undergoing both chemical and surgical procedures that began at the age of 13. She recently filed a lawsuit in November against Kaiser Permanente, one of California’s largest health-care providers, accusing them of making her the victim of a “mutilating sex-change experiment.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, despite intense pressure from the transgender lobby to conform themselves to its destructive gender-transition agenda, our Catholic shepherds have been able to properly discern and articulate the moral and medical facts that must be respected in order to address this contentious matter correctly. After all, the issues in play are our bodily integrity and the truth about human sexuality, and the bishops are disciples of Jesus Christ — who, as the Son of God, is the embodiment of divine truth.
We can be grateful for their new document, and we should offer our prayers on their behalf, to strengthen them as they continue to provide this courageously faithful witness in the face of the torrent of invective that their fidelity inevitably provokes.
God bless you!