The New Gender Paradigm
The official doctrine of the Catholic Church acknowledges the difference between gender (personality), which is unchangeable from birth; and biologic sex, which has no influence on gender.
The Church supports the need for transsexuals to transition “to relieve inner turmoil” (see Gender Distress). Surgery to correct anatomic defects is acceptable. Priests & Bishops have the authority to accept post-transition transsexuals into full communion. All Sacraments can be offered without special dispensation. …That is, unless the individual has a mental disorder, such as “gender identity disorder” or “gender dysphoria”. In that case, they’re referred for psychotherapy and should not be allowed to marry or take religious vows. Furthermore, the Church warns any individual from thinking that they can “change” their gender. © Cassandra Branch MD
POLICY STATEMENT After almost 2000 years of transsexual acceptance, Church policy was changed in 1997, when Jesuit Father Urbano Navarrete wrote "Transexualismus et ordo canonicus," a doctrinal thesis condemning transsexuality & intersexuality. It was published in Periodica de re Canonica, Vol. 86 (1997), pp. 101-124, which was a journal for the Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana where Father Navarrette served as a professor of canon law. The research was done at the request of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the agency tasked with determining official Church doctrine. The author was later appointed Cardinal when Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. The author died in 2010. The primary source of information for the new doctrine was Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul McHugh, who had dedicated his life to halting medical treatment for transsexuals. In fact, the thesis even quoted diagnostic criteria from the DSM (see Transsexualismus, pp 4-5). It’s notable that Father Navarette began his thesis with the caveat that its recommendations were based on the assumption that transsexuality was a mental disorder: “At the outset, let us emphasize the assumption … [that] these operations are judged to be the efficacious means to free the patient from an intolerable psychological conflict in order to attain psychic sanity.” Three years later, the Church distributed an official policy statement based on Father Navarette’s work. The key points are as follows: 1. Transsexual surgery “is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female." [Note the use of personality to determine gender.] 2. Male vs Female can’t be altered on any records maintained by the Church. A notation can be placed in the document’s margin when necessary. Background: In the late 1980s, an Italian priest publicly announced that he had undergone a "sex-change" operation. The event triggered speculation regarding whether a transsexual woman could be a priest, even though the priesthood was limited to males only. …Father Navarette’s thesis answered that she could be a priest. Regarding whether a transman could be ordained, the answer was “No”. 3. Medical transitioning was declared to be morally acceptable as long as it relieved the person’s “internal turmoil”. However, permission was also granted for the categorical excommunication of any transsexual without cause. A priest who transitioned should undergo psychotherapy and spiritual counseling. They “can continue to exercise their ministry privately if it does not cause scandal”. 4. However, the statement was made that anyone undergoing a “sex-change operation” was an “unsuitable candidate for priesthood and religious life because of mental instability”. 5. After transitioning, an already existing marriage remains valid even though the two partners have the same gender -- “unless a church tribunal determines that a transsexual disposition predated the wedding ceremony.” 6. But an unmarried transsexual “cannot enter into a valid marriage, either because they would be marrying someone of the same sex in the eyes of the church or because their mental state casts doubt on their ability to make and uphold their marriage vows.” INTERSEX In Father Navarette’s thesis, the section on intersexuality is problematic – see the discussion of intersexuality, particularly the section on Klinefelter Syndrome. The discussion is limited to different forms of “hermaphroditism” and “pseudo-hermaphroditism”: According to Father Navarette, so-called “true hermaphroditism” is otherwise known as Klinefelter Syndrome.
Since the chromosomes (XXY) are both female (XX) and male (XY), supposedly some people with the condition have one half of the body totally male (testicle & penis) and the other half totally female (ovaries, uterus & vagina. Father Navarette labels the condition “alternative hermaphroditism”. “Bilateral hermaphroditism” is said to have the same chromosomal configuration, but there’s an ovo-testicle on both sides. There’s also a uterus, vagina and a penis. Finally, a “unilateral hermaphrodite” has an ovo-testicle on only one side. Father Navarette proposes that “hermaphrodites” are both male & female. They’re “always sterile”. As such, the person can’t marry or be ordained. Surgery can’t help because surgery doesn’t change a person’s chromosomes. The thesis continues: “Pseudo-hermaphrodites” have normal XX or XY chromosomes, but they “have some sexual characteristics of the other sex on account of an error of nature.” Surgery to correct anatomic defects is acceptable, and the individual is to be offered full communion with the Church. Unfortunately, Father Navarette’s description isn’t informed by medical science. Klinefelter Syndrome is an example of hypogonadism, in which inadequate levels of testosterone prevent full masculinization of an otherwise normal male. 64% of people with XXY Chromosomes have no symptoms; 25% are diagnosed at puberty and another 25% are identified in late adulthood. Especially with medical treatment, about 50% are able to father children. “Hermaphrodite” is an obsolete term that once referred primarily to chromosomal mosaics.
Beginning in the 1980’s, another debate has taken place outside the Vatican walls. Many unofficial Catholic websites argue that medical transitioning involves the surgical removal of supposedly “normal healthy tissue” – ie, removal of the penis & testicles for a transsexual woman, or removal of the ovaries & uterus in the case of a transman. …Some have even called it “mutilation” and reference Catechism 2297: 2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law. It seems the quote is being taken out of context, particularly in light of countless other procedures that “modify healthy tissue”, such as breast surgery and other cosmetic surgeries, circumcision, preventive surgery, etc. An example of this line of reasoning can be seen in an article written by Deacon Keith A Fournier for Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) on 24 August 2014. A more vitriolic condemnation of transsexual “mutilation” can be found in Rebecca Hamilton’s article for Patheos: Public Catholics on 10 May 2013. It was entitled: Sex Change Surgery is the New Prefrontal Lobotomy and a Trendy Form of Child Mutilation. Deacon Fournier has degrees in both theology and law. He's Editor in Chief of Catholic Online. Ms Hamilton served 18 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Both authors are prominent advocates foe the Catholic life. On the topic of mutilation and removal of healthy tissue, consider the following passages in the Bible: And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Deuteronomy 19:21, Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. Deuteronomy 25:12
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:39-30, Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43-47 Note that the “mutilation” angle appears nowhere in Father Navarette’s thesis, nor in any other official pronouncement of Church Doctrine.
For two thousand years, the Catholic Church has enjoyed and valued the contributions of the transsexual faithful -- particularly in the priesthood and in the holy orders. That long tradition of acceptance ended only in 1997, when an extremist was allowed to taint orthodox beliefs with the sophistry of modern psychiatry.
The Catholic Church’s doctrine on gender & marriage is based on a certain key passages in the New Testament. In essence, there are two tracks toward the Spiritual Life: First, a man & woman can join together in marriage to produce a family devoted to living the Christian Life. However, a more blessed course is to live a chaste life while serving God alone – meanwhile overcoming sexual desire. In a marriage, devotion to one’s spouse is a distraction from complete commitment to God & His Kingdom. Likewise, sexual desire itself disturbs the tranquility necessary for true Spirituality.
Note that chastity is possible even within a marital relationship. The following scriptures are the primary basis for these doctrines: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. -- I Corinthians 7:1, 8-9 He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
-- I Corinthians 7:32 -34 And the Church Fathers have offered similar counsel: it is good to marry, because it is good to beget children, to be a mother of a family: but it is better not to marry, because it is better not to stand in need of this work. -- St Augustine: Of the Good of Marriage, ¶ 9 Now virginity is directed to the good of the soul in respect of the contemplative life, which consists in thinking "on the things of God", whereas marriage is directed to the good of the body, namely the bodily increase of the human race, and belongs to the active life, since the man and woman who embrace the married life have to think "on the things of the world," as the Apostle says. Without doubt therefore virginity is preferable to conjugal continence. -- Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica Part 2/2 Article 4 Jesus of Nazareth added a notable twist to the two-path doctrine. The subject under discussion was marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:10-12): His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. People who make themselves eunuchs? What does genital surgery have to do with service in the kingdom of heaven? And the advice applies only to a special group of people—“they to whom it is given”. Jesus’ reference made perfect sense to His audience. In Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures, transsexuals had formed a special priesthood in the service of divinity since the dawn of time. For example in Rome, a transsexual village existed on the Vatican Hill until 390 CE. The Apostle Peter was even buried in their cemetery. Origen of Alexandria (184-254) was the best-attested transsexual in the early Church. Her career began as director of a Catechetical School in Alexandria. She underwent genital surgery around the year 210. The local Bishop, Demetrius disapproved of her transitioning and fired her. A short time later she moved to Caesarea in Palestine to begin a new career as a religious advisor, publishing a large number of doctrinal treatises – earning recognition as an Early Church Father. She died in 254 in the Christian persecutions under Emperors Decius & Valerian. Another Early Church Father, Tertullian, had this to say on the same subject: The Lord Himself opened the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:12] to spadones [transsexual]. He Himself lived as a spado. The apostle [Peter] also, following His example, made himself a castratus [ie, underwent surgical transitioning]. -- Tertullian, On Monogamy, Chapter 3 NOTE: Use of the word castratus precludes any idea that the reference was only meant figuratively. Here’s what modern religious scholars have to say: It isn't necessary to accept my view that Jesus' statement is a reference to the galli [Roman transsexuals]. Whatever the original meaning, the fact remains that some of the followers of Jesus, living in an environment where men castrated themselves as a religious sacrifice, interpreted the words of Jesus as a command to do the same. The practice of religious castration continued into the Christian era, with members of the early church castrating themselves for religious purposes. -- Daniel F Caner PhD, Department of History, University of Connecticut
Gilbert of Sempringham
In the centuries thereafter, most surviving accounts of transsexuals appeared in the context of Church service. For example, Gilbert of Sempringham was described as having a “misshapen” body that led her “in the firm direction of the weaker sex.” She proceeded to establish 13 convents that housed 1500 nuns – biologic females, plus people who had been born male but later transitioned. (See Medieval Women by Henrietta Leyser, pp 192-195)
Agnes of Schornsheim
Agnes of Schornsheim was a gifted child born in 818. By age 5, he was reading from the Vulgate Bible and had large parts committed to memory. When his reputation reached Rabanus, the headmaster of the newly established university [Trivium] at Fulda (in the German State of Hesse), the child-prodigy was immediately recruited. Fulda was a monastery – that is, males only. But the fact that Agnes had female biology wasn’t a concern. In fact, he already dressed as a boy and had taken the name Johannes Anglicus (John the Englishman). By 843, John had been promoted to magister (professor) at the school. In that year, Fulda fell into disgrace at the imperial court. John fled to Rome, where Pope Leo IV commissioned him to establish a Trivum at the Santa Maria in Sassia hospice (aka Schola Saxonum). His reputation in canon law and philosophy was unmatched until his death in 857. Further evidence of transsexuals in Church service is the presence of female names amongst the men listed in monastic records & graveyards; similarly, there are traditionally male names listed in convents. For more details and references, see The New Gender Paradigm, Chapter 18. Christine Jorgensen
Christine Jorgensen was the first modern transsexual to be widely publicized. She underwent surgery in 1951-1952 and enjoyed initial acceptance in the media and general population. In October 1953 when reporters asked Christine’s parish priest, Father Hilario Chaurrondo, about her standing in the Catholic Church, he replied:
Father Chaurrondo: "If her application for a Catholic ceremony carries with it all the perquisites and prior dispensations of the Archbishop, I would say [she can even marry]." Reporter: "Would Cristina's case involve special dispensations?" Father Chaurrondo: "No. Only the normal procedure. Just as for any other woman. As far as we are concerned, Cristina is a woman since she has been so designated by the United States, where they know what they are doing."