TransgenderStephanie MacGillivray

What does it mean to be a person in the twenty-first century? This article explores  the challenges which this question poses to the Catholic Church's social, pastoral and theological teachings, particularly looking at the Church's attitude to pastoral care for the transgender community. Stephanie MacGillivray writes in a personal capacity and all views are her own.

The value and meaning of human life is explored today on a daily basis through issues such as euthanasia, abortion and stem cell research. However, not only do we question life's value in terms of its beginnings and endings, but traditional understandings of the human being are also shifting, with increasing debates on issues like transgenderism and sexuality. There has arguably never been a clearer affirmation within society of the ambiguous nature of the human person.

Tradition, continuity and change
Tradition plays a large role in the Catholic Church's approach to pastoral care. The way in which the Church has cared for the sick and dying since the days of its Ars Moriendi, first published in the fifteenth century, has proven that in the face of changing societal attitudes towards the value of life - witness the legalisation of euthanasia and abortion in various parts of the world - their tradition of care has stood the test of time and moral challenge.

This is especially strong in the face of adversity and vulnerability. There are countless episodes in which Jesus teaches and demonstrates love and compassion for his marginalised neighbour - the parable of the Good Samaritan, the healing of the leper, and the forgiveness of the sins of the woman who came to the house of the Pharisee being just a few well-known examples.

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