Faithfully transgender

This article looks at emerging Church teaching on transgender issues, and emphasises Pope Francis’ call for pastoral support of trans people. David Albert Jones is a consultant ethicist and professorial fellow at St Mary’s University, and Claire Jenkins is a Catholic trans woman engaged in academic research and educational resourcing.­­­­

An absence of definitive Church teaching
It is a mark of the Catholic Church, founded by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, that she teaches with authority all that is necessary for salvation. So familiar are Catholics with the idea that the Church speaks with authority that it is sometimes difficult to recognise that there are many areas of life where there is no authoritative Church teaching. The Church’s teaching on faith and morals is constantly developing in response to doctrinal disputes, pastoral needs and the encounter with new scientific and philosophical insights. As a consequence, at any point there will be many questions where the Church has not yet come to a definitive view.

There is no authoritative teaching, for example, on whether gender reassignment surgery is, in principle, morally permissible. In the last seventy years, many thousands of people have undergone such surgery, and yet it was never mentioned by Pope Pius XII or any of his successors. The Church has long condemned sterilisation for contraceptive reasons.

However, it has always allowed surgery for genuine therapeutic reasons, even when this leads to loss of fertility. There is no consensus among Catholic moral theologians as to whether gender reassignment surgery is therapeutic in this sense, and there is no official teaching. 1 It is a question the Church has hardly even begun to think about.

Pope Francis, ‘gender theory’ and pastoral accompaniment
One area of papal teaching that has begun to emerge over the latter part of the twentieth century relates to ‘gender theory’. 2 Pope Francis has criticised as ‘ideology’ theories of gender that would seek to abolish all distinctions of sex or gender within society or that would make gender a matter of choice. 3

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