Although Pope Francis’ comments on climate change have dominated the headlines in recent days, many are unaware that his new encyclical, Laudato Si’, also addressed another controversial topic: Gender Theory.
Here’s what he wrote:
“Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man,” based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.” It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
This isn’t the first time that the Pope has addressed the issue of “Gender Theory.”
During an in-flight press conference from The Philippines to Rome on 19 January 2015, the following question was posed to Pope Francis:
“You have spoken of “ideological colonization.” Would you expand on the concept?”
“Ideological colonization. I’ll give just one example that I saw myself. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of education asked for a large loan to build schools for the poor. They gave it to her on the condition that in the schools there would be a book for the children of a certain grade level. It was a school book, a well-thought-out book, didactically speaking, in which gender theory was taught. This woman needed the money but that was the condition. Clever woman, she said yes and made another book as well and gave both of them. And that’s how it happened. This is ideological colonization. They introduce an idea to the people that has nothing to do with the people. With groups of people yes, but not with the people. And they colonize the people with an idea which changes, or means to change, a mentality or a structure. During the Synod, the African bishops complained about this. It was the same story, certain loans in exchange for certain conditions — I only speak of this case that I have seen. Why do I say “ideological colonization”? Because they take, they actually take the need of a people to seize an opportunity to enter and grow strong — through the children. But this is nothing new. The same was done by the dictatorships of the last century. They entered with their own doctrine. Think of the Balilla, think of the Hitler Youth…. They colonized the people, they wanted to do it. So much suffering — peoples must not lose their freedom. Each people has its own culture, its own history. Every people has its own culture. But when conditions are imposed by colonizing empires, they seek to make these peoples lose their own identity and create uniformity.”
Pope Francis again challenged the idea of “so-called gender theory,” during a pair of Wednesday Audiences and while speaking to young people in Naples. He wondered, “I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.” He proclaimed “Gender theory is an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.” In order to remedy the matter, he called for a “rediscovery” of the “alliance between man and woman.” This is essential, because “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God.”
More recently, in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, he added:
“…The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation….An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.” (285)
“Sex-education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.” (285)
“It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation…But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories…A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership.” (286)
In saying these things, Pope Francis is not preaching hate or intolerance, but is reminding the world that when we devalue or deny that God made us male and female, we are not endowing one another with dignity, but are erasing the complementarity that images the very love of God.
Jason Evert founded chastityproject.com has spoken on six continents to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity. He is the author of more than ten books, including How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul and Theology of the Body for Teens.