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Pope Francis. Image: Zebra48bo, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Updated Vatican policy takes stronger stand against transgender surgery

Transgender people who undergo surgery to change their bodies are violating God’s plan for human life, the Vatican announced this week.

The announcement comes as many European countries, once leaders in promoting such surgeries, move to ban them based on medical evidence as to their danger.

For the Vatican, however, the decision was made based on guidance from the Bible.

The Vatican’s doctrine office issued “Infinite Dignity,” a 20-page declaration that has been in the works for five years. It was approved on March 25 by Pope Francis, who ordered its publication this week.

“Regarding gender theory, whose scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts, the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God,” the document states. “This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes, apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel.”

The document continues: “Another prominent aspect of gender theory is that it intends to deny the greatest possible difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference. This foundational difference is not only the greatest imaginable difference but is also the most beautiful and most powerful of them. In the male-female couple, this difference achieves the most marvelous of reciprocities. It thus becomes the source of that miracle that never ceases to surprise us: the arrival of new human beings in the world.”

The report comes amid an increasingly bitter social debate about the rights of transgender people, particularly relating to trans women’s inclusion in female sports and women-only spaces. Companies and brands that have advocated for the LGBTQ+ community have been hit by a backlash, such as beer brand Bud Light which was engulfed in a social media firestorm in 2023.

The Catholic church has seen similar divisions play out within its ranks. Former American Bishop Joseph Strickland, who said marriage should be only between a man and a woman and that it is wrong for someone to try to change their God-given gender, was fired by the pope, who has tried to make the church more welcoming to LGBTQ+ believers. But this week’s doctrine document appears to take a firmer stance.

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The Catholic church does not believe someone’s sex can be changed, and the declaration puts transgender surgery in the same category as abortion and euthanasia as practices that reject God’s plan. The report describes trans surgery as violating the human dignity gifted by God and as attempting to play God on the surgeon’s table during “sex-change intervention.” An exception was made for surgery to correct “genital abnormalities” that can be “resolved” with the help of health-care professionals.

LGBTQ+ Catholic groups have slammed the document as archaic and argued it flies in the face of recognizing the “infinite dignity” of all of God’s children. They also warned it could fuel anti-trans violence and discrimination. Others praised it for valuing the lives of transgender individuals.

A newly articulated position also took a harder line in terms of surrogacy. The Vatican said each child “has the right to have a fully human (and not artificially induced) origin and to receive the gift of a life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver. Considering this, the legitimate desire to have a child cannot be transformed into a ‘right to a child’ that fails to respect the dignity of that child as the recipient of the gift of life.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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