Church advice on trans students is based on a false understanding of biology

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By Fintan Steele

Document from the Archdiocese of Denver “Counseling for questions concerning the human person and gender identity” is ultimately not just about their private schools and the Roman Catholic moral stance to treat (or rather not treat) trans children and/or same-sex parents in those schools. The document repeatedly refers to objective truths that must be maintained.

So what are the principles behind their advice? And are they, in fact, objectively true? It seems that there are only two that matter here:

1. Sex was created for heterosexual procreation.

Within marriage, of course, and always “open” to the possibility of conception, even in situations where one or both husband and wife are sterile. Ergo birth control, masturbation, etc., are contrary to sexual intent, and therefore immoral. Homosexual acts, which by definition prevent procreation, are inherently immoral.

2. Gender identity is established solely by physical traits.

Your plumbing determines who you are sexually (male or female), regardless of your neurobiology, background, etc. And depending on what you rock “out there,” you have particular roles to play in the Church and in society.

For all the concerned pastoral language added to blunt its fundamental intolerance, the document rests on these two principles. But are they, in fact, objectively true? This is where we see the split between the Roman magisterium and just about every medical and scientific group in the world.

Regarding the first principle. Yes, sex at its most beastly level is mostly – but not always – about creating new creatures. But its main purpose is to reorganize the chromosomes and promote the variability of the species. The Roman church focuses on the individual end product, but conveniently ignores that the variance within the population is as important, if not more so, than any offspring itself. Indeed, the variability we actually see in human sexuality – and against which the Church rages – is to be expected from a truthful procreative position. Their objective truth here is neither truthful nor objective.

It is even clearer that their insistence on the second tenet (“sex parts = gender”) ultimately fails the truth test for the same reasons, even based on simple observations about the complexity of gender and identity development. of gender. Again, there is an evolving spectrum of identities that we would expect from something so complicated and imprecise. By its very nature, gender defies simple categorization or explanation. Thus, moral denunciations of some forms of gender identity but not others are not only stupid, they are actually more immoral than what is being denounced.

Fortunately, we don’t have to subscribe to such horrible belief systems (and fewer and fewer of us do). But it is hard to stand idly by and watch the damage done to so many in the name of doctrinal purity. Yes, Roman Catholicism has the absolute right to hold whatever beliefs it has, so long as it does not insist that non-members must adhere to its ultimate collapse of human worth into an archaic and patently false understanding of human biology that harms rather than supports.

I am regularly reminded by some of my former seminarian and monastic colleagues that there are beautiful things in Roman Catholic moral theology, especially in its social teachings which are explicitly based on the principle of the fundamental dignity of the human person. Yes, and some of that broader language is even found in this guidance document (again, probably to disguise the horror of the other stuff). But why they continue to retreat into this schizophrenic division between asserting human dignity and denigrating human sexuality is doomed, and highly immoral even.

Fintan Steele is a former Benedictine monk and priest with a doctorate. in biology/genetics. He has spent most of his life in scientific communications, including scientific publishing and, more recently, for biopharmaceutical and academic centers. He and his husband live in Hygiene, CO.

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