Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

 My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are living in very confused and confusing times, when longstanding truths from time immemorial are not only being questioned but are being rejected outright. One of these basic truths is the reality that people are born into the world as male or female. Proponents of transgender theory argue that gender is fluid and cannot be confined to binary categories of male and female.

What makes the situation tragic is when the argument goes beyond the theoretical, and parents of young children begin hormone therapy at a very early age for their children who express some confusion about their gender identity. While it is not unusual for a young boy to show interest in activities culturally associated with girls and for young girls to show interest in activities culturally associated with boys, this does not mean that this is “a girl trapped in a boy’s body” or “a boy trapped in girl’s body.” Studies have shown that in most cases this is just a phase that the child will outgrow.

The biological fact is that the sex of a child at birth is clearly male or female, except in rare cases of birth defects where the genitalia are ambiguous. While appropriate medical and surgical care may be indicated in such situations, it is harmful and morally objectionable to introduce hormonal therapy in anticipation of sex-reassignment surgery in situations where a child may be suffering from gender dysphoria, that is, confusion about his or her gender identity.

Moreover, studies have shown that people who have transgender therapy and sex-reassignment surgery are not helped by such procedures, and in fact may become more depressed after such surgery when they discover that sex-reassignment surgery was not the panacea they had hoped for nor did it bring them the happiness they wanted. This was the conclusion reached by Dr. Paul R. McHugh, Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who discontinued sex-reassignment surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital when he was psychiatrist-in-chief there. Referring to those who had sexual reassignment surgery, McHugh said that “their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery.” He also reported on a study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic reporting that, among children who had expressed transgender feelings, 70-80 percent of them “spontaneously lost those feelings” over time.

McHugh said that a helpful analogy would be to compare gender dysphoria with anorexia nervosa, a psychological disorder where a thin person thinks that he or she is overweight. A parent, teacher or counselor would never respond to an underweight child suffering from anorexia nervosa by saying, “Yes, you are fat, and I will help you lose weight.” Likewise, a parent, teacher or counselor should never respond to a child suffering from gender dysphoria by saying, “Yes, you are in the wrong gender and I will help you change your biological sex.” Any person, child or adult, dealing with gender dysphoria should be treated with compassion and respect, including appropriate counseling by counselors or other professionals who hold a correct Christian anthropology of the human person in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The church teaches that our identities as male and female are part of God’s good design in Creation, that our bodies and sexual identities are gifts from God, and that we should accept and care for our bodies as they were created. A person cannot change his or her gender. A person should accept and seek to live in conformity with his or her sexual identity as determined at birth. The Catholic Church teaches that the removal or destruction of healthy sexual and reproductive organs is a type of mutilation and is intrinsically evil. Procedures, surgeries and therapies designed to assist a person in “transitioning” his or her gender are morally prohibited.

In his Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis wrote, “Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology,” noting that “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.”

May God give us this grace. Amen.