Speaking to a group of Polish bishops, Pope Francis delivered a harsh critique of teaching children they can choose their gender identity.
“Today, children are taught this at school: that everyone can choose their own sex,” Francis said last week, according to the Catholic Herald and other news organizations that read a Vatican transcript of the closed-door meeting. “God created man and woman; God created the world like this and we are doing the exact opposite.”
Teaching children that they can pick their gender, Francis said, is “terrible.”
DignityUSA, an organization for LGBT Catholics, issued a statement Wednesday saying that Francis’s words on gender identity “put lives at risk,” because they could encourage violence or bullying toward transgender youth in many countries.
“The pope is demonstrating a lamentable and dangerous ignorance of a subject that is literally a matter of life and death to some people,” the organization’s executive director, Marianne Duddy-Burke, said in the statement. “What many, including Pope Francis, do not yet understand is that people do not ‘choose’ their genders. A gender is assigned at birth, and some people discover that they were incorrectly classified. … It is interesting that until recently, the prevailing belief was that people chose their sexual orientation. Now, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that there are some people ‘who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex’ and that this is a ‘deep-seated’ reality. It seems that we will have to undergo the same kind of conversion in our thinking about gender.”
Early in his papacy, some in the LGBT community looked to Francis as a source of hope when he said about gay priests, “Who am I to judge?”
Since then, however, many have seen their hopes dimmed for change in the Catholic Church’s policies on gender and sexuality. Some thought that Francis’s major paper on family issues, which was completed in April, would offer some movement on gay relationships; it did not.
“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the document said instead.