A gender-neutral bathroom is seen in this Sept. 30, 2014, file photo, at the University of California, Irvine. CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Comment: Church must reach out on gender issues

  • November 24, 2016

Cardinal Willem Eijk of the Netherlands recently called on Pope Francis to write a major document on the growth of gender theory. Too many people, including Catholic parents, now accept that one can choose their own gender. Many Catholic school leaders in Canada have also bought into that idea.

Eijk is right that the Church should address this issue, although not in the way many Catholics would propose. Too often, Catholic interventions on moral issues are seen in negative terms, as the bishops wagging their fingers at a degenerate Western world.

The appearance of finger-wagging serves to further alienate the very people the Church needs to reach. It also solidifies the widespread view of the Church as a scolding grandma or grandpa from times of yore. Some would categorize the Church’s taking tough moral stands as being countercultural; it usually turns out to be counter-evangelization. Who would want to belong to a hard-hearted bunch of judgmental wretches?

We can end up self-satisfied and isolated in our presumed moral purity, or we can address the issue in a constructive manner.

It’s past time for Church leaders to take seriously the adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might use them in due proportion. Or, as Pope Francis says, “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a similar vein when discussing how to respond to non-Christian religions. The first step is not to condemn those religions for failing to acknowledge Christ as the one saviour, but to examine those religions on their own terms, to understand what they say about themselves.

So it should be with LGBTQ issues. Please don’t propound about some abstract gender theory without hearing what people covered by that acronym say about themselves.

Take the “T” part — transgenderism , the most contentious of the bunch. Yes, we have a teaching that God created humans either male or female. But listen to those confused about where they fit in and you’ll find no two stories are alike. Most of these people are less concerned with gender theory than with having a coherent personal identity which will put an end to their suffering and confusion.

Listen to their stories of isolation and abuse. Having listened to their stories, a Church built on the mercy of God might be less inclined to issue magisterial pronouncements than to provide concrete help.

Today, the field of psychologists and counsellors is crowded with professionals who accept gender theory, who accept that even a child or adolescent confused about their gender should be encouraged to adopt the gender of their choice. More and more, encouragement is given by professionals for surgical solutions to psychological dysphoria.

All of this goes directly against the evidence that if a child or teen receives encouragement — not lecturing — to adopt behaviour of their natural sex, an overwhelming majority will slowly come to feel comfortable in their bodies and act in consort with their birth sex.

Yet, where is such counselling available? Toronto psychologist Ken Zucker, who employed such counselling, was hounded out of business in 2015 by transgender activists more interested in ideology than in helping suffering people.

Why have Catholic social service agencies not risen to fill the vacuum? It’s a more comfortable world if you just issue magisterial statements which draw outrage for a week and then are forever ignored.

Prior to issuing statements, our leaders need to have a hands-on experience with the suffering of the transgendered. Their agencies need to provide assistance and they themselves need to take time, lots of time, to listen to those experiencing so-called gender dysphoria.

One foundation of Catholic social teaching is the pillar of solidarity — standing with those who are marginalized. One implication of solidarity is that where you stand determines what you see. Until you stand with those confused about their gender, you’ll only see what your associates tell you. It could be a case of the blind leading the blind.

Cardinal Eijk thinks a magisterial document might help end gender ideology. With all due respect to His Eminence, I believe action comes before words. The world needs the Church’s solidarity with the suffering more than it needs more moral condemnations.

(Argan is the former editor of the Western Catholic Reporter: www.glenargan.com.)

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