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A Theological Response to Gender Ideology

By David Tamisiea
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
May 2024

Gender dysphoria refers to the strong and persistent distress some people experience based upon a perceived mismatch between their biological sex and internal sense of gender identity. People with gender dysphoria often undergo tremendous suffering and deserve nothing but respect, compassion, and love. Many with gender dysphoria seek mental health counseling to resolve their distress and grow to accept their born sexual identity. Others, however, influenced by a growing movement called gender ideology, seek to be rid of their natural sex characteristics through social transitioning and medical interventions and ask to be treated as the opposite gender or a non-binary category other than male or female, and consider themselves “transgender.”

Pope Francis has insisted that the Church accompany those who identify as transgender, provide them with loving pastoral care, and respect their dignity. On the other hand, Francis has consistently condemned gender ideology, recently calling it “the ugliest ideology of our time” (March 2024 address). To be clear, the Catholic Church opposes any form of hatred, violence, or unjust discrimination towards transgender individuals. Persons who identify as transgender are created and loved by God, and Christians are called to love them with the love of Christ. Even so, the Church must always “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), and today it must speak the truth about gender ideology because this movement is causing serious harm to individuals, families, and society.

Gender ideology, like any ideology, begins with a false set of ideas and then dogmatically insists upon these ideas despite evidence to the contrary. In this case, supporters maintain that in persons suffering from gender dysphoria there is in reality a misalignment between their internal gender identity and their biological sex that must be fixed. Advocates believe that a person’s subjective feeling of being male or female or non-binary is what really matters, even if it is incongruent with the person’s biological sex. Sex is no longer recognized as a given of nature but rather seen as a social construct that can be chosen. Since gender ideology contends that a person can be born in the wrong body, proponents support a person with gender dysphoria transitioning to appear as the sex that is consistent with their internal gender identity, including going by a new name, dressing as the opposite sex, receiving hormonal treatments, and undergoing sex-change surgeries.

How is the Church to respond to gender ideology? God has not left us orphans in the world but reveals to us fundamental truths about himself, the world, and the human person. These revealed truths are communicated in Scripture and Tradition and are authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Theology is the discipline that studies this divine revelation and, in the case at hand, can draw upon revealed truth to challenge gender ideology’s false assumptions and misguided solutions to the problem of gender dysphoria.

Theologians have always looked to Genesis to understand God’s creative design for the world and humankind (Gen 1–2). Genesis reveals that God created everything good (Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) and made human beings in his own image and likeness as the culmination of his creative work (Gen 1:26-27).

Genesis also reveals that God created the human person as a living being composed of both material and spiritual elements (Gen 2:7). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. … Spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature” (CCC 364–365). The Church has always rejected dualistic accounts of human nature: the human person is not a soul in a body, and does not merely have a body, but rather the human person is both body and soul, inseparably united. Gender ideology essentially presents a false dualistic account of a male soul in a female body or a female soul in a male body contrary to divine revelation.

Genesis further indicates that God created the human person as male or female (Gen 1:27). Just as a human person is necessarily composed of both body and soul, so too the person is sexually differentiated as either male or female. Being male or female is not like a garment that one can take on or off, but rather is constitutive of the person. Contrary to the tenets of gender ideology, God did not create non-binary, third sex, or gender-fluid beings, but rather a binary complement of male and female. Moreover, the sexual differences between a man and a woman are complementary, reciprocal, and ordered toward marriage and family life. Jesus himself affirms that God’s creative purpose in making human beings male and female is for the sake of marriage (Matt 19:3–6). Gender ideology erases the innate distinctions between men and women and therefore indirectly opposes God’s design for marriage and family.

All of creation, including our being created male or female, is a gift from God and an expression of his will. God entrusts the entire world to man as a steward, including his own being (see Gen 1:26–29, 2:15–20), but man is not absolute Lord and Master over it, for “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1). Gender ideology disregards the natural created order established by God and crosses an impermissible boundary in advocating for medical interventions that manipulate the human body to appear as the opposite sex. This is a grave violation of the dignity of the human person and their bodily integrity (see USCCB’s 2023 Doctrinal Note on the Moral Limits to Technological Manipulation of the Human Body). These technological manipulations echo the age-old temptation of Adam and Eve to make themselves God by transgressing the limits of freedom (Gen 3:1–7).

The Christian faith reveals that gender ideology is a harmful and dangerous movement that should be strenuously resisted because it opposes God’s creative will and is contrary to the dignity and true good of the human person.

This is the first in a four-part series that addresses the contemporary problem of gender ideology on theological, philosophical, scientific, and common-sense grounds.

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The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
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