It’s a question we have to answer. We are called to accompany and console those who suffer, not to abandon them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church demands that same-sex attracted people “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Any person who struggles with inclinations that he does not choose has a greater demand on our compassion than others.
Persons who are marginalized or shunned by the broader society should look to us Catholics as people of empathy, good will, and kindness. But as the very proliferation of things like LGBTQ+ Pride Month suggests, many LGBTQ+ people do not consider their orientation or identification to be something to struggle with.
From a Catholic point of view, some things are clear about the LGBTQ+ agenda, while others are ambiguous and morally challenging. One thing that is clear is the ideologically driven agenda often hurts the very people that LGBTQ+ advocates should want to help.
The American Journal of Psychiatry was forced to correct a report that claimed “gender affirmation surgery” leads to improved outcomes in psychiatric comorbidities. The authors claimed their study “provides timely support for policies that ensure coverage of gender-affirming treatments.”
That claim, the APA admitted, was “too strong.” More analysis of the data “demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care visits or prescriptions or hospitalizations following suicide attempts.”
This followed a critical analysis of the study by University of Texas’ Mark Regnerus. He cited the report for its “abandonment of scientific rigor and reason in favor of complicity with activist groups seeking to normalize” mutilating surgeries. He found that far from helping people with gender dysphoria, “a clinic may have to perform 49 gender-affirming surgeries before they could expect to prevent one additional person from seeking subsequent mental health assistance.”
That’s clear. But other things are not. This is where it begins to get murky in real life. Again, how does one fulfill the gospel mandate to join the suffering of a person who doesn’t think she’s suffering?
And what should be our posture in the face of the overwhelming blunt-force politicization of highly complex and difficult issues? We cannot shun our responsibility, even when the political pressure to confirm is inversely proportionate to the moral ambiguity. We must try to think through the ambiguity, even if clarity remains elusive.
The name and pronoun issue is an example. It seems reasonable to call a person by whatever name he or she chooses. An abundance of names in all languages are common for both genders. Whatever name one calls oneself is the truth of that name, and we cannot reasonably refuse.
But the issue is not the same with pronouns in languages and grammars in which pronouns are inextricably linked to one or the other of the genders. To call a male by female pronouns is necessarily to participate in the falsehood that sex can change, that gender is fluid, or that the man standing before you is a woman. It is also to embrace the falsehood that I am neither.
This is made more difficult by trends in American and international law — such as the so-called “Equality Act” in the U.S. — to discourage if not prohibit the use of pronouns other than those that a person has designated for himself.
How do we address a male as male if the law gives him a cause of action if he wants us to call him a female? And how does a Catholic physician practice medicine if these laws similarly compel him to accept the prevailing politicization of health issues?
These are exceedingly difficult questions that cannot be easily answered. But neither can we surrender the clarity of Catholic teaching to the murkiness of ideologically driven sexual politics.
Kenneth Craycraft is a licensed attorney and the James J. Gardner Family Chair of Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He holds the Ph.D. in theology from Boston College, and the J.D. from Duke University School of Law. His previous article for Chapter House was If the Eucharist isn’t Political, to Hell with It.
Photo credits: The Stonewall Inn sign and pride flags at the Stonewall National Monument (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images); couple marching with gay pride flags (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Image).
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