Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that schoolchildren must accept the gender into which they were born if they are to be truly happy.
Entering the debate on the “ideology of gender” publicly for the first time, Cardinal Vincent Nichols suggested that only through accepting their biological sex would people ultimately find their “greatest joy”.
The Archbishop of Westminster told a meeting of Catholic head teachers that children were not “single, self-determining individuals” but members of a great family with “firm points of reference” determined by birth.
His remarks represent a rejection of the gender ideology being imposed upon many public institutions and associations – and giving rise to such practices as sharing toilets, changing rooms and other facilities.
In his speech to school leaders of his archdiocese late last month, Cardinal Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, appealed to a “common sense of humanity” as an antidote to the rampant individualism that he blamed for driving emerging ideologies.
He said it was the “foundation for much of Catholic moral teaching in areas of friendship, relationship, family life, human sexuality”.
“At a time of great confusion about the rules of sexual behaviour, about exploitation and abuse in every part of society, some firm points of reference, that are already built into our humanity at its best, are of vital importance,” said Cardinal Nichols.
“In an age of fluidity, even in gender identity, and at a time when the response to ‘difference’ is to become closed in a self-selecting world of the like-minded and reject that which is different, such foundations are so important.
“They affirm that there are ‘givens’ which come with birth and with solid identities and which project across generations,” he said.
“They help up keep hold of the reality that we are not single, self-determining individuals but members of a great family, with all its trials, diversities and struggles, and within that family, not alone, will we find our greatest joy.”
He reminded his audience that “British values”, such as the rule of law, democracy and human rights, which the Government intends to enforce in UK schools ostensibly to counter radicalisation, were founded on Christianity.
But in an unusually blunt criticism of public policy, he warned teachers that “government diktat or favour” alone would result only in the “barren expectations of tolerance”.
He said it would be better to help young people develop a sense of justice and fair play that was grounded in an “innate understanding of human nature and its dignity” rather than in an ideology.
“The Christian faith is not an ideology,” he said. “An ideology proceeds by destroying what is in its way. This we see in dramatic forms today, as it can be seen in most phases of human history.
“An ideology seeks to remove all that is opposed to it and to impose its ‘ideals’, no matter the objective cost.
“The Christian faith, on the other hand … looks with clear eyes at the reality before it, the reality of which it is a part: a neighbourhood, a culture, an economic system, an ecology.
“The Christian faith, more than any other, takes the reality of sin seriously, not pretending that we live in a utopia, or on a pathway of endless progress, but rather in a world marked by limitations and distortions.”
So far, even in Catholic schools, children are usually accepted into the gender of their choice rather than their birth.
Yet such practices risk putting Catholic schools at odds with Church teaching that God created people to be either male or female.
Transgender campaigners criticised the remarks of Cardinal Nichols, however, describing them as “not helpful”.
Heather Ashton, of transgender charity TG Pals, told the Mail on Sunday: “It is the responsibility of educators to be accepting, tolerant and understanding, and a religious bias should not have any impact on a transgender child’s needs.”
Last month when the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, an academic institute serving the Catholic Church in the UK and Ireland, published a briefing paper which vigorously opposed Scottish proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
The planned reforms, which are likely to be replicated later this year in England and Wales, seek to allow any person to change their gender by law simply by self-declaration.
They would remove existing provisions requiring a person with “gender dysphoria” to see a doctor first and to “transition” into a gender of their choice for at least two years before they can legally change.
They also seek to allow married people to change gender without the permission of their spouses.
Children will also be allowed to self-declare into a new gender from the age of 16 and those younger can do so without parental consent if they appeal to the courts.