It invoked the story of Adam and Eve, who sought to conceal their bodies after their fall: “everyone experiences this disharmony in various ways and to varying degrees.” Personal experiences, the document said, do not “negate the profound oneness of the human person’s body and soul.”
Addressing those with gender dysphoria or a self-professed transgender identity, the diocese said: “Every one of us has a struggle that is unique. But none of us should feel alone or abandoned in his or her struggles. Like many others, you may feel alienated from your body, as though you are supposed to have a different one. Please know that, although you may struggle with your body or self-image, God’s unrelenting love for you means that He loves you in the totality of your body as well. Our basic obligation to respect and care for the body comes from the fact that your body is part of the person—you—whom God loves.”
“More than anything else, the Church desires to bring you the love of Jesus Christ Himself. That love is inseparable from the truth of who you are as one created in God’s image, reborn as a child of God, and destined for His glory,” the diocese continued. “Christ suffered for our sake, not to exempt us from all suffering but to be with us in the midst of those struggles.”
The diocese warned against “simple solutions” for the transgender-identifying that promise relief through changing one’s name, pronouns, or bodily appearance.
“There are many who have walked that path before you only to regret it,” the catechesis said. “The difficult but more promising path to joy and peace is to work with a trusted counselor, therapist, priest, and/or friend to come to an awareness of the goodness of your body and of your identity as male or female.”
The diocese emphasized that the Church’s pastoral care extends especially to parents of children who suffer gender dysphoria or “feel distress over their God-given identity as male or female.”
These parents may experience “a profound sorrow as they witness their children’s suffering,” the diocese said. “Their sorrow is deepened if their children pursue ‘gender affirming’ therapy, a harmful and life-altering path.”
The diocese acknowledged the pressures on parents and on family life.
“In difficult circumstances, parents are often tempted to think—or are made to feel—that their Catholic faith is at odds with what is good for their child,” it said. “In fact, authentic love for their children is always aligned with the truth. In the case of gender dysphoria, this means recognizing that happiness and peace will not be found in rejecting the truth of the human person and the human body.”
While critics of Catholic teaching sometimes depict it as harmful, Bishop Burbidge told CNA that “the truth as given to us by God is the only path to freedom and to peace and to the joy that we are seeking.”
“For us, to convey that truth compassionately is what we do to help others,” he said. “We are not going to try to help and support others beginning with an error or falsehood. A falsehood cannot bring about peace and happiness in one’s life.”
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“While the answer to a problem might be complicated, we cannot begin with that which is untrue,” the bishop said. “That’s not the loving thing to do.”
Parents, the diocese continued, should resist “simplistic solutions presented by advocates of gender ideology” and seek to find “the real reasons for their children’s pain and unhappiness.” They should find trustworthy doctors and other care.
“Under no circumstances should parents seek ‘gender-affirming’ therapy for their children, as it is fundamentally incompatible with the truth of the human person,” said the diocese. “They should not seek, encourage, or approve any counseling or medical procedures that would confirm mistaken understandings of human sexuality and identity, or lead to (often irreversible) bodily mutilation.”
“Trusting God, parents need to be confident that a child’s ultimate happiness lies in accepting the body as God’s gift and discovering his or her true identity as a son or daughter of God,” said the diocese.
Its catechesis comes after a period of major cultural, legal, and political change regarding gender identity and transgenderism. Strict anti-discrimination laws and policies increasingly mandate transgender-affirming workplace practices and the provision of surgeries in health care plans and health care systems. Some states have banned clinical or counseling approaches sceptical of transgender self-identity, drug therapies or surgeries, classifying this scepticism as “conversion therapy.” The Biden administration is also working to make gender identity a protected class.
Bishop Burbidge emphasized the need to treat self-identified transgendered persons with respect.