Vatican cites Pope Francis’ condemnations of gender ideology in letter to pro-life association

The Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, the seat of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, the seat of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. | Jim McIntosh via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation has referenced Pope Francis’ statements on gender ideology in a letter to a pro-life association in Italy.

The letter, dated Oct. 1, was made public shortly before the Italian senate blocked a controversial “anti-homophobia” bill, known as “Ddl Zan,” in a surprising 154 to 131 vote on Oct. 27.

The letter was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response to a request for clarification about how Catholic politicians should react to legislation in contradiction with Catholic teaching, in particular, gender ideology.

The CDF’s letter pointed out Pope Francis’ clear criticisms of gender ideology, made in several statements during his pontificate, and noted that Catholic legislators must oppose laws not consistent with Catholic teaching, as specified in a 2002 CDF document about Catholics in political life.

The CDF made these statements to the Pro Vita & Famiglia association, which promotes pro-life and pro-family policies in Italy.

In July, the association sent CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria a long letter detailing the efforts to introduce gender ideology into Italian legislation via a bill named after the parliament member Alessandro Zan. The bill proposed criminalizing “discrimination or violence” based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender.

The bill had already been questioned by the Holy See. In June, the Holy See forwarded a verbal note to the Italian government stating that the legislation might jeopardize the Italy-Holy See concordat.

In its letter, Pro Vita & Famiglia noted that “anti-homotransphobia” laws were being adopted in many parts of the world.

The association stressed that the “anti-discriminatory measures to counter homotransphobia highlight issues that impact Catholic teaching and anthropology,” as they “imply or even impose a subjectivist, fluid and non-binary vision of sexuality,” contrasting with “the natural ethic and the Christian and biblical anthropology.”

According to the association, the bills aim at “totally redesigning the sexual identity, by separating sex from gender and qualifying the personal identity (from the sexual point of view) in subjective terms (gender identity).”

Pro Vita & Famiglia emphasized that the bill “Ddl Zan” “not only presumes” gender ideology is true but also “culturally imposes it” when it proposes the establishment of a “National Day against homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.” On that day, the bill reads, “ceremonies, meetings, and every other useful initiative” would be organized in every school.

The letter also zeroed in on religious liberty concerns. Pro Vita & Famiglia noted that “priests and Christian pastors have been persecuted” where “a bill similar to the Zan bill was approved,” mentioning the arrest of pastor John Sherwood in the U.K for alleged homophobic declarations, and the investigation into Archbishop Fernando Sebastián Aguilar in Spain for alleged homophobia, after he granted an interview on sexuality and procreation.

The letter ended with three questions for the CDF: if and how these laws or bills contradict the faith, Holy Scripture, or Catholic teaching; if Catholics must oppose the approval of these bills; and if Catholic politicians must vote against these bills and publicly take a position against them.

In its Oct. 1 response, the congregation expressed appreciation for the association’s work for the “defense of life, from conception to the natural end, and for a real culture of family.”

Regarding whether “anti-homophobia” laws are consistent with Catholic teaching, the congregation said that everything could be found in the Church’s magisterium, starting with Amoris laetitia.

“In Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation Amoris laetitia, n.56, there is a clear disapproval of gender ideology, which Pope Francis reiterated in numerous other statements,” the CDF said.

The letter then listed Pope Francis’ statements on the issue. It first referred to a 2017 address to the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

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In that speech, Pope Francis stressed that the recent proposal to advance the dignity of a person by radically eliminating sexual difference and, as a result, our understanding of man and woman, is not correct, because “instead of combatting wrongful interpretations of sexual difference that would diminish the fundamental importance of that difference for human dignity, such a proposal would simply eliminate it by proposing procedures and practices that make it irrelevant for a person’s development and human relationships.”

The letter also looked back at Pope Francis’ address to Polish bishops in July 2016, when he explained that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’ Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”

In 2015, Pope Francis responded to gender ideology issues in a meeting with Equipes Notre-Dame, a French movement of conjugal spirituality. Pope Francis noted that their missionary commitment “is all the more important inasmuch as the image of the family — as God wills it, composed of one man and one woman in view of the good of the spouses and also of the procreation and upbringing of children — is deformed through powerful adverse projects supported by ideological trends.”

The CDF also mentioned Pope Francis’ remarks during a general audience on April 15, 2015. The pope said on that occasion: “I ask myself if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backward. The removal of difference, in fact, creates a problem, not a solution.”

The doctrinal office concluded by pointing out Pope Francis’ address to priests, religious, seminarians, and pastoral workers in the country of Georgia in 2016.

Responding to a question, Pope Francis said: “You, Irina, mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonizations.”

After referencing Pope Francis’ statements, the CDF noted that the behavior of Catholic faithful and politicians facing “bills similar to the one mentioned above” can be easily understood from the CDF’s 2002 doctrinal note on some questions about the commitment and behavior of Catholics in political life.

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In that note, the CDF referenced Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitae, when stating that “regarding the situation in which it is not possible to overturn or completely repeal a law allowing abortion which is already in force or coming up for a vote, ‘an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.’”

The 2002 document also underscored “that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.”

According to the document, “the Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.”

For this reason, the note continued, “a political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good. Nor can a Catholic think of delegating his Christian responsibility to others; rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives him this task, so that the truth about man and the world might be proclaimed and put into action.”

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