09 April 2024, The Tablet

Vatican rejects attempts to ‘obscure’ differences between men and women

Vatican rejects attempts to ‘obscure’ differences between men and women

The prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, presents the declaration Dignitas Infinita.
Independent Photo Agency/Alamy Live News

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its much-anticipated document Dignitas Infinita: on Human Dignity April 8, noting that it coincides with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The document re-affirms long-standing teaching on various moral concerns and repeats Pope Francis’ opposition to gender ideology that seeks to deny sexual differences between men and women. It also names poverty, war, the burdens placed on migrants, violence against women, the marginalisation of people with disabilities and human trafficking as threats to human dignity alongside sexual sins and bioethical concerns.

“Regarding gender theory, whose scientific coherence is the subject of considerable debate among experts, the Church recalls that human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God,” the document states. “This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good. Desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes, apart from this fundamental truth that human life is a gift, amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel.”

It adds later, “All attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected” and proscribes sex change therapies: “Any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.”

Another section of the text firmly denounces surrogacy: “First and foremost, the practice of surrogacy violates the dignity of the child….Because of this unalienable dignity, the child has the right to have a fully human (and not artificially induced) origin and to receive the gift of a life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver.”   

The document also calls for an end to laws that criminalise homosexuality. “It should be denounced as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an organisation that advocates for change in the church’s teaching on sexual morality, and who received a papal audience last year, denounced the document. “The new Vatican document, Dignitas Infinita, fails terribly by offering transgender and nonbinary people not infinite, but limited human dignity,” he said. “In its approach to gender, the document relies on the outdated theology of gender essentialism which claims that a person’s physical appearance is the central evidence of a person’s natural gender identity.”

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