Catholic Bishops in the US are behind a new campaign encouraging parents to reject their transgender children.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter this week that brands transgender people “deeply troubling” and claims that changing gender is a “false idea”.
There is nothing in the Bible about transgender people or changing gender, but the Bishops have called for parents to refuse to allow kids to transition.
Studies have shown that an unaccepting or stifling environment drastically increases the likelihood that transgender youths will attempt suicide.
The letter says: “Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults.
“Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm’.
“Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt.
“The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it. “
The letter adds: “The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling.
“It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
“We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.
“We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.”
It also says: “We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good.
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The advice is particularly harmful to families with transgender children, and represents a giant leap by the USCCB to a position that does not appear to be based on any scripture or pre-existing Catholic teaching.
Rev. James Martin, a highly-respected Jesuit priest, is the author of recently-published book Building a Bridge, which sets out a framework for the Catholic Church to begin to engage with the LGBT community with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”.
In the book, the priest draws on the Christian ideals of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” as a model for how the Catholic Church should relate to the LGBT community, igniting anger from the anti-LGBT lobby which is dominant within the church.
In the wake of the book’s publication, hardline opponents of LGBT equality within the Church began a campaign targeting Rev. Martin – successfully convincing a string of global Catholic organisations to cancel planned events where he had been due to speak about unrelated subjects.
The Theological College in Washington DC, where the priest was due to give a lecture about the Bible, abruptly cancelled the event last week, after conservatives raised issues with Rev. Martin’s beliefs on LGBT issues.
The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York also cancelled a lecture by Rev. Martin, confirming that his invite “was in fact rescinded”.
Rev. Martin had also been set to travel to London to deliver the 2017 lecture for Cafod, the overseas aid agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
After the backlash the event was shelved entirely, with Martin confirming that “cancellation of the 2017 Cafod lecture, scheduled for October, was out of fears of the backlash to my book”.
In a statement to PinkNews Cafod claimed that the 2017 lecture was actually just ‘postponed’ until next year for scheduling reasons and that an invitation “still stands” for Rev. Martin to speak in future.
This is somewhat incongruous given Cafod supplied a completely different statement to the Catholic Herald that confirmed it had been “considering” the future of the event due to “strength of feeling [Martin’s book] generated in some quarters”.
In a statement, Rev. Martin said: “I want to say that I bear no ill will whatsoever to Cafod, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre or Theological College. All of them are fine Catholic institutions that serve, in their different ways, the People of God.”
He added: “One of the many sad ironies of this episode has been that in each case the local ordinary was perfectly fine with my speaking – in London, New York and DC.
“Yet those who decided on the cancellations were ultimately influenced more by fear of protests and negative publicity than by the opinions of their ordinaries, in each case a cardinal.
“The situations were so terrifically fraught with fear for these organizations: fear of protests, fear of violence, fear of bad publicity, fear of angry donors, fear of lost donations, fear of offending, and on and on.
“When two of the organizers called me, I could hear the anguish in their voices.”
Addressing the anti-LGBT activists who had waged a campaign against him, he added: “So what do we do?
“Don’t give into them. To me, that’s an important lesson of the past few days. Don’t let them cow you.
“They’re like schoolyard bullies that keep taunting you? Well, you’re not 12 any longer. They can’t hurt you.
“And why let fear run your organization? It’s a sure way to disaster. And the PR from cancelling something is always worse. Don’t let them run things in your organization.”
He added: “If they are angry people, their anger comes from somewhere, which is ultimately sadder for them than for you. If they have a visceral hatred for LGBT people, it probably comes from a discomfort with their own complex sexuality, which is also sadder for them. ‘Hurt people hurt people’, as the saying goes.
“Often these sites or groups or individuals feel that they are being prophetic: i.e.,pointing out your supposed sins, completely contrary to Jesus’s command not to judge.
“Even more often, that prophecy morphs into pure hatred and obvious contempt and endless name calling. It’s called spite. But that doesn’t mean you yourself have to move towards hatred. That would be giving into the Evil Spirit.”
Others have been less forgiving.
Writing in America Magazine, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy lashed out at those who had sought to censor Rev. Martin.
He wrote: “There has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin, to distort his work, to label him heterodox, to assassinate his personal character and to annihilate both the ideas and the dialogue that he has initiated.
“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church.
“Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities.”
Surprisingly, the active censorship of Rev. Martin has not aroused protests from any of the ‘free speech’ campaigners who have sprung up to defend far-right speakers on college campuses.