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Vatican Issues Document During Pride Month Denying Concept Of Gender Identity

A view of St. Peter's Square during a Pentecost Mass celebrated by Pope Francis Sunday. A day later, the Vatican issued a document denying gender identity is a choice.
Gregorio Borgia
A view of St. Peter's Square during a Pentecost Mass celebrated by Pope Francis Sunday. A day later, the Vatican issued a document denying gender identity is a choice.

The Vatican department charged with overseeing Catholic education released an extensive document Monday decrying what it calls a "crisis" on whether gender can be an individual choice rather than being set by God or biology.

The document describes a culture-wide "disorientation" that serves to "cancel out" the natural difference between man and woman, as well as "destabilise the family as an institution."

The Congregation for Catholic Education says the goal of the 31-page guide is to "support those who work in the education of young people, so as to help them address in a methodical way (and in the light of the universal vocation to love of the human person) the most debated questions around human sexuality."

The document entitled "Male and Female He Created Them" does not deviate from traditional Catholic teaching.

The timing of its release, however, during the heart of Pride Month, led some to wonder whether Vatican bureaucracy was making a point.

The text was dated Feb. 2, 2019, but was only made public more than four months later, around the time gay-rights supporters the world over gathered at rallies, parades and concerts honoring the LGBTQ community. The events are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, widely considered to have launched the modern pride movement.

The document is co-signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the head of the education department, and Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the secretary. Pope Francis did not sign it.

In the past, the pope has expressed sympathy for LGBTQ people.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis said in 2013. And later, he said the church should apologize to gays and other marginalized groups.

But that support has not extended to transgender individuals, whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified as having at birth.

In the 2015 book This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice, Francis is quoted comparing gender theory, which allows one's identity to exist along a spectrum, to nuclear arms annihilation.

On Monday, the Rev. James Martin, a writer and Jesuit priest, tweetedthat while the Vatican document rightly calls for listening and dialogue, it "sets aside the real-life experiences of LGBT people."

"Sadly, it will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn't even exist," he wrote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Corrected: June 10, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
In an earlier version of this report, we wrote that Catholic teaching holds that men with "homosexual tendencies" are "objectively disordered." The Vatican document we referenced says it is "homosexual tendencies" that are "objectively disordered," not men.
Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.

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