Recently Pope Benedict XVI made a statement on gender, reported in the following article from BBC. I commented on it in a posting on Anglican Diaspora and was asked by a priest friend to expand my remarks and post them on this blog. On consideration I decided to do so.
Pope attacks blurring of gender
Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. He explained that defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction. The Pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff. His words, later released to the media, emphasised his rejection of gender theory. Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.
Gender theory explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender, and how people perceive their biological identity. Gay and transsexual groups, particularly in the United States, promote it as a key to understanding and tolerance, but the Pope disagreed. When the Roman Catholic Church defends God's Creation, "it does not only defend the earth, water and the air... but (it) also protects man from his own destruction," he said. "Rainforests deserve, yes, our protection, but the human being ... does not deserve it less," the pontiff said. It is not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'", he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall. "We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way." The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are.
Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of Britain's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, described the Pope's remarks as "totally irresponsible and unacceptable". "When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way," she said.
The article may be found at
As a Christian who knows himself to be same-sex-attracted, I find Benedict's remarks to be among the most hopeful and encouraging I've heard.
It is just plain obvious, on looking at the world as it is and on listening to the Scriptures and Tradition, that maleness and femaleness pervade creation and have profound effect upon the very nature of living things. At least in the more highly organized animals, male is male and female is female, with strongly differentiated primary and secondary sexual characteristics, and (this is important to note) with distinctly differentiated roles, not only in procreation, but in raising of the young, as also in whatever social organization the species may have. Among humans, the secondary characteristics are quite obvious, and it is a universal aspect of human societies that the sexes have differentiated roles, even though the precise assignment of roles does vary somewhat from society to society. In no species, including the human, does this difference necessarily result in a clear statement of superiority for either sex, but rather, each is supreme in its own sphere, but cannot usurp the proper role of the other. This, at least, is what I seem to have learned from the observation of nature
The teaching of the Church with regard to sexual practice and to the differentiation of 'gender' roles is closely linked to how things actually work in nature. Thus the testimony of Scripture, in both Testaments, would seem to give solid support to what I have said above, and this is supported both by the Fathers and by the course of Christian history. While it is manifestly obvious that there have been attempts to assert male supremacy, a close reading of history will show that such attempts are always doomed, and that women, sometimes behind the scenes, and sometimes in leadership have been a strong and formative force in the Church, even though gender differentiation has always been in place.
Be that as it may, there is nothing clearer in either Scripture or the continuous teaching of the Church than its blessing of marriage between a man and a woman with the aim of procreation, and its condemnation of sexual activity outside such a marriage, and especially as between members of the same sex. Bluntly, all the contrary theories one hears so often these days to justify homosexual acts and homosexual "marriage" are in actuality only examples of special pleading, attempts to justify doing what one wants to do, even though it has never been accepted behavior.
However, it is also just plain obvious that there are those like me who adjust rather poorly to these realities, being inclined in a way rather different from the norm. There are those of us who, for whatever reason, genetic, biological, psychological, or social (where it comes from doesn't really matter all that much), find ourselves attracted to members of our own sex. That is a present reality. It is, so to speak, the hand we've been dealt, and we need to be able to play that hand according to the rules. There's a difficulty, a struggle, involved in that. I am male, and that does make me different in a surprising number of ways from females. That is biological fact and any attempt to ignore that or to minimize it is an attempt to make me less than God intends, and this is so for the female as well. True freedom does not arise from denial of biological reality but from embracing it, and it is not freedom to be imprisoned by one's desires, but in knowing how to rise above them and, when they are not acceptable, to deny them.
Thus I am a complex individual. I am male, biologically equipped and socially called to express that maleness in my living. That is reality, but there is another reality as well, the reality that I am, however it came to be, homosexually inclined, and therefore experience emotions and temptations not precisely the same as other men. That is simply a statement of what is, not of value, negative or positive. As with every other aspect of human existence, such a state can lead one into sin, but it also can, in God's hands, become an instrument of His purpose. No temptation, "standard" or not, can be made an excuse for sin, but temptation is not sin, and can indeed be the motivation toward a righteous act that might not otherwise have occurred. I believe Benedict is speaking strongly to the very center of this issue and avoiduing extremes in either direction
Ms. Ferguson, on the other hand, is taking a one-sided and self-justifying stand. Her remarks about Benedict apply very well indeed to herself: they are "totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form." She advocates a denial of biology and of revealed truth, and, possibly worse, an enslavement to personal desires (relabeled as 'freedom') that prevents an approach to real health, to real freedom, and to God. That's the tragedy of a revisionist position.
In short, homosexual people should not and cannot be despised or excluded from either the Church itself or from ministry therein simply because their temptations are not the same ones that most men experience.