ROME — Warning of a society “without sexual differences,” the Vatican on Monday dismissed the idea that a person’s gender can differ from the assigned sex at birth and said a fluid idea of identity was not “based on the truths of existence.”
The right to “choose one’s gender,” the Vatican said in an official document, is in “direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman.”
The document, released as a guide for Catholic educators, held firm to the religion’s traditional teaching on gender and sexuality. But LGBT members of the faith said it put an official and updated stamp on viewpoints they had hoped were changing.
“This casts everything back to the Dark Ages,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, a group that advocates for LGBT equality and inclusion in the church. “I think it is incredibly insensitive, to be talking still about gender and sexuality as a choice and a momentary whim rather than a fundamental God-given identity.”
The document, released by the Vatican office that deals with education, coincided with a month of Pride festivities in many countries around the world. It was not signed by Francis, but rather by two other higher-ups — Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi and Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani — in the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy.
The church’s retrenchment hints at one of the challenges it faces at a time of growing secularization — when many of its teachings on sexuality are being ignored as out of date. Francis has expressed an interest in outreach to LGBT followers, but he has also taken a clear stance on gender identity, decrying the idea that children are taught in schools that “everyone can choose his or her sex.”
“And this is terrible,” Francis said in 2016.