Opponents of transgender ideology buoyed by support from Pope Francis
By Kelly Thomas | August 25, 2016, 6:13 EST
BOGOTA – Emboldened by Pope Francis’ strong critique of “gender theory,” Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Colombia is successfully challenging his country’s embrace of the transgender movement, according to a recent report by Crux, an online Catholic news outlet.
Salazar, who has served as the Archbishop of Bogota since 2010, recently launched a successful campaign to stop the Colombian government from adopting revisions to student textbooks and teachers’ manuals that endorsed the notion that individuals can choose to be either male or female.
The proposed revisions were drafted by the United Nations and, according to Crux, discussed in “graphic detail” issues related to gender identity, sexual orientation, and LGBT parenting.
Earlier this month, a Bogota rally organized by Salazar drew thousands in protest of the UN proposed changes and “in defense of the family.” Explaining his opposition to the UN educational documents, Salazar told a local Bogota paper that the Catholic Church is supportive of text books that promote respect and tolerance, but it opposes inclusion of reference to gender identity “not in the name of faith, but of the human person.”
Shortly after the August 10 rally, Colombian President Juan Miguel Santos announced that the new text-books would be altered to exclude any endorsement of “gender ideology.”
In rallying the faithful to challenge transgenderism, Cardinal Salazar seems to have taken his lead from Pope Francis himself.
In 2015, Francis released an encyclical entitled “Laudato Si” (Praise to You) on the subject of “the environment and human ecology.” Media coverage of the encyclical focused on the Pope’s comments about climate change and his admonition to care for God’s creation. But that same encyclical also linked respect for the earth to respect for another part of God’s creation — the human body — and strongly condemned the idea that people can (or should try to) alter biological sex.
“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” the Pope wrote.
“Our bod[ies],” the Pope continued, “establish us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings” and the acceptance of one’s body “is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”
This past July, in a private meeting with local bishops in Poland, Francis, who is known for his merciful and pastoral approach to issues of sexual morality, called on the Catholic leaders to challenge the notion that gender is separate from biological sex and to reject the ideology that humans can identify along a male-female “spectrum.”
Francis has been clear that Catholicism calls adherents to respect all human beings and to treat LGBTQ persons with dignity, but he has nevertheless described transgenderism as an “error of the human mind.”
Pope Francis has used the term “ideological colonization” to condemn larger wealthier countries for exerting economic and political pressure on developing countries to adopt a liberal moral agenda.
“Why are they teaching [gender identity theory in school]?” Pope Francis asked earlier this year. “Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give [poor countries] money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this [is] terrible!”
The Pope speaks from experience. In Argentina, where the Pope grew up and served as pastor for many years, sex change operations are government-funded and available to children without parental consent, and a person may legally change his gender with a simple verbal communication, without any medical evidence of gender dysphoria or prior medical treatment.
Francis has sharply criticized the current culture, which he says cultivates sexual confusion in young children, leading them to believe that they can change their Creator’s will at whim.
Pope Francis’ words came as a disappointment to those who had hoped his papacy would signal a radical change in Church teachings. Marianne Duddy-Burke, the director of DignityUSA, an organization of LGBT Catholics, said that Pope Francis revealed a “lamentable and dangerous ignorance” of the topic.
But to Cardinal Salazar in Colombia, Francis’ words were received as a sign of support.
“Pope Francis has been very clear,” Salazar said. “[W]ho are we to judge? The Church doesn’t judge, nor condemn, nor exclude anyone. We don’t support discrimination.” But, he continued, “we reject the implementation of gender ideology in the Colombian education, because it’s a destructive ideology, [it] destroys the human being, taking away its fundamental principle of the complementary relationship between man and woman.”