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Vatican says 'no' to sex changes and gender theory in new document

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The Vatican on Monday reaffirmed its opposition to sex changes, gender theory and surrogate parenthood, as well as abortion and euthanasia, four months after supporting blessings for same-sex couples.

People attend the Regina Caeli prayer led by Pope Francis at the Vatican, April 7, 2024. Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters

The Vatican on Monday reaffirmed its opposition to sex changes, gender theory and surrogate parenthood, as well as abortion and euthanasia, four months after supporting blessings for same-sex couples.

At the same time, the head of its doctrinal office (DDF), Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, said the Vatican opposed the criminalisation of homosexuality as practised by a number of countries with the support of local Catholic groups.

The release of "Dignitas infinita" (Infinite dignity), a 20-page document, follows fierce conservative pushback, especially in Africa, against the DDF's previous declaration - on LGBT issues.

There is no suggestion that the new text, which describes what the Church perceives as threats to human dignity, was prepared in direct response to the rows over same-sex blessings, as it has been five years in the making. But it has undergone extensive revisions over the period.

Pope Francis approved it last month after requesting that it also mention "poverty, the situation of migrants, violence against women, human trafficking, war, and other themes", Fernandez said in a statement.

The declaration said surrogate parenting violates the dignity of both the surrogate mother and the child, and recalled that Francis in January called it "despicable" and urged a global ban.

GENDER THEORY

On gender theory, it said "desiring a personal self-determination ... amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel".

Gender theory suggests that gender is more complex and fluid than the binary categories of male and female, and depends on more than visible sexual characteristics.

The declaration said that "any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception".

It acknowledged the possibility of surgery to resolve "genital abnormalities", but stressed that "such a medical procedure would not constitute a sex change in the sense intended here".

The Vatican has, nevertheless, tried to reach out to transsexual people, who have been cleared by the DDF to be baptised and serve as godparents, and have been among invitees to the Vatican.

Fernandez, a liberal theologian and personal friend of the pope, a fellow Argentine, defended Francis' right to update Church positions in line with the times, noting how, in the past, it had gone from supporting to condemning slavery.

"It now seems that Pope Francis cannot say anything different from what has been said before, as if the teachings of the Church had been permanently set by previous popes," the cardinal lamented.

Monday's declaration doubled down on the Vatican's standing condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.

It also mentioned sexual abuse as a threat to human dignity - calling it "widespread in society", including within the Catholic Church - as well as cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse.

By Alvise Armellini

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