Many progressives are praising Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment released today, but its passage on the importance of gender differences may give pause to transgender people — as well as nontrans people who reject traditional gender roles.
“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, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation,” the pope writes. He calls for “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity,” saying, “It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference.”
The pope has made similar remarks previously, condemning gender theory, and in a sermon just this week, expressed the belief that gender differences are key to successful marriages and parenting — sending a negative message about same-sex couples and LGBT parents.
He has also met with gay and transgender Catholics and adopted a more conciliatory tone toward LGBT people than his predecessors, but it’s clear that he is adhering to Catholic doctrine on LGBT issues.
His environmental encyclical also reiterates the long-held Catholic position on contraception and abortion. “Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate,” but this “is one way of refusing to face the issues,” he writes. He asserts, “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”
Among the other points he makes in the encyclical, titled Laudato Si (Be Praised), are that climate change is real, that wealthy countries are harming poor ones, and that excessive consumerism is damaging the environment. He calls for energy conservation and development of fuels from renewable sources. The Washington Post offers key excerpts here, and the Catholic News Agency analyzes the passages on gender here.
Meanwhile, New Ways Ministry, a Catholic group advocating for LGBT equality, notes on its blog that some of Francis’s comments about the importance of scientific research and wide-ranging conversations regarding the environment could be applied to LGBT issues — and points out the negative effects of an emphasis on gender differences.