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UK Catholic bishops discourage medical and social gender transition in pastoral statement

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CNA Staff, Apr 25, 2024 / 10:52 am (CNA).

Following a recent Vatican declaration on human dignity, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales condemned medical and social transgenderism while encouraging a “sensitive” response in a pastoral reflection released on Wednesday.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office came down strongly against gender ideology, stating that “all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected.”

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales followed the Vatican’s lead in their April 24 statement, “Intricately Woven by the Lord,” which encouraged rooting pastoral care in “acceptance … of the body as created.” 

“We cannot encourage or give support to reconstructive or drug-based medical intervention that harms the body,” they wrote. “Nor can we legitimize or uphold a way of living that is not respectful of the truth and vocation of each man and each woman, called to live according to the divine plan.”

“Rather, when a family or person experiencing these challenges seeks to be accompanied on their Christian journey, our aim is to help them rediscover and cherish their humanity as it was conceived and created by God, body and soul,” the bishops continued.  

In the statement, the bishops specifically addressed “adult members in our Catholic communities who have chosen to transition socially and medically.”

“You are still our brothers and sisters,” the bishops stated. “We cannot be indifferent to your struggle and the path you may have chosen. The doors of the Church are open to you, and you should find, from all members of the Church, a welcome that is compassionate, sensitive, and respectful.”

According to a 2021 census released in 2023, 0.5% of English and Welsh residents (262,000) over the age of 16 identified as transgender. An estimated 300,000 youth in the U.S. identify as transgender, and nearly one in five people who identify as transgender are between 13 and 17 years old, according to a 2022 study by the Williams Institute. 

The bishops addressed the controversial issue of medical transition for minors. England ended puberty blockers for minors in March of this year because of safety concerns. Sex changes and puberty blockers were recently “paused” in Scotland.

“Medical intervention for children should not be supported,” the bishops continued. “Social ‘transition’ can have a formative effect on a child’s development, and this should be avoided with young children.”

According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, puberty blockers can cause “irreversible harm” to young boys in particular. In 2022, another study gained national attention after it found that putting children on puberty blockers causes irreversible harm to bone density

The bishops noted that “every person is something of a mystery — to themselves, and to others — but not to God, who fashioned each of us in secret.” 

“Pastoral accompaniment must flow from an acceptance and celebration of the body as created, respect for parents as primary educators, and uphold best practice in terms of safeguarding principles,” they continued. 

The bishops emphasized “discernment” and “safe relationships” in the accompaniment process. 

“Those who offer particular pastoral accompaniment to gender dysphoric persons need a clear understanding of the Catholic vision and understanding of the human person and a holistic view of human sexuality,” the bishops explained, adding: “Their work should help young people ‘to discern how God is calling them to find true happiness.’”

“This formation and competence is vital to ensure that the testimonies and lived experiences of those struggling with gender identity can be properly understood and responded to in a way which honors their perception of reality, particularly when painful,” the statement continued. “At the same time, we are encouraged by Pope Francis to accompany others to a complete appropriation of the mystery of our human nature.”

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