Doctrine on transgender


What is the Church’s doctrine on transgenderism? Is it like homosexual urges, something to be resisted, or is it allowable? Should transgenders change their gender to match their percieved gender?


This is the current non-definitive policy by the Church on transgenderism. There is no doctrine on it at the moment, though the Church affirms that we have one permanent, immutable gender that existed before we were born and will exist for all eternity.

(Note, sorry to link to a liberal analysis of the article, but it is the only remaining source of the article, as it was leaked a decade ago against the wishes of the Vatican, who meant it as a sub secretum document for US bishops)

(By the way, if you don’t know what non-definitive means, it means that the policy can change in the future if new evidence were to be presented that allowed for the policy to be changed, BUT that all Catholics must religiously submit their will and intellect to the policy. So you can personally believe that it will change (or that it will remain constant), but you should advise based on the current policy and, if you are personally transgender, follow the policy yourself).


So there is no official doctrine? Has the Vatican given any reason why?


No and no, but I suspect it is because neurological and endocrinal studies are so “young” that new evidence could come out throwing a whole new light on the issue. These issues tend to be case-by-case issues. For example, if someone previously thought to be transgender (note the words “unambiguously of one sex” in the article) turned out to have an previously undiscovered intersex endocrinal disorder of some kind, their case would probably be eligible for review. It’s just such a tricky medical issue compared to something clear-cut such as homosexuality or abortion where you know all the facts beforehand and can clearly judge individual situations.


So each case is taken on its own? Are their any guidelines or general rules on how they are to be evaluated?

Pardon if Im asking alot of questions. I am ignorant on this issue.


At this point there are no answers. We all have an opinion but that is about it. Personally I believe that women used birth control and it altered their genetic make-up, like cancer. This was passed on to their children, ergo, the reason for so much of the sexual identification problems and homosexuality we see now.

Our sins come back to haunt us and hurt the ones we love.

Lord have mercy.


Yes and no to the first question, yes to the second.

To further explain the first question, each case is individually viewed; for example, if someone also has an intersex disorder (say, they’re born externally female but have internal testes in place of their ovaries, have congenitally missing female internal organs, etc. etc.), the Church is more likely to accept their identity even if it differs from their external body. However, in the cases of unambiguous cases where there are no gender dimorphic differences whatsoever, they would fall under the document I initially linked to you (barred from entering into marriage & holy orders post-operation, gender on baptismal certificate cannot be changed, the operation itself can only be morally licit if proof is shown that it is the only way to fix severe emotional anguish, etc.). However, none of these issues really deal with how individual Catholics should deal with their transgender friends and family. That is mostly left with the conscience of the individual Catholic [for now, at least], although you should not be advising them to do things against the bishops’ policy (such as get married without an indult/exemption), even though it is non-definitive.

Also, don’t apologize for asking questions. It’s great that you want answers! :slight_smile:


Here is an analysis written by a transgender (ex-)Catholic:

TL;DR: Objective existence of transsexualism cannot be accommodated in Catholic worldview. This is because the Church believes that every person in its entirety – body, mind, and soul – is either male or female (cf. Gen 1:27 and 5:2). A transsexual, on the other hand, is a hybrid: a male mind in female body or vice versa (as for the soul, God only knows). The only solution is therefore to conclude that the body gender is the the correct one, but that the person is somehow deluded into thinking that he/she is of the opposite sex.


With all due respect, you portray a false choice here though weller. You use Church doctrine on gender immutability/permanence to argue that transgender individuals have one gender for all eternity that they cannot change; this is all completely correct. However, your extension that a transgender person portrays themselves as a hybrid of any sort is incorrect.

For example, Genesis 1:27 refers to creation before original sin; the mere EXISTENCE of intersex disorders (and congenitally missing limbs, and a whole host of other birth defects) prove that original sin can corrupt our bodies outside of our original intended bodies. In fact, in cases of intersex disorders, there have been examples where intersex adults who were raised as one gender were allowed to marry as the other (because the Church deferred to their identity). While our glorified bodies will most certainly be perfectly male OR perfectly female, this perfect quality does not extend to our earthly, sin-touched bodies.

A transgender person would argue that they are, in fact, entirely male OR entirely female but that this gender is not expressed by the external aspect of their bodies, whether via corruption in utero or extra chromosomal material accidentally being shuttled in or what have you. Neuroscience studies have shown that transgender individuals have gender dimorphic areas of their brain consistent with that of their identified sex, not their birth sex, which does bolster their claim.

So in my opinion, the argument can be made that most, if not all transsexual individuals are rather an undiscovered version of intersex, whether neurologically or otherwise, in which case they most certainly could be accomodated (as intersex people are now). But of course, until/unless that happens, we must defer to current Church policy, which allows for the surgery in extreme cases but bars those post-surgery from entering into marriage or holy orders. [Note that the allowance of surgery is not pointed out by the Catholic blogger quoted in your link who does, indeed, seem to be advocating that transsexual individuals commit suicide rather than go through surgery. Her position is not a Catholic one by any means.]


I disagree with the idea that there is not official statement from the church as to the above question. Look at the Church’s cathecism #2297:“except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons…directly intended…mutilations… Are against the moral law.”

Notice the use of the word “strictly” together with therapeutic and medical. Changing your sex to match your perceived gender is a mutilation of the body and is not done for any strict medical reason. Hence it is against the moral law.


I didn’t say that a transgender person portrays themselves as a hybrid. I said that a transgender person, objectively speaking, IS a hybrid. Any person will portray his/herself in accordance with their mind gender. But in case of a transsexual mind gender does not match body gender – hence, a hybrid. And the existence of such hybrid cannot be accommodated in Catholic framework. It’s not male, it’s not female, it’s neither.

That’s the problem.

Of course I agree with all that. I’m pointing out that catholic theology has a serious problem with accounting for such mismatch: it lacks ontological framework to describe an intersex disorder, because it does not account for existence of male/female hybrids.

Therefore, it views an MTF transsexual as a male with a mental disorder who mistakenly believes that he is a female.

She’s essentially arguing that the Church forbids SRS, and lack of SRS can lead to suicide. So she chose SRS and left the church.


If this was the case, then why did the Vatican include this in its policy:

“An analysis of the moral licitness of “sex-change” operations. It
concludes that the procedure could be morally acceptable in certain
extreme cases if a medical probability exists that it will “cure” the
patient’s internal turmoil.”

Clearly the Vatican disagrees with you whether or not it can have a medical reason. There is no doctrine on this issue, period. If you view so-called “sex change” operations as absolutely, positively mutilation and nothing else, you are free to read 2297 that way. However, there is no doctrine classifying the operation as mutilation, and the current non-definitive policy of the Vatican is that it may be allowed in extreme cases.


i’m sorry that it isn’t possible to have a definitive answer to your inquiry .i wish the Church would address the alleged sub secretum document.


But so are intersex bodies; after non-hermaphroditic intersexism was discovered in the late 20th century, the Catholic Church eventually had to include information on it in their canon law. Intersex cases are now resolved on case-by-case bases. They typically allow for the acceptance of the person’s identity. Yes, a hybrid cannot be accomodated, but a transgender person is not necessarily a hybrid. In order to be a hybrid, you would have to argue that the gender of your mind and soul were different than your glorified body, not your earthly body.

Not true. Canon law currently deals with intersex disorders by [usually] allowing for a deference to the identity of the person.

Well then the author is portraying a false dichotomy. The Church does NOT forbid SRS; it just views it as an extreme last option, only to be exercised if necessary to cure “internal turmoil” of the person. So there is no such policy as described by the author.

I think most moral theologians wish the Church would address the controversy. I think they’re waiting on scientific research to come out before saying anything at all. They don’t want to be rash.


Well, my problem here is that in certain Catholic circles I have encountered a strong sentiment that the gender of soul (glorified body) is dictated by the genes.

This is a view I strongly disagree with. My personal view is that soul either has no gender or its gender is the same as the mind gender.

I’m very happy to hear that. Can I have a reference?


I’m pretty sure that it is Catholic doctrine that the soul is gendered. Do you have a CCC reference that the soul is the same thing as the glorified body though? That doesn’t make sense with what I know about the metaphysical issue. I know for a fact that the glorified body is mentioned as gendered by doctrine (mentioned in Theology of the Body).

Unfortunately, I have none. But I was told it by a Monsignor, who quoted it straight. It might not be strictly canon law, but it’s certainly from a Vatican source. However, I trust a Monsignor, since he deals with marriage cases like a billion times a year (only slightly exaggerating of course :rolleyes:), and intersexism + marriage tends to be a big issue, albeit highly uncommon.


Well, first it is not “my opinion” it is what the official cathecism of the catholic church says. I gave you specifically the article in the official cathecism that addresses this issue. The “official policy” of the Vatican is actually its cathecism so I didn’t give you my opinion, I gave you the official position of the church.

Second what you are referring as to what the Vatican says, what I see in your link is one person’s opinion. I don’t see in your link any document signed by the congregation of faith or any reference to the cathecism. Opinions of theologist and opinions of priests are not “official” position of the church. Official positions are documents signed by the congregation of faith and the cathecism. So in all case if there is contradiction it would be the other way around. The opinion you are providing is contradicting the official position I.e. the cathecism so the official position is as long as there is not a real strict medical condition that represents a real threat sex change operations are immoral.


Here is another link to the news article. It is also from a liberal source, but at least it spares us the anti-Catholic commentary.

The problem I see with the news article is that it is 10 years old news leak. If the document actually exists, there hasn’t been any further public mention of it. I am not saying the article is inaccurate; I can imagine the Church adopting such a position. I am simply questioning why the document has gone unpublicized during the past decade.

Mary, I am sure you didn’t mean to do this, but what you edited out changes the meaning of that section of the Catechism.

Here is the full wording:

*** 2297** Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.*

That section of the Catechism concerns things which are done to an unwilling person. It would cover things such as forced sterilization or barbaric punishments or involuntary medical experiments. Someone who changes their sex would be doing so voluntarily, and presumably for therapeutic medical reasons.


Thank you; I couldn’t find another copy of it. It was originally reported way back when I believe in [actually I can’t remember so I won’t speculate, but somewhere orthodox], but that copy has since been taken down (as have many of the sites discussing it).

To be fair, I was first made aware of it when I first joined the gay community [formerly active lesbian] at my high school back in 2005, which was only a few years after it was posted. So I can attest that back then, news of it was all over the Internet, whereas now you can only find a couple traces of it remaining.

Secondly, the document was intended as a sub secretum document. It was never intended to be public. I have a suspicion it was only meant to keep different parishes from adapting different rules (as highly publicized post-surgical transgender marriages to members opposite to that of their identified sex/same of their birth sex had occurred in Catholic churches prior to this document’s release) until actual doctrine or policy on the issue came out. But as a sub secretum document, most people who are aware of it are bound by obedience not to discuss it. Only a handful of people would be able to discuss it, and we can only speculate as to why they don’t.


I cut it because writing the entire thing was going to take me too long but it is not that right that it refers only to things done unwillingly. Notice the section is under “bodily integrity” and both articles cover many things outside something being done unwillingly to someone. The point of the section is respect for bodily integrity. I don’t see how can you argue that sex change is done for medical reason as again the word strict medical reasonsleaves out coetic pprocedures and let’s face sex change operations is a cosmetically procedures. As to voluntary is irrelevant because the section is about bodily integrity in general not about involuntary procedures.

As to what smgs127 says. I have been doing internet research to find the document you mention and i can’t find it. What I did find is that the congregation for doctrine of faith did say is that in a nutshell in the eyes of the church sex change operations do not actually change the sex of the person. Nothing else beyond that. Would be the case that the church made that particular statement and then it was developed by other theologists? That is not uncommon and it may very well be that.

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