Hypothetical Quetions RE: hermaphrodite

I’ll keep this simple. How does the Church approach someone that has this condition who wants to become a priest. Can he/she get an operation to make he/she male only and meet the requirements. Maybe the answer is right in front of me, but I don’t see it. So is ordination and/or marriage out of the question? Or is it just up to the individual or what? I’m kinda of clueless on this. I know a woman that was born with both and then mutilated into being a girl. Now she is considered homosexual. But she always displayed a boy like personality and even played sports like one. She had long blonde hair but had many traits of an underdeveloped boy. It’s a sad story because of the trauma in her life. She may actually be a he.

Its a tragic story that has been repeated far too many times. Most doctors have wised up by now, but the lives of many children were irrevocably (and needlessly) changed for the worse.

I don’t have an answer to your question. My guess is that the Church would look upon your friend as a transsexual and deny holy orders on that basis. But I hope I am wrong.

BTW, you might be interested to know that many persons affected by this condition are offended by the word “hermaphrodite.” The preferred word is "intersex."

I apologize for using offensive language. This is always a difficult subjec I know. But I did not intend to create offense. Please accept my apologies. I just remember hearing the word used on a science program and googled it descriptively online because I couldn’t even remember the term.

My friend is not Catholic and is not seeking to become a priest. I was speaking purely hypothetically for real. I’m talking about intersex people that have not undergone the knife so to speak.

Thanks for your response.

I once saw several TV shows about the issue of intersexuality–which is a medical issue, not one of faith or morals–and asked my doctor about it.

He merely said cryptically, “When dealing with human sexuality, things are seldom what they seem.”

I would think that if there is any doubt as to a person’s gender, the Sacrament of Ordination will not be administered.

I person must be the gender their genetic makeup says they are. Period. No discussion.

If they are XY they are male
If they are XX they are female.

You think XX and XY are the only alternatives?

I’m sure the Church would use the available science and test for either male or female DNA if considering Holy Orders, and not just physical characteristics. As for Marriage the physical capability of sexual relations is only required.

I’ve read that mosaic intersexuals have a genetic makeup of XXXY and it cannot be explained why this happens. So they really can’t be lumped into being just a male or just a female, although parents and doctors have chosen their sex for them.

XXY is Klinfelters syndrome. It is a disorder that is exclusive to Males. I heard a geneticist say that any time there is an introduction of a Y chromosome the individual is considered Genetically a male.

I know for fact My diocese asks permanent deacon candidates if they are Gentically male. according to science an XXY or an XXXY would have to respond affirmative to being genetically a male.

What the Church says is that in order to be validly ordained, one must be an adult male. This is slightly different from saying that one may not be a female (as the question implies). Current canon law no longer explicitly says that a hermaphrodite may not be ordained, but I believe that the old code did say so, and it’s still said in the new code, but not explicitly. There was a similar question posted a few weeks ago.

As regards marriage, I’m not sure, but it keep in mind that at least the possibility of procreation is necessary for a valid marriage.

That’s very interesting. I don’t know much about this, so I’m interested in just learning more. Do Mosaic Intersexuals which have XXXY chromosomes, but have stronger female genitalia still be considered a male, then? I know they can genitalia that is more pronounced than the other, but do have both. If they are still considered a male, but their parents and doctors decided to raise them as a female (and did the procedures to make them that way), what does that do to them? This is especially if those people are naturally interested in the female sex because they are genetically male. It must be very difficult for them.

Oh… and one more question, would the Church be ok for allowing them to get their sex altered if the parents had decided for them to be females and had the procedure done to make it totally so, but they are really more like males?

I have no idea. I do know that in my diocese anyone who is to reicieve the sacrament of Holy orders MUST be genetically Male.

Logic tells me that if a gentic male was altered to be a female they would be excluded from the priesthood anyway because of ambiguity and potential scandal. Even though such a person were perfectly “normal” it would no doubt cause widewpread confusion.

Yes, I would assume the same, but it would be interesting to see the official stance on this. It’s so rare, though, I wonder how often, if ever, this situation arose. I would assume that if the person wasn’t altered, then that person could technically become a priest because the person is genetically male. He would then just have to look and dress like a male - for obvious reasons.

Not the case. That person would not be eligible for ordination.

Even if he was “genetically male” such as that one person’s diocese demands and has his male genitalia in tact? Or does that only apply to permanent diaconate?

Has there ever been a case where an intersexual attempted to become a priest and either was granted ordination or denied it?

In answer to the second question, yes. That’s why canon law doesn’t allow it. In fact, it used to be a “standard” question on an application for the seminary.

The example of “genetically male” from an earlier post is a way of making clear that a woman who has had an operation to make her appear male would not be eligible to seek ordination. It is not a way of saying that one must have 1 Y-chromosome (and therefore XXY would be “close enough”)

**"Klinefelter’s syndrome, 47,XXY or XXY syndrome is a condition caused by a chromosome aneuploidy. Affected individuals have at least two X chromosomes and at least one Y chromosome. Klinefelter’s syndrome is the most common sex chromosome disorder.

“The principal effects are development of small testicles and reduced fertility. A variety of other physical and behavioral differences and problems are common, though severity varies and many boys and men with the condition have few detectable symptoms. Named after Dr. Harry Klinefelter, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, who first described it in 1942, it is the second most common disease involving the presence of an extra chromosome**. The condition exists in roughly 1 out of every 500 males. Because of the extra chromosome, individuals with the condition are usually referred to as ‘XXY Males’, or ‘47, XXY Males’.” ~ Wikipedia

**Check out your chromosomal anomalies before you declare an end to a discussion you are dismissing with your generalizations.


I person must be the gender their genetic makeup says they are. Period. No discussion.

If they are XY they are male
If they are XX they are female.

One of these TV shows I mentioned earlier showed a beautiful woman, who had always been raised female, and always thought of herself as such, but who had not started her period by the time she was in college.

Genetic tests revealed her genotype as XY, though she was outwardly AND inwardly perfectly female!

That’s precisely why my dr said, “Things are seldom what they seem in human sexuality.”

Any Y chromosome makes one genetically male. Thus XY, XXY, XYY, etc. are all male combinations. At least, that’s what they taught me in college genetics.

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