Religious Tolerance logo

Transsexuality, being Transgender,
gender dysphoria, & gender identity

Part 2 of 2 parts:

Being transgender, according
the Roman Catholic Church

horizontal rule

This topic is continued from the previous essay.


2000-2003: An official, although initially secret, ruling by the Vatican: (Continued):

When Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, IL., president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, informed the clergy in the U.S. about the Vatican's letter, he may not have been aware of the existence of intersexual babies who are born with ambiguous genitalia and whose birth gender cannot be determined "at the moment of birth."

According to the Catholic News Service, the document seems to regard transsexuals as being mentally ill, unstable, and mentally incompetent. It states:

  • "... that the [Gender Reassignment Surgery or GRS] procedure could be morally acceptable in certain extreme cases if a medical probability exists that it will 'cure' the patient's internal turmoil."

  • Religious superiors have: "administrative authority to expel a member of the [Catholic] community who has undergone the procedure."

  • "A recommendation of psychiatric treatment and spiritual counseling for transsexual priests. It suggests they can continue to exercise their ministry privately if it does not cause scandal."

  • "... those who undergo sex-change operations are unsuitable candidates for priesthood and religious life because of [their] mental instability."

  • "... people who have undergone a sex-change operation cannot enter into a valid marriage, either because they would be marrying someone of the same sex in the eyes of the church or because their mental state casts doubt on their ability to make and uphold their marriage vows."

  • "An affirmation of the validity of marriages in which one partner later undergoes the procedure, unless a church tribunal determines that a transsexual disposition predated the wedding ceremony."

The first statement would seem to relax previous prohibitions against GRS, since the emotional distress faced by transgender persons is normally "extreme" and essentially all persons going through GRS are pleased with the result. However, the Catholic News Service notes that:

"... a source familiar with the document said recent medical evidence suggested that in a majority of cases the procedure increases the likelihood of depression and psychic disturbance."

We have been unable to locate any surveys that negate earlier surveys and support the source's beliefs. 4

Since the time of the Vatican letter, the term "Gender Reassignment Surgery" has been replaced by "Gender Confirmation Surgery."

Sponsored link.

2008: Pope Benedict XVI repeats the Church's position:

During late 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said in a speech that our gender was a gift from the creator. He denounced those who would try to change it. He said:

"It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God." 3

horizontal rule

book cover 2015: Two journalists write a book on Pope Francis' views of the economy:

Coauthors are Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi. It is titled: "This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice." The review states:

"When Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic letter The Joy of the Gospel that the economy of the West is one that 'kills,' he was immediately labeled by some as a Marxist. Criticisms came fast and furious, not only from financial columnists and conservative cable personalities, but also from some Catholic commentators, especially in the United States.

In This Economy Kills, two of the most respected journalists covering the Vatican today explore the Pope’s teaching and witness on the topic; the ways it relates to other topics like war, the environment, and family life; its connections to the teaching of his predecessors; and the criticism it has generated, especially from the direction of the United States. This fascinating book includes the full text of an extended interview the authors conducted with Francis on the topic of capitalism and social justice, appearing here in English for the first time.

This Economy Kills is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Pope Francis’s convictions about the world we live in and the way he believes Christians are called to shape it." 5

According to Joe Morgan, writing for Gay Star News, Pope Francis is quoted in the book as saying that people who manipulate their bodies are similar to Herod who:

"... destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation. ... Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation. With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator.

The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.

God has placed man and woman and the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth. The design of the Creator is written in nature.

If we fail in this responsibility, if we do not take care of our brothers and of all creation, destruction advances."

The heading of the article is rather shocking, but is guaranteed to trigger attention: "Pope Francis compares trans people to nuclear weapons." 6 In ten months, the article received 0 comments from readers.

Since the apostolic letter was written, researchers have determined the cause of a person being transgender. Many transgender persons have been correct all along. when they said that they have a female brain in a male body, or vice-versa. Researchers have found internal brain structures that come in two versions: male and female. They differ in size and neuron density. They find that a transgender person who was identified as male at birth and who now identifies as female has female brain structures, and vice-versa. So, if supernatural forces were involved in the development of a human zygote, embryo, fetus and newborn, then they made transgender persons' bodies part male and part female. So gender confirmation surgery does not make a female body into a male body; it makes the gender of the body match the gender of the brain.

To our knowledge, the Vatican has not changed its teachings about transgender persons to accommodate these findings.

Sponsored link:

Is there any wiggle room that would allow a Catholic to undergo GRS?

If one accepts the teaching of the church that gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and hormone treatments distort the God-designed and God-created human body to the extent that it is a very serious sin, one might ask if there are extenuating circumstances which would make the procedures acceptable to the church.

There is a widespread belief called the "50% Rule:" that 50% of all transsexuals die before the age of 30, usually by suicide. This was apparently true decades ago when GRS was generally unavailable. It is presumably much lower today since GRS has become more widely available, and is close to 100% successful in their goal of minimizing Gender Dysphoria.

In most ethical systems, an act that is sinful by itself can sometimes be justified if it results in a greater good. For example, during pregnancy situations can arise where an abortion is needed to prevent the death of the woman. If no abortion is performed, both the fetus and the woman will die. Faced with the alternatives of one death or two, most ethical systems would consider the abortion very regrettable, but morally justified.

In the case of transsexuals, one could argue that to make GRS unavailable would significantly increase the number of suicides within that population. Assuming that the incidence of transsexuals is 1 adult in every 3,000, they total perhaps 60,000 in the U.S. For every 100 GRS procedures performed, the lives of perhaps 25 transsexuals could be saved from suicide. Could those 25 lives saved outweigh what the Catholic Church would consider the sin of 100 GRS procedures?

The answer is no. A prime directive of Catholic moral teaching is that one cannot morally commit an evil act even if the end result would be a major benefit. In the previously cited case of a pregnancy gone bad, no abortion is morally possible. The physician can only provide comfort care and pray for a miracle. Both the woman and fetus must die. In the case of transsexuals, no GRS procedure is permissible by the church, even if one life might be saved for every four procedures performed.

Fortunately, the Church offers a way to resolve this dilemma: confession. A transsexual might elect to undergo GRS, and later confess their sin to a priest with genuine sorrow during the sacrament of penance. They could promise to not undergo any further reassignment surgery, and receive absolution.

Unfortunately, this path might not allow continuation of hormone treatments, which we assume the Church also considers a sin. That is  because one of the principles of confession is the person's intent to not repeat the sin in the future.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Straight Answers: The Morality of 'Sex Change' Operations," The Catholic Herald, 2005-OCT-19, at:
  2. "Straight Answers: Surgery That Destroys Bodily Integrity," The Catholic Herald, 2001-JAN-10, at:
  3. Jori Lewis, "Transgender and Christian: Finding identity," Religion Dispatches magazine, 2009-SEP-03, at:
  4. John Norton, "Vatican says 'sex-change' operation does not change person's gender," Catholic News Service, 2003-JAN-14, reprinted at:
  5. book cover Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, "This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice," Liturgical Press, (2015). As of late 2018, it costs $19.94 plus postage in paperback format. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  6. Joe Morgan, "Pope Francis compares trans people to nuclear weapons," Gay Star News, 2015-FEB-19, at:

Copyright 2007 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-DEC-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or to the "Transsexual etc." menu, or to the "Roman Catholic and sex" menu, or choose:

To search this website:

Click on one of the links ^^ above at the < < left, or use this search bar:

search engine by freefind

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

privacy policy