USCCB to Catholic Healthcare: No Gender Transition Procedures!

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine has issued a statement to Catholic health care institutions saying that gender transition treatments are not to be performed in Catholic facilities.

According to the statement, even though modern technology offers a wide range of chemical, surgical, and genetic interventions that have led to the cure of many maladies, it also produces interventions that are injurious to the true flourishing of the human person.

“As an example of immediate concern, the committee cites the interventions advocated by many in society as treatments for what is termed ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender incongruence’,” the USCCB said in a press release.

“These interventions involve the use of surgical or chemical techniques that aim to exchange the sex characteristics of a patient’s body for those of the opposite sex or for simulations thereof. As such interventions ‘do not respect the fundamental order of the human person as an intrinsic unity of body and soul, with a body that is sexually differentiated,’ the committee states that Catholic health care services must not perform them.

While affirming that Catholic health care services “must employ all appropriate resources to mitigate the suffering of those who struggle with gender incongruence,” the committee asserts that the means used “must respect the fundamental order of the human body” or else the human person will not be helped, but rather harmed.

The committee’s statement, which was developed in consultation with numerous parties, including medical ethicists, physicians, psychologists, and moral theologians, emphasized that “Catholic health care services are called to provide a model of promoting the authentic good of the human person. To fulfill this duty, all who collaborate in Catholic health care ministry must make every effort, using all appropriate means at their disposal, to provide the best medical care, as well as Christ’s compassionate accompaniment, to all patients, no matter who they may be or from what condition they may be suffering,” the statement says.

It goes on to explain that the human person, body and soul, man or woman, has a fundamental order and finality whose integrity must be respected. “Because of this order and finality, neither patients nor physicians nor researchers nor any other persons have unlimited rights over the body; they must respect the order and finality inscribed in the embodied person.”

As Pope Pius XII taught, the patient “is not the absolute master of himself, of his body, of his mind. He cannot dispose of himself just as he pleases.” He affirmed that with regard to the faculties and powers of one’s human nature, a patient “is the user and not the owner” and thus “does not have an unlimited power to effect acts of destruction or of mutilation of a kind that is anatomical or functional.”

The body is not an object, a mere tool at the disposal of the soul, one that each person may dispose of according to his or her own will, the statement continues, but is a constitutive part of the human subject, a gift to be received, respected, and cared for as something intrinsic to the person.

The Church teaches that there are three conditions that must be fulfilled for a medical intervention “that involves anatomical or functional mutilation” to be morally permissible:

“First, the retention or functioning of a particular organ in the organism as a whole causes serious damage to it or constitutes a threat.

“Second, this damage cannot be avoided, or at least appreciably diminished, otherwise than by the mutilation in question and the effectiveness of the mutilation is well assured.

“Finally, it can reasonably be expected that the negative effect, i.e., the mutilation and its consequences, will be compensated for by the positive effect: removal of the danger for the whole organism, lessening of suffering, etc.”

These conditions ensure proper respect for the fundamental order of the human person because they establish that the sacrifice of the part of the body is not itself what is sought, that the sacrifice is truly a last resort that is necessary for the welfare of the body, and that there are no other options for securing the welfare of the body as a whole.

For example, after exhausting every other option to control a diseased limb, it would be morally permissible to amputate it in order to save the life of the person.

However, treatment for “gender dysphoria” or “gender incongruence,” which involves the removal of breasts or genitalia that are not diseased but are removed in order to facilitate a change in the appearance of a person’s biological sex, clearly does not respect this fundamental order.

As the statement explains, “In the case of children, the exchange of sex characteristics is prepared by the administration of chemical puberty blockers, which arrest the natural course of puberty and prevent the development of some sex characteristics in the first place. These technological interventions are not morally justified either as attempts to repair a defect in the body or as attempts to sacrifice a part of the body for the sake of the whole…the removal or reconfiguring is itself the desired result. …[T]hese interventions are intended to transform the body so as to make it take on as much as possible the form of the opposite sex, contrary to the natural form of the body. They are attempts to alter the fundamental order and finality of the body and to replace it with something else.”

Clearly, such interventions do not respect the fundamental order of the human person.

“Bodiliness is a fundamental aspect of human existence, and so is the sexual differentiation of the body. Catholic health care services must not perform interventions, whether surgical or chemical, that aim to transform the sexual characteristics of a human body into those of the opposite sex or take part in the development of such procedures. They must employ all appropriate resources to mitigate the suffering of those who struggle with gender incongruence, but the means used must respect the fundamental order of the human body. Only by using morally appropriate means do healthcare providers show full respect for the dignity of each human person.”

The committee’s full statement may be read here.


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