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CNA Newsroom, Mar 20, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
The U.S. Catholic bishops released a statement Monday offering moral guidance for Catholic health care institutions, reiterating that âgender transitionâ interventions are not to be performed because they do not respect the fact that God has created each person as a unity of body and soul.
âThe 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, but it is a constitutive part of the human subject, a gift to be received, respected, and cared for as something intrinsic to the person,â the U.S. bishopsâ Committee on Doctrine wrote.
âAs the range of what we can do expands, we must ask what we should or should not do. An indispensable criterion in making such determinations is the fundamental order of the created world. Our use of technology must respect that order.â
To that end, the bishops wrote, âCatholic 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.â
âThey 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 health care providers show full respect for the dignity of each human person.â
The March 20 statement, titled âDoctrinal Note on the Moral Limits to Technological Manipulation of the Human Body,â is intended, the bishops say, to provide moral criteria for Catholic health care institutions for discerning which medical interventions promote the authentic good of the human person and which are injurious. The bishops said they developed the statement in consultation with medical ethicists, physicians, psychologists, and moral theologians.
The bishops note that modern technology offers chemical, surgical, and genetic interventions for the functioning of the human body as well as for modifying its appearance. There are two scenarios, they said, whereby âtechnological interventionsâ can be morally justified: when they are aimed at repairing a defect in the body or sacrificing a part of the body for the sake of the whole, such as with amputation. These kinds of interventions ârespect the fundamental order and finality inherent in the human person.â
However, gender transition surgeries âregards this order as unsatisfactory in some way and proposes a more desirable order, a redesigned order,â and thus are not morally permissible.
âThese 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,â the bishops asserted.
The bishops said one of the reasons for this moral calculus is that the âtransitioningâ personâs organs, which undergo mutilation and reconstruction during the gender transition process, are not disordered but are healthy. Moreover, âwhen a part of the body is legitimately sacrificed for the sake of the whole body, whether by the entire removal or substantial reconfiguration of a bodily organ, the removal or reconfiguring of the bodily organ is reluctantly tolerated as the only way to address a serious threat to the body. Here, by contrast, the removal or reconfiguring is itself the desired result.â
Discussing the proliferation of âgender transitionâ medical interventions, the bishops noted that Catholic health care institutions are not to take part in these interventions because they do not respect the âfundamental order of the human bodyâ as being âsexually differentiated.â
âSuch interventions, thus, 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,â the bishops continued.
âThe soul does not come into existence on its own and somehow happen to be in this body, as if it could just as well be in a different body. A soul can never be in another body, much less be in the wrong body,â the bishops wrote.
âBecause 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.â
The bishops quoted Pope Francis, who wrote in his encyclical ââLaudato Siâ: âThe acceptance of our bodies as Godâs gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.â
Relying on medical interventions that do not respect the body-soul unity is a âmistake,â they wrote.
âAn approach that does not respect the fundamental order will never truly solve the problem in view; in the end, it will only create further problems. The Hippocratic tradition in medicine calls upon all health care providers first and foremost to âdo no harm.â Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body, ultimately does not help but, rather, harms the human person.â