(OSV News) — Close to 30 U.S. women religious communities, who say they represent “over 6,000 vowed Catholic religious and partners in mission in over 18 states,” released a joint statement endorsing the March 31 observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The March 31 statement said the observance, which was established in 2009, is “a time to celebrate, acknowledge and uplift folks who identify as transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender-expansive.”
“As vowed Catholic religious and our partners in mission, we wholeheartedly affirm that transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals are beloved and cherished by God,” read the statement, which was posted to the website of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, U.S. Federation.
According to the website, the text was prepared by representatives of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph; the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of- the-Woods, Indiana; and the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas. The 27 endorsers included women religious communities across the nation.
Among the orders listed on the statement were several communities of Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of Loretto, as well as the Medical Mission Sisters. Individual Dominican, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Presentation, Providence and School Sisters of Notre Dame communities also signed the message.
“As members of the body of Christ, we cannot be whole without the full inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals,” the statement read.
The text said that “at this moment in the U.S., transgender people are experiencing harm and erasure” due to “anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across several states,” “daily discrimination and violence,” and “harmful rhetoric from some Christian institutions and their leaders, including the Catholic Church.”
The “Gospel call of unifying love compels us to actively interrupt harmful interactions in daily life and dismantle the systems that reinforce this rhetoric and violence in society, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and other folks of color,” said the statement, which included calls to action and advocacy on behalf of those who identify as LGBTQ+.
“We will remain oppressors until we — as vowed Catholic religious — acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people in our own congregations,” the text said. “We seek to cultivate a faith community where all, especially our transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive siblings, experience a deep belonging.”
On March 20, the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee issued a 14-page statement declaring that surgical, chemical or other interventions that aim “to exchange” a person’s “sex characteristics” for those of the opposite sex “are not morally justified.”
“The human person, body and soul, man or woman, has a fundamental order and finality whose integrity must be respected,” said the committee, chaired by Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas. “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.”
The doctrine committee acknowledged that “many people are sincerely looking for ways to respond to real problems and real suffering.”
“Certain approaches that do not respect the fundamental order appear to offer solutions. To rely on such approaches for solutions, however, is a mistake,” it said. “An 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 doctrine committee said that “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.”
Asked to comment on the statement from the religious communities, Jesuit Father James Martin — whose pastoral ministry has focused on the LGBTQ+ community — told OSV News he was not surprised by the message, since “Catholic sisters have always placed themselves on the side of those who are poor, struggling or marginalized.”
Father Martin described people who identify as transgender as “an extremely ‘at-risk’ population” that suffers from “extremely high incidents of violence, bullying and harassment.”
“I hope that the support of women religious, and other vowed religious, will help them feel God’s love,” he said.
However, John Di Camillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told OSV News the statement from the religious communities was “terribly sad and a source of theological scandal.”
“Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned (gender ideology) as a form of ideological colonization and exploitation of the vulnerable,” he said. Di Camillo added it does not help “those who experience gender incongruence or dysphoria learn to love themselves and their bodies for the great gifts that they are.”
“True healing, rooted in Christ, does not come through hormonal and surgical mutilations that are falsely labeled as ‘gender affirmation,’” he said, “but only through respect for bodily integrity and for one’s true identity as man or woman.”
OSV News has asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for comment on the women religious’ March 31 statement, but has not yet received a response.
2 thoughts on “Nearly 30 women religious communities endorse transgender observance, advocacy in joint statement”
Surgical mutilation of our body is not gender affirmation but rejection of what God made. Hopefully the Bishops, after prayerful consideration, will agree with you. If not, they need a very strong reason to support mutilation.
As a trans woman who reads the posts on this site nearly every day, seeing the statement by the sisters means a great deal! It saddens me to see those in the church who oppose it, even if it doesn’t surprise me. I recognize that they are probably very far removed from the everyday reality of being trans, being in a position where it’s unlikely that any of them know any trans people. For many of us, facing mockery, laughter, and even violence is an everyday occurrence. If you just so happen to be put together some day in a way in which you stand out, even something as simple as going to the grocery store can be a frightening task where you might be met with such unkindness.
It’s very heartening to see some within the church being outspoken about it in such a way that makes it clear that they are safe and approachable. It’s very hard when an institution that you love, that represents the God that you love, and who loves us, is made up of so many who do not seem approachable or loving, but instead seem to present only judgement and harshness openly.
It’s hard to express what I want to say, but all I can do is say thank you to those who supported the statement and publicly show a face of kindness. It means so much!