Last week, I commented on the gender agenda in Poland and the criticism of the Catholic Church’s opposition to it. In the gender discussions that will no doubt continue, I want to continue to emphasize two points:
- Gender is a fluid concept. Sex is not. The sex of an individual is determined at conception. Either the human person is born with two X chromosomes or an X and Y chromosome. That fixed combination determines one’s sex. Obviously, it does not determine how one uses, expresses, or lives one’s sexuality. But it is a scientific fact, not something determined by popes, bishops, or any other type of religious authority. We don’t believe it. We know it. It’s basic science and it’s really, really significant, which bring me to my next point.
- We are engaged in what may very likely be the biggest social experiment in the history of humanity. Can we at least have a conversation about it, what it means, its implications, etc? I don’t deny that people experience their sexuality in very different ways. I’m just asking, can we have a calm and rational conversation before we dismiss the essential significance of a scientific reality?
I was interviewed for a National Catholic Register article about the FaceBook changes.
Pia de Solenni, a Catholic theologian living in Seattle, argues that these values are finding traction in social media for practical rather than philosophical reasons.
“It’s part of the business model,” she said. “Social media needs to constantly generate attention; otherwise, it can’t function as a connecting medium. Shock value is an easy way to get attention.”
De Solenni says Facebook’s move demonstrates that social “progressives” tend to be “much savvier about communicating their values and their vision” using newer mediums used by a younger audience, but she says Catholics can fight back by learning the tools of the trade.
“There’s a great opportunity here for people of traditional values to be reaching out to the younger generation to offer something different than what they’ve experienced all of their short lives,” she said.
Some are saying that’s what Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert did on his Feb. 18 episode. Colbert, a Catholic who was the keynote speaker at last fall’s Al Smith Dinner in New York City, often mocks socially conservative talking points, but in this instance, he directed his humor at progressive values, joking that Facebook’s plethora of new gender options “make [my] brain broke” and weren’t inclusive enough because they didn’t include “pirate.”
The Catholic comedian also took direct aim at one of Facebook’s most ill-defined gender choices, which is listed as “Trans*” on its “Diversity” page. Quipped Colbert, “I believe that’s when you’re born an asterisk but deep inside you believe you’re an ampersand.”
Colbert’s performance was called “nasty” by John Aravosis, a LGBT activist, but it had the audience in stitches.
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. [emphasis mine]
Agree or disagree, but I think we have to have a substantive conversation about the implications of choices we make now, even something as simple as selecting an identifying option on Facebook.