Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The influence of gender ideology has become pervasive in contemporary society. As a result, many of the faithful and those who serve in our ministries have raised questions around the complex and sensitive topics of gender, sexual identity, and the nature of the human person. In light of recent guidance from the Church and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and in keeping with our pastoral responsibility to instruct the faithful, we seek with this pastoral letter to provide clarity and resources with regard to the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the nature of the human person.

Pope Francis has called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.” By “ideological colonization,” Pope Francis means that there are powerful cultural influences emerging in various forms of media including publishing, social media, and other influential content which exert tremendous influence on the culture. Gender ideology denies certain fundamental aspects of human existence, such as male-female sexual difference, the reciprocal complementarity of man and woman, and the essential unity of body and soul in the human person. Gender ideology is, in many important respects, radically opposed to a sound understanding of human nature, leading to forms of cultural influence, especially via education and legislation, that promote a notion of personal identity which is left to the choice of the individual and that deny the anthropological basis of the family as founded on the biological difference between male and female. It is thus opposed to reason, to science, and to a Christian view of the human person.

Throughout her history, the Catholic Church has opposed notions of dualism that posit the body and soul as separate, non-integrated entities. The body is an integral and indispensable aspect of what it means to be a human person. The body and soul come into existence together, in an individual human being at the time of conception. From the beginning of his or her existence, the human person has a body that is sexually differentiated as male or female. “‘Being man’ or ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God.” Consequently, one can never be said to be in the “wrong” body. “For this reason,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “man may not despise his bodily life. Rather, he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” Male-female sexual difference and complementarity are also essential to a Christian understanding of marital conjugal union, which is itself an image of Trinitarian communion. Eliminating this difference would diminish in man and woman part of what it means to bear God’s image and likeness. In addition, it would do away with the very basis of the family, the “first vital cell of society.” Doing so would be an offense against human dignity and a social injustice.

Many faithful Catholics demonstrate solidarity with those suffering from gender dysphoria, unjust discrimination, or other questions related to gender identity and sincerely desire to respond in love to their sisters and brothers. The Church is called to do as Jesus did, to accompany in a spirit of solidarity those marginalized and suffering while affirming the beauty and truth of God’s creation. “Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity…. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell.” Compassion that does not include both truth and charity is a misplaced compassion….

Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
Archbishop of San Francisco

Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, S.J.
Bishop of Oakland

From the Archdiocese of San Francisco