“What accounts for the Catholic Church’s recent focus on transgender people?” asks Father James Martin, S.J., in a May 17th essay at the new LGBTQ website, Outreach.faith, promoted by Martin and managed by America Magazine. He poses this question as a result of recent diocesan statements regarding the transgender phenomenon, which include the Dioceses of Arlington, VA.; Springfield, Il; Milwaukee, WI; Fairbanks, AL; Lansing, MI; Salina, KS; Little Rock, ARIndianapolis, IN; Denver, CO; Marquette, MI; and the Bishops of Minnesota.

Fr. Martin refuses to consider the most obvious answer to his question: the reason the Church is confronting the issue of transgenderism now is because contemporary society is fixated on the topic. More revealingly, he ignores the fact that Pope Francis himself directed American bishops to address the problem, as Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis made clear in his statement on the topic:

The bishops of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas traveled to Rome in January of 2020 to meet with the Holy Father, Pope Francis. While we were with him he affirmed that abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our time. But he added that another problem today is transgender theory/gender ideology, and he asked us to address it.

Thus, it is out of obedience to the Holy Father that these bishops have released their teachings on the topic.

That Fr. Martin ignores Pope Francis’s concerns regarding transgenderism and gender theory reveals how Fr. Martin instrumentalizes and selectively curates the words and thinking of the Holy Father in order to affirm whatever it is that Fr. Martin believes Pope Francis should affirm. But this should come as no surprise, since Fr. Martin is a skilled rhetorician who knows well how to use sophistry to argue his case. This latest essay is no exception.

For example, consider Fr. Martin’s discussion of the meaning of “gender theory/ideology,” which Martin rightly observes has appeared more and more frequently in church documents. Yet Fr. Martin argues that it “is a vague term that can mean many things to many people,” implying that the criticisms of “gender theory” have no value, since no one apparently knows what it means. This is blatant obfuscation. Church documents that use the term always define the term, or else the context makes clear what it means. Gender theory/ideology is any thinking or belief that undermines the sexual design of God in creating humanity as immutably male and female, with an inherent complementary sexual orientation that is ordered toward procreation.

Fr. Martin further argues that no one he knows who identifies as “transgender” actually denies that humanity is divided between male and female. He quotes a friend he calls a “transgender man,” who told him that “Most transgender people, though not all, consider ourselves male or female and rejoice in that identity. I know no one who is transgendered because they believe that gender should be eliminated or sexual differences do not exist….”

The above comes from a May 27 story in Catholic World Report.