The Pope, Gender, and Everything

Here is a link to and an excerpt from a BBC News article on the pope’s denunciation of “gender theory” and his desire to save humanity from queerness as from ecological destruction:

“Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

He explained that defending God’s creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction.

The Pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff.

His words, later released to the media, emphasised his rejection of gender theory.

Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the “self-destruction” of the human race.”

I think Benedict’s claims are an opportunity to discuss the relationship between “nature” and “gender” with our students. Though it is tempting to dismiss his position as self-evidently wrong, or because it offends, a more productive solution might be to address the principles of Catholic natural law theology that provide the logic for his statement.

With our students, we might ask questions like:

  1. In your view, does the structure of the universe provide unchanging natural laws that are the basis of cultural laws? If so, how? If not, is it ever legitimate to found social order on cosmic order? If so, how?
  2. The Aristotelian/Scholastic natural law theory does not account for the degree of change contemporary science has observed in cosmic order, astrophysically or biologically. Is natural law still a workable concept in the context of an evolutionary worldview? If cosmic order is dynamic, what happens to social order?
  3. In a natural law framework, how “natural” is vowed celibacy of the kind the pope practices? Is the avoidance of sexual activity lawful inside a traditional natural law framework? Inside a framework adjusted for dynamic change?
  4. The pope suggests that saving the rain forest and the rejection of “gender theory” go together, presumably because ecological and sexual order are reflections of the divine will for creation. Are ecological and sexual order really versions of each other in your framework? If so, what implications does ecology have for sexuality, and vice versa, in your system?
  5. The pope suggests that ecological destruction and the blurring of the boundaries between male and female are, in scale, comparable threats to humanity. Do you agree? Make a list of the consequences of the collapse of planetary ecosystems and planetary systems of gender. Which collapse is more frightening to you?

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