The Catholic hierarchy teaches that God created a binary system of male and female bodies that are supposed to complement each other. They believe that women and men are equal in worth and dignity, yet their physical and anatomical differences are evidence that God intends different roles and purposes for them in church, society and the family. This system not only reinforces women’s suffering but oversimplifies the complexity of gender identity, erasing whole communities of people made in God’s image.
Men are always awarded power, authority and dominance, women are relegated to the roles of service, nurturing and adoration, and non-binary or gender non-conforming people are not even recognized.
Catholics for Choice believes that God’s creation is far more complex. We do not accept that an individual’s purpose is bound by biology or anatomy, and the notion that sex is a binary of male and female is scientifically inaccurate. We work towards a world that treats all people equally regardless of sex, gender identity, or gender expression.
Pope Francis’ attitude toward women is a traditional Catholic hierarchical attempt to combine binary stereotypes about women.Francis on Women
Questions about Gender Equity
We've compiled these talking points to help inform Catholic conversations about gender equity.
Patriarchy (derived from the Greek “rule of the father”) is any system in which a small, exclusive group of men has absolute power over women, children, people of marginalized genders, and some vulnerable men.
Some of the hallmarks of patriarchy include the desire to control individuals’ fertility, power and freedom, particularly women.
Sex is the label you’re assigned at birth by a doctor based on physical characteristics such as the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have. The vast majority of people are assigned either male or female at birth.
Gender is far more complex than your sex assigned at birth. Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics perceived by society based on traditional masculinity and femininity. This includes expectations of behavior, dress and communication. However, virtually everyone is a unique blend of characteristics, defying a strict binary.
Gender identity is the innermost concept of oneself as male, female, a blend of both or of neither—it’s how they feel inside and how they express those feelings. Clothing, appearance and behaviors are all ways people can express their gender identity.
A person’s gender identity can be the same or different from the characteristics traditionally corresponding with their sex assigned at birth.
People whose gender identity is the same or in line with their assigned sex are called cisgender. People whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex may identify as transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer or gender non-conforming.
Transgender and non-binary people don’t choose their gender identity. They have never felt fully aligned with the gender identity that traditionally corresponds with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Since gender identity is not a choice, forcing a child to change their gender identity doesn’t work and can be extremely harmful. Knowing they have your support is crucial to their well-being and development.
If your child is transgender, it’s important to educate yourself about the concerns that transgender youth and adults face. Search for resources online about transgender identities, and consider meeting with a psychologist who specializes in supporting transgender and non-binary people. But always assure your child that they have your unconditional love and support.
In 2019, the Vatican released its first statement on gender identity, a document called “Male and Female He Created Them.” It rejected the idea that transgender people can change their gender identity and suggested that the possibility contributes to the “destabilization of the family.”
LGBTQ Catholics denounced the document, stating that it “will cause families to reject their children, and it will increase alienation of LGBT people from the Church.”
The actual experience of transgender Catholics varies depending on their communities. In the United States, the attitudes of Catholics have been shifting, and many more say they support transgender rights than they did five years ago.
The reason the Catholic institution condemns transgender people is the same reason it condemns gay and lesbian people is the same reason it doesn’t allow women to be priests is the same reason that women are denied access to abortion. It’s all rooted in the same notion that God created women to be subservient to men. The Church condemns anything that strays from those roles.