The Church’s Teaching on Marriage, Part Three

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In Vitro Fertilization, Artificial Insemination, and Surrogate Motherhood

It bears repeating that “‘[e]ach human person, in his absolutely unique singularity, is constituted not only by his spirit, but by his body as well. Thus, in the body and through the body, one touches the person himself in his concrete reality. To respect the dignity of man consequently amounts to safeguarding this identity of the man corpore et anima unus’”(DV at Introduction 3, quoting St. John Paul II’s Discourse to the members of the 35th General Assembly of the World Medical Association, 29 October 1983: AAS 76 (1984) 393). In the sexual act, the whole person expresses him or herself through the language of the body which reflects the self-giving oneness of the couple and is the means of creating life. “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.” (DV II B)

However, the separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intimacy can dispose the act to abuse — pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual sex, and in vitro fertilization being just examples. If sexual intercourse is not the expression of a lifelong commitment of mutual self-giving, then there is no logical reason why it cannot be engaged in, at will, with anyone or any number of persons.

This disconnect is furthered by failing to relate sex to the potential creation of life. With artificial contraception, the morning-after pill, and abortion, there is no consequential responsibility to having sexual intercourse with any person. On the other side of the coin, if the creation of life is not, by its nature, integrally dependent on sexual intercourse, then one may create life in any artificial manner.

Not only is the personal dignity of the couple preserved by maintaining the integral nature of the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, but also the rights of the child are protected. In Donum Vitae [DV] cited above, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which the future Benedict XVI was its prefect, instructed:

[H]uman procreation has specific characteristics by virtue of the personal dignity of the parents and of the children: the procreation of a new person, whereby the man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of their fidelity. The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage involves reciprocal respect of their right to become a father and a mother only through each other. The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage. . . . The parents find in their child a confirmation and completion of their reciprocal self-giving: the child is the living image of their love, the permanent sign of their conjugal union, the living and indissoluble concrete expression of their paternity and maternity. . . . The tradition of the Church and anthropological reflection recognize in marriage and in its indissoluble unity the only setting worthy of truly responsible procreation. DV IIA (emphasis added).

[M]arriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, ‘the supreme gift’ and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right . . . to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” (DV II B 8; emphasis in the original)

Therefore, a child is not a product to be manufactured at will. “He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology. No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of technical efficiency which are to be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion.DV II B 4c.

Pope Francis reminds us in this regard:

A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for “he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift,” which is “the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents.” (AL at 81, emphasis added; quoting from CCC at 2378 and DV at II B 8, respectively).

The Church understands the plight of married couples who, for one reason or another, cannot conceive or bear children. Yet it must also communicate the need to honor God’s design for sexual intercourse and the creation of human life, for only in living in accordance with God’s creative will can one find true happiness. FC at 29; DV at Introduction 1.

The creation of life by artificial means which substitute for sexual intercourse violates God’s creative design. Such artificial means include artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, and in vitro fertilization whether using gametes from one or both spouses, or from use of a donor’s gamete. DV II A & B. Not only does in vitro fertilization violate the dignity of the parents and the right of a child to be conceived through the physical love of his parents, it also violates the dignity of the “spare” embryos (nascent human life) often resulting from the in vitro process, who are wrongly disposed of or provided for scientific experimentation. EV at 14.

Each of these methods involves the insertion of a third person into the marital relationship and often raises significant legal issues as to the parenthood and custody of the child. Nevertheless, such conceived children still have the dignity of human beings and must be raised with love. DV II B 5.

Childless Marriages Can Also Be Fruitful

Some couples are unable to have children. We know that this can be a cause of real suffering for them. At the same time, we know that “marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children . . . Even in cases where, despite the intense desire of the spouses, there are no children, marriage still retains its character of being a whole manner and communion of life, and preserves its value and indissolubility.” So too, “motherhood is not a solely biological reality, but is expressed in diverse ways.” (AL at 178)

[S]terility is certainly a difficult trial. . . . Spouses who find themselves in this sad situation are called to find in it an opportunity for sharing in a particular way in the Lord’s Cross, the source of spiritual fruitfulness. Sterile couples must not forget that “even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.” (DV II B 8, quoting from FC at 14)

Adoption is a very generous way to become parents. [Pope Francis] encourage[s] those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation. They will never regret having been generous. Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none. It is important to insist that legislation help facilitate the adoption process, above all in the case of unwanted children, in order to prevent their abortion or abandonment. Those who accept the challenge of adopting and accepting someone unconditionally and gratuitously become channels of God’s love. For he says, “Even if your mother forgets you, I will not forget you” (Is 49:15). (AL at 179)


During the course of pregnancy, a married couple may be subjected to testing to determine if the unborn child has any genetic anomalies. The couple is presented with alternatives to dealing with an anomaly if one is found. Among these alternatives is usually termination of pregnancy, the medical term for abortion. So it is necessary to set forth the Church’s clear teaching on abortion.

[F]rom the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and . . . modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the program of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time — a rather lengthy time — to find its place and to be in a position to act. (EV at 60, quoting Declaration on Procured Abortion, Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 18, 1974)

The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well-defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby. (Dignitas Personae, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at 49, September 8, 2008)

Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. (DV, at I 1)

Accordingly, St. John Paul II emphatically stated:

[B]y the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops — who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in … consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine — I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church. (EV at 62; emphasis in original)

Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Church’s long-standing prohibition of abortion:

Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being. The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last. (AL at 83)


It is not infrequent that one or both of the spouses will be confronted with end of life decisions involving a parent or other family member. The teaching of the Church in this regard was also set forth by St. John Paul in the Gospel of Life, wherein he defines euthanasia “in the strict sense . . . to be an action or omission which of itself and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering. ‘Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used’.” (EV at 65; emphasis in original)

He differentiates euthanasia from extraordinary and disproportionate treatment and the legitimate use of palliative care.

Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forego so-called “aggressive medical treatment,” in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. In such situations, when death is clearly imminent and inevitable, one can in conscience “refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.” Certainly there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for, but this duty must take account of concrete circumstances. It needs to be determined whether the means of treatment available are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement. To forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death. (EV at 65)

Then he explains the principles governing appropriate palliative care:

In modern medicine, increased attention is being given to what are called “methods of palliative care,” which seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal. Among the questions which arise in this context is that of the licitness of using various types of painkillers and sedatives for relieving the patient’s pain when this involves the risk of shortening life. While praise may be due to the person who voluntarily accepts suffering by forgoing treatment with pain-killers in order to remain fully lucid and, if a believer, to share consciously in the Lord’s Passion, such “heroic” behavior cannot be considered the duty of everyone. Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, “if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties.” In such a case, death is not willed or sought, even though for reasonable motives one runs the risk of it: there is simply a desire to ease pain effectively by using the analgesics which medicine provides. All the same, “it is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason”: as they approach death people ought to be able to satisfy their moral and family duties, and above all they ought to be able to prepare in a fully conscious way for their definitive meeting with God. (EV at 65)

After having set forth these distinctions and principles, he formally declared:

Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Depending on the circumstances, this practice involves the malice proper to suicide or murder. (EV at 65)

Pope Francis also reaffirmed this teaching: “[T]he Church . . . feels the urgency to assert the right to a natural death, without aggressive treatment and euthanasia.” (AL at 83)

For a good reflection on how anthropology can influence legal reasoning, particularly as it pertains to issues of life, those of a philosophical bent might find interesting What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics by O. Carter Snead (Harvard University Press 2020).

Contraception and Abortion Can Be Products of the Same Mentality

It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality” — which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act — are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill.” (EV at 13; emphasis in original)

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception. (EV at 13)

The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices, and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being. (EV at 13)


Married couples may someday be challenged by children, other family members, or friends who are struggling with homosexual attraction or gender dysphoria. Accordingly, it is most important for the spiritual health of all involved to understand the Church’s teaching with regard to these matters. That teaching emanates from the understanding of God’s creative design set forth in the prior sections of this series — human beings were created male and female as complementary to each other with the ability to create life through their physical intimacy in marriage. It is obvious that sex between same-sex persons is not the divinely designed complementary intercourse between a man and a woman. It might be described as pseudo-sex.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC at 2357)

For these reasons the Church teaches, as affirmed by Pope Francis, that “‘as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family’.” (AL at 251) Moreover, “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.” (RD)

The Church is teaching that the “inclinations,” not the persons with same-sex attractions, are disordered. The term “disordered” might seem off-putting and callous. Perhaps calling them “untoward” inclinations might be gentler. However, no matter which word is used, when understood in the context of the Church’s teachings on Original Sin, marriage, and sexuality, the terms become more understandable.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life. (PCH at 16; emphasis added)

Every person has suffered the effects of Original Sin which destroyed the harmony within human beings. “[T]he control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body [was] shattered.” (CCC at 400) Human nature became “inclined to sin — an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence’.” (PCH at 405) Thus, human beings are subject to all types of disordered inclinations which disrupt the harmonious functioning of a person’s spiritual and bodily faculties — pride, envy, greed, gluttony, excessive anger, lust, sloth (acedia), power, drugs, immoderate drinking, and pornography.

In order to resist or overcome them, each person is called to develop the human virtues which help “govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith . . . [and] make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life.” (CCC at 1804; emphasis added) “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” (CCC at 1803)

Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good.” (CCC at 1810) “The virtuous [person] is [the one] who freely practices the good.” (CCC at 1804)

All human beings struggle with disordered inclinations and temptations. Hence, “[t]he moral virtues [must be] acquired by human effort” with the grace of God. (CCC at 1804; see also CCC at 1811) “It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.” (CCC at 1811) He should also “adopt [these] means: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer.” (CCC at 2340; emphasis in original).

Through Baptism Christians receive the supernatural assistance of the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. These “dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity, . . . are the foundation of Christian moral activity, . . . and give life to all the moral virtues.” (CCC at 1812–13)

In the sexual sphere, human beings, regardless of their state in life, are called to develop the virtue of chastity (cf. CCC at 2348). “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” (CCC at 2337) “The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him.” (CCC at 2338)

Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. ‘Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.’” (CCC at 2339, quoting Gaudium et Spes 17; emphasis in the original). “‘Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity.’” (CCC at 2340, quoting St. Augustine’s Confessions)

Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.” (CCC at 2342; emphasis in original). “Chastity has laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. ‘Man . . . day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.’” (CCC at 2343; emphasis in original).

The Church recognizes that same-sex attraction “constitutes for most of [those who experience such an inclination] a trial,” and urges that “[t]hey must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, “ and without “any sign of unjust discrimination.” (CCC at 2358) Nevertheless they too are called to live chastely as is required of all persons who, as part of the fallen human condition, struggle with temptations or inordinate desires.

All single persons, for instance, must live lives of continence as is also required of all priests and religious. Even married couples must reserve sexual intercourse to their spouse. So too, “[b]y the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, [persons challenged by same-sex attraction] can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (CCC at 2359)

For all human beings, “[t]he virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. . . . Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.” (CCC at 2347) It cannot, however, lead to sexual intercourse with someone to whom one is not married, nor pseudo-sex between same-sex persons. In order to persevere on the road to holiness, we all need friends and mentors who have the same desire to do the Lord’s Will, to walk as He wants.

That such a life is not only possible for those with homosexual attractions, but also rewarding, is seen through the testimonies of some who have had the benefit of Courage, a Catholic community of persons with same-sex attraction “who have made a commitment to strive for chastity. . . . [and] are inspired by the gospel call to holiness and to the Catholic Church’s beautiful teachings about the goodness and inherent purpose of human sexuality.”

John: Five years ago, I felt so alone. I felt no one would listen to my heart crying, that no one would really care. I desired to take my own life. In my search for peace, through the help of a close friend, I went to Mass for the first time in my life and felt God’s love envelop me. He guided me to Rome, where the Church’s teachings on homosexuality gave me great comfort. God, through His Church, cared to love me, to hold me and to listen to me.

By way of complicated events, I discovered Courage. Finally, I had arrived at a place where others could relate to me, a place where I could foster chaste friendships with other men who truly cared. We were not afraid to proclaim the truth of Christ, that, in His loving plan for us, we could live a life of holiness and walk down the path, carrying the cross after the One who dies for us. This became a life of chaste holiness — to be the saints that God has called us to be. This is almost impossible without Courage. As we struggle together, the Holy Spirit breaks the chains of homosexuality to free us to be who God calls us to be. Only then are we truly free.

Tom: I begin, not at the beginning, but at the first metanoia, Advent 1964. I had promised to abstain from all sinful sexual behavior and to make daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament. It was Christmas Eve when I fell, and the day after Christmas when I was on the steps of the Church, ready to make my daily visit, it hit me: “Be either hot or cold for the lukewarm I will vomit out of my mouth.” I had prevailed for 39 days. I couldn’t prevail for just one more time. I thought, “I am a failure, too weak to last just one more day — I’m tired of failure time after time — I refuse to continue being a hypocrite.” I turned and walked away from God and the Church. I gave my life to Satan, to do whatever he wanted with it – and he did! Eleven years later, I allowed God back into my life, along with a renewed strength and a grace to rise above my compulsions like I had never known before. A year after that I joined Courage. I found there an opportunity to share my pain and shame. I knew I was not alone — there were others who felt like me. I stopped going to meetings for a year or two and it was during this time I began to get into trouble. I realized I needed the support and prayers of like-minded people to walk with me on my journey. My return to Courage has helped stabilize my life and has enabled me to make the changes I need to make so I can continue on my journey to sanctification. How Courage has done this is a mystery to me, but a mystery I welcome and want to share. The pain in others has helped me to see the pain in myself, and the victory I see in others encourages me in quest of my own. (Emphasis in original.)

Parents have also benefited from Courage’s auxiliary organization, Encourage, which assists family members of those with same-sex attraction:

Mary: We received the devastating news that our daughter struggles with homosexual feelings, but through the grace of God, we were led to Encourage. We were given loving support, understanding of the problem, and guidance according to the teaching of the Catholic Church. Where else could we have turned? How else could we have coped? Before making the Encourage connection, we had contacted the Mental Health Association. We were encouraged to join PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). We pray for all Catholic families who have had the misfortune to be misguided by this organization which encourages parents to accept their son/daughter’s homosexual activity as okay. What good is it for us to give to the poor, pray for our political leaders, and other global intentions, if we as Catholics do not support our own faithful who are crying in desperation for healing? The Lord says, “Come to me all you who are burdened and I will refresh you.” Does not the Holy Spirit move through us? My eternal gratitude to all who are ministering to the members of Courage / Encourage. (Emphasis in original.)

There are 113 Courage and 80 Encourage chapters among the District of Columbia and most states as well as in multiple countries. More information is available on Courage’s website,

Gender Dysphoria and Ideology

Pope Francis expresses concern about the growth of gender ideology:

Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.” It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.”

On the other hand, “the technological revolution in the field of human procreation has introduced the ability to manipulate the reproductive act, making it independent of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. In this way, human life and parenthood have become modular and separable realities, subject mainly to the wishes of individuals or couples.” It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created. (AL at 56; emphasis added)

Parents are being confronted by a full-scale effort to impose gender identity on children through grammar and high school curriculum and a media barrage which can mislead parents, drawing them into accepting, and making judgments in accordance with, this ideology. It is true that sometimes children experience “gender dysphoria,” which “in children describes a psychological condition in which they experience marked incongruence between their experienced gender and the gender associated with their biological sex. They often express the belief that they are the opposite sex.” Gender Dysphoria in Children by Dr. Michelle Cretella, M.D., (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, January 30, 2017). Should a parent be told by young or teenage children that they are confused about their gender, the parent might be tempted, out of a misguided love, to think the best thing to do is to affirm the feelings of the child and even start putting them through gender transition. Parents should be aware, however, of certain basic biological and sociological facts:

  1. Biologically, there are only two sexes. “Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: ‘XY’ and ‘XX’ are genetic markers of male and female, respectively — not genetic markers of a disorder.” (from “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” by Dr. Michelle Cretella, M.D., Homiletic & Pastoral Review, May 29, 2017). “Every cell in the human body is male or female.” (Get Out Now, at 10 & n. 37, 12 n. 42, by Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan, Regnery Gateway, 2018).
  2. There are specific health differences between the male and female bodies. [F]or example, . . . heart attack symptoms, treatments, and recoveries differ considerably between men and women. . . . It’s no surprise that transgender persons need to be screened, throughout their lives, for diseases typical of their birth sex, not their gender identity.” (Get Out Now, cit, at 11.)
  3. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender-confused boys, and 88% of gender-confused girls, eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty. (“Gender Ideology Harms Children,” cit.) James M. Cantor, PhD, CPsych, who is the Director of the Toronto Sexuality Centre in Toronto, Canada, and an Associate Professor, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Canada has stated that “every follow-up study of GD [Gender Dysphoria] children, without exception, found the same thing: By puberty, the majority of GD children ceased to want to transition. (American Academy of Pediatrics and trans- kids: Fact-checking Rafferty (2018), at 1.)
  4. “The overwhelming weight of scientific research shows that transgender adolescents (and LGBTQ youth in general) have shockingly high rates of substance abuse and mental health problems. . . . In short they are struggling. But the solutions championed by gender activists only make things worse. Hormone treatments and surgery come with substantial health risks and irreversible cons. And they don’t correct the underlying problem — in part, because we don’t know what causes a child to identify as transgender.” Id. at 14–15. “Rates of suicide are nearly twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT-affirming countries.” (“Gender Ideology Harms Children,” op. cit.) That same study has demonstrated that “transsexuals have a higher than expected rate of suicide even after transitioning.” (Get Out Now, op. cit, at 57 & n. 66; emphasis in original).
  5. “Children in the earliest stages of puberty, who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex, will require cross-sex hormones by age 16. This combination leads to permanent sterility. . . . In addition, cross-sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.” (“Gender Ideology Harms Children,” cit.)

These facts confirm the correctness of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the truth about sexuality. They certainly suggest that, if a child is truly struggling, the parents should seek assistance of professionals who have the proper understanding of human biology, psychology, and anthropology. It also behooves parents to be aware of what is being taught in schools and either seek to change, when necessary, what is being taught or, alternatively, pull the children from such schools.

An excellent resource for parents dealing with children who have identity issues is the Person and Identity Project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, To obtain a fuller understanding of the dangerous impact gender ideology is having on individuals and society, particularly as being imposed through public schools, a good source is the above-cited Get Out Now.


Sacramental marriage is the means by which a married couple lives the universal call to holiness. St. Josemaria Escrivá provided a simple summary of Christian marriages: “‘Your wife is your pathway to Heaven.’ . . . and [he would] say the same thing about her husband.” Marriage As a Pathway to Holiness, St. Josemaria Institute Podcast, Msgr. Fred Dolan. May all who read this series appreciate and experience the sacredness and grandeur of marriage and parenthood as God has created them.

Richard P. Maggi, Esq. About Richard P. Maggi, Esq.

Richard P. Maggi, Esq., has been a litigation attorney for the past 40 years. He is also a commentator on religion and politics, having been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, First Things (web edition), Crisis Magazine, the Washington Examiner, Human Life Review, and Notre Dame Magazine. For seven years, four of which they were co-leaders, he and his wife were members of the Pre-Cana team at Our Lady of Peace Parish in New Providence, New Jersey.