CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 June 2018

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Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong: Position statement on gender recognition

The Basic Stance
 
In view of the growing advocacy of the transgender ideology, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong wishes to clearly state its position in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church. 
 
The Diocese has explicitly stated, in its response to the Gender Recognition Public Consultation conducted by the Hong Kong SAR Government in the second half of 2017, that it strongly cautions against and does not support “the introduction of a gender recognition scheme to enable a person to acquire a legally recognized gender other than his or her birth gender.”
 
The main reasons for our basic stance and related analyses are as follows:
 
1. “Gender” is sometimes regarded as a mere sociological construct, that is, as something conceptual which is adopted by a specific human society on the basis of social and cultural factors at a certain stage of its development, for the purpose of distinguishing between “male” and “female”.  Actually, gender cannot be completely severed from a person’s inborn “biological sex”, nor is “maleness” or “femaleness” something that is or can be “self-selected”, manipulated or altered at will. 
 
2. The sexually-differentiated body is integral to the wholeness of man and woman whose complementarity, bodily integrity and dignity must be fully respected as essential elements of a genuine human ecology.
 
3. The gender recognition legislation (“the GRL”) as mooted in the Paper for the above-mentioned Public Consultation would, in effect, not only contradict anthropological reality, but would also compel others, under penalty of law, to recognize a person’s “self-selected”, “preferred” or “re-assigned” sex.  In the Diocese’s view, there is no sound basis for saying that a person has a “human right” to compel others to do so.
 
4. The GRL, if enacted, would have the effect, intended or otherwise, of promoting a “gender ideology” that typically begins by advancing the notion that gender can be completely divorced from “biological sex”, followed by the assertion that any change in gender so defined is equivalent to a sex change and effectively ending up with blotting out sexual differentiation altogether, thereby opening the way to, inter alia, genderless or same-sex marriage.
 
5. The Diocese believes that the GRL would not be in the public interest but would have moral, sociological, legal, medical and other consequences adversely affecting the well-being of individuals, families and the common good of society, including in particular the rearing, education and welfare of children. This would be so even if the GRL could theoretically be isolated and looked at independently from such issues as same-sex marriage. 
 
6. The GRL, if enacted, would generally apply both “vertically” as between citizens and government or public authorities, and “horizontally” right across the board in the private sector as between citizens and private entities.  This would inevitably give rise to multi-faceted problems, potential conflict and other legitimate concerns, aggravated by lack of informed consensus on the issue in Hong Kong where traditional values and cultural attitudes still play an important role. 
 
7. The problems (consequent upon the GRL if enacted) would include but would by no means be restricted to those relating to the use of gender-specific amenities and facilities, such as public toilets and shower-rooms, and participation in gender-specific sports, etc.
 
8. The GRL would most likely lead to “reverse discrimination”, including “viewpoint discrimination”, against those institutions and individuals who in good conscience could not or would not, whether on account of their religious beliefs or for some other reason, subscribe to the scheme. Such reverse discrimination would undermine or erode freedom of religion, belief and conscience, freedom of speech, as well as the autonomy of our schools and other institutions with regard to educational policies and family life education. 
 
9. Because of its general application, the impact of the GRL on marriage, family and children, as well as on parental rights in the matter of education would likely be even deeper and broader than that of the majority decision of the Court of Final Appeal in W v the Registrar of Marriages. 
 
10. Our concern for the welfare of children of course includes but is not restricted to those who are going through some form of gender-confusion or related problems. Certainly children diagnosed as suffering from “Gender Dysphoria” or “GD” (under DSM-5 criteria) or “Gender Identity Disorder” or “GID” (under DSM-IV-TR criteria) are among those who are in need of special love, care, protection, proper therapy and accompaniment. 
 
11. In this connection, the use of puberty-blocking hormones, for example, is particularly risky since the intervention radically disrupts the normal sequence of physical and psychological growth that occurs during adolescence and cannot simply be “reversed” if there is a change of mind or some medical or other reason.  
 
12. The hypothesis that a transgender person is “born that way” is not supported by any reliable scientific evidence.  In studies concerning gender-confused children, there is clear evidence that only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.  
 
13. The effectiveness of care and the risks of possible harm to people of different ages in the course of treatment undertaken as part of “gender transitioning”, including the long-term effects of hormonal treatment and “Sex Reassignment Surgery” (“SRS”) are also matters of legitimate concern.  A large cohort study in Sweden (among other studies) shows that, “[p]ersons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population”.
 
14. We recognize, with sympathy and compassion, the genuine distress and suffering of people who are diagnosed with GD or are afflicted with some form of gender identity problem. We would, at the same time, stress the need in every case to ensure that the measures adopted to alleviate the condition can (after proper investigation into all possible psychosocial interactive factors) be justified not only medically but also ethically and that any associated malady (or “comorbidity”) will likewise be addressed as required. 
 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
The Catholic Church teaches that there is a natural moral law, accessible to human reason, which is inscribed in the heart and very nature of the human person as an embodied relational being born male or female. The Diocese accordingly believes that not only is its basic stance against gender ideology and the GRL fully justified by a “theological anthropology” (mentioned in the Consultation Paper, Para. 5.35 of p. 133) or on other religious grounds, but it is also strongly supported by natural and secular (i.e., non-religious) reasons.
 
The Diocese reaffirms the intrinsic worth and equal dignity of every human person, regardless of sex or gender, or whether the person is or is not “LGBTQ…”  The Diocese, as part of its basic stance, would in particular stress the importance of special care, love and protection of the weakest and the most vulnerable, especially children, from all forms of abuse, bullying, unjust discrimination and other harms. 
 
The Diocese’s fundamental objection to the GRL remains regardless of whether the GRL model adopted is the self-declaratory model or the full SRS model or one in between the two.  Moreover, regardless of whether there is or is no GRL, there is always the prior question (among others) which every treating physician has to answer, namely whether any proposed measure, particularly if it involves the removal of perfectly healthy organs, can be justified on sound bioethical and therapeutic principles.
 
The Diocese will, in accord with the Catholic faith and the social teaching of the Church, continue to study and collaborate with others to search for concrete, ethical and just solutions that safeguard and advance the whole-person well-being of the individual, the core values of the family, and the integral development of society. 
 
 
20 February, 2018

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