In a time of cultural conflict and mistaken ideas about sexual identity, religious leaders have put forth their preferred approach.
Several leading Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have backed the Dec. 15 letter “Created Male and Female” published on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The letter stressed two themes: male and female are God-given differences that must be publicly acknowledged, and those who are confused about their own identity deserve authentic support.
“We hope this letter communicates to the public our shared understanding of the goodness of the creation of humanity as male or female and underscores our commitment to service of this truth with both clarity and compassion,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
The letter said it is important to acknowledge the reality of sexual identity.
“We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity,” it said.
Other signers of the letter include leaders in various Christian denominations and Churches, including Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Baptist. Another signer is Imam Faizal Khan, a founder of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area.
“The movement today to enforce the false idea — that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa — is deeply troubling,” the letter continued. “It compels people to either go against reason — that is, to agree with something that is not true — or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.”
The religious leaders’ letter affirmed that all human beings are created by God and have a God-given dignity.
“We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw — it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good,” they said, citing the Book of Genesis on the creation of humankind: “male and female he created them.”
The desire to be identified as the opposite sex is “a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth,” continued the letter. Their concerns deserve a response of “compassion, mercy and honesty.”
“As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love,” they advised.
The letter also voiced concern about how children are affected by current trends in sexual identity.
“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults,” said the letter. “Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm’.”
Voicing a desire for the health and happiness of all men, women and children, the religious leaders called for policies that “uphold the truth of a person's sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.”
In addition to Bishop Conley, Catholic signers of the letter include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, who chairs the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The U.S. bishops’ conference said the latest letter follows three previous letters: a Dec. 6, 2010 letter “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment”; “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” from Jan. 12, 2012; and “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness,” dated April 23, 2015.