The Vatican Dicastery for Catholic Education released a document on the current “educational crisis” to promote a methodology “based on three guiding principles seen as best-suited to meet the needs of both individuals and communities: to listen, to reason and to propose.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Congregation for Catholic Education has released a long document titled Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education.
According to the paper, “gender” theory is an ideological approach that goes against a natural and anthropological reality, namely the differences between men and women, and consequently denies the reality of the family.
The document examines the issue of gender from an educational perspective, with an emphasis on the tasks of Catholic schools, and with the declared desire of seeking dialogue, knowing that “It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality.”
This ideology “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.”
By contrast, the Vatican document seeks to promote a methodology “based on three guiding principles seen as best-suited to meet the needs of both individuals and communities: to listen, to reason and to propose.” Listening involves examining the evolution of gender theory and its political consequences.
For gender theory, “What counts is the absolutely free self-determination of each individual and the choices he or she makes according to the circumstances of each relationship of affectivity. [. . .] This has led to calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies. The ideal presented is that the individual should be able to choose his or her own status, and that society should limit itself to guaranteeing this right, and even providing material support, since the minorities involved would otherwise suffer negative social discrimination.”
From this perspective, some positions have emerged “that could provide points of agreement, with a potential to yield growth in mutual understanding. For instance, educational programmes on this area often share a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination, a requirement that can be shared by all sides. Such pedagogical material acknowledges that there have been delays and failings in this regard.”
“Another position held in common is the need to educate children and young people to respect every person in their particularity and difference, so that no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults or unjust discrimination based on their specific characteristics (such as special needs, race, religion, sexual tendencies, etc.).”
In gender theory, especially in the more radical versions, there is a move away from nature towards individuals making all decisions for themselves. “This has particular importance for the question of sexual difference. In fact, the generic concept of ‘non-discrimination’ often hides an ideology that denies the difference as well as natural reciprocity that exists between men and women. Instead of combatting wrongful interpretations of sexual difference that would diminish the fundamental importance of that difference for human dignity, such a proposal would simply eliminate it by proposing procedures and practices that make it irrelevant for a person’s development and for human relationships.”
“This ideology inspires educational programmes and legislative trends that promote ideas of personal identity and affective intimacy that make a radical break with the actual biological difference between male and female. Human identity is consigned to the individual’s choice, which can also change in time. These ideas are the expression of a widespread way of thinking and acting in today’s culture that confuses “genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily as if there were no truths, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible.”
With respect to reasoning, the document notes that “there are rational arguments to support the centrality of the body as an integrating element of personal identity and family relationships. The body is subjectivity that communicates identity of being. In the light of this reality, we can understand why the data of biological and medical science shows that ‘sexual dimorphism’ (that is, the sexual difference between men and women) can be demonstrated scientifically by such fields as genetics, endocrinology and neurology.”
“Psychoanalytic theory demonstrates the tri-polar value of child-parent relationships, showing that sexual identity can only fully emerge in the light of the synergetic comparison that sexual differentiation creates.”
The Church’s proposal emerges, naturally, from within Christian anthropology. “The first step in this process of throwing light on anthropology consists in recognising that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. This is the fulcrum on which to support a human ecology that moves from the “respect for our dignity as human beings” and from the necessary relationship of our life to ‘moral law, which is inscribed into our nature’.”
“There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated. The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who “chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed.”
“The family is ‘an anthropological fact, and consequently a social, cultural fact’. On the other hand, to qualify it with ideological concepts which are compelling at only one moment in history, and then decline would mean a betrayal of its true significance. The family, seen as a natural social unit which favours the maximum realisation of the reciprocity and complementarity between men and women, precedes even the socio-political order of the State whose legislative freedom must take it into account and give it proper recognition.”
Schools are called to interact with families in a subsidiary way and engage in dialogue with them whilst respecting their culture. In such an educational process, rebuilding an alliance between schools, families and society is crucial so that they can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity”.
A “democratic state cannot reduce the range of education on offer to a single school of thought, all the more so in relation to this extremely delicate subject, which is concerned on the one hand with the fundamentals of human nature, and on the other with natural rights of parents to freely choose any educational model that accords with the dignity of the human person.”
The document ends reiterating that the choice is for dialogue in which the Church participates with the conviction that each interlocutor has something good to say, and that this needs some room.
The “path of dialogue, which involves listening, reasoning and proposing, appears the most effective way towards a positive transformation of concerns and misunderstandings, as well as a resource that in itself can help develop a network of relationships that is both more open and more human”, whilst “ideologically-driven approaches to the delicate questions around gender proclaim their respect for diversity, they actually run the risk of viewing such difference as static realities and end up leaving them isolated and disconnected from each other.”
The document goes on to stress the importance for Catholic educational facilities, as “a way of accompanying that is discrete and confidential” to reach out to “those who are experiencing complex and painful situations”.
Finally, the dicastery also expressed “its warmest gratitude to all Christians who teach in Catholic schools or other types of school, and, in the words of Pope Francis, encourages them ‘to stimulate in the pupils the openness to the other as a face, as a person, as a brother and sister to know and respect, with his or her history, merits and defects, riches and limits. The challenge is to cooperate to train young people to be open and interested in the reality that surrounds them, capable of care and tenderness’.” (FP)