ROME, Italy, May 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Willem Eijk of the Netherlands kicked off the 2019 Rome Life Forum today at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome by issuing a warning about the threat “gender theory” poses not only to the traditional family unit but also to the Christian faith itself.
Eijk, 65, is the current Archbishop of Utrecht. Elevated a Cardinal in 2012 by Pope Benedict, he’s emerged in recent years as one of the more outspoken defenders of orthodox Church teaching. He’s previously blamed Amoris Laetitia for “fracturing” the Church and has stated Pope Francis could possibly be part of the “final trial” for the Church before the second coming of Christ.
In his opening address today (read full talk below), Cardinal Eijk said the “vision of man” put forth by gender theory, which he defined as the idea that someone can choose their own gender, is “radically” opposed to the view of the human person held by Christianity. The root of gender theory lies in the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s, he argued.
“Radicalized feminism is convinced that the role of the married woman as an instrument for procreation and education of offspring is merely a social role, hitherto imposed on her by society,” he said. “It is also convinced that she can, even must, be liberated from this through contraception and artificial reproduction.”
Eijk argued that this “liberation” paved the way for “the total detachment of gender from biological sex” and even legalized abortion.
Eijk told conference goers that international bodies like the World Health Organization use money to threaten various nations to support gender theory and to instill it into children. The Cardinal also said public approval of gender theory is due to Western society’s “hyper- individualism and associated autonomous ethic,” which views the human body more as a tool rather than an integral part of the soul. Eijk cited Pope John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body to disprove this claim.
“The human person is not only its ‘mind,’ but one unit of a spiritual and a material dimension, soul and body. The human person is neither merely its soul, or merely its body,” he stated. The human body, “is not a raw datum…it belongs to the being of the human person [and] has its own purposes and meanings which the human person cannot change.”
Eijk affirmed the differences between males and females as well as the complementarity of men and women and said that a change to that relationship would be disastrous for the Gospel.
“Removal or alteration of the meanings of father, mother, marriage, paternity and maternity, make it difficult to announce the faith in a God in three Persons – God the Father, Christ as Son of God the Father, made man, and Maria as the spouse of the Holy Spirit. God is identified as the Father and the spouse of His people of Israel. To undermine the significance of the husband and wife is to undermine the possibility of announcing this.”
Eijk concluded his remarks by noting that exposing the errors of gender theory is “of the utmost urgency, because as a result of that theory, not only sexual morality, but also the proclamation of the Christian faith in itself, are at stake.”
Gender theory: a threat to the family and proclamation of the Christian faith
Given at Rome Life Forum, Rome, 16 May 2019
By + Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk
The gender theory is certainly a modern development which sets the city of the human race against the City of God, and the world order against the Christian faith.
What does the gender theory involve? The term ‘sex’ relates to the two categories, ‘male’ and ‘female’ because humans and the majority of living beings are categorised according to the anatomical and physiological differences in their reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics. In the 1950s the term ‘gender’ was introduced. This relates more to the social roles of the male and female.(1) The fundamental notion of the gender theory is that this social role has no, or merely a remote, connection with the biological sex.
In the past, gender as a social role would be imposed by society on men and women, and still is in many parts of the world. However, in Western society, with its hyper- individualism and associated autonomous ethic, the individual is urged not to accept a role imposed by society, but make an autonomous choice regarding gender. Furthermore, the fact that, on this matter, the individual is guided by public opinion, the mass and social media, and the world of advertising, escapes that person. In practical terms, the individual merely has the impression of having autonomy.
The role chosen by the individual is called ‘gender identity’. The individual could choose this gender identity without social pressure and irrespective of their biological sex. Hence the individual would be able, depending on their sexual orientation, to choose to be a heterosexual man, heterosexual woman, homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, transgender or neuter.(2) A transgender is a person whose gender identity does not match its biological sex: the individual feels itself a woman, although biologically a man, or vice versa. A case where an individual is dissatisfied with his sex is known as gender dysphoria. A transsexual is a transgender who intends to undergo change or has undergone a change of biological sex to the other sex through medical treatment and surgical operations.
There are many organisations which, everywhere and even outside the Western world, aim to introduce respect for the individual to be able to choose its gender identity; this is known as gender equity. In 2012 the World Health Organisation published a programme to promote and facilitate, at institutional level, a policy demanding respect for gender, equity and human rights.(3) Indeed, international organisations impose a requirement, through the provision of financial subsidies or a threat to withhold them, on national authorities and other organisations to guarantee individuals freedom of gender choice. They also impose an obligation to facilitate this choice in the case of the transgender person, by offering medical or surgical treatment where necessary to adapt biological sexual characteristics to the chosen gender. In many Western countries, basic health insurance or national health systems partially or fully entirely reimburse the costs of these treatments and surgical operations. Education programmes seek to instil awareness into children, at primary school level, a need to consider and choose their gender as soon as possible while they are young. In circumstances where children who believe they are transgender, but are still uncertain of their own gender, the onset of pubertal development can be halted by administering a hormonal drug known as triptorelin,(4) to give the child in question the time considered necessary to reflect on this choice. Apart from the side effects of triptorelin, consideration should be given to the fact that many young people experience periods in which they doubt their identities, including the identity of their gender. This is part of normal pubertal development. The blocking of puberty under these circumstances risks aggravating a problem which would have disappeared spontaneously, or in fact creating a problem which would never have existed, had the intervention of administering triptorelin not occurred. It must be observed that, after transition to another sex, many transgender persons are dissatisfied, experience psychological problems and therefore wish to revert to their original sex.(5)
Radicalisation of gender as the root of the gender theory
The gender theory has its roots in the radicalisation of feminism in the 1960s and 70s,(6) and which in fact began in the writings of Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986). She wrote in her book, the Second Sex, published in 1949 the famous section:
“ one is not born as a woman, but one becomes one. No biological, psychological or economic destiny determines the figure which the female presents in society; it is civilisation as a whole which generates this product, an intermediate between the male and the eunuch, defined as female .”(7)
In pre-adolescence there are not many differences between a boy and a girl. However, from the beginning of this stage, the boy is admitted to the world of men, while the girl has to remain in the world of women and is therefore obliged to assume the social role of a woman (evidently, De Beauvoir is speaking of her own adolescence, experienced in the years after the First World War). From the moment at which a girl matures physically, society develops a certain hostility towards her: her mother criticises her body and position, while the interest of males in her body cause her to feel like a physical sexual object.
One cannot but recognise in her ideas the influence of the theory of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) of polymorphous perversity.(8) This theory says that the original human person has no sexual orientation, in the modern sense accorded to gender, that is it is neither heterosexual nor homosexual, but becomes one or the other depending on how psychological relationships with its parents develop. When, in the parental environment, the child directs its sexual desires to the parent of the opposite sex, the child will become heterosexual. If it directs its sexual desires to the parent of the same sex, the child will become homosexual.
Under the influence of these ideas and other factors(9) , radicalised feminism is convinced that the role of the married woman as an instrument for procreation and education of offspring is merely a social role, hitherto imposed on her by society. It is also convinced that she can, even must, be liberated from this through contraception and artificial reproduction. In 1970 the radical feminist Firestone says that, once liberated from the “tyranny of their reproductive biology,”(10) women would be enabled to choose their role, irrespective of their biological sex. This liberation also requires an attack on the organised social unit surrounding reproduction and the subjection of the woman to her biological destiny, that is, the family.(11) Firestone extended this demand to the destruction of all institutions which segregate the sexes from one another and children from the adult world, such as elementary schools. She adds a demand for the “freedom of all women and all children to do as they wish sexually.”(12) The ultimate revolution of feminism would in this way generate a new society, in which “humanity could return to its natural polymorphous sexuality – all forms of sexuality would be permitted and indulged.”(13)
Hence, from radical feminism, the gender theory emerged. The fact that this theory had its source in the fact that the introduction of large-scale hormonal contraception in the 1960s made possible what is known as the liberation of woman from her reproductive biology, thereby paving the way for the total detachment of gender from biological sex, underlines once again the prophetic nature of the Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae vitae. The Encyclical clearly did not predict these developments in 1968, the year in which it was published. However, this Encyclical later had a significance more far-reaching than in the field of procreation. The attempts of the French Freemason and gynaecologist Pierre Simon serve as a further demonstration of this. His goal was to enable the human person itself, rather than a Creator, to give its own form to its nature and its life. He saw a way to accomplish this in gynaecology. An initial step on the road was, for him, the widest possible promulgation of contraceptive means to bring about a radical change in the concept of the family.(14)
In 1990 Judith Butler concluded that the imposition of the conventional social role on the woman and of heterosexuality as the norm to experience sexuality by society is a component in a political plan, founded on an erroneous metaphysic on the substance. Referring to the notion of Friedrich Nietzsche that “there is no being behind action, effecting and becoming,”(15) Butler says: “there is no gender identity behind expressions of gender, but identity is constituted performatively by its ‘own’ expressions, said to be the results of the latter.”(16) She says that gender imposed on a woman is constructed by power, “partially in terms of heterosexual and phallic convictions.”(17)
This is intended to mean that, in the gender taken as the social role of the man and woman, there are aspects which are socially determinant: the fact that women generally earn less than men for the same work, the fact that, until very recently, it was not legal for a woman to drive a car in Saudi Arabia, or that, even in the Netherlands, a married woman could not have her own bank account or was required to resign on marriage until the 1950s. Nevertheless, there are aspects which are inseparably linked to biological sex, for example the role of the man and the role of the woman in marriage, in the family, in procreation, as father and mother.
Gender theory in the light of the Christian vision of man
The fact that public opinion today readily accepts the total detachment of gender from the biological sex is a consequence of a ‘cocktail’, that is of hyper-individualism with its autonomous ethic, mentioned above, and a particular vision of man, today particularly dominant in the English-speaking world. According to this viewpoint, the human person as such is limited – consciously or unconsciously – to the ‘mind’, that is the rational consciousness and centre of the autonomous will, in fact of the highly complex biochemical and neurophysiological functions in the superior nuclei and cortex of the brain. This is therefore a materialist vision of the human person.(18) The body is instead seen as something secondary, not essential for the human person. The body would, for the human person, be the ‘mind’ of man, purely a means of self-expression. The ‘mind’, as the autonomous human person, determines the purpose and significance of the body, hence also the gender identity, without needing to take account of the biological sex of the body.(19) In sexual morality, there therefore remain two fundamental norms: that one must not reek damage on or exercise power over a sexual partner.
However, this vision of almost absolute autonomy is incompatible with the experience that the human person has a certain freedom within certain limits: this is largely determined by the education provided by parents and teachers, friends, public opinion and the mass and social media, as we have previously observed. Furthermore, the human person is not only its ‘mind’, but one unit of a spiritual and a material dimension, soul and body. The human person is neither merely its soul, or merely its body, but “corpore e anima unus” (Gaudium et spes, no. 14).(20) Both man and woman have the same soul – otherwise they would have different essences – and hence have the same dignity. However, the body – including the reproductive and sexual organs – also belongs to the being of the human person and is therefore, like the human person, an end in itself and not purely a means, the purpose of which can be determined by the human person. John Paul II writes in his Encyclical Veritatis splendor:
“A freedom which claims to be absolute ends up treating the human body as a raw datum, devoid of any meaning and moral values until freedom has shaped it in accordance with its design”. (section 48).(21)
Nevertheless, the human body is not a raw datum but, because it belongs to the being of the human person, has its own purposes and meanings which the human person cannot change. Man and woman are not two different species, but represent two participations which are different and mutually complementary in the same human nature. This complementarity does not denote a difference in perfection or status, but implies that neither the man nor the woman is capable of procreation, but merely together: the wife gifts paternity to the husband and the husband maternity to the wife.
Complementarity is not limited to the spheres of marriage and procreation, but pertains also to biopsychic differences in their relationship as spouses and with third parties and society as a whole. The male has a tendency to focus on rationality, has a somewhat abstract interior world, generally expresses feelings less readily and has a preference for adventure and experiment. The woman however focuses in particular on concrete things, has greater intuition, expresses feelings more readily and is in general more solicitous. Through their complementarity, which excludes neither one or the other from different social sectors, they complete one another in the family, and in social and professional life. Men and women who are not married also contribute their talents to their personal and social lives according to their complementarity outside the spheres of marriage and procreation.
John Paul II enriched these tenets from a theological perspective in his theology of the body.(22) The first chapter of the book of Genesis(23) links the division of the human person into two different biological sexes directly to its being, created in the image of God:
“God made man in his own image, made him in the image of God; man and woman both, he created them ” (Gen. 1,27).
This is immediately followed by God’s command to man and woman to procreate and develop the created being as administrators:
“Increase and multiply and fill the earth; make it yours and take command of the fishes in the sea, and all that flies through the air, and all living things that move on the earth ” (Gen. 1,28).
John Paul II combines this in his catechesis on the theology of the body with the exegesis in the second chapter of Genesis, in which marriage is described as the most intense communion of two human persons:(24)
“That is why a man is destined to leave father and mother, and cling to his wife instead, so that the two become one flesh” (Gen. 2,24).
There is one God in three Persons. God is in Himself a community of three Persons, who differ in their mutual relations, love one another and give themselves totally to one another. Something of the “unity of the Trinity” is mirrored by analogy in the most intimate community of persons, namely matrimony, in which man and woman, both human persons, yet mutually complementary, love one another and give themselves totally to one another, at a spiritual, at an emotional and at a physical level , (Mulieris dignitatem section 7;(25) Familiaris consortio section 11).(26)
John Paul II also observed an analogy between the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father and of the Holy Spirit by the Father and by the Son on the one hand and human begetting on the other. The total mutual giving of the man and woman in matrimony becomes fertile in the begetting (and education) of new human persons. Generation in God, while entirely divine and spiritual, is the absolute model for the begetting of humans, which is ‘proper to the «unity of the two» (Mulieris dignitatem section 8).(27) Both the human person in two biological sexes and human generation have been created in the image of God. The essential aspects of the masculine and feminine genders, as spouses, as father and mother and as human biological sexes are hence equally anchored in the being created in the image of God and form part of the order of creation.
Simone de Beauvoir and other radical feminists perceive contempt of the woman as the object of carnal pleasures and suppression and as a mother, a being destined, in somewhat functional terms, for reproduction and education, in a role and a gender which society has imposed. John Paul II instead perceives the source of contempt of women to be original sin, which has obfuscated the being created in God in both man and woman, but with consequences more grave for the latter. Therefore God tells woman, after the fall into sin:
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3,16).(28)
With regard to the above, John Paul II recommends, as a remedy against discrimination and comtempt for women, observable in different ways throughout the history of humanity, conversion to the recognition that both man and woman are primarily human persons with the same dignity, both created in the image of God. And he also recommends conversion to the recent recognition that their mutual complementarity, as a consequence of their biological differences, including essential aspects of their gender, is rooted in their being.
Consequences of the gender theory of proclamation of the Christian faith
The gender theory has grave consequences for proclamation of the Christian faith.
Firstly, the gender theory, which involves the almost total detachment of gender from biological sex, radically contradicts the Church’s teaching that the place of a sexual relationship can only be between a man and woman, within matrimony, and must always be open to procreation. Conversely, the gender theory advocates free choice of gender, irrespective of biological sex, and also accepts sexual activity at will, even outside marriage and not open to procreation, for example between persons of the same sex. It also promotes so-called marriage between persons of the same biological sex and considers it morally acceptable for such persons to adopt children. It accepts extra-conjugal sexual relationships, surrogate motherhood and artificial reproduction. In addition, the reassignment of biological sex in the transsexual involves sterilisation.
Secondly, the gender theory, which has its origin in radicalised feminism, promotes the legality of procured abortion – employing the euphemistic terms of sexual and reproductive rights – to prevent a woman who has become unintentionally pregnant from being compelled to assume the role of a mother, viewed as a role imposed on women in the past in Western society and still today in many countries in the world.(29)
Thirdly, the gender theory hinders proclamation of the Christian faith, and undermines the roles of father, mother, spouses, marriage and relationships between children and parents. We must realise that Holy Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church, and later catholic theology, used the analogy between relationships between the three Persons in God and divine generation on the one hand, and human generation on the other, to proclaim the Christian faith. Removal or alteration of the meanings of father, mother, marriage, paternity and maternity, make it difficult to announce the faith in a God in three Persons, God the Father, Christ as Son of God the Father, made man, and Maria as the spouse of the Holy Spirit. God is identified as the Father and the spouse of His people of Israel. To undermine the significance of the husband and wife is to undermine the possibility of announcing this. In this way, damage is also inflicted on the analogy between the relationship between Christ and the Church on the one hand and the relationship between husband and wife on the other (Ephesians 5,21-33). Leaving aside all other arguments, the fact that the priest, representing Christ in person and therefore having the Church as spouse, must be a man, is founded on this analogy. The detachment of gender from biological sex would, of itself, make it immaterial whether the priest is male or female.
Demonstration of the errors in the gender theory is of the utmost urgency, because as a result of that theory, not only sexual morality, but also proclamation of the Christian faith in itself, are at stake.
1 Oxford English Dictionary online version, August 1, 2014), see “Sex,” Noun 2. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/sex) and “Gender,” Noun 1. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gender#gender__12).
2 An alternative to the gender theory is the ‘queer theory’, according to which one cannot place a person in a particular gender or sexual category, but the limits between the two are fluid.
3 WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, “Gender, equity and human rights at the core of the health response (1 May 2012),” see: https://www.who.int/gender/about/ger/en/.
4 This drug blocks the secretion of gonadotropins by the hypophysis, hormones which stimulate the gonads to produce the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen.
5 Anderson R.T. mentions some of these cases in his book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, New York/London: Encounter Books, 2018, Chapter III, pp. 49-76.
6 SOMMERS CHR. HOFF, Who stole feminism. How women have betrayed women, New York/London: Simon & Schuster, 1994, particularly chapter 1 “Women under siege.”
7 BEAUVOIR S. DE, The Second Sex II: The lived experience, Paris: Gallimard, 1949, Part I, Chapter I: “Childhood,” p. 13.
8 Freud S., Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, Leipzig/Wien: Franz Deuticke, 1905.
9 Namely, the materialistic dialectic and structuralism, see: Eijk W.J., “Christian anthropology and the gender theory,” (see: https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/incontri/rc_con_cfaith_20150114_esztergom-eijk_it.html), pp. 3-6.
10 Firestone S., The dialectic of sex. The case for feminist revolution, New York: Bantam Books, 1970, p. 206.
11 Ibid., pp. 206-207.
12 Ibid., p. 209.
14 Simon P., On life before everything, Paris: Mazarine, 1979.
15 Nietzsche Fr.W., On the genealogy of Morals, New York: MacMillan, 1897, First Essay “Good and Evil, Good and Bad,” nr. 13, p. 47.
16 Butler J., Gender Troubles. Feminism, and the subversion of identity, New York/London: Routledge, 1990, pp. 24-25
17 Ibid., p. 30.
18 This vision of man is called the ‘identity theory of mind’, see Armstrong D.M., A materialist theory of the mind, London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul/Humanities Press, 1968 (2a published in 1993); LEWIS S.K., “An argument for the identity theory,” The Journal of Philosophy 63 (1966), pp. 17-25.
19 One encounters this dualist vision of man in the writings of many radical feminists , cfr. SPELMAN E.V., “Woman as body: ancient and contemporary views,” Feminist Studies 8 (1982), n. 1, pp. 109-131.
20 VATICAN COUNCIL II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), section 14, AAS 58 (1966), p. 1035.
21 John Paul II, “Encyclical Letter Enciclica Veritatis splendor (6 August 1993),” AAS 85 (1993), pp. 1133-1228, quotation on p. 1171.
22 John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, Michael Waldstein (red.), Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006.
23 General audience of 12 September 1979, in: Ibid., 2:3-5, pp. 135-137.
24 General audiences on 14 November and 21 November 1979, in: Ibid., 9-19, pp. 161-169.
25 JOHN PAUL II, “Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (15 August 1988),” AAS 80 (1988), pp. 1653-1729, in particular 1664-1667.
26 JOHN PAUL II, “Post-Synod Exhortation Familiaris consortio (22 November 1981),” AAS pp. 81-191, in particular pp. 91-93.
27 JOHN PAUL II, “Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem,” op. cit., p. 1670.
28 Ibid. sections 9-10, pp. 1670-1677.
29 COPELON R., CHR. ZAMPAS, E. BRUSIE, J. DEVORE, “Human rights begin at birth: international law and the claim of fetal rights,” Reproductive Health Matters 13 (2005), pp. 120-129. Cf. SEN G., P. ÖSTLIN, Unequal, Unfair, Ineffective and Inefficient Gender Inequity in Health: Why it exists and how we can change it. Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, 2007, p. 17, see: https://www.who.int/social_determinants/resources/csdh_media/wgekn_final_report_07.pdf.