Does the Church ever allow transgender surgeries?

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Msgr.  Charles PopeQuestion: Does the Church allow transgender surgery in the case of a baby born with both male and female organs (hermaphrodite) or in the case of a botched circumcision?

Anne BoveePhiladelphia Cream

Answer: The situations you describe are very rare. As such, they are somewhat of an anomaly or outlier, hardly covered by general bioethical standards.

A hermaphrodite is a child born with a sex that is not easily determined by looking at the genitals. Sometimes the child may appear to have both genitals or parts of both. Usually, a genetic analysis of their cells can indicate the true sex of the infant. In such cases, surgical repairs of the genitals to indicate the true sex of the child are lawful and not prohibited by the Church. However, there are even rarer cases where the genetic analysis does not provide a clear answer as to the sex of the child. This is due to chromosomal and genetic irregularities. In such cases, the parents are allowed to make a difficult decision to determine the sex of the child and authorize the necessary surgeries on the genitals to reflect this decision. Some parents choose to wait a while to observe the child and his tendencies before making this decision.

These permitted surgeries are not properly called “transgender surgery” because they are not intended to change a person’s sex. In truth, there is no such thing as “transgender surgery”. Surgery cannot change a person’s true gender. Transgenderism is based on a lie that sex (sometimes called gender) can be changed. It can’t. No, there is not a wide range of “genres”. The scriptures make it clear that we belong to one of the two sexes: “God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). Since Scripture is truth, anything that contradicts it is false.

Even rarer are botched circumcisions. However, in this case it is not allowed to carry out surgical interventions aimed at changing the sex of the child. As noted, no amount of surgery can change a child’s gender; a boy cannot become a girl. There are boys and men who, for various reasons, have lost all or part of their genitals. That doesn’t make them female. They are still masculine, even if some of their masculine aspects are missing or damaged.

Priestly titles

Question: Could you explain the differences between addressing someone as father or monsignor? Also what do the letters after the name of a priest mean?

—Cathy Ramsey, via email

Answer: The title “Monsignor” is honorary and does not indicate that such a priest has authority or rank over other priests. The title, although conferred by the pope, is given at the request of a bishop who wishes to honor a priest who has been particularly useful or who holds a high office in the diocese such as vicar general, dean or rector of a seminary. Most Catholics in America call their priests “Father” or “Monsignor,” as appropriate. It is certainly not obligatory to call a priest who bears the title monseigneur “Monseigneur”, but it is the custom. There are actually three “types” of Monsignor: His Holiness’ chaplains, the honorary prelate and the apostolic prothonotary. Today, monsignors are almost always referred to as chaplains to His Holiness, and they have purple piping and buttons on their cassocks. Honorary prelates are rarer today and have red piping and buttons on their cassocks. The apostolic prothonotary is quite rare and largely reserved for Roman officials or high diocesan officials. A few years ago, Pope Francis limited the appointment of monsignors to priests aged 65 or over. And that makes the title even rarer today. A future pope could, however, reverse this trend.

Other titles and initials of priests generally indicate something of their function in a diocese. The title “Most Reverend” is given to a priest who represents the bishop in some way, such as chancery officials and deans. Initials are also used: VG for Vicar General (the priest who heads the chancery), VF for Vicar Forane (priests who are deans overseeing a group of parishes in a region), JCD for a priest who is a canon lawyer, STD for a priest who has a doctorate in sacred theology, and MA or M.DIV. for priests with a master’s or master’s degree in theology.

Msgr. Charles Pope is pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, DC, and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC at blog.adw.org. Send your questions to [email protected]

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