Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Vatican Document on Human Dignity Dehumanizes Gender Diverse People, Condemns Reproductive Options, Causing Real Harm

April 8, 2024. The Vatican document “On Human Dignity” undermines its purpose by undermining the integrity and human rights of transgender and nonbinary people, along with those making decisions about whether and how to expand their families, says DignityUSA, the world’s oldest organization of Catholics working for justice, equality, and full inclusion in the church and society.

“It is very disappointing and hurtful that the Vatican has, once again, treated people who are transgender and nonbinary as a moral and sociological issue, rather than respecting their experience and growing scientific evidence about the complexity of sex and gender,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director. “It is also shocking to see gender affirmation treatments classified as the same kind of threats to human dignity as war, impoverishment, human trafficking, and sexual abuse. If people suffering from congenital heart or kidney disease can get medical treatment, why not those who suffer from gender dysphoria? If untreated, this can also be life-threatening.”

DignityUSA leader Maddie Marlett said, “As a transwoman, I am told by this document I am playing God and misapplying my moral freedom.  This is not the reality of my life. My journey to self-acceptance was through realizing my self-worth as God’s creation. My choice to transition and affirm my gender was rooted in my search for existential dignity and social dignity. This document classifies my identification as ‘determining one’s identity and future independently of others, without regard for one’s membership in the human community.’ This could be nothing further from my truth. I made one choice and that was to live. This choice has let me continue my membership in this living human community.  For a document that condemns the death penalty, I can’t help but mourn the irony of church leaders wanting to doom me and others like me to a life headed toward a serious mental health crisis instead of affording me the moral dignity to find my truth as reflected in the diversity of love God’s image holds.  I wish the Vatican would see my inalienable dignity and move with respect and love for us transgender and nonbinary folks.”

“This document’s adherence to long outdated beliefs about human anthropology conflicts with Pope Francis’ work to refocus the Catholic church as a listening church,” said Duddy-Burke. “It is also baffling that the Pope’s personal encounters with deeply faithful transgender people have not led the Vatican to take into account their stories of how gender-affirming care has allowed them to live full, rich, productive lives, and for them to finally experience the unity of body and soul.

“We appreciate that the Vatican states that no one should be imprisoned, discriminated against or a target of violence because of their sexual orientation, but mourn that the human rights of gender diverse people were not explicitly affirmed in this statement. They, too, should be free of such threats,” said Duddy-Burke.

Duddy-Burke noted that this document can pose real threats to transgender and nonbinary people. “We fear that the Vatican’s words will be used by some to support legislation restricting the human rights of gender diverse people, here in the United States and around the world. In addition, there has been a group of bishops working to ban gender-affirming care at all Catholic hospitals and other healthcare facilities. This document could give new life to those efforts. This will impact not only Catholics but the one in six people in this country who are treated at Catholic healthcare centers.”

The document also describes surrogacy and abortion as threats to human dignity. “DignityUSA supports the right of all people to make conscience-informed decisions about whether and how to expand their families,” said Duddy-Burke. “While we agree that surrogacy must be done in a way that is not exploitive, there are many times when surrogacy is a generous gift that enables people unable to give birth to their own children to become parents. We also disagree with the document’s characterization of abortions as ‘convenient compromises or…the temptation of self-deception.’ This demeans the dignity and consciences of women and pregnant people.”

Finally, Duddy-Burke expressed concern that the document will alienate more people from their faith communities. “Every time the Vatican puts out a statement that dehumanizes people, it is the final straw for some Catholics who have been struggling to remain connected to the church,” she said. “These people feel pain and alienation when they or their loved ones are dehumanized. They no longer see the church as a home. Many grieve the loss of the sacraments, rituals that both comfort and challenge, and the communities where they can share their hopes and joys. We mourn these terrible wounds to the Body of Christ and pray that these people can find new spiritual homes.”

Founded in 1969, DignityUSA works for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy, and support.