Pope Francis has warned that children are being taught that they can choose their gender and that this is part of the “age of sin”.
On Tuesday, the Vatican released a transcript of the Pontiff’s comments made at a meeting with bishops in Poland last week to mark World Youth Day.
During the gathering, Francis claimed that “there are genuine forms of ideological colonisation taking place” in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia.
He explained: “Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money.
“These forms of ideological colonisation are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!” Francis said.
He added that retired Pope Benedict agreed with him and had told him that this reflected “the age of sin against God the Creator”.
DignityUSA, an LGBT Catholic group, expressed its “deep concern” that the Pope’s comments could lead to increased violence towards and oppression of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
“Once again, the Pope is demonstrating a lamentable and dangerous ignorance of a subject that is literally a matter of life and death to some people,” commented DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.
“What many, including Pope Francis, do not yet understand is that people do not ‘choose’ their genders. A gender is assigned at birth, and some people discover that they were incorrectly classified. The narratives of many transgender and gender nonconforming people show that this often begins long before they go to school,” she continued.
Duddy-Burke concluded with DignityUSA’s major concern: “What Pope Francis says today could have serious repercussions for people all across the globe, especially in countries that are basing transphobic policies on the idea that the concept of transgender identity is a Western import.
“It is irresponsible of him to say such things without taking into account the fact that people’s lives are literally at stake. We urge the Pope and other Church leaders to enter into dialogue with transgender people, and to be very cautious in passing judgements that are based on assumptions rather than reality.”
The Catholic Church does not accept the idea that gender identity can be separate from the body that an individual is born with.
In February 2015, Pope Francis was quoted as saying that support for transgender rights could destroy humanity and that this is as dangerous as “nuclear arms” because it does “not recognise the order of creation.”