By Ben Smith, Catholic Outlook, November 2016
On 1 October 2016, Pope Francis declared in a meeting with priests, religious, seminarians and pastoral workers in Georgia that, “Marriage is the most beautiful thing that God has created.” However, he went on to observe that, “Today there is a world war to destroy marriage.”
According to Pope Francis, this war is taking the form of “ideological colonisations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas.” His comments were aimed at gender ideology that is creeping into schools, workplaces, unions and parliaments all over the western world with significant negative consequences.
Gender 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.” (Amoris Laetitia, 56)
Furthermore, “this ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.” (Amoris Laetitia, 56)
In the context of Australia, the Safe Schools Coalition program, which has received considerable media coverage in the past 12 months, promotes gender ideology in more than 500 government schools across the country.
In terms of legislation, marriage equality advocates have promoted gender ideology by embracing a vision of marriage that involves a partnership between two people irrespective of their “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status” in a number of private members’ bills that have been introduced into Federal Parliament in the past two years.
Pope Francis warns of the danger of gender ideology when he states that, “Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent.” (Amoris Laetitia, 56)
These are strong words from Pope Francis. Some people may find it hard to reconcile these words with his promotion of mercy and forgiveness for those on the margins.
He was asked a question by a journalist on this issue during his flight from Azerbaijan to Rome on 2 October 2016. His response pointed out that, “In my life as a priest, as a bishop – and also as Pope – I have accompanied many people with homosexual tendencies and also homosexual activity. I have accompanied them, I have brought them closer to the Lord; some cannot do it, but I have always accompanied them and never abandoned anyone.”
His response also highlighted how he was accompanying a transgender man who recently married a woman.
It seems on the surface that Pope Francis is being hypocritical by saying one thing and doing another. But a deeper reading of the matter leads to a different conclusion. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis cited a quote from a speech given by Martin Luther King that states, “When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.” (Amoris Laetitia, 118)
So “as Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.” (Amoris Laetitia, 35)
But at the same time we are called to reach out in love to all members of our human family, including those who are experiencing gender confusion or same-sex attraction, to accompany each other on our journey towards the Lord.
Ben Smith is Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Office in the Diocese of Parramatta.
To contact the office, visit the website