Gender Debate Requires Truth of Nature
By Bishop David J. Malloy
Recently the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education issued a very helpful document for our times. Entitled, “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education,” the document gives very helpful guidance in approaching the questions of gender identity that are so prominent and troublesome in our society.
The document is particularly timely because it addresses the current situation in the context of the pontificate and teaching of Pope Francis. At the same time it highlights the continuity of his thought with that of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
In keeping with the mind of Pope Francis, the document cites an approach to the gender debate based on three pillars: listening, reasoning and proposing. 
Helpfully, the document reminds us that listening is a very deep exercise. For that reason the document summarizes the changes of thought particularly through the 20th century to our time. 
It asks, how have we gotten from a clear and accepted understanding of what gender is and how each of us bears it to the modern proposal that gender is fluid, a matter of choice that can be changed and changed again according to the freedom of each individual?
The Vatican’s statement stresses that in listening, there needs to be an emphasis on mutual respect. It reminds us that “... no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults or unjust discrimination based on their specific characteristics ... ” (n. 16). In short, we love all of our brothers and sisters as Jesus taught us.
As we move from listening to reasoning and proposing, the truth of nature, reason and faith become essential parts of the  dialogue. And for us as followers of Christ, that means that our witness to the truth is a part of any true dialogue. 
For that reason, the document urges that we listen also to “the whole field of research on gender that the human sciences have undertaken ... which tries ... to achieve a deeper understanding of the ways in which sexual difference between men and women is lived out in a variety of cultures” (n. 6).
In this context, we need to ask, what is the human person? 
And the answer of reason and of faith is that we are complex beings made of a unity of soul and body. 
The body, with all its characteristics and differences, is an essential part of our identity. We are not, therefore, simply a mind trapped in a body that we can change at will. 
Pope Francis stated that we face today a culture that confuses “... genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily as if there were no truth, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible” (Amoris Laetitia, 34). 
For that reason, Pope Francis has called us to understand and live according to the “... moral law, which is inscribed into our nature” (Laudato Sì, 155).
Moral law reflects the complementarity of man and woman as a gift from God to each person at their conception. Male and female — equal in dignity, yet unique — are created in God’s image and likeness, both as individuals, and in the union of one man and one woman. 
This complementarity is a reality of creation that is the basis for marriage and for the generation of new life that can ultimately emerge only from the union of male and female. 
The movement to disregard the complementary of men and women and redefine or dismiss marriage has, in the words of Pope Francis, “often waved ‘the flag of freedom,’ but it has, in reality, brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings” (speech, Nov. 17, 2014). 
However well intentioned, this is the result of disconnecting our understanding of ourselves from nature and from God.
The world needs our witness of faith. That is the road to true freedom and to true happiness. It is also the means of a true dialogue, particularly about gender and human nature. 
Thanks to Pope Francis we recognize that we have a sound and solid basis, in faith and in reason, for our witness. 
Male and Female God has made us.