Vatican says 'sex-change' operation

does not change person's gender

By John Norton Catholic News Service


Under the influence of Paul McHugh, a transphobic Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and conservative Catholic ideologue (and advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters), the Vatican pronounced in 2000 that transsexualism "does not exist" - claiming that it is a form of insanity instead.


By so doing, the Catholic Church has become perhaps the world's primary organized force for the pathologization, defamation and stigmatization of trans people (the other being the traditional psychiatric community). 


Click this link for more background on Paul McHugh, and on his extreme defamations of transsexual women.



For a more realistic view of transsexual women and trans men than the one projected by McHugh and the Vatican, please refer to the following pages: 


Information on Transgenderism and Transsexualism

Transsexual Women's Successes

Successful TransMen


Those pages provide better-informed current-day information on transsexualism, and also photos and links to the stories of hundreds of successful gender transitioners, all of whom are counter-examples to the Vatican's superstitious pronouncements about trans lives.


Lynn Conway




Jan-14-2003 (710 words) xxxi

Vatican says 'sex-change' operation

does not change person's gender

By John Norton Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After years of study, the Vatican's doctrinal
congregation has sent church leaders a confidential document
concluding that "sex-change" procedures do not change a person's
gender in the eyes of the church.

Consequently, the document instructs bishops never to alter the sex
listed in parish baptismal records and says Catholics who have
undergone "sex-change" procedures are not eligible to marry, be
ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life, according to a
source familiar with the text.

The document was completed in 2000 and sent "sub secretum" (under
secrecy) to the papal representatives in each country to provide
guidance on a case-by-case basis to bishops. But when it became clear
that many bishops were still unaware of its existence, in 2002 the
congregation sent it to the presidents of bishops' conferences as

"The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so
superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If
the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains
female," said the source.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S.
bishops' conference, sent a brief letter to U.S. bishops in October
informing them of the Vatican document and highlighting its
instruction not to alter parish baptismal records, except to make a
notation in the margin when deemed necessary.

"The altered condition of a member of the faithful under civil law
does not change one's canonical condition, which is male or female as
determined at the moment of birth," Bishop Gregory wrote.

The Vatican text defines transsexualism as a psychic disorder of
those whose genetic makeup and physical characteristics are
unambiguously of one sex but who feel that they belong to the
opposite sex. In some cases, the urge is so strong that the person
undergoes a "sex-change" operation to acquire the opposite sex's
external sexual organs. The new organs have no reproductive

The document's conclusions close one area of controversial
speculation that arose in Italy in the late 1980s when a priest
publicly announced he had undergone a "sex-change" operation.

Given church teaching that only males can be validly ordained
priests, the question posed in newspapers at the time was whether a
priest who undergoes a "sex-change" operation remains a priest --
the answer is "yes" -- and whether a woman who undergoes the
procedure can be ordained -- "no."

A Vatican source said the text was prepared largely by Jesuit Father
Urbano Navarrete, now a retired canon law professor at Rome's
Gregorian University.

In 1997, Father Navarrete wrote an article on transsexualism in an
authoritative canon law journal and has been consulted by the
doctrinal congregation on specific cases involving transsexualism and

The priest, citing confidentiality rules, declined to speak on the
record to Catholic News Service for this story.

The Vatican document's specific points include:

-- An analysis of the moral licitness of "sex-change" operations. It
concludes that the procedure could be morally acceptable in certain
extreme cases if a medical probability exists that it will "cure" the
patient's internal turmoil.

-- But a source familiar with the document said recent medical evidence
suggested that in a majority of cases the procedure increases the
likelihood of depression and psychic disturbance.

-- A provision giving religious superiors administrative authority to
expel a member of the community who has undergone the procedure. In
most cases of expulsion from religious life, the superior must
conduct a trial.

-- A recommendation of psychiatric treatment and spiritual counseling
for transsexual priests. It suggests they can continue to exercise
their ministry privately if it does not cause scandal.

-- A conclusion that those who undergo sex-change operations are
unsuitable candidates for priesthood and religious life because of
mental instability.

-- A conclusion that people who have undergone a sex-change operation
cannot enter into a valid marriage, either because they would be
marrying someone of the same sex in the eyes of the church or because
their mental state casts doubt on their ability to make and uphold
their marriage vows.

-- An affirmation of the validity of marriages in which one partner
later undergoes the procedure, unless a church tribunal determines
that a transsexual disposition predated the wedding ceremony.


01/14/2003 2:33 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2003

Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops > TS Information > Paul McHugh Defames Transsexual Women > Vatican claims that transsexualism "does not exist"