Pope Francis issued a subtle jab at the transgender movement in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, where he asserted that schools need to teach children to "accept" their natural bodies as they were "created," and to appreciate their bodies as "male and female."
As the fight to allow self-identifying transgender students into bathrooms and changing areas of the opposite sex spreads to school districts across the U.K. and the United States, the pontiff spoke out against encouraging students' who choose to identify with the opposite biological gender.
In his 255-plus-page Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the 79-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Church focused a roughly five-page section on "the need for sex education."
As the section stated that children need to be taught sexual modesty and contended that sex education classes that focus primarily on contraception use are promoting "narcissism," Francis also wrote that sex education classes need to teach students that they don't hold an "absolute power over Creation."
"Sex education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others," Pope Francis wrote. "Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for 'thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over Creation.'"
The pope continued by stating that "appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves."
"In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment," he added. "Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension 'to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.'"
The pontiff recognizes that sex education will not keep some men and women from being more masculine and feminine than others, but asserted that masculinity and femininity are not "rigid categories" and can't be used solely to define a person as one gender or another.
"A rigid approach turns into an over-accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony," Francis argued. "Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual's abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership."
The pope's assertions come after the conservative American College of Pediatricians warned last month that teaching children to believe that they are a boy when they are really a girl and vice versa is tantamount to "child abuse."
"Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse," the organization stated. "Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to 'gender clinics' where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will 'choose' a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults."
Pope Francis' exhortation also bashed schools for taking a "safe sex" approach to sex education that primarily deals with "protection."
"Such expressions convey a negative attitude toward the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance," Francis stressed. "It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage. They end up being blithely encouraged to use other persons as a means of fulfilling their needs or limitations."
Francis added that students need to be taught more advanced sexual concepts when they are mature enough to handle such information.
"Sex education should provide information while keeping in mind that children and young people have not yet attained full maturity," he stated. "The information has to come at a proper time and in a way suited to their age. It is not helpful to overwhelm them with data without also helping them to develop a critical sense in dealing with the onslaught of new ideas and suggestions, the flood of pornography and the overload of stimuli that can deform sexuality."