Pope Francis has doubled down on his opposition to gender fluidity.
In an address to the Pontifical Academy for Life’s general assembly on Thursday, Francis decried “the utopia of ‘neutral,’” ostensibly referring tothe concept of gender neutrality. He argued that gender is fixed as male or female for the purpose of reproduction. The pontiff also warned against the “manipulation” of gender, which he said could “dismantle” that balance.
“The biologic and psychological manipulation of sexual difference, which biomedical technology allows one to see as open to free choice ― which it’s not ― is thus likely to dismantle the source of energy that nourishes the alliance of man and woman and makes it creative and fruitful,” the pope said,according to Catholic news outlet Crux.
The pontiff’s remarks, delivered during a two-day meeting in Rome on the challenges of the technological age, echo previous comments he has made regarding transgender identity and gender fluidity.
In aninterview aboard the papal plane last year, Francis told reporters that he believed children were being “indoctrinated” to think that gender identity doesn’t always hew to biological sex.
“It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and even change sex,” he said. “But it is another thing to teach it, gender theory, in schools along these lines in order to change mentality. I call this ideological colonization.”
Teaching children about the nuances of gender and identity, he said, “is against natural things.”
Francis DeBernardo, who directs LGBTQ Catholic organization New Ways Ministry, said the pontiff’s comments on Thursday underscore his misunderstanding of transgender identity.
“By referring to transgender people’s desires to transition as ‘manipulation’ and a ‘free choice’ Pope Francis shows that he does not understand that for transgender people, a transition is a discovery and affirmation of who God created them to be,” he said in a statement.
DeBernardo noted that, for many, genderisn’t solely based on biology. “It also includes psychological, emotional, cultural, and spiritual dimensions,” he said.
But for the church, gender is ordained by God and manifested through a person’s biology. In 2000, the Vatican sent confidential letters about its stance on gender confirmation surgery to the world’s Catholic bishops, declaring that such procedures do not alter a person’s sex in the eyes of the church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a summary of church doctrine, makes no reference to issues of transgender identity. But there is one section on “body integrity,” which states that “except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.” But DeBernardo protested this framing, arguing that transgender individuals who choose to transition often do so after years of “discernment with medical, psychological, and spiritual authorities.” “To say that transgender people are acting against the plan of God is actually itself a rejection of God’s plan for these sacred human beings,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.