Home Christian News Vatican Document on Gender Theory, Surrogacy Puzzles Critics and Advocates

Vatican Document on Gender Theory, Surrogacy Puzzles Critics and Advocates

Vatican Infinite Dignity
A copy of the "Infinite Dignity" declaration issued by the Vatican's doctrine office sits on a journalist's desk as the prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, meets the journalists during a press conference at the Vatican, Monday, April 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — For Catholics hoping for change in their church’s teaching on gender, sexuality and reproductive issues, a new Vatican document on human dignity issued last week was more than a disappointment. It left many questioning whether Pope Francis has ever intended his famed personal gestures of welcome toward LGBTQ believers to translate into doctrinal changes.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, who oversaw the new document’s creation, seemed to seek to reassure conservatives when he said at a press conference on April 8, “Pope Francis won’t ever speak ex cathedra. He won’t want to create a new dogma of the faith — not for anything — nor a definitive declaration.”

He added rhetorically, “So will it have served nothing, that Pope Francis should have been for 11 years the Supreme Pontiff?”

RELATED: New Vatican Document Condemns Gender Theory, Surrogacy

That’s just what many progressives want an answer to. Has Francis’ pastoral acceptance of transgender and gay Catholics been merely an attempt to quiet progressives while remaining committed to the status quo?

The topics addressed in the declaration, titled “Infinite Dignity,” are of particular concern to LGBTQ Catholics, who have seen Francis as an ally since his question “Who am I to judge?” in response to questions about his views on homosexuality. The pope has also raised the community’s expectations by pushing for blessings for people in same-sex relationships and meeting with transgender activists and advocates for gay Catholics.

But when the document was released by the Vatican’s doctrinal office April 8, it identified gender theory, surrogate pregnancy and transgender surgery, all matters of concern to LGBTQ Catholics as threats to human dignity. It condemned the practice of surrogacy — when a woman carries a child for another person — as harmful to children and said “sex-change operations” and gender theory amount “to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God.”

The prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, presents the declaration “Dignitas Infinita” (Infinite Dignity) during a news conference at the Vatican, April 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

While the document also contained a long reflection on the dignity of all human beings regardless of circumstances, origins or actions, it struck LGBTQ and women’s advocates as a step back from the previous pronouncements not only by Francis, but from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and Fernandez, who was appointed to lead it in July.

Under Fernandez, the doctrine office affirmed that trans individuals may be baptized and act as godparents, as long as doing so doesn’t cause “scandal,” defined in the church’s catechism as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.”

More notably, it approved the blessing of people in same-sex relationships and others in “irregular situations” only two years after ruling out such blessings because “God cannot bless sin.”