Catholic declaration ignores the voices of LGBTIQ+ people of faith

9 April, 2024  - The Vatican’s Infinite Dignity declaration ignores the lived experiences of LGBTIQ+ people of faith as well as loving rainbow families, advocates and allies say.  

In a new document endorsed by Pope Francis, the Vatican has declared gender-affirming surgery and surrogacy to be grave violations of human dignity. 

Equality Australia TransEquality Chair Ymania Brown said the declaration “takes us back to the dark ages”. 

“These harmful and derogatory statements ignore the diversity of the human population and the growing scientific evidence about sex and gender,” she said. 

“One of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will and the ability to think for ourselves. If something like surgery or hormones makes our lives easier and better, then let us make that choice for ourselves.”  

Ms Brown said the doctrine fuelled misunderstanding about trans people, many of whom were deeply religious.  

“The Church should be listening to LGBTIQ+ people from within their faith communities so the harms of the past can be avoided,” she said. 

“As a trans woman and devoted Catholic I see myself as God’s creation and deserving of support, respect and love.” 

Benjamin Oh, chair of Rainbow Catholics Interagency Australia, said the document was at times“inconsistent with its good intention to promote human dignity”. 

“To speak impersonally about LGBTQ+ lives without actually including us and our lived realities and experiences is dehumanising,” he said. 

“The Gospel teaches us about truth and justice through the lives of the oppressed. We hope the drafters of this document will seek further understanding and education from credible sciences and the witness of LGBTQ+ Catholics, which the document sorely lacks."  

Global Director of Growing Families Sam Everingham said surrogacy was an incredible gift to an otherwise childless couple. 

“There are many Christian women across the globe who feel completely empowered through their work giving otherwise infertile couples the gift of family,” he said. 

“The Vatican authorities remain alarmingly out-of-touch with the reality that human trust, love and altruism are no better expressed than when a selfless woman offers to help another in need. 

“In my role as a researcher and educator, I have interviewed over 200 surrogates across eight nations globally who have chosen to carry for a loved one or stranger. I have published on both their motives and relationships with recipients. 

“My research, along with that of many others in the field, demonstrates that while these relationships can be difficult to navigate, where strict screening is employed to ensure a surrogate has the appropriate psychological and medical characteristics, surrogates report a huge sense of personal fulfilment from being able to give childless couples a family.”  

Ashley Scott from All Kids are Equal said surrogacy was a choice made by informed and consenting adults. 

“While the Vatican may hold its outdated position on surrogacy, we stand firm in our belief that every family deserves the opportunity to experience the joys of parenthood, regardless of their circumstances,” he said. 

"The reality is that surrogacy, when conducted ethically, is a compassionate choice for families facing challenges in starting a family. It's about understanding, respecting, and supporting the choices of women who choose to become surrogates." 

Former Hobsons Bay Mayor and intersex advocate Tony Briffa said the declaration also discounted the voices and experiences of intersex people. 

"As a Catholic woman subjected to non-consensual and unnecessary medical intervention as a child due to my intersex variation, I am extremely saddened by the Vatican’s hypocrisy and lack of compassion and understanding,” she said. 

“Children born with intersex variations should be afforded the dignity and respect of time to decide for themselves what interventions and bodily modifications they want, if any.  

“The Vatican’s idea of what constitutes sex and gender is outdated and dangerous and ignores the fact biological sex, like sex characteristics and gender identity, exist in a spectrum. I call on the Vatican to meet with trans and intersex people so they can be enlightened.” 

Media contact: Emily Mulligan, 0411 207 633 emily.mulligan@equalityaustralia.org.au