A message to the faithful of the archdiocese from Archbishop Michael Jackels
24 October 2022
Gender: Bend but Don’t Break
There are some children, youth and adults who suffer from the feeling that their body
doesn’t match where they see themselves internally along a broad, non-binary sexual
Who knows why people experience that, but the suffering they experience is real, and they
deserve to be met with respect and compassion, and helped to find relief.
Advocates of gender theory say they can find relief by choosing their gender, and how they
express that choice, even to the point of changing their bodies to correspond to that choice.
People who identify themselves as transgender sometimes express themselves with a new
name, preferred pronouns or wardrobe, and anticipate that others will respect that choice.
That is a challenge for those who embrace the Catholic worldview, especially in terms of
understanding the human person and human sexuality.
The Catholic worldview
Catholics are guided by the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised will lead us into all truth (John
16:13). That guidance is given through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
We believe that God created humans in the Divine Image, as male or female, which is both
a given and a gift, and having an inherent dignity (Genesis 1:27).
The sexual difference between male and female speaks to their responsible cooperation with
the Creator to increase the number of the human race (Genesis 1:28).
The sexual difference also speaks to the complementarity between woman and man, finding
in each other an equal and a suitable partner in marriage (Genesis 2:20-24).
In our human nature we enjoy free-will, which isn’t a limitless autonomy, but circumscribed
by the sovereign will of God (Genesis 2:17).
Our first parents violated those boundaries by trying to commandeer the sovereignty of
God, resulting in our soul and body feeling divided (Genesis 3:5).
One form of that divide is feeling shame when naked (Genesis 3:7). Others may feel it as a
disconnect between their chosen gender and their body.
Catholics must respect the dignity that every person enjoys, assure them that they are
loved by God and us, and protect them from harm, and certainly not be the cause of it.
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But at this point in the gender discussion, we aren’t able to go along with the idea that
people can choose and change their gender, rather than see it as a fact of nature.
We aren’t sticks-in-the-mud. We’re open to other perspectives, to see if we might find truth
there, or to seek common ground, or to promote acceptance, even if we don’t agree.
Others may consider Catholics unenlightened, but we too deserve respect when in our
various ministries we aren’t able to accommodate someone’s preferred gender expressions.
What we can do though is imitate Jesus: accompany transgender people, feel their pain,
listen to their story, tell them another side of the story, share life and love with them (Luke
Michael O. Jackels
Archbishop of Dubuque