[Part I:] THE UNISEX HERESY
Our culture forbids us to use more and more words while, at the same time, dictating our use of alternatives. Christmas and Winter Holiday is one such pair. Prostitute and sex worker is another. During the October 2014 Synod, many bishops refrained from using the word adultery to describe the situation of a divorced Catholic who had remarried. Another example is the use of sex instead of marital pleasure or marital privilege. And one more entry on the list of forbidden words is heresy in favor of the use of dissent.
Christians must not be afraid to use the word heresy. The French have a saying: Appeler un chat un chat (call a cat a cat). In English, we say call a spade a spade.
Identifying a view as heretical is not name-calling or demonizing. After all, some of the nicest people hold heretical views. Rather, to define a view as heretical is an act of charity toward those who hold heretical views and the faithful. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth): “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are…exacting and indispensable forms of charity” (Para. 1). Here is what St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), bishop of the North African town of Hippo, wrote in his famous City of God about how we should proclaim truth:
We tend culpably to evade our responsibility when we ought to instruct and admonish them, sometimes even with sharp reproof and censure, either because the task is irksome, or because we are afraid of giving offense; or it may be that we shrink from incurring their enmity, for fear that they may hinder and harm us in worldly matters, in respect either of what we eagerly seek to attain or what we weakly dread to lose … (Book I, ch. 9).
St. Augustine continued his exhortation by criticizing “anyone [who] refrains from reproof and correction of ill-doers because he looks for a more suitable occasion or because he fears that this will make them worse …”
Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law defines heresy as “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.” This canon is referenced in Paragraph 2089 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Accordingly, I would identify the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt of the following truths as a heresy, and give it the name Unisex Heresy:
(1) God’s creation is good and, as part of His good creation, God made human beings male and female (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 369-373, 2331-2336, and the first quarter of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, where he dwells on Jesus’s words, “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female …?” (Matt. 19:4)); and
(2) God’s will, His plan, is that people participate in His good creation by procreating, by multiplying and filling the earth, as husbands and wives. (Even in the Garden, God called Adam and Eve husband and wife. (Genesis: 3:16-17).)
Pope Francis commented on this complementarity between man and woman in his April 15 General Audience (see link here), and he quotes this talk in Paragraph 155 of the encyclical on the environment released on June 18.
Those who adhere to the Unisex Heresy negate these truths. They act and proclaim that gender is of no consequence. These folks strive to separate us from God and His will. They strive to “liberate” us from God’s plan -- as though God created us without gender.
The Unisex Heresy manifests itself in a number of ways. Those who assert that gender is of no consequence promote same-sex marriage, saying individuals can marry other individuals of any gender. They assert that a child does not need two parents of different genders, or they may argue that a single parent, of any gender, is sufficient. They urge the adoption of neutral pronouns for men and women. (God’s Fourth Commandment was not phrased “Honor your parents,” but “Honor your father and your mother.”) On college campuses, they want unisex residences and unisex rooms within the residences. And, whatever may be the physical or psychological problems of some portion of us, they maintain that anyone can make either gender their own (transgenderism).
Clearly, the Unisex Heresy extends beyond same-sex marriage. Indeed, the adherents claim the authority to define – not just marriage – but human nature. See Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., “The Declaration of Voluntarism,” April 14, 2015. (See link here)
Furthermore, the Unisex Heresy manifests itself in ways that infect matters of the Catholic Faith beyond issues of human nature and human sexuality. Adherents promote the use of neutral terms for the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, refusing to call the Father Father or the Son Son. In 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rejected the following formulas for baptism: I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier and I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer. “Responses to Questions Proposed on the Validity of Baptism Conferred with [These] Formulas.” (See link here) The Unisex Heresy refuses to recognize the maleness of Jesus Christ in another way, asserting that Jesus’s gender was not part of God’s plan and is of no consequence since it was just 50-50 odds that He would have been born male. It is one of the arguments made for the ordination of women.
The Catholic Faith is clear. The two genders are good and complementary – from the beginning (from a Greek word meaning “foundationally”). Marriage is for one man and one woman. Marriage is ordered toward the procreation and education of children and the mutual good of the spouses. Children are optimally raised by two parents, one of each gender. Men should be called men, accompanied with the words he, him and his. Women should be called women, accompanied with the words she, her and hers. Jesus called His Father Father and called Himself His Son.
Many today revere planet Earth. Indeed, some regard the Earth as a living organism called Gaia just as their ancient forebears spoke of the anima mundi, or World Soul. There is no small irony in the fact that those who so revere the Earth, and who urge all of us to do everything in our power to preserve every species and to prevent climate change, decidedly do not revere that aspect of God’s plan for His creation pertaining to gender. (For example, as noted above, see Paragraph 155 of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si.) They conveniently forget that, when God sought to save the earth from climate change in the form of a cataclysmic deluge, He instructed Noah to bring two of every living thing, male and female, into the ark (Genesis 6:19). Gender is decidedly of consequence. It was, is, and will be to God and it must be to us.
Spero columnist James M. Thunder is an attorney. His Master's thesis at the University of Virginia was "Aquinas on Marriage."