Question: Does the Church allow transgender surgeries in the case of a baby born with both male and female organs (hermaphrodite) or in the case of a botched circumcision?
— Anne BoveePhiladelphia
Answers: The situations you describe are very rare. As such, they are something of an anomaly or outlier that cannot easily be covered by general bioethical norms.
A hermaphrodite is a child who is born with a gender that cannot be easily determined by looking at the genitals. Sometimes the child appears to have both genitalia or parts of both. Usually, a genetic analysis of their cells can reveal the baby’s true sex. In such cases, surgical repairs to the genitals to reveal the infant’s true sex are permissible and not forbidden by the Church. However, there are even rarer cases when genetic analysis does not give an unequivocal answer as to the sex of the child. This is due to chromosomal and genetic irregularities. In such cases, the parents are permitted to make a difficult decision to determine the sex of the child and allow necessary genital surgery to reflect that determination. Some parents prefer to wait some time to observe the child and their tendencies before making this decision.
Such permissible surgeries are not properly called “transgender surgeries” because they have no intention of changing a person’s gender. In truth, there is no such thing as “transgender surgery.” Surgery cannot change a person’s true gender. Transgenderism is based on the lie that one’s gender (sometimes called gender) can be changed. It can’t. No, there is no broad spectrum of “genders”. Scripture makes it clear that we come in one of two genders: “God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Since Scripture is truth, what contradicts it is untrue.
Even rarer are botched circumcisions. However, in this case, it is not allowed to perform operations that try to change the sex of the child. As already mentioned, no amount of surgery, no matter how large, can change the sex of a child; a boy cannot become a girl. There are some boys and men who are missing some or all of their genitals for various reasons. That doesn’t make her feminine. They are still masculine, although some of their masculine aspects are missing or damaged.
Question: Can you explain the difference between being addressed as Father or Monsignor? And what do the letters behind a priest’s name mean?
– Cathy Ramsey, via email
Answer: The title “Monsignor” is honorific and does not indicate that such a priest has authority or rank over other priests. The title, while conferred by the Pope, is bestowed at the request of a bishop who wishes to honor a priest who has distinguished himself or who holds a high office in the diocese, such as vicar general, dean, or rector of a seminary. Most Catholics in America call their priests “Father” or “Monsignor,” as the case may be. It is certainly not required to call a priest “Monsignore” by the monsignor title, but it is customary. There are actually three “types” of monsignors: Chaplains to His Holiness, Honorary Prelates, and Protonotary Apostolics. Today, monsignors are almost always referred to as chaplains to His Holiness, and they have purple piping and buttons on their cassocks. Honorary prelates are now rarer and have red piping and buttons on their cassocks. Protonotary Apostolic is fairly rare and largely reserved for Roman officials or high-ranking diocesan officials. A few years ago, Pope Francis restricted the appointment of monsignors to priests aged 65 or older. And that makes the title even rarer today. However, a future pope could undo this.
Priests’ other titles and initials usually indicate their function in a diocese. The title of “Very Reverend” is given to a priest who represents the bishop in some way, such as B. Clerks and deans. Initials are also used: VG for vicar general (the priest in charge of the chancery), VF for vicar forane (priests who are deans overseeing a group of parishes in an area), JCD for a priest who is a canonist, STD for a priest holding a doctorate in Sacred Theology, and MA or M.DIV. for priests who hold a master’s degree or a Master of Divinity degree.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, DC and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC at blog.adw.org. Send questions to [email protected].