Thomas Martin is the O. K. Bouwsma Chair in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Along with his fellow colleagues who are dedicated to the study of the Great Books, he teaches the works of Plato, Aristotle, and G. K. Chesterton.
Pope Francis recently came under attack in The Daily Beast in the article "Pope's Shocking Hitler Youth Comparison," by Candida Moss and Joel Baden, for comparing "gender theory" with Hitler's educational policies, both of which are as destructive to human beings as the possibility of a nuclear war.
Pope Francis said:
Let's think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. . . . Let's think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.
In using the term "gender theory," Moss and Baden claim Pope Francis is denouncing the academic theory that "sees gender identities as a spectrum rather than as binaries."
Moss notes that while the point may "seem" only academic, its ramifications are not, as the idea of gender exists on a spectrum. This means that although there is set identity based on the biological sex of a person as a man or a woman, there is a whole range of sexuality within the male and female genders.
This theory is crucial to how a person identifies itself, and the recognition that gender exists on a spectrum has provided part of the intellectual foundations for both LGBTQIA advocacy and women's rights.
In fact, there are currently 58 options on a sliding spectrum of gender, as identified by ABC News (currently accessible on Facebook) for assessing one's identity. Here are some examples: Agender, Bigender, Cisgender Female, Cisgender Man, Gender Questioning, Trans Man, Trans, Trans Person, Transgender female, Two Spirit, etc., etc.
Moss and Baden lament that, given Pope Francis' comparison, he can no longer be perceived as a liberal, because he is appealing to the conservative element of the Catholic Church.
We are caught in black and white thinking when trying to attach a political label to Pope Francis.
The idea of someone being a liberal currently means to cut oneself off from objective moral standards that hinder a person from doing whatever he feels is right in his own eyes, so long as it does not hurt others. Whereas, a conservative is a person who wants to conserve the ways of the past, which are out of tune with the ever-evolving personal values of modern society.
Is it possible that the words of Pope Francis are beyond politics, academic theorists, and the mandates of popular opinion?
Pope Francis is better understood as God's steward of creation, entrusted with preserving the sanctity and dignity of the human person.
The Pope rightly calls "gender theory" an ideology, which, much like Marxism and Nazism, is an academic theory forwarding an idea of man as an accident, lacking an inherent nature, who falls into being a creature of his own making, made in his image of choice, or who is a social construct - a product of the forces of his political-social-economic environment.
What Pope Francis states is not surprising for anyone familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the reliable source for the Pope's seemingly "shocking statement" directed at gender theory, which is as destructive to man's nature as nuclear warfare is to nature:
Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in different ways. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. All human generations proceed from this union. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2335] *