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DDF document to address surrogate motherhood and gender

Card. Victor Manuel Fernandez

© I.MEDIA / Isabella H. de Carvalho

I.Media - published on 01/15/24

After several much-discussed pronouncements, Cardinal Fernández says he will publish a critique of moral issues regarding gender.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) is working on a document on human dignity that will make a “severe critique” of moral issues such as “sex change, surrogate motherhood, and gender ideologies.” This was announced by the dicastery’s prefect, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, in an interview with the Spanish agency EFE published on January 12, 2024. 

Gender ideology is a theme that Pope Francis has repeatedly criticized, most recently in his traditional beginning-of-the-year address to the diplomatic corps. And in that speech, he again mentioned how surrogacy is a situation of abuse.

I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs. A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract. Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally. At every moment of its existence, human life must be preserved and defended; yet I note with regret, especially in the West, the continued spread of a culture of death, which in the name of a false compassion discards children, the elderly and the sick.

Less controversy expected going forward

The Argentinian cardinal is giving many interviews these days, as the dicastery’s recent documents and his own past books have generated press attention in both the Catholic and secular world. Much-discussed: the publication of the document Fiducia supplicans authorizing the blessing of couples in irregular situations, and his book on “mystical passion” written in 1998. The latter text has just resurfaced although it has been withdrawn from sale for some time. 

In this interview with EFE, the prefect of the DDF says he doesn’t expect to “make headlines in the future.” He explains that “in the dicastery we haven’t planned any subjects that could be very controversial, like the most recent ones.”

Since Fernández took office in September 2023, the DDF has published Fiducia supplicans, but also texts regarding transsexuals as baptismal godparents or marriage witnesses, or reiterating the prohibition of Catholics from joining Freemasonry.  

However, Cardinal Fernández announces “a very important document on human dignity which includes not only social questions, but also a severe critique of moral issues such as sex change, surrogate motherhood, gender ideologies, etc. […]”

Divisions already existed

The prefect also admits that he is not surprised by the negative reactions to Fiducia supplicans. “I didn’t know how intense they would be, but yes, I expected them,” he says. He is surprised, on the other hand, that “many bishops and priests whom I considered ‘conservatives’ sent or publicly expressed their understanding and positive evaluation of these ‘pastoral blessings.’” 

The division on these issues “already existed” in the Church and has only become more “transparent,” he believes.

Pope Francis — who received him in an audience on January 12 — considers the criticisms “as purifications from God to enable us to accomplish better and more humbly the task that the Lord entrusts to us.”

Referring to the controversy surrounding his book on mystical passion, he says that the Pope knew of its existence and was aware that it could be criticized. The cardinal points out that Rome had already investigated the subject in the past and had decided against sanctioning him. He also points out that, before him, for example Saint John Paul II and Saint Hildegard of Bingen had also spoken of sexuality in detailed terms in their works.

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