The Vatican yesterday released the transcript in Italian and Polish of Pope Francis’s closed-door meeting with the Polish bishops after he arrived in Krakow last week.
The four questions and his lengthy answers contain many interesting points, including an insistence on the parish as the basis of church life, and his conviction that the main threat to faith today is a form of Gnosticism that seeks to separate God from Church and the person from the community.
A full report and transcript will be published here once the Vatican releases its English translation.
In the meantime, his remarks on gender ideology have generated controversy, with one report claiming that the Pope had “denounced transgender people as ‘annihalation of man’.” In fact, he nowhere mentions transgender people or gender dysphoria.
The ‘annihalation of man’ remark comes at the end of remarks about immigration, when he insisted on a heart open to the newcomer. “But the problem is global!”, he told the bishops, adding: “The exploitation of what is created, the exploitation of people. We are living through a moment of the annihalation of man as the image of God.”
At this point he turned to gender ideology:
And here I’d like to conclude with this point, because behind this are ideologies. In Europe, in America, in Latin America, in Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are real ideological colonizations. And one of them — I’ll say it clearly with name and surname — is gender. Today children — children! — are taught at school that everyone can choose their sex. And why do they teach this? Because the books belong to people and institutions that give money. They are the ideological colonizations, paid for by highly influential countries. And this is terrible. Speaking with Pope Benedict, who is fine and lucid, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the era of sin against God the Creator! He’s clever! God has created man and woman; God has created the world thus, thus, thus … and we’re doing the opposite. God gave us an ‘uncultivated’ state, in order for us to turn it into culture; and then, with that culture, we do things which bring us back to that uncultivated state! We should think about what Pope Benedict said: “This is the era of the sin against God the Creator.” And that will help us.
The warnings against “ideological colonization” are typical of what he has said before. On the plane back from Manila in January 2015 he said:
Ideological colonization. I’ll only give you an example of what I saw 20 years ago, in ’95. A Minister of Public Education had asked for a big loan to build schools for the poor, public schools. They gave the loan on condition that in the schools there would be a school book for children of a certain level, no? It was a well prepared book, where the theory of gender was taught … This is ideological colonization … [T]his is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same. They came with their own doctrine. Think of the Balilla (the Fascist youth cadres under Mussolini), think of the Hitler youth. They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering. Peoples must not lose their freedom. A people has its culture, its history. Every people has its own culture.
But when conditions are imposed by the colonizing empires they seek to make peoples forget their own identity and make them (all) equal. This is the globalization of the sphere — all the points are equidistant from the center. But the true globalization – and I like to say this – is not the sphere. It is important to globalize but not like the sphere, but like the polyhedron. Namely that every people, every part, conserves its own identity without being ideologically colonized. These are the ideological colonizations.
As far as Pope Francis’s response to transgender people is concerned, the most obvious example is the Spanish transgender man whom he invited to visit him in the Vatican after telling him on the phone that he was a son of the Church and accepted by God exactly how he was (see CV Comment report).
[Austen Ivereigh is quoted in a New York Times report on the reactions to the reported remarks]