God has revealed the purpose of human sexuality. We find God’s Revelation about sexuality most clearly in Catholic doctrine. It is good and important to know that scientific research supports Catholic doctrine on sexuality. Let’s look at key Catholic sexual doctrines and see the science that supports them.
There Are Only Two Genders
God has revealed that He “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has given us an excellent resource for understanding this Revelation in “‘Gender theory’/‘Gender ideology’ – Select Teaching Resources,” which provides quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other papal agencies, and various documents of the USCCB. One of the quotes summarizes all of them: “Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation . . .” In other words, it is Catholic doctrine that God created not only humanity but also human masculinity and human femininity. It is false that masculinity and femininity are mere “assignments” or “constructs.” It is false that there is any other human gender besides masculinity and femininity.
The biology supporting the Catholic doctrine that God created the only two human genders is well summarized by Ryan T. Anderson, one of the very best thinkers on the topic of gender:
Modern science shows that our sexual organization begins with our DNA and development in the womb, and that sex differences manifest themselves in many bodily systems and organs, all the way down to the molecular level. In other words, our physical organization for one of two functions in reproduction [that is, either the male function or the female function] shapes us organically, from the beginning of life, at every level of our being.
To disagree with Anderson, as Gender Ideology does, is to deny or ignore a fundamental principle of biology: the parts of a living thing work together for the sake of the whole living thing. As Anderson concludes:
Cosmetic surgery and cross-sex hormones can’t change us into the opposite sex. They can affect appearances. They can stunt or damage some outward expressions of our reproductive organization. But they can’t transform it. They can’t turn us from one sex into the other.
Anderson shows that psychology supports biology. After citing research conducted in Sweden over thirty years, a review of over 100 follow-up studies of post-operative transsexuals by Birmingham University, a review of scientific literature by Hayes, Inc. (a firm that evaluates the outcomes of medical technologies), and the U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (an agency of the Federal government), Anderson shows that, at best, there is no evidence that “sex-reassignment” helps psychologically and, at worst, there is evidence that there are higher rates of psychiatric hospitalization and suicide among those who experience “sex-reassignment” compared to those who do not. “So when the media tout studies that only track outcomes for a few years, and claim that reassignment is a stunning success, there are good grounds for skepticism.”
The American College of Pediatricians has more scientific information and research, which it presents in a way that is easy to read by those of us who are not medical scientists, in order to show that the assumption that Gender Confusion (or Gender Dysphoria) is normal, and not unhealthy, “is founded upon an unscientific gender ideology and lacks an evidence base.”
Males and Females Are Different
God has revealed:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” . . . But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:18, 20-24).
Catholic doctrine refers to this Revelation as the complementarity of masculinity and femininity, as we find in the Catechism, 1605, 2331-2336. This means two important things: 1) males and females are significantly different from each other while sharing a common human nature, and 2) males and females need each other in order to complete each other.
Science supports this doctrine of complementarity. One good, quick summary of the science was recently written by Walt Heyer, who personally tried to transition from being male to being female, suffered the consequences, reclaimed his masculinity, and is tirelessly trying to warn others about “gender change.” Heyer’s article focuses on the issue of transgender females competing in female sports. Citing two studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology, he summarizes: “Men have more skeletal muscle mass, more upper-body strength, more lower-body strength, and stronger grips than women.” Furthermore, citing the National Institute of Health,
Heyer writes, “transgender women generally maintain their male muscle strength, size, and composition,” based on research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and “[t]aken together, the evidence shows that male bodies, even with low testosterone levels [after “sex reassignment” surgery], maintain male strength and their inherent, significant advantage over female bodies.”
The Purpose of Sexual Activity Is Procreation
God has revealed that He said to our original parents, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). It is Catholic doctrine that “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal [that is, married] love of man and woman” (CCC, 2360). In other words, all genital activity has been given two purposes by God: 1) the mutual, self-giving, fully committed love of a man and woman (as in CCC, 2361-2365) and 2) procreation, which is bringing new human life into the world, conceiving children, having babies (as in CCC, 2366-2379).
There is much great scientific research on the website of FACTS, the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, that supports the Catholic doctrine that a primary purpose of genital activity is procreation. If I may sum it up, “to be healthy is to be fertile,” in the words of Kyle Taljan, a guest of mine on a radio show for which I sometimes am the substitute host. Fertility is not an illness. To put it simply but accurately, we humans, when we are healthy and free of pharmacological and surgical interventions, all go through the following three stages in our lives: 1) we prepare to be fertile 2) we are fertile, and 3) we lose fertility. Yet again, humans cannot experience orgasm without using organs that are essentially reproductive.
Human Life Begins at Conception
God has revealed that every human being’s life begins in his or her mother’s womb. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). During St. Mary’s visitation of St. Elizabeth, John the Baptist, when he was in utero, gave witness to Jesus as the Lord when Jesus was in utero (Luke 1:39-45). The beautiful dogma of the Immaculate Conception is that St. Mary was free of Original Sin from the moment of her conception—she was free from Original Sin from the moment of her existence, and her existence began when she was conceived and not when she was delivered from her mother’s womb. It is Catholic doctrine that every human life begins at its conception (as in CCC, 2270).
The science that supports this Catholic doctrine is overwhelming. One way to summarize it is the results of a survey published last year, reported among many others by Steven Ertelt. 5,577 biologists from over 1,000 academic institutions in 86 countries were asked when human life begins. 96% answered that human life begins at fertilization, what I call “conception.” Ertelt also points out, “Over the years scientific textbooks have made it clear that human life begins at the point of fertilization when human sperm meets human egg.”
Growing scientific knowledge about human fetal development also confirms that human life begins at conception. One recent example is the reporting of Alexandra Desanctis that there is new evidence, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, that fetuses could be capable of feeling pain around 12 weeks of gestation, as opposed to the current neuroscientific consensus that fetuses feel pain around 24 weeks’ gestation. An excellent source for understanding fetal development week-by-week is at WebMD.
Science Is Not the Same Thing as Scientists
Science is a good and important way to know reality, including sexual reality. Catholics should not fear science. The truth of science will never contradict the truth of Faith. As St. John Paul the Great wrote:
[T]here can never be a true divergence between Faith and Reason [which includes science] since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the Faith has also placed in the human spirit the light of Reason. This God could not deny Himself, nor could the truth ever contradict the truth” (Fides et Ratio, 53).
On the other hand, there is reason to fear some scientists or at least be skeptical of them. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that every scientist is trustworthy. Not every scientist is equally good at doing science. Not every scientist is equally free of philosophical assumptions that skew his or her research. And in our times, a great temptation that scientists face is to do only the research and produce only the results that will be rewarded with handsome funding from a foundation or the government. A good article on the abuse of science has been written by Anthony Daniels.
Science and God
Even at its best, science is a limited way of knowing reality. It is limited to what it can measure and how it can measure. Faith—the acceptance of God’s Revelation—gives knowledge that is beyond the ability of science, and all other forms of Reason, to give. The Creator of the universe created each of us in order to show us His love for us and in order to give us the opportunity to love Him, to share in the fullness of His Being, to have a relationship with Him. So He is always communicating with us. We discover His communication when we discover truth of any kind and from any source.
Catholic Faith is not anti-science. It is not irrational or anti-rational. It is supra-rational. It is beyond-rational. Catholic Faith is not a blind faith or a “take it or leave it” kind of faith. There are reasons for believing Catholic Faith. Catholic Faith never requires us to give up Reason or science. There is no science that disproves Catholic Faith.
God has communicated to us His purpose for human sexuality. He wants sexuality to be fulfilling, not destructive. Catholic doctrine gives us God’s clearest communication about sexuality. Science supports Catholic sexual doctrine.
Being faithful to Catholic sexual doctrine will be challenging, due to our fallen human nature. But it is being faithful to Catholic doctrine that redeems us from our fallen sexual nature, saves us from our worst choices which hurt others and ourselves. As writers like Mary Eberstadt and Jennifer Roback Morse have pointed out in great detail, we ignore Catholic sexual doctrine at our profound peril. Let us ask God for the grace to do His will and ask for His forgiveness, especially in Confession, when we fail—always confident that He is merciful to those who try their hardest.