Is it a sin against charity to confirm a transsexual lifestyle by using pronouns (such as she to address a transwoman) that the church says is an offense against the Natural Law?
There are a number of points to address in this question.
- Confirming someone in sin
- Sins against charity
There are lots of things in this answer which many people will find objectionable or hurtful or blind or disaffirming, but the question asks for the Catholic point of view.
I’m also aware that there are always difficult cases, and this answer may well engender other questions such as “But what about hermaphrodites?” Such questions are better asked separately, as the question asked here is succinct in itself.
And, this answer deliberately avoids answering “How can I avoid the occasion of sin?” because that’s pastoral advice.
The word transsexual doesn’t appear in the Catechism as that’s not recent enough. However, it does appear in two Vatican documents and has been noted as ethically unacceptable to anthropology.
The Holy Father, in his homily during the Inaugural Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, pointed out, with a very incisive expression, how the First World “is exporting its spiritual toxic waste” to Africa and other developing areas. One of these poisons is the so-called “gender theory”, which, heavily disguised, is starting to infiltrate associations, governments and even some ecclesial environments in the African continent, judging from what the Pontifical Council for the Family tells us.
The agents of various international institutions and organizations start from real problems, which must be dutifully resolved, such as the injustice and violence suffered by women, infant mortality, malnutrition and famine, problems related to housing and work. They propose solutions based on the values of equality, health and liberty: sacrosanct concepts, but rendered ambiguous by the new anthropological meanings that are given to them. For example, equality of people no longer just means equal dignity and access to fundamental human rights; but also the irrelevance of the natural differences between men and women, the uniformity of all individuals, as though they were sexually undifferentiated, and therefore the equality of all sexual orientations and behavior: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, polymorphous. Each individual has the right to freely practice (and change, should they wish) their choices in line with their drives, desires and preferences.
This ideology is spread by reproductive health centers, local educational meetings and international TV programs broadcast via satellite. Collaboration of African governments and local groups, including ecclesial groups, is sought, and these groups usually don’t realize the ethically unacceptable anthropological implications of this.
— Cardinal Antonelli, then President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, 2009
Transsexualism is a choice — even if it’s a choice which one is felt to be forced to make. It is a choice driven by preference, or desire, or a perceived need (“drive”) to reject God’s ordered creation and substitute a man-made one. The substituted creation doesn’t even need to have been surgically created: it is sufficient to say “I am not a man; I am a woman.” Cardinal Antonelli warned ten years ago that society would validate this man-made creation and even mandate its recognition — for example by forcing women to allow transwomen to compete in women’s sport, or compelling speech in the form of pronouns and the like.
As the question here indicates, such a man-made creation is contrary to the natural order as created by God, to Natural Law. The desire for it is called “disordered” for that reason. That’s not a polemical or pejorative word; it’s purely objective, meaning “outside the natural order”.
A disorder is not sinful. Although the Catechism pre-dates gender theory and transsexualism, it talks explicitly of same-sex attraction, and the principles can be applied to all sorts of disorders.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
What is sinful is giving in to the disorder and going against God’s will for his creation. Again, in terms of homosexuality:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,¹⁴⁰ tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”¹⁴¹ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Even though those paragraphs can be applied to any disorder, transsexualism applies another layer. By saying “I am not a man; I am a woman,” or even “I am neither male nor female,” the person is saying “God got it wrong, and I’m putting it right.” Not only is that pride, but it is supplanting God.
Thus becoming a transsexual, acting on the desire or drive, is a mortal sin:
1874 To choose deliberately — that is, both knowing it and willing it — something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death.
Confirming someone in sin
On this point, the Catechism is clear:
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
By confirming someone in their sin — by using a disordered pronoun in the question’s example — we approve it. That act is sinful in itself, and again may even be a mortal sin because we deliberately choose something which is contrary to divine law.
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
Sins against charity
Any sin is a sin against God. A sin against charity is a sin against divine charity.
2093 ...The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.
2094 One can sin against God’s love in various ways:
The question does not ask “It is uncharitable to confirm a transsexual lifestyle?” but “Is it a sin against charity to confirm it?”
- indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.
- ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love.
- lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.
- acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.
- hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.
Confirming the sinful lifestyle could certainly be said to confirm the hatred of God, hatred which comes from the pride of the one who has rejected him. God loves everyone just as they are, and to accede in the rejection of that love when someone seeks to “improve” upon creation is to accede in the rejection of God.
In that regard, yes: it is a sin against charity.
It is also uncharitable. The Spiritual Works of Mercy include
- counselling the doubtful
- instructing the ignorant
- admonishing the sinner
- comforting the sorrowful
...all of which may be relevant where someone is wrestling with how they deal with being the creation of God that they are.