On gender theory, it said “desiring a personal self-determination … amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God, entering into competition with the true God of love revealed to us in the Gospel”.

Gender theory suggests that gender is more complex and fluid than the binary categories of male and female, and depends on more than visible sexual characteristics.

The declaration said that “any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception”.

It acknowledged the possibility of surgery to resolve “genital abnormalities”, but stressed that “such a medical procedure would not constitute a sex change in the sense intended here”.

The Vatican has, nevertheless, tried to reach out to transsexual people, who have been cleared by the DDF to be baptised and serve as godparents, and have been among invitees to the Vatican.

Fernandez, a liberal theologian and personal friend of the pope, a fellow Argentine, defended Pope Francis’ right to update Church positions in line with the times, noting how, in the past, it had gone from supporting to condemning slavery.

“It now seems that Pope Francis cannot say anything different from what has been said before, as if the teachings of the Church had been permanently set by previous popes,” the cardinal lamented.

Monday’s declaration doubled down on the Vatican’s standing condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.

It also mentioned sexual abuse as a threat to human dignity – calling it “widespread in society”, including within the Catholic Church – as well as cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse.


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