ASK FATHER: “Transgender” nun?

From a reader…


What is going to happen when someone who identifies as a male , but is in a sane biological based world female, wants to become a priest of some male who competed on the girls soccer team in high school because he feels like a female wants to join the Carmelite nuns?


What a odd world we now live in. When someone “identifies as a male.”

I know that’s the modern parlance, but think about it – how we “identify” is supposed to alter reality.

I blame Decartes. He set us on the track where our perception is more important than objective reality. Perhaps the blame lies further back in history, with William of Ockham.

Whatever the root, we are now living in a world where Humpty Dumpty, who said in Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” could be touted as the the wisest man, errr, egg, around.

In any case, the Church refuses to play these contemporary word games.

If someone who is female but “identifies” as male somehow manages to get through the application process, years of formation, and all the necessary vetting and, horrifically goes through an ordination ceremony, she enters the church building not as a priest, but as an excommunicated woman in virtue of canon 1378.2.1.

If a man attempted to enter a religious community of women, and somehow managed to bluff his way through the formation process, there would not be an automatic excommunication, but he would not in any way shape or form become a nun. He would be a man masquerading as a nun – which might be funny in a movie or play, but in the light of eternity and divine judgment, which we all will face, is a serious and blasphemous action.

Anyone who assisted, or colluded, or covered for the folks who lie to the Church in order to pretend to get ordained or pretend to take vows will also be subject to penalties in this life, and judgment in the life to come.

Fr. Z adds:

Check out a post about this back in 2012 concerning a future meeting of the LCWR in 2020. HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. whitewings says:

    The nearest I can remember to this happening was Sally Gross.

    Sally was intersex, known for most of his/her life as Selwyn, ordained a Dominican priest in the 1980s. It certainly wasn’ta straightforward situation judging from the Wikipedia article.

  2. Titus says:

    Putting Descartes and Okham on the same continuum is reasonable. That was how Prof. Blakey did it.

  3. JPD says:

    If such a terrifying prospect where ever to happen; what would that mean for efficacy of the Sacraments. What would it mean to the penitent who had confessed and been invalidly absolved of their sins over many years, and what if that person had died? What about if the false priest had confirmed someone; or worse become a Bishop or Cardinal. Would that invalidate all confirmations, marriages, and Ordination? What would be the knock on consequence for a Priest invalidly ordained?

  4. Before getting too worked up about the danger of this happening, realize:

    – Candidates for Holy Orders can (and should) be given physical exams. Long before people tried to change their sex through word games and surgery, there was always the problem of someone attempting a masquerade. And, after all, it behooves a bishop to know if men he is contemplating as priests are healthy. I don’t know if this is a universal practice (does anyone else here know?), but I would imagine it’s very nearly so.

    – The baptismal record is consulted before someone is even accepted as a candidate for Holy Orders, let alone before someone is ordained. Even if someone undergoes surgery that successfully perpetuates a sex-change fraud, what does that person do about the baptismal record?

    Is it possible that someone not a male might succeed in being invalidly ordained? Of course it is possible. And this was true a thousand years ago, too, by the way. But it is awfully unlikely.

  5. michael de cupertino says:

    In the Golden Legend we read of two holy women saints who posed as men to enter a monastery. Both were accused of fathering children, which they did not deny but rather bore the punishment in silence. Both were only discovered to be women (and therefore innocent) upon their deaths. One was Saint Marine, and the other Saint Theodora.

  6. frjim4321 says:

    Gender dysphoria is often part of a differential diagnosis; the patient may well be presenting with an array of symptoms, any one of which might cause them to receive a negative recommendation for seminary admittance, apart from the transsexual issues. I was in the seminary with a guy who was a very effeminate gay male, but he was released not for that reason, but because he was a borderline personality.

  7. jltuttle says:

    For some time now I’ve wanted to apply for my Social Security benefits because I’m trans-aged. Although my age-assigned by birth is 40 something, I self-identify as a 70-year-old m–, person. Thus, I qualify for my SS benefits. I would apply for them, but I feel that my employer would discriminate against me and fire me. As of yet, there is no protection for the trans-aged, and I feel this is unconstitutional. I should sue. Does anyone else want to join me? We should have a class action.

  8. JabbaPapa says:

    No comment on the subject matter of the post, other than approval of the excellent way that it is responded to …

    … but one quibble.

    Fr Tim : I blame Decartes. He set us on the track where our perception is more important than objective reality.

    hmmmm ….

    I’ve come across this odd claim from speakers of English as their mother tongue before, so I’m wondering is there some sort of general problem of mistranslation of Descartes into English ? (it would be not unlikely — French can sometimes be quite hard to render accurately, or even sometimes to understand)

    Descartes’ most basic statements on the relationship between reality, perception, and cognition are likely to be those explained in his Discours de la méthode, and his position there is that the purpose of perception and cognition is to understand reality and that which resides therein.

    So really, far from claiming that “perception is more important than objective reality”, his claim is rather that the objective analysis of reality is more important than any subjective notions about it.

    Descartes’ claim was that perception of reality, including in scientific observation, should be accurate and true — which is to say that reality is correctly perceived — where the mind is methodologically accurate in its manner of understanding. This position absolutely requires that the understanding is to be subjected to the contents of reality (not excluding divine realities), rather than the other way ’round, and he suggests fairly strongly that false a priori positions can lead to false analyses and even to false perceptions from wrongful interpretations.

    Descartes in fact overtly condemns those who think their own opinions and perceptions are more important than reality as “ceux qui, se croyant plus habiles qu’ils ne sont, ne se peuvent empêcher de précipiter leurs jugements, ni avoir assez de patience pour conduire par ordre toutes leurs pensées : d’où vient que, s’ils avaient une fois pris la liberté de douter des principes qu’ils ont reçus, et de s’écarter du chemin commun, jamais ils ne pourraient tenir le sentier qu’il faut prendre pour aller plus droit, et demeureraient égarés toute leur vie” — which I would render as “those who, thinking themselves more capable than they are, cannot refrain from precipitate judgments and lack the patience needed for an orderly conduct of their thinking; whence it happens, that if men of this sort should once take the liberty to doubt of the principles they have received, and should quit the beaten highway, they will never be able to keep to this road that would lead them by the straighter path, and they would lose themselves in the wrongful paths forever” — which among other things is a fairly apt condemnation of heresies (and Protestantism) as such (and of this absurdity in point of the topic of “identifying as” a man or a woman).

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