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Catechesis on Sex & Identity

Christ...fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear

Gaudium et Spes, 22

The following comes from section 2 of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Catechesis and Policy on Questions Regarding Gender Theory (2023). 

The footnotes remain unchanged in number and reference from the original document for uniformity.


1. The Church teaches that the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, is a “unified creature composed of body and soul.”

The soul is the spiritual principle of each human person and the “subject of human consciousness and freedom.”6 Yet man is truly himself only “when his body and soul are intimately united.”7 The human person is not a soul or a mind that has a body merely as a biological accessory. Rather, the human person is a body formed by a soul.8 Human life and love are “always lived out in body and spirit,”9 and thus the body is a “vital expression of our whole being.”10 So integral, in fact, is the body to who we are as human beings that the body and soul together are fashioned and “destined to live forever.”11 The creed expresses a belief in the “resurrection of the body,” or the belief that all persons will “rise again with their own bodies which they now bear.”12 The body which will one day rise is the very body which each person received as a gift and in which each person lives out his vocation to holiness.13


2. Our biological sex, expressed by our body, is a gift from God and is unchangeable.

A person’s biological sex is expressed in and through the body. It cannot be changed because it is bestowed by God as a gift and as a calling, and “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”14 Biological sex is a gift because in the very act of creation, God bestows upon each human person a biological sex—“Male and female he created them”15 —two sexes that are different, equal, and complementary.16 It is a calling because we work out our salvation via our masculinity or femininity. In other words, human persons do not experience the freedom and joy of salvation despite their biological sex, but only in it and through it.


3. A person’s “gender” is inseparable from biological sex.

The Catechism states that “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul.”17 Therefore, while biological sex and “gender”—or the socio-cultural role of sex as well as “psychological identity”18 —can be distinguished, they can never be separated.19 Should someone experience a tension between biological sex and “gender,” they should know that this interior conflict is not sinful in itself20 but rather reflects “the broader disharmony caused by original sin”21 and often results from the residue of social ills and cultural distortions of what constitutes “masculinity” and “femininity.” Such persons should be treated with respect and with charity, and “no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults, or unjust discrimination” based on such experiences.22 However, charity “needs to be understood, confirmed, and practiced in the light of truth,”23 and thus such persons should be encouraged to seek harmony between their biological sex and “gender” not through a rejection of one or the other, but through turning to Christ and to all that the Church provides. Only by turning to Christ can one acknowledge and accept one’s sexual identity in every aspect— physical, moral, social, and spiritual24 —and only through such an acceptance can the human person in turn experience the freedom promised by Christ.


4. Respect for creation is also a respect for one’s biological sex.

As Pope Francis writes, “It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it, and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek ‘to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it’.”25

Learn More

Resources and references for Sex and Identity and Christian Anthropology

From the Catechism
From the Popes


6 Glossary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—Libreria Editrice Vaticana English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000).

7 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 5.

8 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, q. 76; St. John Paul II, General Audience of October 24, 1979; CCC, 365.

9 Pope Francis, Lumen fidei, 34.

10 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 5.

11 St. John Paul II, Message to Health Workers, Phoenix, Arizona, 1987.

12 Fourth Lateran Council (1215), DS, 801.

13 St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 5.13.1. International Theological Commission, Some 14 Current Questions in Eschatology (1992), 1.2.5.

14 Romans 11:29.

15 Genesis 1:27.

16 CCC, 355, 369.

17 CCC, 2332.

18 DSM-5, 451.

19 Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Relatio finalis (24 October 2015), 58; Pope Francis, Amoris laetitia, 56.


20 In Catholic moral theology, the term “disordered” has a particular meaning which may not be identical with how the term is used by psychologists and medical professionals. According to the Catholic moral tradition, every inclination, desire, and action is ordered to some particular purpose or end (i.e., consuming medicine is ordered toward health; sexual relations are ordered toward unity between spouses and procreation; etc.). Any inclination, desire, or action which impedes this purpose is considered “disordered” (i.e., the inclination to take medicine in order to commit suicide; or engaging in contraceptive sexual relations). Since the purpose of the body (as given by God) and the soul is to be united forever in the presence of God, an inclination which disrupts this unity—such as an experienced tension between natal sex and “gender”—would be considered “disordered.” Note well that it is the inclination, desire, or action that is disordered, not the inherent dignity of the person. On the relationship between the concept of “disorder” and the dignity of the person, see CCC, 2358 and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.

21 Catholic Diocese of Arlington, “A Catechesis on the Human Person & Gender Ideology” (12 August 2021).

22 Congregation for Catholic Education, “‘Male and Female He Created Them’: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education” (Vatican City, 2019), 16.

23 Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, 2.

24 CCC, 2333

25 Pope Francis, Laudato si, 155

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Doug Ulaszek
Associate Director of Evangelization & Catechesis |  ​Adult & Family


Very Reverend Javier I. Bustos
Vicar for Healthcare


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