The stakes are surprisingly high for the Australian Catholic Medical Association as it holds an online conference this Saturday on Christian approaches to sex, gender and the human person.
Several Australian states have considered proposals to mandate the medical affirmation of transgender identity and sexual orientation that, the Catholic association says, could in effect outlaw the Christian vision of human health and psychology in medical care, in the name of banning “conversion therapy.”
“The Christian tradition to healthcare brings with it a very long and rigorous intellectual tradition to understanding to the human condition,” Dr. Eamonn Mathieson, chair of the Australian Catholic Medical Association organizing committee, told CNA May 28. This tradition is “a perspective that is founded in love and radically rejects the use of any person as a means to an end or as a means to serve the goals of any peculiar ideological agenda.”
The Catholic medical association is hosting an online medical and bioethics conference May 30 on the topic “Sex, Gender and the Human Person.” Co-sponsors are the Australian Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship of Australia. International participants are encouraged to register and attend online or watch recordings after the event.
“This conference will especially examine the issue of transgenderism in the young given the sudden surge of cases of rapid onset gender dysphoria, in Australia and around the world,” Mathieson said.
“In particular, we will discuss the issue of ‘gender affirmation only’ strategies now widely used in gender clinics, and now being considered by legislatures to be made compulsory and enforceable by law, including fines and imprisonment. Such developments have very serious implications for health workers as well as teachers, parents, not to mention children presenting with this condition.”
He said there is a growing risk of “outlawing healthcare based on Christian anthropology” given legislative developments and “the prevailing ideologies that are reflected in the position statements of a growing number of medical organizations and healthcare governing and representative bodies.”
The conference will take place Saturday May 30 at 10 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. The time was chosen so that Americans and others overseas could take part in the event. The conference start time is Friday 5 p.m. Pacific Time and 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
The conference, which is open to non-members, costs $AUD5. Registered participants can watch live or on delay. Sessions will be recorded and will be available to attendees after the event. More information is at the medical association website www.catholicmedicine.org
“We are hoping to reach as many people as possible,” Mathieson said.
The conference’s first session examines the issue of affirmation-only approaches from medical, legal and psychological perspectives. It will consider “some of the potential problems and harms of endorsing this approach to gender dysphoria in the young,” Mathieson told CNA.
The second session will examine the transgender movement’s history and “its underlying philosophical, anthropological and ideological premises which are at variance with Judeo-Christian understanding of the human person as well as the beliefs of many other religious and philosophical traditions.”
Speakers include Prof. John Whitehall, a professor of pediatrics and chairman of the Australian Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship; Prof. Patrick Parkinson, academic dean and head of the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland; Father Paschal Chorby, O.F.M. Conv., a moral theology lecturer and bioethicist; researcher, writer and speaker Elisabeth Taylor; consultant psychologist and psychotherapist Prof. Diana Kenny; and Dr. Caroline Norma, a senior research fellow at RMIT University.
Topics include whether gender therapies are experimental and harmful, whether there is evidence behind the affirmation-only approach, whether the law requires someone to accept a child’s gender identity, a feminist critique of transgender ideology, and information about the advocacy behind the transgender movement.
According to Mathieson, the Christian approach sees the human person as “a unity of body, mind and spirit” which “provides a rich depth of understanding of the human condition that respects the unique dignity of each of human being.”
This understanding “has informed the practice of good medicine for millennia,” Mathieson said, and challenges “the prevailing materialistic or dualist understanding of the human person.”
A backgrounder for the conference notes the Victorian legislature’s consideration of a ban on “conversion therapy” as regards sexual orientation and gender identity. The Queensland government attempted to enact such legislation on the Christmas holidays “with as little scrutiny as possible.”
“In the end they were unsuccessful,” the backgrounder said. The proposed legislation defined conversion therapy as “a treatment or other practice that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The medical association said the wording of “conversion therapy” is “an emotive Trojan horse” that will introduce transgender ideology into law and seek to enforce health workers to participate in and endorse “gender identity affirming strategies” such as puberty-blocking drugs and surgery even in the case of children and adolescents.
“If such laws are enacted they will effectively outlaw the traditional Hippocratic and Christian anthropological approach to health and psychology,” the backgrounder continued.
“There is also a concern that if such legislation is enacted even conferences critical of the ’gender affirming model,’ such as ours, may not be permitted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, our medical licensing body, due to the transgression of ’professional standards and expectations’ and by bringing the profession into disrepute. This is not an exaggeration.”
“Therefore, we believe it is paramount that we publicly articulate the issues and problems concerning this important matter, which we believe has profound implications for healthcare and the care of children generally,” the Australian Catholic Medical Association’s backgrounder said.
Mathieson cited the Queensland Health and Other Legislation Amendments Bill, which would require affirmation of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Parliament in the state of Queensland recently sought to enforce ’affirmation only therapy’ for children on all health workers,” he said. “Dissident practitioners would have faced an 18 month prison term for failing to abide by the state decrees in managing gender dysphoric children.”
Whitehall, one of the conference speakers, submitted a briefing on the Queensland legislation. While voicing sympathy for those with gender dysphoria, he said the vast majority of children confused over gender will “re-orientate to an identity in accordance their chromosomes, through puberty, with traditional support of individual and family psychotherapy.” He criticized the side-effects of puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones, given that children and adolescents who undergo purported gender transitions will receive them for life.
“Why get involved in this medical matter?” he asked. “Why force a crisis of conscience on therapists aware of grave side effects and unconvinced of advantages of hormonal and surgical intervention in confused and vulnerable children, most of whom are known to revert to an identity in accordance with chromosomes with traditional support?”
The Australian Catholic Medical Association website has a resource page on Sex and Gender, including articles, documents, videos and news.
Mathieson encouraged Catholics to get informed on the topic.
“Understand what is behind this ideological movement and what is at stake. Especially parents should look into what is being taught to children in their schools, especially with sex education, among other subjects.”