THE Vatican has issued an official document rejecting gender theory as a "confused concept of freedom" that is "opposed to anything based on the truths of existence".
The 30-page text, titled Male and Female He Created Them, was released without prior announcement by the Congregation for Catholic Education on Monday – during what is the second week of LGBT Pride Month.
It was issued as an aid for Catholic schoolteachers and parents to address what the Vatican sees as an "educational crisis" in modern sex education.
The document strongly rejects the concept that people can choose or change their genders, insisting instead on the sexual "complementarity" of men and women to the family and human flourishing.
"There is a need to reaffirm the metaphysical roots of sexual difference, as an anthropological refutation of attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature, from which the family is generated," it states.
"The denial of this duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation, but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be’".
Several prominent LGBT Catholics immediately denounced the document as contributing to hatred, bigotry and violence against gay and transgender people.
Advocacy group New Ways Ministry said it would confuse people who are struggling with questions about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
In a statement, the group's executive director Francis DeBernardo branded the booklet "a gross misrepresentation" of the lives of LGBT Catholics.
"The misinformation the document contains will cause families to reject their children, and it will increase alienation of LGBT people from the Church," he said.
"People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims: they discover it through their lived experiences.
"The Church should respect and encourage this process of discovery, because it is a process by which individuals discover the wonderful way that God has created them."
Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who has written extensively about how the Catholic Church can improve its outreach to the LGBT community, said: "The real-life experiences of LGBT people seem entirely absent from this document".
He tweeted: "The document is mainly a dialogue with philosophers and theologians, and with other church documents; but not with scientists and biologists, not with psychologists, and certainly not with LGBT people, whose experiences are given little if any weight."
Pope Francis has repeatedly argued that people cannot choose their genders, but the document represents the first attempt to put the Vatican’s position into an official text.
While the document itself is not signed by Francis, it quotes his speeches and teaching on the issue several times – denouncing attempts to "annihilate the concept of nature" as well as "educational programmes and legislative trends" that "make a radical break with the actual biological difference between male and female."