A Catholic view of the Nashville Statement

The Nashville Statement is the work of over 150 evangelical leaders. It expresses their understanding of Biblical teaching in opposition to modern culture’s teaching on sexuality and gender. The 14 articles of the statement are fairly well written. They are a good summary of the difference between traditional Christian teaching and the modern cultural view.

From a Catholic point of view, there are no doctrinal errors in the Nashville Statement. Catholics and Evangelicals are in agreement in opposing same-sex marriage, sex outside of a valid marriage, and the modern gender ideology. I think the Statement does a good job of expressing the positive values in Christian teaching. It is not merely a condemnation of the current cultural view.

One rather glaring omission, though, is on transgender surgery. There’s no mention of that procedure, but certainly the statement as a whole implies a condemnation of that type of surgery.

Another substantial omission is the effect that these modern errors on sexuality have upon children. If an adult chooses to transition to the opposite gender, that is a matter for that person’s conscience. But when the culture and individual adults influence children to change their gender, the harm is greater. Moreover, the child is not competent to make such a decision. We do not (or should not) allow minors to obtain unnecessary plastic surgery (for the sake of vanity). We do not allow children to so much as obtain a tattoo (without parental consent). And what parent thinks it is a good idea to give a tattoo to a young child? And yet the culture and many parents are approving of a gender change? That has a much more substantial effect.

The Nashville Statement is good, as far as it goes. But the lack of any mention of harm to children is a serious omission.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to A Catholic view of the Nashville Statement

  1. Mark P. says:

    No sooner was the Nashville Statement (TNS) released that Fr. James Martin issued his own “tweet” response to make it look like what was stated is in opposition to Catholic teaching. I am not sure if he is genuine in trying to reach out to those in the LGBT community in order to bring them into the fullness of the faith, or if he is using his popularity to voice his own opinions on Church teaching. Unfortunately, since just about everything he posts appears veiled and never seems to point toward the true teachings, my guess is towards the latter. But in any case, Cardinal Sarah then responded to Fr. Martin via a Wall Street Journal op-ed. So whereas the Evangelicals come across as cohesive, organized, and clear, the first impression of the Catholic response (and to me, the impression is important in today’s world considering how most people get their information) is one of disjointedness and division – priest vs. cardinal, via twitter and the mass media.

    Now, the Nashville Statement does not require a Catholic response, but again, it is naive in today’s world to think that, at least here in the US – where this Statement would have the most impact – no response is acceptable. And we know that the USCCB can “act quickly” on issues: case in point, the recent racism problems, where they quickly scrambled to form an “ad-hoc committee” on racism. So they do have the capability, and one would hope pastoral concern, to issue a clear statement in relation to TNS since it has already appeared on numerous Catholic news and blog sites over the last few days. Let’s be honest: people are not leaving the Church because of racism problems, but plenty of people do because they are confused about Church teachings on sexuality. This would be a perfect time for our bishops to unite and express the Church’s teaching on this issue. Have they done so before? Perhaps, but it does not matter. We live in a society with 1) a short-term memory, an age of “sound-bite” news and 2) a misunderstanding of the Church, thinking it has the ability to change with the times. So to most people and even most Catholics, a non-response from our bishops comes across as not supportive of it, especially when the first one to respond is a popular priest who holds an opposite view.

    In their defense, the Nashville Statement was issued only in the last few days, and the country is focused on assisting the hurricane victims right now. So it would most likely be construed as insensitive for the USCCB to respond to TNS right now. But I think it would be helpful if they did so rather soon, while the issue is still fresh in people’s memory. Our Evangelical brethren have already done the “heavy lifting” and it would be nice to see our bishops issue a statement with additional Catholic teachings and references.

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