We need to be aware of not giving confusing messages about truth to our impressionable youth. In the past two weeks several strong images of the Pope Francis have been present in the media that have created confusion in the minds of many adults and struggling youth.
By Rick Fitzgibbons (October 9, 2015)
Youth, particularly in the West, struggle with enormous psychological challenges as a result of many factors, including: the retreat from marriage, with half of children being born out of wedlock; divorce trauma with depression, anger, mistrust and identity weakness; the absence of a stable family; moral confusion; and an epidemic of selfishness/narcissism and subsequent severe sexual and drug addictions in an unconscious attempt to escape from their pain and to celebrate self-indulgence.
The youth are deprived of the deep love to which they are entitled. Is it any wonder that they are responding in record numbers with serious psychological disorders?
These stresses on youth were manifested in a 2010 study of 10,000 American adolescents reported in the leading journal of child and adolescent psychiatry, which found that 49% met the criteria for one psychiatric disorder & approximately 40% with one class of disorder also met the criteria for another class of lifetime psychiatric disorder. Half of our youth present with a psychiatric disorder? We must attend to this, and very soon.
If youth will continue to be deprived of love, what can we do to at least not deprive them of another key factor in their well-being, the knowledge of the truth, as revealed in natural law and in God’s law?
Below are some challenges for us all: We need to be aware of not giving confusing messages about truth to our impressionable youth.
In the past two weeks several strong images of the Pope have been present in the media that have created confusion in the minds of many adults and struggling youth. Truth, as revealed for millennia in the Catholic Church, is being questioned by youth who see these images.
The first photo and video recently released was of Pope Francis’s meeting with an old friend in Washington, D.C. during his visit, who is now “married” to another man. His embrace of these men and his kisses for them, could be taken as a sign of compassion. After the meeting, his old friend related that the Holy Father did not communicate to him the Church’s teaching on homosexuality or same sex unions so clearly expressed by the previous two Popes. He related that he had felt affirmed by the Holy Father. Loving a person as a child of God is one thing; implicitly approving of a life-style through silence is another matter, one that leaves open the questioning of truth.
The second photo just released at the start of the Synod on the Family was of the Holy Father at a January 24th meeting with a transsexual “male” (female to male), now known as “Diago” and her fiancée. According to Hoy, Pope Francis told Diego Neria Lejarraga in an initial phone call that God loves all his children “as they are.”
Here, we have the mixed message that if the person is loved by God then perhaps the free-will choice toward transsexual surgery is fine. Is this the truth?
The failure to communicate the truth with unambiguous clarity has led many youths with same-sex and transsexual attractions, with whom I work as a psychiatrist, to conclude that Pope Francis does not agree with the 2,000 year teaching of Christ and his Church and that he supports their attractions.
Let us examine the social scientific and physical evidence showing, with modern science, that the Church’s teaching on matters of human sexuality are true, supported now through empirical observation. Consider these three points:
First, in youth with same-sex and with transsexual attractions a great deal of fluidity has been described in the mental health literature and their attractions often resolve later. There is no scientific basis to support the view that either are genetically determined. It is not the truth that the youth are simply “born this way” and so it is false that there is no moral imperative to help them to change.
Second, the transsexual surgeries, done in the hope of improving already-existing psychological challenges for those undergoing the surgeries, do not work. In a 2015 study reported from Boston, 180 transsexual youth (106 female-to-male; 74 male-to-female) had a twofold to threefold increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, self-harm without lethal intent, and both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment compared to a control group of youth. Also, a 2011 thirty-year Swedish study revealed a 20-fold risk of suicide in those who underwent sex reassignment surgery compared to a control group.
Third, the truth about same-sex activity is that it is dangerous and should come with informed consent in youth prone to this. In a 2011 study from California reported in the journal Cancer, the mean age of onset for cancer in men with same sex attractions was 41 years of age with a two-fold risk of acquiring cancer. Also, a 2011 Danish study of men in legalized same-sex partners found that the age-adjusted suicide risk for same-sex RDP (registered domestic partnership) men was nearly eight times greater than the suicide risk for married men.
The Holy Father can protect youth by standing in the truth and clearly clarifying that truth. I humbly ask that he and all in positions in the Church who are seen and admired by youth might become more aware of the severe medical and psychiatric risks associated with same sex attractions and sexual reassignment surgery and by more clearly communicating the Church’s teaching on these issues, so clearly expressed by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
We cannot afford now to deprive youth of the truth. Adults’ providing genuine love and truth to our youth can be a formula for thriving in a difficult world.
Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, is the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia and has worked with several thousand couples over the past 40 years. He is the author of a book on strengthening Catholic marriages, Forthcoming, 2016. He has been an adjunct professor at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for the Studies on Marriage and Family (The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC) and a consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.