Response to the Pope’s “Responsum of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith to a dubium regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex, 15.03.2021”
His Holiness Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
Subject: “according to the designs of God inscribed in creation”
It has oft been said that the complexity of DNA, the genes, the instructions to create life from those genes, is indicative of God’s creation. It is held that this complexity of life could not have occurred randomly in nature, and must have been designed by the blessed hand of a creator.
Humanity’s belief had strayed, and we were in need of evidence of our divine creation. If we are now aware that such complexity exists as the basis of life, and that it was bestowed upon us by our divine Creator, must we not believe that such awareness has been revealed to us by the Lord, Himself?
In order for us to reach this understanding of the divine nature of life, the hand of the Lord has directed the work of scientists to unravel bits of the evidence we needed.
What He has revealed to us by directing the work of these scientists includes, in addition to the view of life’s complexity, is the following detail of that complexity.
What we once learned about a woman having two X chromosomes (XX) and a man having one X and one Y chromosome (XY) is oversimplified and incomplete.
People have been found to have as many as five (and potentially more) sex chromosomes, and it’s possible for a woman to have only one functioning X (designated XO). There are XXY, XYY, XXYY, XXXY, and so on. Having more than two sex chromosomes can make not only sexual development more complex, but also affect broader development of the fetus.
Key points about the genetics of sex:
- The presence of a Y chromosome is considered to determine an individual as a genetic male.
- Absence of a Y chromosome is considered to determine an individual as a genetic female.
- When multiple X chromosomes are present, only one of them is left fully activated in each cell of the body, and the one left activated can differ from cell to cell. Think of a calico or tortoiseshell cat, which is a sex-linked female color pattern. If the orange fur color comes from the father’s X and the black fur color comes from the mother’s X, about half of the fur-producing cells leave the X from the mother activated and produce black fur; the other half leave the X from the father activated and produce orange fur. This mix produces the calico (which includes base white areas) or tortoiseshell pattern. Even this is oversimplified, as about 15% of the genes in each inactivated X chromosome remain active.
It is an oversimplification to draw the conclusion that anyone possessing a Y chromosome will develop as a male, and that anyone not possessing a Y chromosome will develop as a female. Following the genetics, it’s the SRY gene on the Y chromosome that pushes fetal development on the male path. During sperm production in the father, it is possible for the SRY gene to become translocated from the Y chromosome to an X chromosome. About half the father’s sperm carry X chromosomes, and about half carry Y chromosomes; all of the mother’s eggs carry an X chromosome. If a sperm carrying the Y chromosome that is missing the SRY gene fertilizes an egg, the resulting fetus is an XY male who develops as a female. If the sperm carrying an X chromosome that picked up an SRY gene fertilizes an egg, the resulting genetic XX female fetus will develop as a male.
What is the role of the SRY gene? It kickstarts production of androgens at about six weeks into the development of the embryo. These androgens push fetal development from female patterning into male patterning.
Yet, there’s still room to sway fetal development in one direction or the other. Certain conditions can vary the amounts of sex hormones that direct male-female patterns in the developing fetus. These influencing factors can vary over the nine months in which a fetus develops.
Key points regarding fetal development:
- Sexual anatomy of the fetus develops during the first half of pregnancy.
- Sexually-differentiating structures in the fetal brain develop during the second half of pregnancy.
- Sex hormones (or mimicking chemicals and other factors) to which the fetus is exposed can vary at different times throughout its development.
- Sexual differentiation of brain structures and sexual anatomy occur on a continuum, or spectrum; they are not an either-or coin-flip. While most lean toward female patterning or male patterning, any of them may be ambiguous.
Certain areas within the brain have been found to differ between men and women. Differences are measurable in the size, density, and number of neurons, with specific structures being larger and denser in men and others larger and denser in women. Structural differences drive functional differences in these areas:
- Corpus callosum
- Cerebral cortex
A subset of these structures within and near the hypothalamus have been found to determine gender identity and sexual orientation.
Specific structures associated with gender identity:
- Central nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc)
- Interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus, subdivision 3 (INAH-3)
- Infundibulum nucleus
Specific structures associated with sexual orientation:
- Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)
- Interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus, subdivision 3 (INAH-3)
- Anterior commissure
Since internal and external sexual anatomy, and the differentiating brain structures develop at different times and independently of one another, their hormone and chemical exposure may differ. The degree to which sexually-differentiating anatomy and brain structures develop toward a female or male pattern can differ from one another. These include:
- internal sex organs;
- external genitalia; and
- sexually-differentiating brain structures, including those that determine gender identity and sexual orientation
Development of each structure occurs on a continuum, or spectrum. This presents a mosaic of varying degrees of female and male patterning, both within the brain, and potentially in sexual anatomy.
Mixed and/or ambiguous genitalia is the most obvious representation of “intersex” development. However, the term “intersex” also may be used in the broader sense to include any non-binary sexual development.
People feel male or female to the degree to which their BSTc, INAH-3, infundibulum nucleus, and potentially additionally structures yet to be determined tell them that they are male, female, or somewhere on the spectrum in between.
People are attracted to men or women to the degree to which their SCN, INAH-3, anterior commissure, and potentially additionally structures yet to be determined tell them that they are attracted to men, women, both, or neither.
These brain structures, which are patterned in the womb, do not change their patterning subject to sex hormones later in life. Homosexuality or feeling transgender are set in brain structures, and are not subject to change after birth. These are the way the particular individuals were designed through their fetal development. There is not a “cure.” Non-binary sexual differentiation (intersex) is not a choice. Gender identity is not a choice. Sexual orientation is not a choice.
Given that these individuals were created in the womb according to the design set forth by our Lord, is the result not, then, ordered to the Creator’s plan?
This complex transmission of life is the design of our God. Our Lord is beginning to reveal His plan to us so that we may appreciate how such complexity of design must originate from the hand of God, thus restoring the faith of many who have begun to question our origin. The gender and sexual orientation of every human are set in brain patterning, on a continuum, as directed in the womb according to the plan of our creator. Every one of us is created with a mosaic mix of features that develop on a male-female continuum. When those created toward the more indistinct center of that spectrum implore their Lord’s protection through the Church, mustn’t the Church respond with mercy?