The bishops continue listing the challenges to evangelization.
Paragraph 40, written in 2007, seems to me to reflect the concerns of bishops in North America and Europe, more than the concerns of the faithful in Latin America.
I have found it difficult to discern what the writers of this paragraph were really trying to discuss.
The text reflects a fear that the ideology of gender and legislative changes (allowing same sex marriage?) are undermining the family.
Among the premises that weaken and undermine family life, we find the ideology of gender, according to which each and everyone can chose his or her sexual orientation, without taking into account the differences set to them by human nature. This has led to legislative changes that gravely injure the dignity of marriage, respect for the right to life, and the identity of the family.
I believe that this document was written before most of the legislative efforts for same sex marriages. (The first law passed in Argentina in 2010.) Yet it points out “the ideology of gender” as a threat.
But what is “the ideology of gender”?
The footnote, interestingly, refers a 2004 Letter to the Bishops from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which cites a 2000 document of the Pontifical Council of the Family entitled. Family, Marriage, and “de facto unions.”
This paragraph seems to reflect the thought of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI who, though speaking of a positive role of women, seem to still maintain certain culture roles as natural and unchanging. This view is based on a traditional Catholic notion of natural law.
In contrast, some ideologies of gender insist that gender is not biologically determined, but is determined – or at the very least influenced – by cultural factors.
Yet this paragraph of the Aparecida document seems to critique a more radical notion of gender “according to which each and everyone can choose his or her sexual orientation.”
This view seems to be reflected in Pope Benedict XVI’s December 20, 2012, address to the Curia:
People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. … Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.
But I harbor a doubt that this is a major issue in most of Latin America – though we see a growing number of nations permitting civil unions or same-sex marriage, today limited to Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, and parts of Mexico.
Two real challenges to family, I believe, are economies that do not permit families to thrive and the culture of machismo which relegates women to secondary status.