...puts one of the saddest, most pitiable things any man has ever chosen to have done to himself on a par with such trivialities as Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon, ISIS’s campaign of extermination of non-Muslims, Vladimir Putin’s determination to recreate the USSR, and China’s steady development of an amphibious assault capability sufficient to overwhelm Taiwan.
And now I have Gentle Readers emailing me about l’affaire Jenner. Wanting to know where I stand on this supremely important subject. Asking why I’ve been silent about it for so long. The most...interesting email I’ve received to date included this deathless phrase: “Why the reticence, Fran? Does your Catholicism pain you in your freedom organs, or is it the other way around?”
Well! As if I’ve ever exhibited any reluctance to offer an entirely unsolicited and baldly offensive opinion about anything. I have one, and you’ll receive it anon. But on a subject of such world-shaking gravity, I prefer to open with the thoughts of an authority with whom no one can dispute:
The priest gazed out the west-facing window for a long moment. “I want to say a few words about...mutilation,” he said. “Something that’s slowly becoming commonplace, but which the Church cannot and will not approve. There’ve been some high-profile cases of it recently, haven’t there, Hank?”
Hallstrom nodded. “I can think of two, a model and a famous athlete.”
“I had the same two in mind.” Father Ray rose from his armchair and ran his hands down his trim, muscular frame. “I am a combination of two things: what God has given me, and what I’ve done to develop it. The first of these is immutable. God decreed it. His will in the matter cannot be countervailed. The second is merely the consequence of my decision to make the most of that gift—to develop my body in a direction natural to it with proper exercise and dietary discipline. As that does not in any way cross-cut God’s gift, or whatever element of his plan resides in me, my use of his gift is entirely acceptable.”
He resumed his seat. “Mutilation is not. These pitiable souls who insist that they were ‘born into the wrong body’ are badly damaged, mentally and emotionally. My heart aches for them, each and every one. They desperately need treatment, counseling, acceptance, and the charity appropriate to those whose minds are diseased. But instead we have a media praising the self-mutilators for ‘courage’ and ‘heroism,’ when what they mostly need is to have it sandblasted into their skulls that what God does is well done, that He does not make junk.”
The reason you can’t dispute him, of course, is that Father Ray – more specifically, Father Raymond F. Altomare, who became the pastor of Our Lady of the Pines Parish in Onteora County, New York upon the passing of the greatly beloved Father Heinrich Schliemann, and who served as a critical spiritual advisor to Stephen Graham Sumner during the latter’s campaign for the presidency – is a fictional character. Nevertheless, he is entirely correct. (Yes, you’ll get to read the story that features the above passage; it’s just not quite ready yet. And no, it’s not about a troubled soul who seeks a sex change.)
Health is not a matter of opinion. One is healthy to the extent that one’s bodily elements do what they’re designed to do, without crippling or lethal undesired side effects. It’s acceptable for one who is somewhat unhealthy to seek redress of that which ails him, which in some cases might involve surgical methods. It’s acceptable for one who is more healthy than not to work to increase his health, or his fitness, by various measures. But he who is healthy, yet looks at himself and says “this is not what I’m supposed to be,” and invokes surgery to alter himself into something other than God intended, is insane. As Father Ray says above, he needs “treatment, counseling, acceptance, and the charity appropriate to those whose minds are diseased.”
It’s quite possible that Bruce Jenner has been driven insane by the foofaurauw that has erupted around his kinda-sorta family (i.e., the Kardashians). Nevertheless! His act – and this applies to anyone who seeks gender-reassignment surgery – marks him as someone in desperate need of mental and emotional assistance.
Some years ago, science-fiction writer John Varley wrote a series of stories in which sex changes and other bodily transformations are normal, even customary “options” indulged by the long-lived members of his fictional societies. Quite a number of readers found the idea appealing. Either this suggests that there are more lunatics running around loose than we normally imagine, or it illustrates the depths of fantasy of which the human mind is capable.
The human creature is, broadly speaking, of two parts: a “who” and a “what.” Your “who” is the product of your individual choices and their consequences, which depend on your context, capabilities, and character. Your “what” is graven into your genes. It was determined at conception. If you insist upon denying it, you will thereafter find yourself, in the common parlance, in a world of hurt.
Bruce Jenner, once the foremost athlete in the world, has chosen to enter that world. I doubt he’ll be spared the consequences.