The promises of transgender ideology, like the promises of Satan, lead not to self-actualization but to self-destruction.

Catholics are divided about what to think of the transgender movement.

On the one hand, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warns Catholics against attempts to redesign God’s creation through medical interventions such as puberty blockers and surgeries; and the bishops call on adults to “protect children and adolescents” from such life-altering interventions.

On the other hand, some Catholics think that children need to be protected from interfering adults who would keep them from realizing their supposed potential to become the opposite sex.

And some Catholics apparently believe that any criticism and questioning of transgenderism is contrary to Catholic teaching. Fr. James Martin, SJ, accepts that being “transgender” is normal and that repentance from public declarations of being such is unnecessary and wrong because they are “children of God.” While such language is increasingly common, it is broad brushed and misleading, as only those who are baptized and in a state of grace are children of God (cf CCC 1265ff, Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1ff).

There is also the broad assumption that criticism is a sign of anger and hatred. In a recent article for America, Cardinal Robert McElroy wrote, “It is a demonic mystery of the human soul why so many men and women have a profound and visceral animus toward members of the LGBT communities.”

What McElroy either doesn’t understand or ignores is that any animus is directed not at gender-confused individuals, but at the destructive ideological movement that has captured their minds and, in many cases, damaged their bodies. As a Cardinal, he is obliged to uphold Church teaching on sexuality. Yet, he is saying, in effect, that young people should feel free to reject those teachings should their conscience or experience tell them otherwise.

Since McElroy suggests that those who disagree with him harbor some “demonic mystery” in their souls, what are we to think of a prelate who disagrees with God’s plan for human sexuality?

After all, as Saint Paul says in his epistle to the Romans, God’s plan can be clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Rom 1:19-20). Tellingly, the first creature to express displeasure with the plan was a demon. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent suggests to Adam and Eve that they should follow their own inclinations rather than God’s plan.

After accusing God of lying, the serpent then proceeds to tell a colossal lie: “when you eat of it [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). In short, you will no longer be only a creature, you will be a creator.

How can Adam and Eve have fallen for that? That is certainly a mystery (cf CCC, 309ff), but it is a perennial temptation. Gender-confused people are being told, in effect, that God has made a mistake—that He has put their soul into the wrong body, and that they have the right to recreate themselves according to their own desires.

As for guidance, they can rely on their conscience. In McElroy’s scheme of things, “It is conscience that has the privileged place “over Catholic teaching.

But, as a result of original sin, conscience doesn’t always work as it was meant to. It can be darkened and weak. A conscience has to be formed by parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit.

What McElroy seems to have in mind is not the Christian notion of a well-formed conscience, but the humanist notion that conscience is some sort of natural inner compass that works better without the interference of Church or society.

This view of conscience can be seen more clearly when we look at the work of Fr. Martin, perhaps the most prominent pro-LGBT Catholic on the planet. In Martin’s view, “conscience” is really just another word for “feelings.” If a certain behavior makes you feel good about yourself, then it is good for you. For Martin, the important thing is not to do good but to feel good.

For example, although the Church teaches that a “same-sex marriage” is sinful, Martin once told a homosexual person who was about to be “married,” “your love is beautiful.” A common theme in Martin’s writings is that God loves us as we are. That’s true in a sense. As St. Paul states, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us “(Rom 5:8). But, as Scripture and Church teachings make clear, God does not love our sins. Rather, He wants us to change our sinful ways. God wants us to transition, but not from male to female or vice versa, but from a state of sin to a state of grace.

By contrast, Fr. Martin’s approach is reminiscent of an old radio advertisement for the Unitarian Church: “Come as you are; we don’t want to change you.” His message to the LGBT community is that they are “beautiful”, “wonderful” and “special.” One gets the impression that God is not only pleased with LGBT persons, but also pleased with their behavior—so pleased that he gives them an exemption from the rules.

A few years ago, in a video posted on YouTube, Fr. Martin claimed that chastity is not required of people of the LGBT persuasion. Why not? Because, said Martin, “For a teaching to be really authoritative, it is expected that it will be received by the people of God.” However, he continues, “the teaching that LGBT people must be celibate their entire lives has not been received.”

One gets the impression from listening to Martin that, unlike ordinary Christians, LGBT Christians aren’t required to change their behavior. The only requirement for them is that they abide by their own experience and follow the guidance of their own inner compass.

But this sounds more like the gospel of self-esteem than the gospel of Christ. In the last half of the last century, psychological notions about self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-actualization became popular with many Catholics. But, as psychologist Paul Vitz observed, human potential psychology was nothing but a “cult of self-worship.” And Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of the Human Potential Movement, admitted that if the doctrine of original sin was true, then his own theories were in error.

Catholics such as Martin and McElroy seem to be relics of that movement. They are true believers who can’t see that their brand of self-fulfillment leads to ruined lives and damaged bodies.

McElroy thinks that those who reject the transgender agenda are the victims of some kind of “demonic” influence. But the opposite seems more likely. The transgender agenda seems more in line with Satan’s agenda than with God’s. In Genesis, Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve comes immediately after a statement of God’s intention for men and women: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

According to some Christian traditions, Satan’s rebellion was prompted by envy at God’s creation of man. Notwithstanding the widely accepted notion that the original sin was a sin of intellectual pride, it’s possible that Adam and Eve were enticed to engage in forms of sex that were sterile and non-reproductive. And that would have put a quick end to the human race.

In any event, LGBT sex is for the most part a sterile and non-reproductive form of sex. It does not, as a rule, bring new life into the world, it does not result in the formation of families, and it does not accord with God’s very obvious plan for the two sexes.

In a talk to a spiritual warfare conference, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called the LGBT ideology “demonic.” This would seem to put him at odds with his colleague in San Diego, Cardinal McElroy. In fact, Cordileone’s criticism of the LGBT movement might even put him in the category of those who, according to McElroy, suffer from “a demonic mystery of the soul.”

Who is right?

I am not accusing any individual of being the devil’s disciple, but it does seem that if the devil is involved in the current crisis over sexuality, he is aligned with the LGBT movement, not with its critics.

For instance, consider the explosive growth of the trans movement. A recent study found that nearly 10 % of Pittsburg high schoolers identify as “gender-diverse.” Meanwhile, data from Maryland’s largest public school district reveals that the number of students identifying as gender non-conforming may have increased almost six-fold between 2019 to 2022. And in the UK, the number of children and young adults who identify as transgender increased by 4,000 percent between 2009 and 2018.

Of course, the contagion can be explained in terms of peer influence, social media influence, and any number of other factors. Still, the skyrocketing growth of the trans movement does create a suspicion that something other-worldly is involved—perhaps an intervention of that ancient influencer from hell.

Another aspect of the trans phenomenon that suggests demonic influence is the brazen lie that lies at the heart of it—the belief that individuals can change their gender at will. To compound the damage caused by the lie, ordinary people are forced to repeat it. We know that the stubble-faced guy with the baritone voice who works in our office is not a woman, but we also know that we’d better refer to him as “she” lest we end up without a job. It’s difficult to understand how so few people can compel so many people to tell lies—unless the “father of lies” is working his trade.

The misogyny of the trans movement provides another clue suggestive of Satan’s involvement. Misogyny? Of the trans movement? Well, yes. There may be a majority of women in the trans movement, but they don’t necessarily like being women. They celebrate men who beat women at sports, and they themselves want to be like men. They want to be strong and independent like men, and they don’t want to be burdened with carrying babies in their wombs or with the task of nursing them afterwards. Perhaps this is why a significant number of trans-identifying girls and women seek cross-sex hormones, bind their breasts, and even undergo breast removal surgery.

Not surprisingly, this rejection of motherhood is often taken to the streets. Many of the women who show up for trans rallies, show up for pro-abortion rallies as well. And women who have abortions are often cast as heroes by trans activists.

But what does any of this have to do with Satan? A great deal, actually. In Scripture, Satan is portrayed as a master misogynist. After he seduces Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent and says “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.” (Gen.3:15). Some of this enmity is revealed in the Book of Revelation. A woman clothed with the sun and bearing a child appears in heaven. But Satan, in the form of “a great red dragon” “stood before the woman…that he might devour the child when she brought it forth” (Rev. 12:1-4).

In Catholic tradition, the woman plays a key role in the final defeat of Satan. Consequently, “the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

Of course, if you find that passage offensive in any way, you’re free to ignore it. At least, that seems to be the advice of prominent trans advocates who aren’t happy with many scriptural teachings about sexuality. They are offended in particular by the notion that God created us as “male and female” and commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply.” Recently, Fr. Martin suggested that Christians should ignore Biblical teachings that condemn homosexual behavior. In a new guide book on the Bible and homosexuality he states: “Devout Christians shouldn’t do everything that [the] Old Testament commands. Likewise for the Epistles in the New Testament.”

What should guide us then? The answer, according to clerics such as Martin and McElroy is that you are your own guide. You don’t need the guidance of parents, Scripture, or Tradition; what you really need is to look deep inside and realize that you are unique, beautiful, and special. Moreover, God loves you just the way you are, so it’s a good bet that He is pleased with everything you do. Others may disapprove of your behavior, but your conscience has the “privileged place” over Church teaching.

But much of Scripture and Tradition teaches us that we shouldn’t get too comfortable with ourselves. If I’m okay the way I am, why do I need the transformation in Christ that Paul speaks of? Do we find our true selves by plunging ever deeper into self-absorption or by uniting ourselves more deeply with Christ?

The promises of transgenderism, like the promises of Satan, are cloaked in soothing language. But, like the empty promises of Satan, they lead not to self-actualization but to self-destruction.

This article originally appeared in the July 10, 2023 edition of Catholic World Report.

Pictured above: demonic dog and cat

Picture credit: Pixabay