What would the Church do if it were discovered that it had allowed a marriage between two males unwittingly? That is to say, what if one of those men “identified” as a woman, and the job of appearing as a woman had been done so well that no one, from marriage prep all the way to the ceremony, suspected anything?
On one level, the answer is simple. That attempted marriage would be null and void, because a valid marriage, either on the natural or the sacramental level, can be validly ratified and consummated only between one male and one female. Simple enough.
However, the question opens up more things for us to consider. For example, according to the language the Church uses, rooted in the metaphysical reality of mankind as created by God, there are only two sexes: male and female. Gender is a synonym for sex (see CCC 2331-2336). There is no such thing as a “biological male” who becomes a “female by gender.” That is fiction, pure and simple.
The Catholic Church teaches the soul to be the form of the body. That means that it is the soul—immediately created by God—that determines, along with the body, the sex of the individual. The soul is both the unifying and the life-giving principle that makes the body a human body. Thus, the sex or gender of a human being is not determined in the mind. It is determined by God at conception, and it later manifests in the body.
A person can “identify” himself in any way he wants to. He can “identify” himself as a tomato plant. But a male human being is truly a “he”—not a “she,” not an “it”—and this reality can be scientifically verified, apart from any delusions a man may have about who or what he thinks he is. Scientists can take a blood sample from him, and they can tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that this particular human being is a “he.”
In Scripture, the reality of the two sexes (or genders) of human beings, which can be known through the natural light of reason and science, is also revealed as such in the Old Testament in texts like Genesis 1:27—“male and female he created them”—and by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6, which refers back to Genesis 1:27 along with Genesis 2:24.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
One of the really beautiful things about answering the question of the sneaky transgender wedding is that here we find ourselves in a scenario (and there are many other examples) where faith and science work wonderfully and in unison to get at the reality of the situation. We know through revelation that God creates male and female exclusively. And science confirms this fundamental truth, from the chromosomal level upward. So, whether we speak of this from a religious perspective or purely from a scientific or a philosophical perspective, a man or woman cannot “assign,” or “identify” as, whatever gender he or she may wish to be. Each human being’s gender has already been “assigned” to each man, each woman, at the moment of conception.
But are there exceptions? The Church does accept the fact that there are real people who suffer from mental disorders, such as gender dysphoria, where they struggle to accept their God-given nature. But these are not “exceptions.” We believe that these folks need to be helped on the psychological and psychiatric level so they can come to terms with who they are. Unfortunately, our culture today actually encourages these people in their disorder. In fact, our culture and much of the political establishment encourage these people all the way up to them mutilating themselves to “change” their sex, as if they could. But giving male hormones to a woman does not make her a male. And putting fake breasts on a man and cutting off his genitals does not make him a “her.” It only results in a growing number of mutilated males and females in our culture.
Tragically, we now even have children being mutilated. This is child abuse.
The Church also acknowledges cases like PAIS (partial androgen insensitivity syndrome), where genetic defects occur that can lead to confusion concerning the sex of certain individuals. PAIS is a genetic disorder with various manifestations, some of which can make a male look feminine. But men afflicted with PAIS are not women. They have no uterus and no ovaries. They are men. (And yes, my friends, we Catholics do know what a woman is: simply, the adult female of the human species, whose body is ordered toward the procreation and nurturing of children. Those suffering from PAIS do not fit the bill.)
Thanks be to God that science has afforded us ways of treating these men so that some, at least, can come to function normally. But that depends upon the severity of the situation. Often, these men are sterile. And unfortunately, it represents a cross they must carry for the rest of their lives.
At any rate, here is how the Church determines these matters. Because of the fact that in 99.9999 percent of cases, the sex of each person attempting marriage is obvious to all involved, there has been no need for scientific inquiry beyond the general preparation for marriage done by priests all around the world. In fact, I have yet to hear of a single case in the entire world of a homosexual “couple” slipping by the process and getting “married” in a Catholic Church because the “transgender” half of the couple looked so authentic.
However, I would say this. The way things are going, with the growing number of mutilations going on in our culture, where it is becoming more difficult to distinguish between men and women—and given the level of immorality in our culture, generally speaking—perhaps we might get to the place where the Church starts requiring blood tests. In the old days, these tests looked for (and still look for, in the case of Montana) venereal diseases, rubella, and such. But could the Church one day require a test one day to be sure of the sexes of the couple presenting themselves for marriage? Perhaps.
Thanks be to God that we have not reached a level of cultural depravity to require a need for this kind of medical scrutiny in the Church. At least not yet.