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A Catholic monk in Kentucky, Brother Christian Matson, recently came out as transgender, stating that the church needed to accept and deal with transgender Catholics. Matson, who plans to publicly announce his transition on Pentecost 2024, believes that God has called transgender individuals into the church, and it is not the church’s place to reject them. This announcement comes amid a broader conversation surrounding transgender and LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S., with some companies and brands facing backlash for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. The Vatican recently published a declaration titled “Infinite Dignity,” approved by Pope Francis, that reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s stance on transgender individuals, stating that God created men and women as different biological beings and that attempts to alter this plan go against God’s will.

The Vatican’s declaration condemns gender-affirming surgery as a violation of human dignity and a form of attempting to play God. The document makes an exception for surgery to correct genital abnormalities but cautions against surgical interventions for gender affirmation purposes. Matson, who converted to Catholicism in 2010, years after transitioning, has faced challenges in finding acceptance within the Catholic community. Despite being advised to consider becoming a diocesan hermit, he faced rejection from many Catholic communities who were hesitant to accept him due to his transgender identity. However, Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington expressed openness to welcoming Matson into his church, recognizing his sincere desire to serve the church and honoring the tradition of hermits as a form of religious life that can be male or female.

In 2022, Matson took his vows to become a diocesan hermit under Stowe’s guidance, and he renewed his vows in 2023. His decision to become Catholic post-transition was influenced by the sacramental understanding within the faith, highlighting the importance of the body, creation, visible unity of the church, and the Eucharist. Despite facing challenges and rejection in his journey as a transgender individual within the Catholic Church, Matson remains committed to his faith and his desire to serve the church. Newsweek has reached out to both the Vatican and Matson for further comment on his announcement and the Vatican’s recent declaration, which reaffirmed the traditional Catholic position on transgender individuals.

Matson’s story sheds light on the complexities and challenges faced by transgender individuals within religious communities, particularly within the context of the Catholic Church’s teachings on gender and sexuality. As the conversation around LGBTQ+ rights continues in society, individuals like Matson advocate for inclusion and acceptance within religious institutions, challenging conventional norms and seeking to find common ground between their gender identity and their faith. The acceptance and support offered by Bishop Stowe demonstrate a willingness to engage with and accommodate the diverse experiences and identities within the Catholic community, signaling a potential shift towards greater inclusivity and understanding within the church.

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