“There is no limit to the error that flows from gender ideology.”

“This document,” says Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, about his letter titled “A Catechesis on the Human Person and Gender Ideology”, “is a response to the requests of our parents.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge Arlington, Va., holds the monstrance during adoration at Life is VERY Good at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va., Jan. 23, 2020. (CNS photo/Zoey Maraist, Arlington Catholic Herald)

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia released a letter entitled “A Catechesis on the Human Person and Gender Ideology” on August 12.  The purpose of the letter, he explained, is to present “the principles of Catholic teaching to encourage the faithful and to guide them in responding to an increasingly difficult cultural situation.”

Bishop Burbidge, 64, is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984, and an auxiliary bishop in 2002.  He served as Bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina 2006-2016, and has served as Bishop of Arlington since 2016. According to its 2020 annual report, the Diocese of Arlington is home to 444,167 registered parishioners, 70 parishes and six missions, 273 total priests, 50 diocesan seminarians and 64 men and women in formation for religious life.

Bishop Burbidge spoke to CWR about his letter on gender ideology.

CWR: Why did you want to write this letter?

Bishop Michael Burbidge: In our society today, there are many sensitive issues being discussed, and many untruths being told.  The issue of gender ideology is a sensitive one, and it impacts parishes and families.  I think it is important at this time to teach the truth of how God created us in love, and to equip the faithful to be able to understand and explain to others what Jesus taught.  This document is a catechetical resource, and seeks to proclaim the truth with charity and clarity.

CWR: What sort of reaction has it received?

Bishop Burbidge: Overall, I’ve received many words of appreciation.  Our people understand it is a document that was the product of much consultation and is well thought out; we received input from people with great expertise.  Our parishioners have shared the letter with family members, friends and colleagues, including with those who do not agree.

Most of the comments I have received have been positive, but when you speak and teach the truth in such a sensitive area, some people are going to be critical.  There are those who mistakenly say this document discriminates against certain people, and does not respect their human dignity.  But the document is compassionate throughout, insisting that every person is created in the image and likeness of God.  There can be no room for bullying or ostracizing people.  We seek to help those in need; as Pope Francis says, we want to accompany them.

CWR: An extremely small percentage of the population identifies itself as “transgender.”  Why do you think the topic has generated so much attention in the media and among elected officials?

Bishop Burbidge: In our day and age, and in the society in which we live, people have a difficult time accepting absolute truth.  It is much more convenient to follow the polls and what is most popular, and to avoid confrontation or even respectful disagreement.

CWR: Suppose a person who believed he was “transitioning” to the opposite sex came to you for pastoral advice.  What do you think you might say to him?

Bishop Burbidge: I’d begin by reaffirming the love that God has for this person, and remind him that he is a beloved child of God.  Then I’d listen to his story, so I could learn more about him.  Next, in a compassionate and loving way, I’d explain to the person what we believe and why it is true.  It may take time, but I’d do what I could to help the person embrace what is true.

When we deny the truth, we don’t find happiness or peace.

CWR: What might you say to the parents or other family members or friends of such a person?

Bishop Burbidge: Our document does reach out directly to parents and family members.  We ask that they reaffirm the love that God has for the person, and that they have for him as family members, and support him in a way to help him to understand who they are in the sight of God, and what is true and real.  They need to accompany such a person, and to help him embrace what is true.

CWR: What was your process of researching and writing this letter?

Bishop Burbidge: It took a long time.  When you develop a document such as this, you surround yourself with people with expertise in the topic, including good theologians, philosophers, and scholars.  We put together a good team to write this document, wrote numerous drafts, in search of the best wording to achieve our ultimate goal, to teach the truth in charity.  While I will not mention specific people on our team, I will say that ultimately, as the bishop and chief teacher and catechist of the Diocese of Arlington, it is my document.

I can also assure our readers that the document is one of prayerful discernment.  We prayed, “Lord, when we issue this document, we want it to be Your Word that is being spoken.”

CWR: How does Sacred Scripture counter gender ideology?

Bishop Burbidge: It tells us that God created us male and female, that men and women complement one another, and that in the Sacred Union of marriage, they can cooperate in the creation of new life.

CWR: Besides the belief that people can choose their gender, there are those who believe there are dozens of genders, often based on one’s transitory sexual attractions.

Bishop Burbidge: Once you deny the truth and what is real, it will lead to extremes of all kinds.  There is no limit to the error that flows from gender ideology.

CWR: What harm do you believe gender ideology is doing to society?

Bishop Burbidge: If we deny there is a God who created us in a moment of time as His beloved child, when we do not accept who we are and how God created us as male or female, we reject all that flows from that, and all that God teaches.  Error cannot bring peace or happiness in one’s life.

Acceptance of gender ideology increases one’s struggles, and does not make things better.  Do not affirm what is false.  Respond in truth.

CWR: Do you think it would be a good idea to go back to referring to the male or the female sex, which suggests permanence, rather than using the term “gender”, which suggests fluidity or something capable of being changed?

Bishop Burbidge: The reality or the truth is what we are talking about, and is at the core of it.  I think that is what we have to understand.

CWR: Have you observed any effects of gender ideology within the Diocese of Arlington?

Bishop Burbidge: Many of our parishioners have children in public school where they are indoctrinated so that they accept ideas opposite to those expressed in this document.  Pastors convey to me how concerned parents are, telling them, “This is what the school board just voted to do, or our school just adopted this new curriculum.”

We tell our parents that it will not be easy.  But we cannot remain silent.  We must defend the truth and what is right.  This document is a response to the requests of our parents.

Just a few years back, I would never have thought we would reach the point where saying that God created us male or female would be a controversial statement.  But people in the workplace are now paying a price for saying it.  It is difficult to understand.  The ideas this document expresses are now countercultural.  I recommend people read it, and if they want to study more, they can read the documents it cites, listed in the end notes.

CWR: The document notes that Pope Francis is among those critical of gender ideology.

Bishop Burbidge: Yes.  He has been strong on this issue, and says exactly what we are saying in this document.  It is sad that children are being taught something different.  I believe this document echoes Pope Francis’ manner of teaching, and expresses the truth with love and compassion.

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About Jim Graves 238 Articles
Jim Graves is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California.


  1. As someone who works in a school system within the Diocese of Arlington, I am greatly appreciative of this well-crafted document. When I shared it with a colleague, his response was “It brings me peace”. We are blessed to have Bishop Burbidge as our teacher.

  2. Mark Levin lawyer, media host, and Victor Davis Hanson Senior Fellow, Hoover Institute are in overall agreement with Bishop Burbidge especially on natural law as related to God’s creation of Man male and female. However, Levin and Hanson approach the disorder of Trans from a political perspective. Levin perceives a Marxist iconoclast repudiation of the natural order describing it as an elitist imposition on society. Hanson similarly sees in this a socialist rebellion against convention a disruption of social order driven by a conflated concept of liberty. That the idea of exclusive male female sexual transaction is created by men in suppression of individual freedom in order to exert dominance. Neo Marxism promotes destruction of the existing order to replace it with universal equanimity. Transgenderism is so radical a disruption of the order of nature ordained by God that it’s clearly germane to satanic disorder. Bishop Burbidge wisely incorporates a multi disciplinary approach in his letter in his instruction. Perhaps when instruction is offered in public forums emphasis on the natural order reflective of the natural law within, to which all may identify with would be of greater rational coherency, even spiritual appeal. Natural law inscribed by God on the heart is a reflection of the Eternal Law. Natural law then the first premise ordained by God for the apprehension of good as opposed to evil.

  3. The Truth will set you free! And the truth is that all DNA based life forms created by sexual intercourse are genetically diverse. And that diversity goes from one extreme to the other. And within that range it is not just possible, but entirely predictable that about 1-3% will have genetic differences in sexual identity and desires. Genetic outcomes are NEVER binary. Life is essentially non-binary. Anyone in denial about this will never achieve happiness. And any culture in denial about this or any other binary view (White vs Black) will never be at peace. As one Pope said. “No justice. No peace”. The Truth: Genetic diversity is the greatest asset to the survival of any species.

    • Having it your way, I am you and you are me in our diversity. That said, you/I say, “Truth is Charity,” “God is Love,” and to mess with God’s plan for each person by surgical removal or chemical castration of one’s God-given sexual (non-binary) organs is an interference with, a denial and a rejection of His Gift.”

      I am now at peace.

    • But wait, what? Follow the science. There is NO gay gene:

      Research into the genome does point to some genetic markers—but NOT to a gay gene—and that even these markers do NOT account for same-sex behavior.

      From the news release: Five of the genetic markers were “significantly” associated with same-sex behavior, the researchers said, but even these are far from being predictive of a person’s sexual preferences. “We scanned the entire human genome and found a handful – five to be precise – of locations that are clearly associated with whether a person reports in engaging in same-sex sexual behavior,” said Andrea Ganna, a biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland who co-led the research.

      “He said these have ‘a very small effect’ and, combined, explain ‘considerably less than 1% of the variance in the self-reported same-sex sexual behavior.’ This means that non-genetic factors – such as environment, upbringing, personality, nurture, [early sexual abuse] – are far more significant in influencing a person’s choice [!] of sexual partner, just as with most other personality, behavioral and physical human traits, the researchers said.”

    • Chuck, your statement that “all DNA based life forms created by sexual intercourse are genetically diverse. And that diversity goes from one extreme to the other,” is neither accurate nor sensible.

      In fact, there are limits to all “life forms,” as you call them.

      Take humans for example. They may be born with long or short legs, fat or thin legs, straight or crooked legs.

      But they are never born with springs or propellers or wheels.

      And occasionally, due to genetic abnormalities, individual humans might be born with club feet or no feet at all. But these are not examples of “diversity.” They are what we call “abnormalities,” and therapies exist that can help the individuals who suffer from them.

      Besides, it is far from clear that sexual “preference” is determined by genetics at all. I believe it is determined very early in life by our identifying with one of our parents.

      Ever notice how a person’s walk may resemble one or another of his parent’s? Even though any given style of walking is quite complex, children commonly acquire them unconsciously at a very early age simply by modeling the behavior of their parents.

      And I’m sure there are a hundred other examples of parental actions or behaviors that we could point to that children model.

      “Gender” does not exist in nature. It’s a linguistic concept that is applied to certain languages, such as French and Spanish, to group certain classes of words together.

      Rather, when we want to know a newborn child’s sex, we simply check his or her anatomy, as determined by his or her genotype.

      It’s really quite simple, you see?

      Bishop Burbidge is quite correct.

    • The truth will set you free alright Mr. Woolery. And falsehoods and political propaganda will enslave you to absolute nonsense and cliches that make sense only to an ideologue intent on trying to prove superior sensitivity and tolerance while remaining oblivious to the consequences of the cruelties of psychologically self-serving but morally self-destructive contemporary mythologies. What a silly use of a term like “binary,” and how predictable it is to invoke the silly analogy of absolute dichotomous attitudes towards white and black races as an example of a prejudiced mindset, which never even existed in “binary” terms, to justify contemporary politicized gender tyranny. Of course, there is variation in physical attributes in the human condition. Just as there are willful delusions about what is natural and good in order to justify immoral desires in the human condition. Self-deception is the most common of human experiences. This does not alter reality. Nor do our delusions about ourselves alter the intentions of our creator for how we ought to order our lives together.

  4. The gender ideology results in sterility via surgery and or chemicals used on those people. It is all part of the drive to destroy some of the worlds population which too many people think is too large. They could not eliminate more people by abortion so they will get them now by sterilizing them so by gender surgery and drugs. Gender ideology, abortion, euthanasia and homo activity are linked in the final outcome of cutting done the population of the world. Man as “a little god” is on full display. If the Bishop wants to accompany these people let him speak the truth to them, that they have a target on their back.

  5. Well enough, but I wonder why sometimes the language of the common man is avoided and might itself be helpful along with all the soft talk about accompaniment. Joe the Plumber might say that it is nuts to think some boys are really girls and some girls are really boys. And that language might strengthen plain people in their fight and help some tempted, confused children out there in the populace, who would never seek or find the “accompaniment” of a priest or bishop, to remain in their lanes and ignore the winds of gender fashion. Instead soft, intellectual language is chosen to appease the elites. Which sort of language did the prophets use? Which sort of language did Jesus use, the blunt language of carpenters and fishermen, or the language of “experts”? The modern Church perhaps too often speaks as if every problem could only be addressed by individual intellectual change and ignores the power that simple words can have over larger groups. Neither Jesus nor the prophets took such a one-sided intellectual approach.

  6. I get the feeling sometimes that the Church frowns on individualism in favor of collective faith and action but I think now is time for individual heros and martyrs of the faith willing speak and act even without first waiting for an official Papal stamp of approval. The silence of inaction, hesitancy and lack of confidence is maddening.

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