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Bioethics information and analysis newsletter
No. 141: September 2011
Pontifical council for the family: Gender, the controversy
In order to answer the questions raised by
the introduction of the theory of the gender
in the biology manuals of grades 1, the
Pontifical council for the family published,
on 12th September 2011, a book gathering
the analyses of 7 experts. Called Gender, la
controverse, it gathers the articles published
on the theme in 2005 in the Lexique des
termes ambigus et controversés sur la
famille, la vie et les questions éthiques
(Lexicon of ambiguous and controversial
terms on the family, life and ethical
questions). A solid summary preface by
Tony Anatrella, priest and psychoanalyst,
introduces it.
According to him, the theory of the gender,
according which the masculine and
feminine genders represent only social
constructions different from the biological
sex, asserts a certain number of harmful
confusions for the individual and the
society. This ideology, which presents
insidiously as liberating and indiscriminate,
is in fact a real Trojan horse for the radical
feminist and homosexual claims in order to
challenge the essential paradigms of the
man/woman relationship of the social order.
This way, by mixing up sexual identity and
social role, it denies the personal identity of
the subject. This one develops from the
psychic internalization of the sexed body in
a system of representation specific to the
subject and in a second one which falls
within the culture.
This sexual identity cannot be mixed up with
the different sexual orientations or desires
which can be present in a subject
(homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality,
…) without a psychic work to assess the
meaning and the pertinence, these
orientations "are only non settled intrapsychical complexes of the human sexuality
and which are not intended to be a source
of social link or educative reference".
Regarding psychic bisexuality, earlier state
of the human sexuality which allows the
child to identify to the other sex to
internalize the meaning of the sexual
difference and to be able to come into
intimate relationship with the other sex,
does not mean that we have both sexes.
We only participate to humanity by being a
man or a woman. Based on the psychic
bisexuality, "the ideology of the gender is
above all the symptom of the
contemporaneous affective and sexual
immaturity which can be checked in a
certain social and political infantilism".
He reminds, by distinguishing them, that all
the forms of sentimental attachment are not
the same and do not meet the conditions
necessary to the formation of a couple.
Then we cannot recognise the homosexual
consequences: "When the society is in the
denial of sexual difference which is one of
the fundamental laws of its organisation, it
has the risk to destabilise its complete
edifice and all its symbolic representations".
Also it undermines the foundations of the
filiation and makes the child have the
symbolic weight of the family. In a
homosexual "couple", "the child can be
simply waited for extending a personal
confinement believing that we can be
educator because we cannot be parent". By
citing the document of the Congregation for
the doctrine of the law called
Considerations regarding projects of legal
recognition of unions between homosexual
persons, it underlines that "the legal
institution of the homosexuality is
unacceptable and contrary to the own
interest of the common good, of the society
and the maturation of people, starting with
the younger. "
psychopedagogy and theology, we can
think about a discontinuity between the
biologic sex and the gender without going to
the pathological: "it exists in the human
person a deep unity between the physical,
psychic and spiritual dimensions, an
interdependence between the biological and
the cultural. The behaviour is a foundation
in the nature and cannot dissociate totally
from it." If there were unfair discriminations
for the woman, it is not only the biological
sex that is in cause but also non respectful
cultural practices of the nature of the
Oscar Alzamora Revoredo, chairman of
the ad hoc Commission for the woman and
the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, returns
to the ideological foundations of the theory
of the gender. Coming from the radical
feminist movement, this does not aim at
improving the condition of the woman, but
to separate the man who is considered, in
himself, as a dominator. Adrienne Rich,
radical feminist, professes that "the
heterosexual penetration is a rape,
whatever is the contrary subjective
experience". Then the deconstruction of
genders passes before all through the
deconstruction of the traditional family, not
only because it would convert the spouse
into a slave, but also because it conditions
the children so that they accept the family,
the marriage and the motherhood as
something natural. The deconstruction of
the feminine gender also passes through
the promotion of contraception and
Xavier Lacroix, professor of moral
theology, reminds that the sexual difference
is fundamental in the own comprehension of
the filiation. Indeed it is in the meeting of
two sexed persons, engaged in a
relationship and an alliance to each other,
that any person is biologically conceived.
"To whom we can make believe that it is
indifferent that she/he [the child] has with
him or her an original relationship, in other
words that with this man or woman she/he
is linked throughout his/her history, from
her/his start so that her/his own identity is
involved in the link? That this link passes
not only through representations, thus
mentally, or through the language, but also
and firstly by the being, by the physical
being, would neither be indifferent. "
Beatriz Vollnerr de Coles, doctor in
philosophy, relates the – real – distinction
between gender and biological sex to the
light of Thomistic concepts of soul and
Gènéthique – No.141 – September 2011
body. "If I can superimpose the sex to the
tangible, material and physical aspect of the
human compound, and the gender to the
one of the transcendence, of the form and
the soul, it does not seem possible that a
gender (masculine or feminine) can exist
without a specific sex (masculine or
feminine)," she concluded. From there, "the
gender is a unique manifestation of our sex
which goes beyond the body and exceeds
the social environments, whereas it owes its
existence to both." Under these conditions,
the gender flourishes fully the person and
makes it reach a deeper bliss than the sole
pleasure to follow its immediate impulses.
Angelo Scola, doctor in philosophy and in
theology, starts from the difficulty to think
the sexual difference and shows that all
difference takes root in fact in an identity:
"the category of difference tells always a
unit in which persists a polarity, a duality.
Not like a dialectic opposition but like
opening to the other. This way, the sexual
difference constitutive of the self
characterizes a relationship, the one of the
man and the woman, for which the other is
not purely extrinsic to the self, but because
of the identity-difference relation, in a way,
is also for him internal." For him, the sexual
difference is thus the fundamental
conditions of the opening to the other.
Bonnemaison case: euthanasia in question
The Nicolas Bonnemaison case, from the
name of the emergency physician charged
on 12th August 2011 for "poisoning" on
"particularly vulnerable persons", restarted
the debate on the legalisation of euthanasia
in France. The physician, who has worked
in the Hospital Centre of Bayonne from
more than 20 years, is charged to have
killed at least 7 old people who came to
emergency services waiting for a place in
palliative care by injection of lethal
substances. Straightaway, his lawyer, Mr.
Arnaud Dupin, affirmed that his client did
not perform a militant act of euthanasia but
a physician act", respecting "the Hippocratic
oath, maybe not the criminal code".
Controversial debate on euthanasia
This argument was taken up by proeuthanasia organisations which addressed
this case to denounce the "limits" of
Leonetti law on the right of end of life’s
patients and asks that the legalisation of
euthanasia is again contemplated. Jean-Luc
Romero, chairman of the Association pour
le droit de mourir dans la dignité (ADMD)
[association for the right to die with dignity],
called for this question to be a central point
of the 2012 presidential campaign. A
political and ideological exploitation widely
controversial: "These petitioners use the
Hippocratic oath to tell that a physician has
the duty to do all its efforts to relieve his
patient and not extend unnecessarily his
pains. (…) And they are careful not to tell
that this same Hippocratic oath prohibits a
physician to kill voluntarily someone",
reminded Anne Richard, chairman of the
société française d’accompagnement et de
soins palliatifs (Sfap) [French Society for
Accompaniment and Palliative Care]. From
his hand, Dr Régis Aubry, chairman of the
national Observatory on end of life,
estimated that the facts challenged could
not promote the debate on euthanasia: "The
fact to kill someone who does not ask for it
cannot be likened to euthanasia, including
in countries which legalised this practice.
«From the medical ethic, such a definition
yet presents limits: euthanasia is defined as
the act or the omission practiced by a
physician (or any other third) in order to put
an end to patient’s life, whether the latter
previously asked it or not.
The pro-euthanasia lobbies have again
argued that the legalisation could allow
avoiding this type of clandestine
euthanasia. "These illegal acts of
euthanasia exist also in countries where this
practice has been legalised", answered
Jean Leonetti, author of the law of 2005,
who reminded that in these countries, the
objective is now to reduce the number of
acts of euthanasia and to develop palliative
The divided medical world
A certain number of professionals have
showed their support to their colleague in
the hospital of Bayonne, but a lot of them
have reaffirmed their attachment to the
Leonetti law. The associations of
emergency physicians have firmly declared
that the law of 2005 permitted "to give a
framework to the limit of care, complex and
difficult situation, frequently experienced by
emergency physicians. "From its hand, the
complained against Dr Bonnemaison,
estimating that "neither the Leonetti law nor
the medical deontology code has been
Moreover numbers of hospital practitioners
kept their distances with a debate on
euthanasia they consider too settled and
superficial: "Patients well treated who ask to
die, it is exceptional. In 20 years, this
occurred 2 or 3 times", said a physician
head of palliative care department.
To better know the Leonetti law
Faced with the media debate, the
authorities lamented a real lack of
knowledge of the content of the Leonetti
law, in the opinion and the medical world. In
order this text is better known, the collective
Plus digne la vie thus published a reference
guide called Connaître la loi Leonetti et
l’appliquer.1 It is reminded that the law of
2005 prohibits the unreasonable obstinacy,
in other words the fact to carry on
disproportionate treatments or with the sole
purpose to maintain artificially life, whether
the patient is conscious or not. When the
patient is unconscious, the decision to limit
the treatments must be made by a collegial
body, incorporating the opinion of the whole
team as well as that of the family and
relatives. The physician can administrate a
treatment which can have the side effect of
shortening life of the patient but "the
purpose can only be to relieve the patient
and not to kill him voluntarily". In no case,
the physician is authorised to practice an
act of euthanasia, this act being "a form of
abandonment of the patient to the
loneliness of his physical pain and his
everything must be organised to relieve the
pain (feel pain) and the suffering (to be ill)
with the aid of teams specialized in
palliative care.
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Gènéthique – No.141 – September 2011
Gènéthique – No.141 – September 2011
Gènéthique – No.141 – September 2011