During a closed-door meeting with bishops from Poland last week, Pope Francis denounced the transgender movement, which he said was contributing to the "annihilation of man as image of God."
The Pope's comments were included in a transcript released by the Vatican on Tuesday. In the private meeting he warned against the "ideological colonization" of culture by influential activists, particularly those pushing transgenderism on children.
During a discussion of the immigration crisis, Francis discussed the concept of the colonization of cultures.
"We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God," he said. "I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these - I will call it clearly by its name – is 'gender.'"
The Pope then made clear that he was talking about the transgender movement.
"Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex," he said. "Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!"
He concluded his comments by citing his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
"In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: 'Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator.' He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite," said Francis. "God gave us things in a 'raw' state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the 'raw' state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. 'This is the age of sin against God the Creator.' That will help us."
Unsurprisingly, like his previous criticisms of the transgender movement, the comments have been condemned by LGBT activists, including Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, who said his statement exhibits "dangerous ignorance" about gender identity, which she claims has nothing to do with choice.
"It's very troubling that the pope would say this," she said Wednesday. "It also shows that the pope doesn’t understand the danger that his words can mean for gender-nonconforming people, particularly those who live in countries with laws or cultural pressures that put these people at risk for violence."