Natural Law and Gender Ideology Conference Focuses on Authentic Christian Anthropology
August 9, 2019

STEUBENVILLE—In spite of pressure to conform from powerful interest groups, corporations, and the media, those who question the claims of gender ideologues have truth on their side, agreed experts from a variety of different fields during Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Transgender Moment: A Natural Law Response to Gender Ideology conference.

Hosted by the University’s Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, and organized by visiting fellow and noted author and public intellectual Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, the April 4-5 conference saw panels comprised of experts in fields ranging from medicine to psychology to anthropology. Their message to the more than 250 attendees of the conference, including over 100 Franciscan University students, was one that both urged compassion and service to those struggling with gender dysphoria, but also affirmed an authentic anthropology backed by scientific evidence, history, philosophy, and Christian theology.

“Globally, we are seeing a clash of anthropologies, a real conflict in what it means to be a human person,” said Mary Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “We know, as Catholics, that the human person is a unity of body and soul, created male and female forever.”

Hasson, in her opening keynote, traced the roots of gender ideology to the academy of the late 1960s and 1970s, noting how Marxist feminists took hold of postmodern philosophy to advance a radical vision that would emancipate women from motherhood by dissolving the meaning of sex. In this way, said Hasson, language matters, and its breakdown threatens not only the reality of sex and gender, but reality more broadly.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was an amazing book that captured people’s fears because language was distorted and corrupted,” she said. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing now.”

In addition to Hasson’s keynote, conference panels revealed the corruption and flawed science driving an increase in gender “transitioning” and “reassignments,” as well as the tremendous legal overstep many schools, municipalities, and states have taken in enacting laws based on the subjective reality claims of gender ideologues

Such claims were questioned and debunked by multiple speakers, who showed the often-contradictory positions held by proponents of transgender and gender ideology.

Margaret McCarthy, assistant professor of theological anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., showed the flaws in queer-theorist Judith Butler’s Marxist-based approach to gender, which, argued McCarthy, denies the existence of reality. McCarthy was joined on a panel by accomplished author Anthony Esolen, whose witty, personable, anecdotal speech encouraged common sense on the question of gender, and lamented the great loss of beauty that comes when societies turn their backs on nature.

“When it comes to the beauty that characterizes each sex in and of itself, we no longer feel it,” he said, saying further that “the whole supposed dichotomy of what is natural and what is social in man is false.”

But perhaps the most poignant address of the conference came when Walt Heyer, a former transgender “woman” who has since de-transitioned, spoke about the tremendous physical and emotional harm that resulted from his, and many others’, transition away from their sex. Indeed, the human toll and emotional suffering of families caring for those with gender dysphoria was a major component of the conference, a point that Dr. Anderson came back to as he spoke about the need to better serve those suffering, and to serve them with love grounded in truth.

“This is knowledge in the service of serving people. That is what this conference is meant to provide,” said Anderson. “And, as Benedict XVI taught us, you cannot have authentic love unless it’s grounded in truth.”

Following Dr. Anderson’s closing keynote address, students from the Veritas Center’s student fellowship program read original research papers on aspects of the “transgender moment,” exploring topics such as the likely collision course between the most radical gender ideologues and other elements of the postmodern movement.

Videos of the panels, in addition to the opening and closing keynotes, will be available this summer at, a website of Franciscan University and the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life. Learn more about the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life »

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