Skip links

The Caitlyn Jenners of Catholicism


This column for the Daily Beast on gender-benders of Catholicism is an extraordinarily silly presentation with no regard for the seriousness of the topic under discussion. Candida Moss ransacks Catholic history for examples of saints or leaders who were “gender-benders.”  Half way through the article she acknowledges that our ancestors were distant from us in understanding transgenderism and sexuality. But that is to cover her academic tush.  She wants to use the saints as gender benders but distance us from their teaching on morality. In other words, she wants the contradictory and the impossible.

She uses our saints as examples of those who believed gender boundaries were porous. She can’t find many. For thousands of saints, she manages to squeeze out only a few. But the greater point is that Joan of Arc dressed like a man for tactical reasons given her mission.  The other figures she uses also had special circumstances. They are no more precursors of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner than starved Holocaust victims were precursors to some new diet fad.

Thomas Williams has written the following on her cherrypicking the past (an academic sin which is scorned by her colleagues. I only hope they hold her accountable for this journalistic scribbling. They probably won’t). This piece comes from

Saint Thecla (of whom there is virtually no historical record) cut her hair short and dressed like a man to avoid getting married, since she wanted to devote herself full time to God. Joan of Arc dressed like a soldier and led the French troops against the English in the 100 Years War. Wow, just like Jenner.

Then there’s Saint Perpetua, who had a dream that “involved becoming a man and fighting an Egyptian in the arena.” Just like Jenner.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, on the other hand, were military men arrested for being Christians, forced to dress as women in “an effort to humiliate” them. The two men embraced the humiliating ordeal out of love for God, and were subsequently put to death. Obviously, they, too, suffered from gender dysphoria. And… Moss’s list ends there. Remarkably, she finds it to be sufficient evidence to conclude that ancient Christian authors “saw gender boundaries as porous, and effort was required to avoid crossing them.”

It’s a good thing that Moss went into religious studies rather than law, since her paper-thin “case” would never have made it anywhere near a courtroom.

On the other hand, it is surprising that the parents of University of Notre Dame students, who presumably send their children there at least in part for its Catholic identity, would shell out over $60,000 a year so that their kids can be subjected to the theories of an ideologue like Candida Moss.

The ever-provocative Moss is no stranger to controversy.  In fact, she makes her living off it. The British feminist doctor of religious studies has carved out a niche for herself by promoting causes antithetical to the mission of her university and her Church—usually involving gender ideology.”

Candida Moss once showed great promise. Her works on persecution and martyrdom in the early Church received critical acclaim. She tried to correct some pious exaggerations about the duration and intensity of persecution in the days before the 313 Edict of Milan.  Her publisher gave her work a sensationalistic title,The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom. The enemies of Christ’s Church used it to make it appear that the persecutions had hardly happened.

I gave her the benefit of the doubt, listened to a series of lectures by her and noted that she denied what the enemies of the Church were saying. Good.

I looked over the book and satisfied myself that this was a tempest in a teapot. Friends of mine were acquainted with her and had no reason to discount her love of Christ or the Church.  I even considered having her on the program to help us understand the role of the martyr in the formation of Catholic spirituality. I decided to hold off because of some pieces like the above that were just wrongheaded.

The truth remains that friendship with the world is enmity with God.

Share with Friends:

Leave a comment