Pope Francis said that the fact that kids are now being taught that they can select their own gender is "terrible" and is the "exact opposite" of God's creation.
Before a group of Polish bishops during World Youth Day last week, Francis spoke of powerful forces in culture that are funding the furtherance of "gender theory." The pope also reportedly spoke of this matter with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who told him: "Your Holiness, we are living in an age of sin against God the Creator."
According to Catholic Herald Wednesday, Francis told the bishops: "Today, children are taught this at school: that everyone can choose their own sex. And why do they teach this? Because the books come from those people and institutions who give money."
"God created man and woman; God created the world like this and we are doing the exact opposite," he said, calling the notion than children can determine their biological sex for themselves "terrible."
The influential institutions backing this are exploiting God's creation, he went on to say, and the problem is a global one.
"We are living at a time when humankind as the image of God is being annihilated," the pope continued, connecting the abuse of the natural world with the abuse of human beings. He suggested that both stem from a "lack of appreciation of humankind's God-given dignity," as the Catholic Herald reported.
LGBT-Catholic group DignityUSA was upset by the pope's words, with its executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke saying in a statement that Francis' language was "lamentable" and that it "puts lives at risk," according to The Washington Post.
"What many, including Pope Francis, do not yet understand is that people do not 'choose' their genders. A gender is assigned at birth, and some people discover that they were incorrectly classified," she said.
Shortly after he was named pope, Francis famously said "Who am I to judge?" when he was asked about gay priests, words seen by many liberal and LGBT Catholics as a sign of a shift in the teaching of the church.
Such beliefs have been reinforced by the tapping of Father James Martin, a Jesuit, to a key Vatican communications post. His recent book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, argues for greater LGBT inclusion and suggests that the official church catechism be reworded.
Yet earlier this year, Pope Francis published his long-awaited paper pertaining to family life and other social issues. The paper urged priests to be merciful when they consider who should receive Communion, including divorced and remarried Catholics but flatly rejected the idea of same-sex marriage.
"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the paper read.
Likewise, in his papal encyclical Laudato Si, which was published in June 2015, the pope connected "gender theory" with economic exploitation.
Although the encyclical focused on the threat of climate change and environmental degradation, Francis also wrote critically in the document of the desire to "cancel out sexual difference," noting that "thinking we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation."