Transfuturism: A Jesuit University’s Response
Saint Louis University’s mission is forthright: “the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.”
In the pursuit of truth, our faculty pose questions and investigate issues and matters of importance in their various disciplines. At times, those matters may reveal the tensions of our society or the conflict between the what is with the what might be. Discomfort may be the result of such study, and questions are often raised about whether such considerations should even be explored on our campus.
At a Catholic, Jesuit university, we are called to approach moments of conflict or controversy with intellectual rigor, and with genuine respect, love, and care for all people.
Transfuturism is an exhibit that offers a reflection upon a challenging and emotional matter, where societal consensus has yet to emerge. However, as an institution, the Roman Catholic church has a clearly stated position that stands in marked contrast to the exhibition’s presentation. In matters of gender, gender fluidity, sexual identity and its meaning, whether fixed or not so much, the Church’s view is founded upon the words of Jesus shared in the Gospel of Matthew: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’” (Mt 19.4), a call back “to two Genesis texts that show the will and purpose of the Creator in making human beings male and female, namely, that a man be joined to his wife in marriage in the intimacy of one flesh” (Gen 1:27 and Gen 2:24).1
The Church’s position is an assertion of the “anthropological basis of the family” and it rejects the notion of a separation of sex from gender. As Pope Francis has observed, the “ideology of gender … ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences’ … ‘It needs to be emphasized that biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’”2
As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Saint Louis University’s mission and values align with those of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Society of Jesus. Nonetheless, our pursuit of truth leads us to reflect upon the discourse of our day as well as upon the teaching of our faith. To some, the Church’s understanding may be less than adequate, if not unnecessarily harsh. To others, an exhibit such as Transfuturism should not be found in the art museum of Saint Louis University. It is certainly honest to admit that these tensions are real.
The exhibit’s reflection upon sex and gender is timely, compelling, disrupting and also manifests the challenge of pursuing truth for the greater glory of God. But to be clear: The presentation of this or any exhibition at SLUMA does not represent endorsement by Saint Louis University.
Setting aside “gender ideology,” however, we recognize that this exhibit shares the stories of persons who have sought for wholeness and integration. Their “superpowers” are illustrated in the paintings installed on the walls of the gallery.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, retired archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, observed that non-gender conforming persons “… have been subjected to violence and harassment, which is a violation of their human dignity. We, for our part, must protect them, welcome them into our hearts, and reach out to them in love just as Jesus did. Whether or not we totally understand their experience, and whether or not we agree with the decisions they make, they need to find us offering a safe place in which they can experience the love of God.”3
All of us, every one of us, is created in the image and likeness of God. All of us are deserving of respect, compassion, and dignity. All should have the opportunity to find acceptance and live free from bias and misunderstanding. The purpose of a Jesuit, Catholic university is to invite all to embrace these truths and to discover and promote wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
1. United States National Conference of Catholic Bishops. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/19. Accessed March 3, 2022.
2. Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia(The Joy of Love) 56. (March 19, 2016).
3. Carlson, Robert J. Compassion and Challenge: Reflections on Gender Ideology from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, 11 (June 1, 2020).
“Transfuturism: A Jesuit University's Response” is offered in accordance with the Catholic Identity clause of Saint Louis University's Civil Discourse, Speech, and Expression Policy. This policy envisions occasional engagement with ideas that may appear to be in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. It permits the University to offer an additional perspective that reflects the University's Catholic, Jesuit identity.