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Voluntarism: My Will Be Done

Last September, we received a story about a ten year old boy who is being raised as a female by two female “parents,” both of whom identify as “transgender.” According to a 2019 article published in Chicago Parent, the boy’s mother said he started saying he was really a girl at age two, and was “socially transitioned” at age four. The outlet stated that the boy’s mother was “looking forward to watching” the then-seven-year-old child “grow and turn into the person she [sic] is and was meant to be.”

In the next few years, they will start puberty-blocking hormones and begin “gender-transitioning” surgery when he’s 16.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute commented: “It’s both child abuse and a sign of the profound sickness of our times… What they’re talking about is mutilation. The surgeries consist of removing healthy organs to give the patient the physical appearance of the opposite sex, but they can’t change Noella’s (the boy’s) DNA. He was born a male and will remain one until the day he dies.” (

Dr. Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, a biologist and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, called the idea of transgenderism “nonsense” and “wishful thinking.” “There’s one sex that… has two X chromosomes. That’s called female,” the biologist patiently explained. “And there’s the other one that… has an X and a Y chromosome. That’s called male.”

Morse reflected: “It’s also called reality. Until ideology came to dominate science in this area, this was conventional wisdom. But to express such views today is branded ‘bigoted’ and ‘hateful…’”

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about this? It says, in paragraph 2273: “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard: a) every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death…"

The seeming paradox here is that the Church stands as the advocate of reason. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “…reason and faith need one another in order to fulfill their true nature and mission.” The author George Weigel once said, “Freedom must be tethered to moral truth if it is not to be self-cannibalizing.”

The plight of ten-year-old Noella is an example of what is called “voluntarism.” “Voluntarism,” according to Msgr. Charles Pope, “is the view that the will overrules the intellect and that truth is something asserted or willed rather than discovered by the intellect and proposed to the will for obedience. Voluntarism holds that something is true because one says it is true.”

In 2015, Fr. James Schall, S.J., provided some examples of voluntarist beliefs:

  • No transcendent order exists to which any appeal against the civil law can be directed or justified.

  • Children belong to whoever takes care of them. Civil society decides who is qualified to exercise this role.

  • The nature and constitution of a “family” is defined by civil society.

  • Marriage is a civil contract with no intrinsic relation to children. The education of children is the sole responsibility of civil society and whomever it designates.

  • No human being has a “right” to exist apart from the civil law’s determination of when human life begins and ends, or whether it is worthy of continued existence.

  • “Hate language” is to be defined and punished by civil law.

  • “Truth” is what civil society decides it is.

  • In a conflict between science and civil law, civil law decides. (See The “Declaration” of Voluntarism in the Catholic Thing)

What voluntarism boils down to is not “Thy will be done,” but “My will be done.” In the words of GK Chesterton: “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural.” It is a recipe for disorder. It is a grave threat to the family. The God of love who made us, and is the source of all goodness, has prescribed the moral code that will bring us the most happiness in this life and eternal happiness in the next. We must reject the philosophy of voluntarism and counsel others to do the same, all the while remembering Jesus’ words: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 14:27)

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Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam


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