EWTN Catholic Q&A
Catholic position on hermaphrodites
Question from Jane Lau on 03-21-2001:

A non-Catholic friend just asked me this and I'm stumped: What is the Catholic Church's position on hermaphrodites?

Thanks so much and God Bless,


Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco on 03-21-2001:

Hermaphroditism is the condition in which both testicular and ovarian tissue exist in the same individual.

*True hermaphroditism* is the actual coexistence of male and female glands or of gonads containing both male and female cells in an individual. Usually neither the male nor the female gonads are fully developed but are each present to such an extent that it is impossible to determine the sex of the individual. *Perfect hermaphroditism* is the occurrence of a person possessing all the generative organs, properly developed and functional at least to the extent of copulation, both male and female. Both true and perfect hermaphroditism are very rare indeed.

Usually it is a matter of *false hermaphroditism* or *pseudohermaphroditism*, in which case the individual will be determined as a complete or predominate male or female but may have either secondary characteristics of the opposite sex or have rudimentary or limited organs of the opposite sex.

Medical and surgical procedures to correct hermaphroditism must be considered in the light of two points: 1) Everyone has a right to be a member of one sex or the other. God created humanity and its pattern of sexual distinction. When anomalies occur, there is danger that those who suffer these conditions will be psychologically and sexually abused. People need to be educated to understand that hermaphroditism is a matter of unfinished sexual development. The ultimate question of which sex is properly identifiable in a given case is left to the medical specialist. 2) Everyone has the right to have the inconsistencies of his sexual anatomy corrected by plastic surgery and/or pharmacological therapy. In true hermaphroditism, where sexual variables may be totally equivocal, the individual, or in the case of infants, the parents in consultation with the medical specialist, may decide the sex toward which the correction will be sought. In the relatively more common case of pseudohermaphroditism, where one sex is identifiable as predominately predetermined, the corrective measures must be in the direction of the predominate sex determined.