Catholic ‘hermit’ approved by heterodox Bishop Stowe comes out as ‘transgender’ – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — A gender-confused woman who has undergone a “sex change” and who lives as a “diocesan hermit” with the approval of Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, came out yesterday as “transgender.”

“Brother” Christian Cole Matson, born Nicole Matson, told Religion News Service (RNS) on Friday, “This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender,” adding that she has the permission of Bishop Stowe to publicly share this information.

Matson believes she is the first openly transgender person in her “position,” and Stowe himself is unsure of whether there have been any “trans” people living as a religious, RNS reported. The bishop approved Matson’s “hermit” status with the knowledge that she is “trans.” 

The news that Matson is in fact a woman has come as a surprise to many of her acquaintances, since her voice and appearance are that of a man, and she has not often disclosed the fact that she is a biological female.

Matson, 39, who was raised Presbyterian, explained to RNS that she converted to Catholicism four years after her “sex change” in college, which she referred to as part of her “medical history” rather than a “central part” of her “personal identity.” After her conversion, she felt called to minister to those involved in the arts, but anticipated obstacles to this aspiration because of the 2000 Vatican document that declared that anyone who has had a “sex change” is ineligible “to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.”

It should be noted that Matson continues to embrace her “trans” identity even after her “conversion.” She argues that the Catholic Church “can embrace transgender people while maintaining orthodoxy,” and that “Vatican-level documents that have come out on the subject have not engaged with the science at all,” according to RNS.

While Mother Therese Ivers, a canon lawyer, has affirmed to LifeSiteNews that it is canonically impossible for a transsexual person to live as a religious or in any ecclesial state, another canon lawyer told Matson that the only states of life that would be totally inadmissible to her are the priesthood and married life.

The canon lawyer suggested that taking on the role a diocesan hermit would be easier than joining a religious order and advised Matson to be open about his transgender status in conversations with church leaders. According to Matson, the canon lawyer essentially said that “there’s no problem as long as there’s a bishop who will accept you, because there’s no distinction by sex and you’re not in a community — you’re by yourself.”

Even as she was being rejected by a variety of religious orders, she felt a strong attraction to the idea of starting “a religious community of and for artists — artists who are living together, (operating) in the church through their art, and ministering to the loneliness and sense of precarity many artists experience.” Before exploring this option, she made private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, witnessed by her spiritual director, according to RNS.

She went on to co-found a nonprofit called the “Catholic Artist Connection,” which “hosted retreats and connected artists to resources such as the Archdiocese of New York’s Sheen Center for Thought and Culture.” She continued to feel a pull toward religious life, and when a friend recommended that she contact a few bishops, including Stowe — who is known for his heterodox endorsement of LGBT lifestyles — she wrote to him about her desire to create a religious artists’ community as a “transgender man.”

Bishop Stowe immediately responded, expressing his openness to this path for Matson. He told RNS, “My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church. Hermits are a rarely used form of religious life … but they can be either male or female. Because there’s no pursuit of priesthood or engagement in sacramental ministry, and because the hermit is a relatively quiet and secluded type of vocation, I didn’t see any harm in letting him live this vocation.”

Mother Ivers pointed out to LifeSiteNews that this attitude is contrary to the Church’s requirements for religious life. 

“People think, ‘no harm done,’ — as a hermit they’re not influencing anybody,” said Mother Ivers, clarifying that a hermit is actually “a public figure of the Church.”

“A hermit’s first duty is to the heights of charity. How do you do that if your whole life is a lie?” she said.

She explained that “a transexual is ineligible for any ecclesial vocation” “because of the fact that they are not acting in accordance with the biological sex with which they are gifted by God upon their conception.”

In a follow-up message to LifeSiteNews, Mother Ivers elaborated:

The drastic measures involved in transsexual procedures and maintenance are an external confirmation of a deeply seated discomfort with the biological gift God has given to the individual, and thus points to the high likelihood of an inability to assume the obligations of an ecclesial vocation to the point of invalidity because it is expected that there be the interior conformity to the biological reality so as to not render the vocation a grave burden rather than a place of personal flourishing in the path to holiness.

According to Mother Ivers, a transsexual commits a “very grave violation” against chastity, not in the sense that chastity is normally understood, but in reference to transsexuals “act against biological reality” and “against the type of human person that God intended that person to be.”

She further explained that while the whole point of religious life and vows to poverty, chastity and obedience are to grow “closer to Christ” and increase charity for “the people of God,” the use of such a religious life to advocate for a transsexual lifestyle, which “actually brings people away from that closeness to God,” is contrary to that aim.

“It’s a contradiction. It’s saying, ‘I want all the trappings of a good relationship with the Lord, but I really don’t feel comfortable (with) that relationship … because this other thing that is not of the Lord’s will is more enticing to me than that,” Mother Ivers said.

She stressed the fact that publicly presenting as “trans” is especially dangerous because of the scandal it causes.

“It’s one thing to feel like your gender was a mistake. But it’s another thing to publicly go against your biological sex,” Mother Ivers said, because of the “example” it gives to the rest of the faithful. 

“It’s a scandal in the sense (that) the bishop is saying this person is living a life that he endorses as conducive to greater charity with God,” she added, pointing out that religious vocations involve added obligations to virtues such as modesty, which is “tied into the truth of who you are. Not of who you think you are, but how God created you.”

“Our role is to be in conformity with truth,” said Mother Ivers, noting that his involves both exterior and interior conformity. 

“We’re called to love everyone. To love others as ourselves. But we are not taught to endorse others’ every action. We can love people, we can cherish them, we can wish them well, we can accept them as human beings — we are all flawed. But that does not mean a person is automatically qualified to live a state of life that is very demanding.”

Matson took her first yearlong vows as a “diocesan hermit” in August 2022 under Bishop Stowe. He reportedly spent about half the day in prayer and the other half in work involving “producing and writing at a local theater,” according to RNS. She renewed her vows in 2023.

Mother Ivers also explained to LifeSiteNews that theater work is contrary to the life of a hermit, for which the norms of “silence and solitude” are “very strict,” adding, “There is probably no more difficult vocation in the Church, no more rare vocation in the Church.”

Furthermore, if Matson is still thinking about founding a religious community, “it is very likely that the (hermit) vows are invalid,” because they would necessarily involve the intention to “live in a life of silence of solitude” in “perpetuity.”

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