Catholic hermit who underwent ‘sex-change’ comes out as ‘transgender’ with support from local bishop

News & Politics

A Catholic “brother” who lives in a hermitage in Kentucky has come out as “transgender” in a recent announcement that has the support of the local bishop.

Earlier this month, Brother Christian Matson, a 39-year-old hermit associated with the Diocese of Lexington, told Religion News Service: “This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender.”

‘I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation … and primarily because of the Eucharist.’

Matson has an usual story to tell. First of all, Matson is likely a biological female, though media outlets and her bishop, John Stowe, use male pronouns in reference to her. Matson told RNS she had a “sex-change” in college, several years before converting to Catholicism from the U.S. Presbyterian Church, and considers this “sex-change” part of her “medical history.”

Matson also felt called to a Catholic religious vocation, but because of her gender-related “medical history,” is prohibited from entering into marriage or the priesthood, which is restricted to men. So, Matson spent about a decade earning various graduate degrees in theology and, in front of her spiritual director, even made private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, though to whom she pledged obedience is unclear.

She also reached out to various religious communities, but none would accept her. Even the Jesuits, long considered to be among the most liberal Catholic religious communities, gave her a flat rejection. “They said, ‘No, we just don’t see how this would work for us,’ which was crushing, because that’s where I felt called,” Matson told RNS.

Then, a canon lawyer suggested to Matson that she consider becoming a diocesan hermit. “There’s no problem as long as there’s a bishop who will accept you,” the canon lawyer explained, according to Matson’s recollection, “because there’s no distinction by sex and you’re not in a community — you’re by yourself.”

In 2020, Matson connected with Bishop Stowe, who was willing to entertain the idea of a trans-identifying individual becoming a hermit in his diocese.

“My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church,” Stowe told RNS. “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.”

Matson then joined a Benedictine monastery and eventually became a Benedictine oblate, which St. Paul’s Monastery in Minnesota defines as “Christian women and men who actively associate themselves with a Benedictine monastery using the Rule of Benedict as a guide.”

“Benedictine spirituality is flexible and adaptable, open to all who seek God and is a way to live out the Gospel message,” the monastery’s website adds.

Matson says she now lives in an Appalachian hermitage “with my German Shepherd rescue, Odie, and with the Blessed Sacrament, which was installed in my oratory shortly before Christmas.”

Matson claimed she wants her “disclosing” of her transgender identity to foster a change in the Vatican’s view of transgenderism, which has not “not engaged with the science at all.” “You’ve got to deal with us, because God has called us into this church,” she continued. “It’s not your church to kick us out of — this is God’s church, and God has called us and engrafted us into it.”

“I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation, of the desirability of the visible unity of the church and primarily because of the Eucharist.”

Bishop Stowe noted that he and Matson both knew that Matson’s transgender identity would spark outrage among the faithful, but he feels confident that Matson is where she belongs, describing her spiritual journey as “consistent with the calling of that particular vocation.”

A quick glance at Stowe’s X posts reveals that he strongly aligns with many liberal political causes, especially regarding illegal immigration. In December 2022, he even compared illegal aliens in the U.S. to the Holy Innocents slaughtered under King Herod.

He also demanded stricter gun control in the fallout of a trans-identifying mass shooter murdering six people at a Christian school in Nashville in March 2023. A year ago, he also retweeted an anti-bullying quote from Pope Francis, which said: “Every man, every woman, every boy, every girl has the duty to be authentic, to be themselves, and the right to be respected.”

In the following video, Bishop Stowe gives a message to Christians during the season of Advent:

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