Vatican calls non-binary gender 'fictitious' in report tackling 'education crisis' over sexuality

Pope Francis celebrates the Pentecost mass on June 9, 2019 In Saint Peter's square at the Vatican.

(CNN)The Vatican has come under fire from LGBTQ groups after releasing a guide to sexuality for Catholic schools across the world that describes non-binary gender as "fictitious."

The church's education ministry on Monday released the 31-page document, called "Male and Female He Created Them," for parents, students, school leaders and bishops.
The paper said that we are now facing an "educational crisis" in the field of sexuality, adding that the "process of identifying sexual identity" was being made difficult by the "fictitious (construct) known as 'gender neuter' or 'third gender.'"
    It comes as many countries mark Pride Month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ community, and LGBTQ Catholic campaign groups were quick to condemn the Vatican's guidebook.
    New Ways Ministry, a US-based ministry which advocates for LGBTQ Catholics, slammed the document as a "harmful tool that will be used to oppress and harm not only transgender people, but lesbian, gay, bisexual people, too."
    Francis DeBernardo, the ministry's executive director, said it would confuse those struggling with questions of gender identity and sexual orientation -- and could lead to self-harm, addiction and even suicide. Research has found LGBTQ teens have a much greater risk of suicide.
    "The only truth that the document reveals is that the Vatican remains ill-equipped to discuss gender and sexuality in the modern world," DeBernardo said. "The Vatican remains in the dark ages, promoting a false teaching that relies on myth, rumor, and falsehoods."
    Reverend James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of "Building a Bridge," which looks at the Catholic Church's relationship with the LGBT community, said in a tweet that the Vatican paper "rightly calls for 'dialogue' and 'listening,' but sets aside the real-life experiences of LGBT people."
    "Sadly, it will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn't even exist," he added.