The Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, issued a statement on Tuesday praising a woman who identifies as a transgender man.

The diocese statement not only used male pronouns to refer to this biological female, it also noted that Bishop John Stowe had “accepted” the woman’s decision. The bishop is “grateful to Brother Christian for his witness of discipleship, integrity, and contemplative prayer for the Church,” the statement said.

“On Pentecost Sunday, Brother Christian Matson, a professed hermit in the Diocese of Lexington, has made it public that he is a transgender person,” the diocese said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Brother Christian has long sought to consecrate his life to Christ in the Church by living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.”

“He has consistently been accompanied by a competent spiritual director and has undergone formation in the Benedictine tradition,” the statement continued. “He does not seek ordination, but has professed a rule of life that allows him to support himself financially by continuing his work in the arts and to live a life of contemplation in a private hermitage.”

A spokesman for the diocese would not comment further to The Daily Signal.

Stowe previously broke with U.S. Catholic Bishops in expressing support for the radical Equality Act, legislation that would have forced churches and the religious to violate their beliefs on sexuality and marriage by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent “discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” 

Matson, 39, spoke out in an interview with the Religion News Service on Friday, claiming that she was speaking with her bishop’s permission. She converted to Catholicism in 2010, four years after beginning an attempted gender transition, the publication reported, and quickly became interested in challenging Vatican teaching on priesthood and ordination.

The trans-identifying individual indicated that she decided to go public with her transgender identity out of a desire to further challenge Catholic Church teaching, such as the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education,” which condemns “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender.”

“I am currently based in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky,” Matson wrote in an email on Sunday published by Religion News Service. “I live in a hermitage at the top of a wooded hill, which I share with my German shepherd rescue, Odie, and with the Blessed Sacrament, which was installed in my oratory shortly before Christmas.”

In her interview with RNS, Matson shared that she kept trying to join male religious orders and kept being rejected.

“I thought, well, if I can’t find a religious community to sponsor me, maybe what I need is a bishop,” Matson told the publication.

Stowe, who is bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, gave a statement to the publication that repeatedly used male pronouns to refer to Matson.

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

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.