Face the facts of life
VATICAN CITY — God created the sexual difference between man and woman “not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and procreation,” Pope Francis said Wednesday during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
He also said that the secret to a man and woman resolving their problems is “to talk more to one another, listen more to one another, know one another more, and love one another more. They need to treat one another with respect and cooperate in friendship.”
The Pope therefore had strong words for gender theory, radical feminism, and all attempts to deny the truth and beauty of sexual difference, calling them “an expression of a frustration and resignation, which aims to eliminate the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to face it.” In fact, he added, “the removal of the difference is the problem, not the solution.”
Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s catechesis.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s catechesis is dedicated to a central aspect of the subject of the family: God’s great gift to humanity through the creation of man and woman and through the Sacrament of Matrimony. This catechesis and the next one concern the difference and complementarity between man and woman which is the summit of the divine creation. The two that follow after will be on other themes concerning marriage.
We begin with a brief comment on the first account of Creation, in the Book of Genesis. Here we read that God, after having created the universe and all living beings, created his masterpiece, i.e. the human being, whom he made in his own image: “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27), says the Book of Genesis.
And as we all know, the sexual difference is present in so many forms of life, in the long span of living things. However, only in man and in woman does it bear in itself the image and likeness of God: the biblical text repeats it a good three times in two verses (26-27): Man and woman are the image and likeness of God. This tells us that not only is man taken in himself the image of God, not only is woman taken in herself the image of God, but also man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not for opposition, or for subordination, but for communion and procreation, always in the image and likeness of God.
Experience teaches us: to know himself well and to grow harmoniously, the human being needs reciprocity between man and woman. When this does not happen, we see the consequences. We are made to listen to and help one another. We can say that without reciprocal enrichment in this relationship — in thought and in action, in affections and in work, also in faith – the two cannot understand in depth what it means to be man and woman.
Modern and contemporary culture has opened new opportunities, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment of the understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. For instance, I wonder if the so-called gender theory is not also an expression of a frustration and resignation, which aims to eliminate the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to face it. Yes, we risk taking a step backward. The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution.
To resolve their relationship problems, man and woman need instead to talk more to one another, listen more to one another, know one another more, love one another more. They need to treat one another with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human foundations, sustained by the grace of God, it is possible to plan a marital and family union for the whole of life. The marital and family bond is something serious; it is for everyone, not just for believers. I would like to urge intellectuals not to abandon this topic, as though it had become secondary to commitment in favor of a freer and more just society.
God has entrusted the earth to the covenant of man and woman: its failure makes the world of emotion arid and darkens the sky of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we see them. I would like to indicate, among many, two points that I believe must we must attend to with greater urgency.
The first. It is without doubt that we must do much more in favor of woman if we want to give more strength back to the reciprocity between men and women. It is necessary, in fact, that women not only be listened to more, but that her voice has real weight, a recognized authoritativeness, in the society and in the Church. The very way in which Jesus regarded women in a context less favorable than our own — because in those times women were really in second place — Jesus regarded [women] in a way that sheds powerful light, which enlightens a far-reaching path on which we have only travelled a small piece. We have not yet understood in depth what the feminine genius can give us, the things women can give to society and also to us: women know how to see things with other eyes which complement the thoughts of men. It is a path to follow with more creativity and boldness.
A second reflection concerns the topic of man and woman created in the image of God. I wonder if the collective crisis of trust in God, which does us so much harm and makes us sick with resignation to unbelief and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis of the covenant between man and woman. In effect, the biblical account, through the great symbolic fresco on the earthly paradise and original sin, tells us that communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple, and the loss of trust in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman.
Hence the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and first of all, of believing families, to rediscover the beauty of the creative design that inscribes the image of God also in the covenant between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the covenant between man and woman is lived well. And if man and woman seek it together between themselves and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus encourages us explicitly to bear witness to this beauty which is the image of God.
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.