Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family on Wednesday in his general audience by explaining the central aspect of the family:” that of the great gift that God made to humanity with the creation of man and woman and with the Sacrament of Marriage. This catechesis and the next are concerned with the difference and complementarity between man and woman, who are at the summit of the divine creation.”
In addition to the individual being created in the image of God, the couple (male and female) are also in God’s image in a special way, for as the Pope says:
“God, after having created the universe and all living beings, created his masterpiece, namely, the human being, which he made in his own image: “in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27) “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God.”
The pope explained how man and woman are made for each other and for God. Man is imperfect and longs for wholeness; this longing him drives him to look for completion. When Adam found Eve, he felt complete, because she was a gift from God meant to complete him.
“Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism…Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union.”’
In this address, the Pope rejected “gender theory”, the modern secular concept which seeks to deconstruct the idea of gender differences based on anatomy. Gender theory believes when society gives importance to these physical differences between men and women, self-realization is hindered. Therefore, gender theory seeks to eradicate the problem by declaring we can ignore gender differences.
However, denying the most basic facts about human nature in the name of “ women’s liberation” causes “problems, not the solution”. As Pope Francis explained:
“God has entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman; its failure makes our emotional life arid and obscures the heaven of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we can see them. I would like to indicate due points, among many, that I believe must concern us with greater urgency.”
Catholic ethics, including Theology of the Body, embraces obvious gender differences but also ensures protection of the dignity of persons based on their status as created beings who were made in the image of their Creator. There is no secular vision of gender that will ever give men and women greater dignity.The Church recognizes the royal and equal dignity of both men and women.
Eastern Liturgies symbolize this during the sacrament of marriage when both the husband and the wife are crowned. Both rule. That a man is king and head of a household is never denied, but a woman rules the house in her own right as well. Pope Pius XI spoke about this in Casti Conubii when he wrote, “For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.” A woman rules in love, not power.
The Pope understands the Church must also listen to women’ concerns:
“Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women if we want to strengthen to the reciprocity between men and women. Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognized authority, in society and in the Church. The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favorable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have traveled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness.”
However, sin destroys the ideal relationship between men and women. Francis talked about this in the final paragraphs, stressing the root of sin is loss of trust in God. Not surprisingly, when man lost trust in God, he began to lose trust in woman, and vice versa. As man has moved further and further from God, marriage has dissolved.
“The theme of man and woman created in God’s image. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, that is so harmful to us, that causes us to ail with resignation to incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis in the alliance between man and woman. In effect, the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco of earthly paradise and original sin, tells us precisely 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.”
The pope concluded by challenging the faithful:
“This leads to the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and above all of Christian families, to rediscover the beauty of the Creator’s plan that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if men and women seek this together between them and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus explicitly encourages us to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God”.