Continuing with his insistence that Christians speak the truth boldly and “without fear” of the consequences, on Wednesday Pope Francis took on both the gay lobby and radical feminists by contending that men and women are essentially different and not interchangeable.
Starting from the biblical passage that reads “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” the Pope went on to say that both men and women are necessary to truly “image” God.
“Not only the man taken in himself is the image of God; not only the woman taken in herself is the image of God, but also man and woman together, as a couple: they are the image of God,” he said.
Just last week, a New York Times op-ed suggested that the Bible can be interpreted to read that gay relationships are just as much a part of God’s plan as marriage between man and woman. Citing gay activist Mitchell Gold, the op-ed declared that church leaders “must be made to take homosexuality off the sin list.”
Pope Francis seems not to have gotten the memo, since he continues to proclaim that God intended the covenant between men and women to reveal Him in a distinctive way.
In this complementarity, Francis continued, there is no inherent antagonism or relationship of oppression. The essential difference between man and woman, he said, “is not for opposition, or subordination, but for communion and generation.”
The Pope also weighed in on the question of gay adoption, declaring that a child deserves both a mother and a father and that neither is superfluous or replaceable.
“Experience teaches us,” he said, “that to grow harmoniously the human being needs the reciprocity between man and woman. When it’s not there, we see the consequences,” he said.
“Without the mutual enrichment in this relationship,” he said, “the two cannot even fully understand what it means to be a man and woman.”
Francis said that modern society may have taken a turn for the worse in understanding the relationship between men and women. Along with the good it has done in understanding the differences between the sexes, Francis said, modern and contemporary culture has introduced also “much doubt and skepticism.”
“I wonder,” he said, “whether the so-called theory of gender is not an expression of frustration and resignation, which tries to erase sexual differences because it doesn’t know how to handle them.”
Removing sexual differences, Francis declared, “is the problem, not the solution.” Acting as if these differences didn’t matter means “taking a step backwards,” he said.
“God has entrusted the earth to the covenant between man and woman,” Francis said. Its failure “dries up the world of affection and darkens the sky of hope.”
The Pope also underscored the need to continue giving women a greater say in society and in the Church. “It is not only necessary that women be listened to more,” he said, “but that their voice carry real weight” and that their authority be “recognized in society and in the Church.”
Francis also advanced the theory that society’s loss of trust in God might be related to damaged relations between men and women.
“I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God,” Francis said, which leads to the sickness of “disbelief and cynicism,” might be “connected to the crisis of the covenant between man and woman.”
It is the job of Christians, the Pope concluded, and especially married couples, to help society “rediscover the beauty of the creative design that inscribes the image of God in the covenant between man and woman.”
“The earth is full of harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome