The gender theory according to the Christian view of man, creation theology and human ecology
The fact that public opinion nowadays so easily accepts a partial or complete separation of gender from the biological sex, is the consequence of a ‘cocktail’, i.e. in the first place a very strong individualism with its autonomous ethics and, secondly, the view of man characteristic of especially the Anglo-Saxon world, but also widespread elsewhere. Most people in present western culture – consciously or not – limit the human person to his ‘mind’, the rational conscience and centre of the autonomous will, actually consisting of very complicated biochemical and neurophysiological processes in the higher nuclei and the cortex of the brain. It therefore concerns a materialistic view of man. 26 On the contrary, the body is considered as something secondary, which is not essential for the human person. The body would be for the mind only a means to express itself. The mind as the autonomous human person determines the end and meaning of the body. The human person may therefore also determine his gender identity independently of his biological sex. He also has the right to reassign his body according to the gender identity he chooses. 27 Consequently, in sexual ethics only two fundamental norms remain: one is not allowed to cause damage to or exercise power over one’s sexual partner, because these acts would conflict with the partner’s autonomy.
This idea of practically absolute autonomy is not compatible with everyday experience that human beings have a freedom within certain limits: one is largely determined by one’s education, teachers, friends, environment, the classical and the social mass media, as observed above. The human being, created in God’s image, has no absolute freedom, because he is no God himself.
Moreover, the human person is not only his mind or spirit or soul but a unity of a spiritual and a physical dimension. Moreover, the human being is not only his spirit or only his body but a unity of soul and body: he is “corpore e anima unus” (Gaudium et spes, nr. 14). 28 Men as well women have the same soul – otherwise they would have different essences – and have therefore the same dignity as human persons. The difference between both sexes is therefore physical. The body – the procreative and sexual organs included – is not something secondary or accessory, but is an essential dimension of the human person and is therefore, like the human person himself, an end in itself and never purely a means which he may use for whatever end. John Paul II writes in his encyclical Veritatis splendor:
“A freedom which claims to be absolute ends up treating the human body as a raw datum, devoid of any meaning and moral values until freedom has shaped it in accordance with its design” (nr. 48). 29
The human body is, however, not a raw datum but, belonging to the very essence of the human person, it has its ends and meanings which he himself cannot change.
Man and wife are no two distinct species, but represent two different and mutually complementary forms of participation in the same human nature. This complementarity does not concern a difference in perfection or rank, but the mutual role in procreation. Neither men, nor women are able to procreate on their own. They can only do so together: men as well as women have their own physical-biological part in this, which makes them complementary with each other.
The complementarity of men and women is not limited to the field of procreation. It also concerns their bio-physical differences, which have their effects on their relationship as husband and wife and their relations with fellow human beings in other fields, like their professional and social contacts. Men have a predominantly rational attitude, an abstract inner world, cannot express their feelings that easily and have a preference for adventure and experiments. Women, on the contrary, direct themselves more to concrete things, have a stronger intuition, express their feelings more easily and are generally more caring. Through their complementarity, which excludes neither men nor women from various social sectors, they complete each other in family life and in professional and social life. Single men and women contribute, in conformity with their complementarity outside the field of marriage, with their talents to personal, professional and social life.
John Paul II has enriched this explanation of being man or woman from a theological perspective by means of the theology of the body. 30 The first chapter of Genesis 31 links the distinction of human beings in two sexes directly to his being created in the image of God:
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1, 27).
On this immediately follows the commandment of God to man and woman to procreate and to rule over the earth and to develop it as its stewards:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1, 28).
John Paul II combines this in his catechesis about the theology of the body by his exegesis of the second chapter of Genesis, in which marriage is described as the most intense communion of two human beings. 32
“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2, 24).
There is one God in three Persons. God is in Himself a community of three Persons, whose mutual relations are different, who love each other and give themselves to each other totally. Something of this “unity of the Trinity” is analogically reflected in the most intimate communion of human persons, namely marriage, in which husband and wife, both human beings, but complementary to one another, love each other and give each other totally to one another, at the spiritual, the affective and the physical level (cfr. Mulieris dignitatem nr. 7; 33 Familiaris consortio nr. 11). 34
Moreover, John Paul II sees an analogy between the eternal generation of the Son from the Father and of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son on the one hand and human procreation on the other. The mutual total gift of husband and wife in marriage becomes fruitful in the procreation and education of new human persons. The generation in God, however divine and spiritual, is the absolute model for human procreation, which is typical of “the unity of the two” (Mulieris dignitatem nr. 8). 35 Both the human being in two biological sexes and human procreation are created in the image of God. The essential aspects of the male and the female sex, the spouses, fatherhood and motherhood and the biological sexes are therefore equally anchored in having been created in the image of God and are part of the creation order.
In his encyclical letter on ecology, Laudato si’, Pope Francis, quoting his predecessor, observes that implementing the gender theory has negative consequences for human ecology. First, he writes that
“the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence” (Caritas in veritate nr. 51). 36 Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”. 37 With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.” 38 (Laudato si’ nr. 6). 39
The idea of absolute freedom, the unlimited right to adjudicate on the world and his body, which the human being would have because there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, absolute moral norms included, has seduced the human being to damage the world in all its aspects. By damaging one aspect, he causes damage to the whole world, because it is a unity. In doing so, he acts like he could create himself. However, he has been created in the image of God, which implies that he has to respect the order of creation, including the norms for his own behaviour. Pope Francis bases these insights on the doctrine of the Church on creation.
Again quoting his predecessor, Pope Francis says that ecology does not only concern our environment, the world around us. We also have the tendency to think that we may adjudicate on our own lives and our own bodies, among others by sex reassignment treatments. This conflicts with the fact that the human being has not been created only with regard to his soul but as a whole, soul and body, in the image of God. By acting against the norms arising from this, we risk damaging our own human ecology, which is strictly linked to causing ecological damage, by using the world around us in an abusive way, exactly because the book of nature is one and indivisible.
“Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.” 40 It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if we are going to be able to recognize ourselves in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. The attitude which seeks “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it” (Ibid. nr. 155) is not a healthy one. 41
Simone de Beauvoir and the radical feminists view the suppression of the woman, the contempt for her as an object of sexual lusts and as a mother, a being destined in a rather functional way for procreation and education as the consequence of a role imposed on her by society. John Paul II, on the contrary, considers original sin the source for the contempt for the woman, which obscures the being created in the image of God in the man as well as in the woman, however with graver outcomes for the woman. God, therefore says to the woman after the Fall:
“yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3,16). 42
John Paul II, therefore, recommends conversion as a remedy against the discrimination of women and contempt for them, which one observes in various ways in the history of humanity. John Paul II means conversion to the recognition that man as well as woman have been created in the first place as human persons with the same dignity, both created in the image of God. He also recommends conversion to the recognition that their mutual complementarity as a consequence of their biological differences and the essential aspects of their gender are rooted in their being, for which reason they have no right to adjudicate on them.