Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Pope Francis General Audience 15th April 2015: catechesis on male-female complementarity

The Vatican Information Service headlines its report on today's General Audience thus: General audience: the complementarity between man and woman.

And Vatican Radio headlined its report: Pope: "more weight and more authority must be given to women”

And the Catholic Herald report, following that at Vatican Radio: The Church must do more to recognise women, says Pope.

UPDATE: and the most useful coverage at Catholic News Service: Gender theory is the problem, not the solution, pope says.

At the time of posting, a full English text of Pope Francis' audience address is not yet on the Vatican website - I assume it will in due course replace the short English summary here. The full Italian text is here. I translate the highlights from there.
E come tutti sappiamo, la differenza sessuale è presente in tante forme di vita, nella lunga scala dei viventi. Ma solo nell’uomo e nella donna essa porta in sé l’immagine e la somiglianza di Dio: il testo biblico lo ripete per ben tre volte in due versetti (26-27): uomo e donna sono immagine e somiglianza di Dio. Questo ci dice che non solo l’uomo preso a sé è immagine di Dio, non solo la donna presa a sé è immagine di Dio, ma anche l’uomo e la donna, come coppia, sono immagine di Dio. La differenza tra uomo e donna non è per la contrapposizione, o la subordinazione, ma per la comunione e la generazione, sempre ad immagine e somiglianza di Dio. [As we all know, sexual difference is present in many forms of life, in the long ascent of living things. But only in man and woman does it carry in itself the image and the likeness of God: the biblical text repeats this three times in two verses: man and woman are the image and likeness of God. This is to say not only that man taken in himself is 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 generation, always to the image and likeness of God.] 
What I find of particular interest here is the idea that it is together, as a couple, that the likeness of God is present in man and woman, in addition to such a presence in each individually. And let us not overlook that "...for communion and generation ...". Those who believe that the separation of the purpose of generation from the sexual encounter by means of the contraceptive pill and the condom is in favour of the liberation of women will not find solace in Pope Francis' words. Pope Francis also inserts a phrase in the light of the biblical account that says that "God has entrusted the earth to the covenant between man and woman", a thought that I also find interesting. Whilst all of this has an immediate reference to those who are called to the vocation of marriage, and that is the context of the Holy Father's current series of catecheses, I am prompted to ponder -  if it is indeed something that is of the nature of God's creative act - how this also extends to those who are not married. mi domando, se la cosiddetta teoria del gender non sia anche espressione di una frustrazione e di una rassegnazione, che mira a cancellare la differenza sessuale perché non sa più confrontarsi con essa. Sì, rischiamo di fare un passo indietro. La rimozione della differenza, infatti, è il problema, non la soluzione. Per risolvere i loro problemi di relazione, l’uomo e la donna devono invece parlarsi di più, ascoltarsi di più, conoscersi di più, volersi bene di più. [...I ask myself, if the so-called theory of gender is not also an expression of a frustration and a resignation, that looks to strike out the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to face up to it. The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem not the solution. To resolve the problems of their relations, man and woman must instead speak more to each other, listen more to each other, know each other more, wish each others good more.]
And from this basis, Pope Francis identifies two points, and is not making the first in isolation from the second. The first is that women should be given a stronger voice both in society and in the Church - note that the reference to the Church is alongside that to society as a whole:
E’ necessario, infatti, che la donna non solo sia più ascoltata, ma che la sua voce abbia un peso reale, un’autorevolezza riconosciuta, nella società e nella Chiesa. [It is necessary, in fact, that women are not only more listened to, but that their voice carries a real weight, a recognised authority, in society and in the Church.]
The second is to suggest that a weakness in collective belief in God is connected to a weakness in faith in the covenant between man and woman:
Mi chiedo se la crisi di fiducia collettiva in Dio, che ci fa tanto male, ci fa ammalare di rassegnazione all’incredulità e al cinismo, non sia anche connessa alla crisi dell’alleanza tra uomo e donna. In effetti il racconto biblico, con il grande affresco simbolico sul paradiso terrestre e il peccato originale, ci dice proprio che la comunione con Dio si riflette nella comunione della coppia umana e la perdita della fiducia nel Padre celeste genera divisione e conflitto tra uomo e donna. [I ask myself if the crisis of collective faith in God, which does so much ill, which makes for resignation to incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis in the covenant between man and woman. In effect the biblical account, with its great symbolic fresco of 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 faith in the heavenly father generates division and conflict between man and woman.]
Which is, of course, all very different to the impression created by some of the headlines!

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