Eliminating any difference between sexes ‘is not right,’ pope says

Pope Francis leaves with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, after addressing the general assembly of the academy at the Vatican, Oct. 5 (CNS photo/Paul Haring). Pope Francis leaves with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, after addressing the general assembly of the academy at the Vatican, Oct. 5 (CNS photo/Paul Haring). 

While societies must find a way to overcome the subjugation of women, pretending there are no differences between men and women or even using technology to change a person's sex is not the answer, Pope Francis said.

He denounced the utopia of “the neuter,” which seeks to remove “both the human dignity of the sexually different constitution [of man and woman] and the personal quality of the reproductive transmission of life.”

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The pope was speaking on Oct. 5 at the plenary assembly of the newly reconstituted Pontifical Academy for Life. The academy was convening for a discussion: “Accompanying life. New responsibilities in the technological era.” He warned the gathering, which includes participants from all continents, that “the power of biotechnologies, which allows the manipulation of life in a way that was unthinkable yesterday, raises formidable questions.”

Using science "to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman, is not right," Pope Francis said. "The biological and psychological manipulation of sexual difference, which biomedical technology now presents as a simple matter of personal choice—which it is not—risks eliminating the source of energy that nourishes the covenant between man and woman and makes it creative and fruitful," the pope said.

He said there is a “true and real cultural revolution” on the horizon of humanity today and said the church must play its part in the cultural discussion. In this perspective, he said, “It’s necessary, first of all, to honestly recognize ‘the delays and omissions’ by the church in this field.

“The forms of subordination that have sadly marked the history of women must be definitely abandoned,” the pope stated.

“The forms of subordination that have sadly marked the history of women must be definitely abandoned,” the pope stated. “A new beginning must be written in the ethos of the peoples, and only a renewed culture of the identity and of the difference [between man and woman] can do this,” he said.

Today, he said, “it’s necessary to take up [the] challenge posed by the intimidation exercised in the face of the generation of human life, almost as if it were a mortification of woman and a threat to the collective well-being.” He went on to affirm that “the generative alliance of man and woman is a bastion for the global humanism of men and women, not a handicap.” He added, “Our history will not be renewed if we refuse this truth.”

He said that “instead of contrasting the negative interpretations of the sexual difference that mortify its irreducible significance for human dignity, [the prevailing hypothesis] wants in fact to cancel that difference by proposing techniques and practices that render it irrelevant for the development of the person and for human relations.”

Francis recalled the biblical teaching that “God entrusted to man and woman the created world and history.” This “alliance of man and woman” is sealed “by the union of a person and fertile love, that marks the road for the transmission of life through marriage and the family.”

Together, man and woman, are called “to take in their hands the direction of the whole of society,” he stated. They are “not only called to speak of love but to speak to each other with love, of that which they must do so that human coexistence is realized in the light of the love of God for every creature.”

Earlier in his talk, the pope spoke about the context in which we are living, which raises new questions about the meaning of human life, its origin and destiny, and he drew attention to the rapid spreading of “a culture that is obsessively centered on the sovereignty of man—as a species and an individual—with respect to reality.”

Some even speak of “a true and proper cult of the ‘I,’ on whose altar everything is sacrificed, including the most cherished affections.” He labeled this egotism and said it is not an innocuous reality; “it forms a subject that is always looking in the mirror, to the point where one becomes incapable of raising their eyes to the other and to the world.”

As he had done in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” so too today, he denounced “the unfettered materialism that characterizes the alliance between the economy and technology, and which treats life as a resource to be exploited or to be discarded when it’s a question of power and profit.”

The head of the academy, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said this week that "pro-life" is more than just a bioethical and theoretical concept about a hot-button issue like abortion, but also includes human issues like migration, the environment and even arms trafficking.

Being pro-life, he told a news conference, "means promoting a culture that helps life wherever and whenever."

This report includes CNS and AP content.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Luis Gutierrez
2 weeks 3 days ago

Eliminating the differences between sexes is not right, but is not possible either, and is NOT the real problem. The REAL PROBLEM is the patriarchal negation that all human beings, male or female, share one and the same HUMAN NATURE. We are all of the SAME FLESH. The sacramental economy is an economy of the FLESH, not an economy of masculinity or femininity or any other human category. Under the New Law, apostolic succession is not contingent on masculinity. It is time to recognize that the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law is an artificial contraceptive of female priestly vocations. To be pro-life and pro-patriarchy is a contradiction of terms that is inducing much confusion and dysfunction in the body of Christ. When are we going to recognize that the Christ-Church mystery is more than a woman with a male head?

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 1 day ago

Luis - Your idea of a "REAL PROBLEM" is the very problem of gender ideology. The key teaching from natural law and Christianity is that there is a beautiful balance between man and woman, an equality of dignity and a diversity of talents, a complementarity that is creative and fruitful. This law is written into our hearts and the Holy Father is only reiterating the obvious experience of humanity - one denied by today's gender ideologues.

The choice of our Lord to select a male priesthood, in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, builds on this natural law. It is no accident that the SOn of God was a man, and that the priests are signs in persona Christi. This has great significance for His teaching, that is often completely missed by today's society.

Molly Roach
2 weeks 3 days ago

Treating women like they are inferior to men is not right either.

Lisa Weber
2 weeks 3 days ago

Men and women are different in that they see things differently, and in some ways, understand the world differently. Much of the problem is that the feminine view is dismissed and treated as inferior, but it is not. The Church would benefit greatly by listening to and honoring the viewpoint of women. Of course, it would be helpful if the Church allowed women to speak at its principal liturgy. That alone would greatly increase the chances that a feminine viewpoint would be heard.

I am glad Pope Francis continues to talk about the role of women in the Church. It is a mostly thankless job to address the subject simply because conservatives attack him for suggesting change and liberals attack him for being insufficiently progressive when he talks about the role of women.

Jesus was good to women and his teachings were good for women. Some of his teachings are still radical today because they are not interpreted correctly. All we can do is work on it and hope to make it better for future generations.

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 1 day ago

Lisa - men and women are different in biology (down to every single cell), in genotype and phenotype, in psychology and perspective (as you mentioned), and most significantly, in the beautiful balance of the paternal and maternal roles in the family. In everything Jesus said and did, He showed an equality of dignity between the sexes, along with an awareness of a diversity of talents (recall the angelic visitations to Our Lady and Zechariah, the Mary and Martha story, the wedding at Cana, the selection of the twelve men for His apostolic circle, etc.), a complementarity that is creative and fruitful. This law is written into our hearts and the Holy Father is only reiterating the obvious experience of humanity - one denied by today's gender ideologues. I believe in a FULL equality of the dignity of men and women, and recognize our history has often departed from that ideal. But, the patriarchial traditionalists and the feminist reactionaries both seem to be part of the problem in this denial of the diversity of the complementarity, That is the only way forward to a true equality that avoids the twin errors of uniformity and inferiority.

Andrew Wolfe
2 weeks 3 days ago

Sadly, the Church has left us with a vacuum in understanding either the unique nature of each sex nor of their proper relation with them. We have all of human history until 1980 with one set of views on sex roles, and on the distinct attributes of each sex, and since then a progressive deconstruction in society of those views. All we have is a celebration of female empathy, and the lingering thought that women need special protection from rape and other crime. This is worsened by the loss of understanding of Christian leadership as service, with the use of authority to "lord it over each other" which Jesus called "pagan."

Henry George
2 weeks 2 days ago

If I had said what Pope Francis said, in the comments section of America,
would I have been pilloried ?

I did quote Holy Scripture a week ago by writing:

Male and Female the Creator made them and...they become one.

And was savaged for doing so.

Anthony Noble
2 weeks 2 days ago

Jesus listened to people and their concerns as a way to bring them in to a respectful, loving conversation. I've known Transgender people since college and the stories are the same - being trapped in the wrong gendered body. While I was always respectful & kind, I simply could not begin to understand it on an emotional level. I was never against it but the concept was so alien to me. Then doctors did studies and found a variance of when certain sex hormones flooded the fetus. These children realized they are in the opposite gender body when they reached 6 or 7 years old when children normally recognize & internalize their gender identity. I still don't understand this and I may never will bu I will respect And show love to hem as a follower of Jesus' teaching.

Anthony Noble
2 weeks 2 days ago

Jesus listened to people and their concerns as a way to bring them in to a respectful, loving conversation. I've known Transgender people since college and the stories are the same - being trapped in the wrong gendered body. While I was always respectful & kind, I simply could not begin to understand it on an emotional level. I was never against it but the concept was so alien to me. Then doctors did studies and found a variance of when certain sex hormones flooded the fetus. These children realized they are in the opposite gender body when they reached 6 or 7 years old when children normally recognize & internalize their gender identity. I still don't understand this and I may never will bu I will respect And show love to hem as a follower of Jesus' teaching.

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