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Francis on Complimentarity, Marriage, and Family Life #Humanum

Here is a portion of the text of Pope Francis’ greetings to the Humanum participants:

You must admit that “complementarity” does not roll lightly off the tongue! Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed. It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other. But complementarity is much more than that. Yet complementarity is more than this. Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each. (cf. 1 Cor. 12). To reflect upon “complementarity” is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals. But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.

We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.

It is necessary first topromote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.” (n. 66) And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium’s emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart. I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.

More here.

This makes me think… about the wisdom and goodness of complimentarily between men and women

History might well remember John Paul as the pope of human love. His most profound contribution to the development of Catholic doctrine, the theology of the body, is an extensive meditation on the beauty of enfleshed loving communion, rooted in the male/female difference. As wonderful as the theology of the body is, it must be confessed that the collection of audience talks devoted directly to the topic is a doorstop of a book. We know from teaching it how important it is to dive into it in a classroom setting. Thankfully, in “Mulieris dignitatem,” Pope John Paul has provided a masterful precis of the theology of the body, presented through the lens of Mary.

He argues for the wisdom and the goodness of sexual difference, in an age in which the fashionable opinion is androgyny (the refusal to recognize the male/female difference as having intrinsic meaning). But doesn’t androgyny undermine the first condition for a robust and authentic feminism: the recognition that being female has intrinsic dignity and worth?

And so Pope John Paul helps us think things through from the beginning. And there are two fundamental coordinates. First, if we want to see the truth about female dignity, we have to recognize the dignity of every person as such: every single member of the human species images God. But because God is Trinity, we do so as male and female (Gen 1:26-28), as a “unity of the two” in one spirit of love. Without difference, there cannot be union. And this leads to the second basic coordinate: the difference between male and female cannot be understood apart from the primacy of love: to love is what being alive is all about.

Marriage is the nexus of these two coordinates, as St. Paul discusses in Ephesians 5:21-33. Here’s the punch line when it comes to sexual difference: “The Bridegroom is the one who loves. The Bride is loved: it is she who receives love, in order to love in return” (Mulieris, no. 29). Every man is to be a spiritual bridegroom (and father), and every woman is to be a spiritual bride (and mother). Without woman, love could not enter human history. Woman is the necessary and equal (but uniquely gifted) partner of man in the development of civilization. And without the marital love of man and woman, there would be no new life. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wish to pour undying and invincible love into flesh and to bring that flesh into eternal life. (The consummation of that wish is what the last two mysteries of the Rosary are all about, what we celebrate in these days: the Assumption and Coronation of Our Lady)

At the center of human history, at the heart of humanity, is Mary, who lives out self-giving love with profound perfection. But this central position of hers is possible only because she is first the beneficiary of God’s generosity.

-Drs. David and Angela Franks, PhD Theology, “A Woman’s Heart Receives the Future”