A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability
Vol. 14, No. 4, April 2018|
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Overcoming Patriarchal Gender Ideology
for Integral Human Development
and an Integral Ecology
Luis T. Gutiérrez
Patriarchal gender ideology assumes that gender is binary (male or female) and simply identical with sex. It generally supports the mindset of male headship in family, society, and religion. Most social and religious roles are fixed by gender. There is even seemingly an implication that man and woman are ontologically different, as if there were two different and mutually exclusive human natures.
This article explores the fallacies of patriarchal gender ideology in comparison to the Christian understanding that all men and women are fully consubstantial in one and the same human nature, and are therefore fully consubstantial with Jesus Christ as to his humanity.
Sexual differences do not cancel ontological unity. The complementarity of man and woman is meant for unity in communion, not for a disunity driven by artificial gender stereotypes; and this communion of man and woman applies to all the sacraments, sheds light on the great nuptial mystery of Christ and the Church, and would seem to support the sacramental ordination of women to the ministrial priesthood and the episcopate.
An introductory section on basic anthropological realities is followed by an annotated timeline of key events pertaining to the current process of resolving the conflation of patriarchal gender ideology and doctrines of the Christian faith. It is then argued that overcoming patriarchal gender ideology is crucial for integral human development and for attaining an integral ecology. The article concludes with a summary of propositions for a Christian gender ethos and a summary of current cultural trends about gender relations in family, society, and religion.
Consider this old cartoon, adapted to convey the need to resolve the conflation of patriarchal gender ideology and the truth revealed in Christ Jesus:
The patriarchal phase of human history is passing away, and religious patriarchy is becoming obsolete. This is a positive development, because the patriarchal gender ideology whereby gender is binary and femininity is subordinated to masculinity is a grave obstacle to integral human development. It is an obstacle, because there is no such thing as a human being who is exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine. Even worse is the conflation of patriarchal gender ideology with religious practices and doctrines. Nothing is more harmful to human relations than religious patriarchy.
The body is a sacrament of the entire person but is not the entire person. Sex and gender cannot be separated but can and should be distinguished, subjective gender being as real as objective sex. Both sex and gender are constitutive of the human person, and both are crucial for human relations. Human bodies are normally male or female, but there is man in woman and there is woman in man; both masculine and feminine polarities abide in each and every human person, even though one of the polarities prevails in the majority of personal subjects. To the extent that integral human development entails development of the total person, in both the objective and subjective dimensions, limiting human development to what is bodily visible cannot possibly be integral human development.
It follows that overcoming patriarchal gender ideology is crucial for integral human development. It is also crucial for attaining an integral human ecology, because male/female complementarity extends to human/nature complementarity. If gender relations become unnatural, then human ecology also becomes unnatural. For this reason, restoring natural gender relations is imperative for both social and ecological justice.
Religious Patriarchy ~ From Cultural Tragedy to Doctrinal Travesty
Should the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law, restricted to males, still be normative for the ministerial (sacramental) priesthood of the New Law?
The wicked cultural tragedy of religious phallogocentrism started long ago, with nefarious repercussions that still persist and are well documented. The following is a summary of the currently unfolding process of discernment pursuant to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate in the liturgical churches within the Judeo-Christian tradition. What started 3000 or so ago as a conflation of revealed truth and patriarchal gender ideology is now becoming a doctrinal travesty to evade recognizing that no human culture, no matter how ancient and no matter how revered, can possibly exhaust the truth revealed in Christ Jesus. Each bullet is a turning point, converging toward the end to the current impasse as experienced in the Catholic Church.
Original sin -- The original "unity in diversity" of man and woman became an impaired communion of domination/subordination -- Cf. Genesis 3:16
Emergence of the patriarchal culture -- starting at least 10,000 years or so, in conjunction with the agricultural revolution
Patriarchal covenant of the Old Law -- starting 1000 BC or so... primitive, artificial, phallogocentric, takes for granted the impaired communion of man and woman, derived from original sin, as "divine law"
Patriarchal culture of classical Greece -- "woman is a defective male" (Aristotle, later "mitigated" but not fundamentally refuted by Aquinas)
Patriarchal culture of the Roman Empire -- Even the language is patriarchal... "virtue" comes from the Latin "vir"
Within the boundaries of the Roman Empire, the early Christian Church eventually coalesced into five patriarchates: Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch.
Sacramental covenant of the New Law -- The dogmatic definition of priestly ordination as a sacrament (Council of Trent, 1563) does not mention maleness or masculinity as a requirement for apostolic succession
"Scandal" of women priests in the Anglican Communion -- Florence Li Tim-Oi ordained in Hong Kong, 1944
Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis about "what is required for validity in conferring of Sacred Orders" -- No mention of a maleness or masculinity requirement for ordination (Pius XII, 1947)
About the rite of ordination: "If it was at one time necessary even for validity by the will and command of the Church, every one knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established."
Vatican II, Lumen Gentium -- "viri probati" can be ordained as deacons
"Scandal" of women priests in the Episcopal Church USA -- starting 1974 (approved 1976)
New doctrinal rationalization, Inter Insegniores, a literalist interpretation of the 12 male apostles chosen by Jesus under the Old Law to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1976)
After the resurrection and the ascension, the Church elected Matthias to replace Judas, and has since elected all successors to the apostles. Why is it that Matthias was chosen by the Church to be an apostle, and not Mary Magdalene? Because the witness of Mary Magdalene, or any other woman, was considered worthless.
New biblical exegesis -- Theology of the Body (TOB) on the sacramentality of the human body, human flesh, male and female -- John Paul II, 1979-1984
After the resurrection, under the New Law, the Church is given full authority to mediate all vocations. By the power of the keys, the Church can ordain women at any time, without waiting for the Lord to return and give permission. It doesn't make sense to say that the Church is not authorized to ordain women.
About the original unity of man and woman in one and the same human nature: "Bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical... the fact that man is a "body" belongs more deeply to the structure of the personal subject than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female... it is a question here of homogeneity of the whole being of both." (TOB 8)
"It's a long way to Tipperary", John Paul II's visit to the USA, 1981, referring to the ordination of women to the sacramental priesthood
Publication of the Code of Canon Law, #1024, John Paul II, 1983
About complementarity in unity: The "complementarity" of man and woman is for natural reciprocity and interpersonal communion, not for artificial separation of social/sacramental roles based on cultural gender stereotypes. The sacramentality of a female human body is equivalent to the sacramentality of a male human body. The obvious implication is that any baptized person, man or woman, can be ordained to act in persona Christi... (TOB 13, 19, 33, 89, 96...)
"A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."
Recognition of the equal dignity of men and women, but only males can be ordained -- John Paul II, Mulieres Dignitatem, 1988
"Scandal" of women bishops in the Anglican Communion -- Barbara Harris in Boston, USA, and Penny Jamieson in Dunedin, New Zealand, 1989
"Scandal" of women priests in the Church of England -- approved 1992, started 1994
For more info: Ordination of women in the Anglican Communion
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1577 (same as Inter Insegniores) and #1598 (under the New Law, the male-only priesthood is a choice made by the Church, not by Christ), John Paul II, 1994
Pontifical "executive order" to stop further discussion on women priests and bishops ~
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, John Paul II, 1994
Lamentably, #1577 elevates the pre-Easter choice of the 12 male apostles to a patriarchal post-Easter doctrine (but not a dogma!)
Thankfully, #1598 recognizes that the the male-only priesthood is a choice made by the Church (first sentence) and who can make the choice (second sentence)
Again, the choice is made by the Church, not by Christ personally; so what about allowing the Risen Lord to call women, and see what happens?
Canon 1024 is, in effect, an artificial contraceptive (if not an outright abortifacient!) of female vocations to the sacramental priesthood
Pontifical "fake news" dubiously elevating the male-only priesthood to infallible teaching ~
Responsum ad Propositum Dubium, CDF 1995
The letter is addressed to the bishops, not to the entire Church
It does not say it is a dogmatic definition, so it is not infallible as either extraordinary teaching (Pope ex cathedra) or ordinary teaching (Pope and bishops together have never taught infallibly that women cannot be ordained to the sacramental priesthood)
It is entirely written in past and present tense
It says nothing about what the Church can or cannot do in the future, so it is "definitive" for the the past and the present, but cannot possibly be "definitive" for the future, since it says nothing about the future
It is hard to understand how Ordinatio Sacerdotalis can be made to be infallible, retroactively, by invoking a doctrine (Lumen Gentium, section 25) that was never infallibly proclaimed. It defies logic, plain and simple.
"The door is closed" -- Francis, interview, 2013
"The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion..." -- Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #104, 2013
So women cannot be ordained to the priesthood in order to preserve the analogical image of Christ as sacrificial bridegroom and the Church as bride. Thankfully, the ludicrous argument about the pre-Easter 12 male apostles is not repeated. However, a rigidly patriarchal interpretation of the bridegroom-bride analogy (Ephesians 5:22-33) effectively reduces the mysteriun magnum to a benign patriarchal covenant. In reality, the Christ-Church nuptial covenant is a great mystery; and the Church is metaphorically a woman, but it is more than a woman with a male head. The continued conflation of patriarchal gender ideology with the truth revealed in Christ Jesus is a cultural tragedy that is becoming a doctrinal travesty, a doctrinal cover-up that significantly erodes the credibility of the institutional church, with potentially disgraceful pastoral consequences.
Detour about climate change and integral ecology -- Francis, Laudato Si', 2015
Laudato Si' is a wake up call on the reality of the ecological crisis. It is the best guidance we have at the intersection of Catholic social doctrine and human ecology. However, patriarchy as a cultural driver of population/consumption growth is not mentioned. Social inequities, capitalist greed, consumerism and the idolatry of technology are thoroughly analyzed, but anthropogenic climate change is overstated and the population growth issue is grossly understated. Population and consumption issues can be distinguished, but cannot be separated.
John Paul II was "pointing in that direction" -- Francis, interview, 2016
Another commission about women deacons -- Francis, meeting, 2016
Another remark about "viri probati" -- Francis, interview, 2016
Why only "viri probati"? Why not also "feminae probatae"?
Recognition that patriarchy has often been abusive in family and society -- Francis, Amoris Laetitia #54 & #154, 2016
The Church celebrates "Corpus Christi," not "vir Christi"!
About gender ideologies (#56): "It needs to be emphasized that "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated." Is this still the patriarchal gender binary? Can a human person be exclusively maculine or exclusively feminine? The body is normally male or female, but personal subjects are always masculine and feminine, because there is a feminine dimension in man and a masculine dimension in woman (Genesis 2). There is a "feminine genius" in Jesus, just as there is a "masculine genius" in Mary. Is the Church still constrained by patriarchal gender ideology?
Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development -- Francis, 2016 (human persons are spirited bodies, "body-souls," not just bodies, thus requiring integral development of the spiritual and corporal, subjective and objective, masculine and feminine dimensions)
The body is a sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. Questions: Why is it then, that only persons with male bodies can be tested for ordination to the sacramental priesthood? Since priests and bishops are ordained to act in the person of Christ, and only males are ordained, how can they make visible the feminine genius in Christ? Why is it that the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law is still normative for the sacramental priesthood of the New Law? To be a model of integral human development, the hierarchy of the Church needs male-female INTEGRATION.
In a meeting of Voices of Faith, 8 March 2018, many valid concerns were raised about ecclesiastical patriarchy no longer being for the glory of God and the good of souls. Pope Francis was invited, but did not attend. This is where we are at the moment. One wonders how this crucial issue will be handled in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, scheduled for October 2018.
The Unique Vocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
It should be made clear that the Blessed Virgin Mary's unique vocation as Mother of Christ, Mother of the Eucharist, and Mother of the Church utterly transcends all choices made by the Church for apostolic succession after the resurrection; so it is absurd to argue that women cannot be apostles under the New Law just because Mary was not chosen to be an apostle under the Old Law. She was chosen for a unique and incomparably greater vocation (cf. Galatians 4:4) and she preceded the apostles by paving the way for the redemption and the sacramental economy. It is also a fallacy to suggest that she should have been chosen due to her holiness; ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate is not contingent on holiness, just as surely as it is not contingent on masculinity.
Implications for the Sacramental Life of the Church
Should the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law, restricted to males, still be normative for the ministerial (sacramental) priesthood of the New Law? No, absolutely not. All men and women share one and the same human nature, the same biblical flesh. For the redemption, and the sacramental economy, the masculinity of Jesus is as incidental as the color of his eyes. The sacramental priesthood of the New Law is ministerial, not patriarchal. The exclusively male priesthood conceals the divine feminine in the Incarnate Word. The presence of Mary in the Christian community is not a sacramentally suitable substitute for the presence of Christ in the priest when acting in persona Christi. For this reason, women should be ordained to the priesthood and the episcopate, for the glory of God and the good of souls.
Implications for Integral Human Development
Gender ideologies have a decisive influence on human civilization. It is hard to imagine any dimension of human life that is not influenced by gender relations. In the biblical tradition, it is no coincidence that a profound corruption of gender relations was the immediate and most universal consequence of original sin (Genesis 3:16). Since human development is contingent on human relations ("no one grows alone"), and all human relations are shaped by gender relations, it follows that integral human development is attainable only to the extent that gender relations are also integral, objectively and subjectively. The same reasoning extends to most issues of social justice.
Implications for an Integral Ecology
Gender ideologies also have a decisive influence on human ecology. It is hard to imagine any dimension of human ecology that is not influenced by gender relations. Again in the biblical tradition, it is no coincidence that the corruption of gender relations induced the corruption of the entire community of creation (Genesis 3:17-24). Since human ecology is contingent on human relations ("no one survives alone"), and all human relations are shaped by gender relations, it follows that an integral ecology is attainable only to the extent that gender relations are also integral, objectively and subjectively. The same reasoning extends to most issues of ecological justice.
Some basic propositions for a Christian gender ethos:
1. Patriarchal gender ideology is not the truth revealed in Christ Jesus.
2. Sex is objective and normally binary. Gender is subjective and unique for each person.
3. All human beings are fully consubstantial with Jesus Christ as to his humanity.
4. Patriarchal gender ideology, which makes sex and gender simply identical and normalizes male domination and female subordination, is an artificial obstacle to integral human development. It is also an obstacle to holiness and joy in families; when manifested as the exclusively male priesthood, it also an obstacle to holiness and joy in the church as a family.
5. Patriarchal gender ideology is also an artificial obstacle for attaining an integral human ecology. Restoring natural gender relations is imperative for social and ecological justice.
Some current trends that are signs of cultural evolution:
1. Patriarchy is passing away as the prevailing human culture.
2. Many families are already evolving toward joint father and mother headship.
3. Gender roles in many Christian communities are also evolving.
4. Many communities are seeking to more fully become communions of persons in Christ and more effective agents for convergence to a more Christian human civilization.
5. Resistance to qualified women in roles or religious headship is vanishing, with pockets of intolerance closely correlated with rigid (fundamentalist, literalist) interpretations of selected biblical texts, inordinate attachment to old practices and doctrines such as the exclusively male priesthood, and failure to understand that the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.
"Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and Predecessor of the Apostles, pray for us."
IMAGES OF APOSTOLIC VOCATIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION
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