Observe, Judge, and Act
It has been four years since the encyclical Laudato Si' was published by Pope Francis. The encyclical has spawned a considerable amount of enthusiastic activism among the Catholic faithful, not so much so elsewhere. Numerous articles and books have been published about it, such as The Ten Commandments of Laudato Si' by Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam. Using the observe-judge-act method used by Kureethadam, and originally proposed by Pope John XXIII in Mater et Magistra, this article further explores the cultural revolution that would be required for the vision of the encyclical to become reality. The method is applied in three dimensions -- our human nature, our common flesh, our common home -- and some (false?) hopes are expressed for the next synod of bishops on New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.
Observe ~ Patriarchal Gender Theory
Patriarchy is the culture of male headship and the gender binary. Since the beginning of recorded human history (10,000 years ago or so) it has prevailed as the dominant culture that shapes gender relations. It has permeated the structure of families, the development of human languages, the interactions between humans and the human habitat, and even religious traditions, to such an extent that it was taken for granted as "the natural order of things." Even luminaries such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, for whom women were "defective men," fell prey to patriarchal gender theory.
But patriarchy is not natural. In fact, the biblical myths about "the beginning" clearly reveal that the ideology of male domination and female subordination is a consequence of the "fall" from natural to artificial (cf. Genesis 3:16, in context). Now, for the first time in recorded human history, the signs of the times are indicating, by way of the feminist movement, gender studies, and the ecological crisis, that we are rediscovering the original and natural order in gender relations -- communion between man and woman, and symbiosis between human civilization and the entire community of creation. It is not simply a matter of fine-tuning economic policies and improving the efficiency of modern technocracies. We stand at the threshold of a momentous cultural revolution.
Judge ~ Theology of the Body and One Common Flesh
Biblical narratives notwithstanding, we now know that creation didn't happen in seven calendar days, and that our planet is not the center of the universe. Likewise, modern psychology has conclusively shown that patriarchal gender theory is an inadequate and simplistic anthropology. Human bodies are normally male or female, but the gender of human beings is not binary. Human beings are not simply male or female, like other animals. Each human being is endowed with a unique blend of masculinity and femininity. There is man in woman, and there is woman in man. There is masculine genius in woman, and there is feminine genius in man. In brief, patriarchy is an obsolete, artificial, and unnatural gender theory.
Scientific evidence is not incompatible with the Christian faith. An adequate theological anthropology, such as the Theology of the Body, shows that there is one human nature, male and female, of the same flesh. The Trinity is a communion of persons, not a patriarchate. The Church is a communion of persons, not a patriarchate. Corporality and sexuality are not simply identical. Religious patriarchy is a cultural construct, not a dogma of the faith. The exclusively male priesthood is a cultural shackle, not a matter of faith. For both religious and ecological reasons, it is time to discard the patriarchal scaffolding that often obscures the Christian faith and other religious traditions.
The following diagram attempts to capture the difference between patriarchal gender theory and a theological anthropology that is consistent with human realities:
A recently published document by the Vatican dicastery for education exemplifies the confusing conflation of patriarchal gender theory with religious doctrines on human sexuality. It proposes a "path of dialogue" but never questions the nefarious legacy of patriarchal societies for family life, human development, and social/ecological justice. In the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican would do well to stop lecturing those who struggle to find their true gender identity and diligently start reassessing the pastoral, social, and ecological issues now emerging from ecclesiastical male headship and the exclusively male priesthood.
Act ~ Gender Communion for Integral Human Development
There is one human family. All human beings -- male and female -- share one and the same human nature as body-persons. All human beings -- men and women -- are of the same flesh. This is clearly explained by St. John Paul II in the Theology of the Body, when he refers to the "homogeneity of the whole being" of both man and woman, adding that "this homogeneity concerns above all the body, the somatic structure." Thus man and woman, as embodied persons, are made for interpersonal communion in the image of Trinitarian communion; and, for the same reason, integral human development can be attained if, and only if, gender communion prevails in all dimensions of human relations, including family, society, and religion.
Act ~ Gender Communion for an Integral Ecology
In addition to sharing a common flesh, all men and women also share a common home. Interpersonal communion is biophysically impaired if reciprocity in sharing the gift of love and the gift of life is not extended to reciprocity between the human family and the planet that God has provided for human sustenance and entrusted to human care (cf. Genesis 2:15, in context). But is it really possible to attain an integral ecology as long as gender communion is impaired by the patriarchal syndrome of male domination and female subordination in family, society, and religion? Not so, as the currently unfolding ecological crisis makes painfully evident. Thus advancing along the path of gender communion is imperative for both human development and ecological integrity.
New Impulse for the Renewal of Human Civilization
"There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself." But can there be a renewal of humanity, and a renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal in gender relations? No, because gender shapes the world; gender relations are integral to making us one human family, of one common flesh, in one common home. Improvements in other dimensions of human relations are necessary, but not sufficient. As we face the ecological crisis, the time has come for a transition from patriarchal gender relations to gender communion -- in family, society, and religion -- if we are to make further progress toward human development and an integral ecology.
The Catholic Church, with over one billion members, can lead the way by recognizing that feminae probatae are as crucial as viri probati to renew the church hierarchy (diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate) thereby teaching by example that the patriarchal, technocratic modus operandi is no longer conducive to social/ecological justice. It is hoped that the forthcoming synod of bishops about New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology will be a catalyst for such renewal of the church that in turn would give great impulse to the renewal of our human civilization.
Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. How Gender Shapes the World, Oxford University Press, 2016.
Case, Mary Ann. The Role of the Popes in the Invention of Complementarity and the Vatican’s Anathematization of Gender, Religion and Gender, 2016.
Case, Mary Ann.
Trans Formations in the Vatican's War on "Gender Ideology", Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Spring 2019.
Congregation for Catholic Education. Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education, Vatican City, 2 February 2019.
Curry, Patrick. Ecological Ethics, Polity Press, 2011.
DeFranza, Megan K. Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015.
Durber, Susan. Of the Same Flesh: Exploring a Theology of Gender, Christian Aid, July 2014.
Francis, Pope. Encyclical Laudato Si' on the Care of Our Common Home, Vatican Press, 24 May 2015.
Francis, Pope. Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia on Love in the Family, Vatican Press, 19 March 2016.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. Religious Patriarchy in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Mother Pelican, June 2018.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. Third Anniversary of the Encyclical Laudato Si', Mother Pelican, June 2018.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. The Patriarchal Roots of the Ecological Crisis, Mother Pelican, February 2019.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. Fostering Gender Communion for an Integral Ecology, Mother Pelican, March 2019.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. A Cultural Revolution for an Integral Ecology, Mother Pelican, April 2019.
Gutiérrez, Luis T. Summary Points for Meditation on the Ordination of Women, Mother Pelican, 9 June 2019.
John Paul II, Pope. Theology of the Body, L'Osservatore Romano, 1979-1984.
John Paul II, Pope. Original Unity of Man and Woman ~ Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, St. Paul Editions, 1981.
John Paul II, Pope. The Theology of the Body ~ Human Love in the Divine Plan, Pauline Books & Media, 1997.
John Paul II, Pope. Man and Woman He Created Them ~ A Theology of the Body, with translation, introduction, and index by Michael Waldstein, Pauline Books & Media, 2006.
Johnson, Allan G. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Temple University Press, 2014.
Johnson, Elizabeth A. Creation and the Cross ~ The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril, Orbis Books, 2018.
Kureethadam, Joshtrom Isaac. The Ten Commandments of Laudato Si', Liturgical Press, February 2019.
Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Patriarchy, Oxford University Press, 1986.
McElvaine, Robert S., Eve's Seed ~ Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History, McGraw-Hill, 2001.
Mies, Maria. Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Zed Books, 1986.
Plumwood, Val. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, Routledge, 1993.
Salleh, Ariel K. Deeper than Deep Ecology: The Eco-Feminist Connection, Environmental Ethics, Winter 1984.
Salzman, Todd A. and Michael G. Lawler. The Sexual Person ~ Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, Georgetown University Press, 2008.
Sanford, John A. The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects our Relationships, Paulist Press, 1980.
Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology, Vatican City, June 2019.
Thatcher, Adrian. Redeeming Gender, Oxford University Press, 2016.
White Jr, Lynn. The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, Science, 10 March 1967.
Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E. Gender in History: Global Perspectives, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.