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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIX, No. 1
Pentecost 2014

Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church

by Sister Sara Butler, MSBT

Sister Sara Butler, a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity (MSBT), is professor emerita of systematic theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

She has written numerous scholarly articles and is author of the 2007 book The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church (Hillenbrand). Once an advocate of women’s ordination, her book reveals her changed perspective. For many years she served as a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. In 2004, Pope John Paul II appointed her to the International Theological Commission.

Sister Sara is a consultor to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and was selected by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as an expert at the 2012 Synod of Bishops.

This article originated as a lecture in a series sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. An abbreviated version was published in L’Osservatore Romano in May; and it appears here with Sister Sara’s kind permission.


Pope Francis has spoken several times about the need “to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church” (Evangelii Gaudium §103) and to find ways to include women in decision-making roles in different areas of the Church’s life. He is clearly serious about pursuing this. On the other hand, however, he has repeatedly announced that this cannot involve admitting women to the ministerial priesthood. And he is wary of proposals that seem to be inspired by what he calls “a female machismo.”  To counter the latter, he calls for a more profound “theology of woman,” or women in the Church. He expects women to contribute something distinctively feminine — in fact, something maternal1 to the Church’s work and witness in the world. For him, the collaboration of men and women is a value for the Church because the complementarity of the sexes is a value.

Catholic feminists and feminist theologians2 also promote the admission of women to “decision-making roles in the Church.” They too see the collaboration of men and women as a value, and many would express this goal in terms of a “discipleship of equals.” It may seem, then, that they agree with Pope Francis, that they are on the same page. In fact, however, Catholic feminists are decidedly suspicious of any appeal to sexual complementarity, so they are wary of the pope’s interest in developing “a theology of woman.”3 This is, then, a curious situation: the pope is prepared to respond to the request many Catholic women make to be admitted to decision-making roles in the Church, but the women who are most adamant about the importance of this probably do not agree with his reasons for doing so! To further complicate matters, some Catholic women (myself included) who are not feminists in the classic sense4 believe that improved collaboration in the Church requires not only a more profound theology of woman, but also a theology of man, that is, of the male human being.

Pope Francis seems to stay very close to the teaching of his predecessors and of the Letter to the Bishops of the World on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [hereafter, the “CDF”] in 2004. According to that document, the value of such collaboration is rooted in the conviction that sexual complementarity is not only bio-physical but also psychological, spiritual, and ontological.5 My goal is to show how the recent teaching of the Magisterium on this compares with and surpasses theories that deny this complementarity and that are influential both in the popular culture and among some Catholics. The debate over how the equality of the sexes can be reconciled with their complementarity, that is, with acknowledging significant differences between them, has been going on for decades, but today the issues are clearer and the stakes higher than ever.

I will begin by distinguishing the collaboration of men and women from two other kinds of collaboration in the Church. Then I will identify the common feminist objections to the notion of sexual complementarity and offer some critical reflections on them. Following that, I will summarize key elements of the Church’s teaching on sexual complementarity. Finally, I will say why it seems important to formulate a definition of the “masculine genius” as a counterpart to what the Church’s pastors have already said about the “feminine genius.” 

Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the Reasons for Promoting It.

Collaboration is expected today in Church circles. People with different gifts and talents are expected to work together to accomplish a task that will be enriched precisely by their differences.  Collaborators share in various ways the design, execution, and evaluation of some project, and they regard each other as peers, even when one or more members has leadership status or is obliged to assume responsibility for the group’s functioning and progress.

The collaboration of men and women in the Church is often confused with collaboration between the clergy and the laity.  But this is a mistake. All the clergy are men, of course, but not all lay people are women! When people list the new roles open to women in the Church’s internal life, however, they often select as examples the new roles that have been opened to the laity — men and women both. For example, a book called Women and Jurisdiction examines how women now fill offices and roles once reserved to the clergy: chancellor, tribunal judge, diocesan finance officer, director of Catholic Charities, vicar/delegate for Religious, and pastoral director (or parish administrator).6

These same offices and roles are also new for lay or non-ordained, men, but no one is likely to write a book called Men and Jurisdiction! Why not? Because these roles have traditionally been filled by men, although only by ordained men. When lay men collaborate with the clergy it passes almost unnoticed, but when women do so, it is an occasion for comment. (Is it because, as women, they are expected to bring something different, or is it just political?) In any event, in many places, clergy and laity (men and women) do collaborate as peers and this demonstrates that a “discipleship of equals” need not exclude a diversity of gifts, functions, and competencies. Nevertheless, in 1998 the Holy See published an Instruction7 to underline the fact that laity who collaborate with priests in their sacred ministry (i.e., carry out functions that belong properly to clerics)8 do so on the basis of their Baptism and Confirmation, whereas the ordained exercise their ministry on the basis of Holy Orders, even when they carry out the same functions.

My second example is collaboration between the members of men’s and women’s religious institutes and their lay colleagues and associates in schools, colleges, hospitals, agencies, and other Catholic institutions. Today, in many places, the laity who work alongside religious function not only as peers but also in administrative roles with a common dedication and shared sense of mission. Still, if the agency or institution is owned or conducted by the religious institute, members of that institute will have different responsibilities, some of which are determined by canon law, for decision-making. The religious ultimately have a different investment in and responsibility for the mission.          

I call to mind these instances — clergy and laity, religious and laity — by way of contrast with collaboration between men and women. In this last instance, the basis for collaboration is precisely the difference between the sexes. Whatever other factors enter in, there is an expectation that men, as men, and women, as women, will bring something different to the undertaking that will enrich it and make it more complete than if the same task had been by men alone or women alone. There is an operative assumption, then, about masculine and feminine gifts. 

This is where the debate begins. Do we agree that there are masculine and feminine gifts? If so, what are they? How do we identify them? According to some, the difference between the sexes consists solely in “reproductive role specializations.” According to others, sexual complementarity is personal in a way that is physical, psychological, spiritual, and ontological. Some Catholic feminists who promote the inclusion of women take the first view; they dispute the value, purpose, and even the fact of sexual complementarity. On what basis do they value collaboration? Others, including the CDF Letter on Collaboration and I assume Pope Francis take the second view. On what basis do they value it? The CDF answers the question by providing an account of the biblical vision of the human person, male and female, that highlights the complementarity of the sexes.

The Feminist Critique of Complementarity

While few women deny the biological or physical differences between the sexes, many women in the Anglo-American tradition of liberal feminism9 deny that these differences dictate distinctive, and even mutually exclusive, masculine and feminine personality traits. In other words, they dispute whether male or female physical “sex” gives rise in any necessary way to masculine or feminine “gender” (i.e., the psycho-social aspects of sexual identity).  For them, acknowledging the significance of sexual difference leads to stereotyping, and that, in turn, leads to unjust discrimination against women, for example, their exclusion from certain social roles, especially in public leadership, that are traditionally carried by men, and their confinement to domestic tasks.

They do not deny the difference between the sexes, but they do reject the theory of sexual complementarity, as they understand it. The theory they oppose assumes, first, that men and women have different characteristics or personality traits, and that these are apportioned between the sexes in a mutually exclusive way rather than shared. It assigns the more highly valued traits to men and the less desirable but complementary traits to women. Thus, it justifies the hierarchical ordering of the sexes. Finally, it implies that women exist to complete men, as if males represent the norm for human beings, whereas women are only their auxiliaries, or, as if each sex possesses only half (or some other fraction)10 of what it is to be human. On this understanding, feminists think the theory of sexual complementarity is at odds with genuine equality.  It seems instead to justify a “patriarchal” order in which women are subordinate to men.

Liberal feminists denounce sex stereotyping. They want women to be regarded not as members of a class but as individuals, “persons in their own right” who possess, or are capable of developing, the same traits and capacities as men. It was as a result of their effort to distinguish stereotypes from women’s actual experience that many feminists (often called “gender feminists”11) came to the conclusion that femininity and masculinity are not necessarily related to biological sex. Since the designation of various personality traits as feminine or masculine varies widely from one culture and historical era to another, they hold that gender is socially constructed, not something God-given and objectively rooted in human nature. 

It is common today to distinguish “gender” (the psycho-social aspects of sexual identity) from “sex” (a biological fact). But some gender feminists, on the assumption that gender is independent of the concrete structures of bodily sex, reject the “binary gender system” altogether. That is, they deny that every human being is either a man or a woman, and that these classifications are mutually exclusive. They purport to liberate women from discrimination based on sex by denying that sexual difference has a solid basis in human nature.12 In fact, they propose to replace “sex” with “gender.” Their goal, then, is not a unisex society, but a multi-gendered society in which human beings would not be limited by their biological sex. Self-constructed gender, however, is open to any number of different expressions once it loses its anchor in the body’s sexual constitution. Some have identified more than two sexes, possibly five, possibly fifty!13

Few, if any, Catholic feminists espouse these radical theories of gender feminism, but many favor explanations that minimize or relativize the importance of sexual difference for personal identity. They seek an alternative to a theory of complementarity that seems to place arbitrary limits on women. Fordham theologian Elizabeth Johnson, for example, suggests replacing the theory of complementarity (which she regards as “gender dualism”) with a “multi-polar” anthropological model, namely, a theory that features “one human nature celebrated in an interdepen­dence of multiple differenc­es.”14 In her theory, sexual difference has no real primacy in defining a person’s identity. (What, then, is the value of including women in decision-making roles in the Church?15

As the CDF’s Letter on Collaboration notes, on the basis of such erroneous premises some (presumably, feminist theologians) embark upon a critique of the Scriptures and a program of reconstruction of Catholic doctrine in the belief that this is necessary to ensure the liberation of women. Two elements in their critique are “a patriarchal conception of God” and the theological relevance of “the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form” (§3). One reason Catholic feminists and feminist theologians reject the theory of complementarity is that it plays a part in explaining the reservation of priestly ordination to men. Since priestly functions do not require a male physical constitution (male sex), they suspect that the Magisterium’s judgment relies on a rigid gender dualism that contrasts masculine and feminine in a way that arbitrarily limits women.16

Critique of the Rejection of Complementarity

According to the Letter on Collaboration, feminist assessments of complementarity are constructed only “from the standpoint of the situation marked by sin” (§8), not from God’s plan for a sexually differentiated humanity. The remedies they suggest do not refer to the original plan of God and the victory of grace.17 This explains in some measure their inadequacy. Feminists take an existing situation of discrimination against women18 as their starting point and apply a hermeneutic of suspicion, seeking to uncover hitherto unnoticed presuppositions or traditions that legitimate the injustice. Secular feminists trace sexism to the cultural tradition of “patriarchy.”19 Catholic feminists focus on the reservation of priestly ordination to men, and trace this to the biblical revelation of a masculine God and a male Savior. By taking a situation of abuse or injustice as their starting point, then, feminists work against a very limited horizon.          

Second, the feminist critique of complementarity fails to give the body its due. This is particularly true for gender feminists: by divorcing gender from sex,20 they lose track of the person who exists as either male or female. They disregard the personal meaning of male and female bodies. If they intend only to exclude an essentialism or biological determinism, they are right. We are not beasts, without the capacity to surmount stereotypes based on physical structures. But neither are we angels! We are not sexless spirits who simply inhabit and use our bodies, as if they were only instruments. No. The body expresses the person; our bodies are ourselves. The two ways of being a body are, in fact, mutually exclusive, and they provide the basic parameters within which we exercise our freedom and appropriate our masculine or feminine identity.21 They differ for the sake of generating children, for the continuation of the species. According to Pope John Paul II, the body has a “nuptial meaning.” By reason of their masculinity or femininity men and women have the capacity for intimacy and reciprocal self-donation, and the capacity to generate new life.

Third, it is reductive to limit the significance of sexual difference to “reproductive role specialization.” When the connection between biological sex, psychological and social roles, and personal vocations is broken, sexuality itself is removed from the realm of what is strictly human, strictly personal. In effect, sexuality is equated with its genital expression, but isolated from the capacity, and the vocation, to express love and give life. Gender, once cut loose from the concrete structures of bodily sex, is then open to all sorts of manipulation and remodeling. As the CDF observes concerning gender feminism, “This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which ... call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality” (§2).

Fourth, the Magisterium, in response to the feminist critique, has clarified that the understanding of complementarity found in Christian revelation does not correspond to the theory that feminist theologians find so inadequate. The Church does not propose a theory based simply on sex-linked personality traits, or assume that these traits belong to men and women in mutually exclusive ways, or that they are hierarchically ordered in favor of men, or that only men properly exercise social roles in the public sphere.  It does not assume that the male represents normative humanity, or, that man and woman are humanly incomplete by themselves or possess only some fraction of what it is to be human (the humanum). On the other hand, the Church teaches that the human person is fulfilled only by making a gift of self.22 Fatherhood and motherhood, then, are never simply social roles; they are the fruit or fulfillment of God’s plan.23 The Church recognizes that this gift is most concretely expressed in marriage and parenthood, but because the body expresses the person, this includes spiritual fatherhood and motherhood.

By ignoring the personal relevance of human sexuality to the expression of self-giving love in marriage, and by failing to take into account masculine and feminine roles in procreation and parenting, feminist theory elimi­nates the possibility of basing women’s specific contribution on anything other than gender-linked personality traits or stereotypes. The feminist analysis ignores the embodied person and is silent about self-giving love, fruitfulness, marriage, children, and family. Given its starting point, i.e., the injustice and abuse suffered by women at the hands of men, it does not take these into account as values but sees them only through the lens of women’s pain.

Complementarity in the Biblical Vision of the Human Person

Faced with theories that reject the complementarity of the sexes, the CDF’s Letter proposes as an ideal the “active collaboration between the sexes precisely in the recognition of the difference between man and woman” (§4). It takes the doctrine of creation as its starting point and offers a concise summary of the biblical vision of the human person, male and female.24 From the beginning, humanity created in God’s image is sexually differentiated.25 In God’s plan, man and woman are made for each other, and destined not only to live side by side but also to become one flesh in a “communion of persons,” a “unity-of-the-two” that mirrors the Trinity. 

According to this vision, sexuality is a fundamental component of the human personality (§8), and it reveals the capacity for interpersonal relationships, the capacity to love. This, in turn, reveals the will of God for humanity, for marriage, and for the family. In other words, creation in two sexes belongs to God’s revelation; it is part of Catholic doctrine, not simply one theory among many (CCC §§369-72). The harmony between the man and the woman in the state of original innocence, however, was disrupted by sin; the estrangement from God caused by sin, then, affects the couple’s own relationship. The tension and conflict between the sexes and the sinful domination of men over women is not built into human nature but is the consequence of sin. It follows that overcoming sexism does not require eradicating the difference between the sexes, but only ending the opposition between them that results from sin. The relationship between the sexes is wounded but the grace of Christ invites them to conversion and offers them healing and wholeness in redeemed relationships. 

The promise of a Savior announced in the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15) includes a woman. Throughout the centuries of waiting, the masculine figure of the coming Messiah (e.g., the Servant) is accompanied by feminine images (e.g., the “woman,” the Covenant People as God’s “Bride,” Zion). The day of salvation itself is depicted as a wedding. Finally, the promise is fulfilled. Mary, the Daughter of Zion, is the figure of Israel/the Bride awaiting salvation; Jesus expresses in person God’s love for His people that the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 62:5) depict as the love of a bridegroom for his bride. At Cana and Calvary, Mary is identified as the woman, while Jesus — identified as the Bridegroom in the Gospels — accomplishes the New Covenant in His blood. The theme of the love of Christ for His Bride the Church appears elsewhere, in the Letter to the Ephesians, (Chapter 5:21-33), correlated with the love of a bride and groom.  In the order of redemption, marriage itself is restored so that spouses can live faithfully the demands of the New Covenant. 

According to this account, sexual difference serves to illuminate the fundamental theme of salvation as a covenantal mystery. Baptism does not cancel out the difference between the sexes (i.e., in Christ there is no male and female [Gal 3:28] does not mean this), but instead bestows the grace to overcome “the rivalry, enmity, and violence” that can disfigure the relationship between them. Being male and female belongs to creation ontologically and will last until the end of time “in a transfigured form,” though “no longer subject to the present limitations of the marriage relationship.” Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is, in fact, a prophetic sign of the eschatological state to which we are all destined.  In sum, our sexual identity marks us in a permanent way.  Once we regard this dispensation of God in light of the Paschal Mystery, men and women “no longer see this difference as the source of discord to be overcome by denial or eradication, but rather as the possibility for collaboration, to be cultivated with mutual respect for their difference” (§12).

Further Reflections

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith invited a response to its Letter.26 The question here is whether and why increased collaboration between men and women in the Church is a value. Somewhat surprisingly, while the Letter on Collaboration addresses quite directly the importance of “feminine values” in the social order, it takes a different approach in the corresponding chapter on their importance in the Church. Instead of naming what women contribute to the Church, it is content to suggest that the Church herself has a feminine identity and to name her “feminine” attributes. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, it says, the Church possesses “dispositions of listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.” Since women live these dispositions with a certain “naturalness,” they call the rest of the baptized to show the world the “true face of the Church, spouse of Christ and mother of all believers”27 (§16). 

Undoubtedly, this change of direction was deliberate.28 Critics ask, however, why the principles commending the full and equal participation of women in the social order were not carried over into this chapter on the Church’s life. If women “should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations” (§13), if they should be called upon to bring their characteristic “humanizing” influence to bear on questions of social, economic, and political life, should they not also have access to positions of responsibility and be asked to bring this same influence into her internal life of the Church?29 Apparently Pope Francis would like to see this happen.

A second concern: although the Letter purports to be about both men and women, it is really about the authentic advancement of women. While one can understand this emphasis, a full consideration of collaboration between the sexes would have to consider the masculine genius as well as the feminine genius. According to Pope John Paul II, the feminine genius is woman’s special capacity for paying attention to the person.  It is grounded in a woman’s bodily constitution and her vocation to be a mother.30 At least some feminist critics accept this identification and its formulation, provided this capacity is not regarded as exclusive to women. But for years feminists have asked why there has been no comparable attempt to identify the masculine genius.31 If the Magisterium intends to make the case that the complementarity of the sexes is something essentially positive, i.e., that each has some particular contribution to make, some development of this topic is surely required.32 Without attention to this, maleness is equated with the norm, the default position for being human, and the female appears to be the other, an auxiliary expression of humanity. This impression can be corrected by identifying the positive contribution men make, that is, the masculine genius.

Does the Letter express a bias against men when it says that without the witness of women’s lives and values “humanity would be closed in self-sufficiency, dreams of power and the drama of violence”? (§17)  Comparing the “positive feminine” with the “negative masculine” like this plays into the feminist agenda and even seems to support its resistance to the biblical preference for masculine names for God and its denial that the maleness of Jesus has theological relevance. Are we unable to construct a positive account of maleness and masculinity?33 An attempt has been made to elucidate the theological significance of Jesus’ male identity in light of the biblical icon of the Bridegroom;34 it is also possible to elucidate this in light of Jesus’ revelation of the Father.35 Jesus neither married nor begot children, some will object, so why associate His masculinity with the roles of husband and father? But that is just the point! Masculinity and femininity belong to the person by reason of his or her body, and this is true of men and women who never marry. They are not thereby neuter. Sexuality is personal in such a way that it influences everything we do.36 The complementarity of the sexes is not only physical but also psychological, spiritual, and ontological.

What specific kind of complementarity obtains between men and women, and why should it be beneficial in the life and mission of the Church? Perhaps it would be useful to reflect further on motherhood and fatherhood. We know that in the domestic church, the family, the collaboration of parents is essential, yet it is fruitful precisely because they make equal but different contributions to the formation and flourishing of their family life. This line of inquiry does not appeal to the categories and characteristics (i.e., active and passive, public and private, objective and intuitive, and so on) that are not necessarily sex-linked. But it does take a man and a woman to produce children, and ideally, to raise them to adulthood. If the feminine genius has to do with paying attention to the person, what does the masculine genius have to do with? Leading and providing for the family as a whole, looking out for each one?  Does it involve sacrifice, dedication to duty, responsibility for the common good, concern for objective norms?37

Does something analogous apply to the Church’s life and ministry, so that men bring something genuinely paternal and women something maternal?38 The idea of importing a family model into the Church’s life has often been denounced as sexist, but if marriage and family relations have been purified of unjust and discriminatory patterns, could this not make a contribution?  Doesn’t this already happen — where men and women currently collaborate well in a parish, school, agency, or diocese?  And if this is so, can we not agree that the value of the collaboration of men and women in the Church lies in the fact that each sex brings something different?


1 See the pope’s speeches or interviews from April 15, July 28, September 21 (Spadaro interview), October 12, 2013, and March 5, 2014. These can be found on under Francis: Speeches.

2 For definitions of “feminist theology” and distinctions among its various versions, see Anne M. Clifford, Introducing Feminist Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001).

3 Ivone Gebara’s “Pope Francis and the theology of women: some concerns,” (August 6, 2013) is representative of several entries in the blogosphere.

4 They are sometimes called “new” feminists, or “papal” feminists. See Women in Christ: Toward a New Feminism, Michele M. Schumacher, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2004).

5 See Pope John Paul II, Letter to Women (1995), §9; CDF, Letter on Collaboration, §8.

6 Anne Munley, et al., Women and Jurisdiction an Unfolding Reality: The LCWR Study of Selected Church Leadership Roles (Silver Spring, MD: Leadership Conference of Women Religious, 2001).

7 Interdiscasterial Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests (1997).

8 For example, teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical functions, and the care of souls. See Apostolicam actuositatem 24.

9 I intend to distinguish them from European feminists who focus on “women’s rights” rather than “equal rights.”

10 See Prudence Allen, “Integral Sex Complementarity and the theology of communion,” Communio 17 (Winter 1990): 523-544.

11 For more on this, see Beatriz Vollmer Coles, “New Feminism: A Sex-Gender Reunion,” in Women in Christ, 52-66.

12 They charge those who make much of them with being “essentialists.”

13 See Dale O’Leary, The Gender Agenda (Lafayette, LA: Vital Issues Press, 1997), 90-91. In February, 2014, Facebook offered subscribers the option of choosing from among 50 genders.

14 Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 155-156. She includes, along with sex, such “anthropological constants” as race, social condition, nationality, age, state of health, sexual preference, and cultural location.

15 Benedict Ashley raises the same question about adding feminine to masculine metaphors for God. See his Justice in the Church: Gender and Participation (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 197.

16 See Elizabeth A. Johnson, “Imaging God, Embodying Christ: Women as a Sign of the Times” (in The Church Women Want,  Elizabeth A. Johnson, ed. [New York: Crossroad, 2002], 52). This objection bypasses the reason (viz., divine institution) given by Pope John Paul II in the apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994).

17 On this, see “The Separate Vocations of Men and Women According to Nature and Grace,” in The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 2: Essays on Woman, L. Gelber and Romaeus Leuven, eds. (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1987): 57-85.

18 Like liberation theology, feminist theology begins as a critique of praxis.

19 Father rule gave the heads of families the right of life and death over its female members.

20 In addition, of course, it separates the unitive and procreative meaning of sexual intercourse.

21 The late Mary F. Rousseau offers this analysis in “Theological Trends: The Ordination of Women, a Philosopher’s Viewpoint,” The Way 21:3 (1981), 211-224. Pope John Paul II reflected on these truths at much greater length. See his Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), Chapters 2-5.

22 Gaudium et spes, §24: “man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.”

23 For a Thomistic reflection on fatherhood as the perfection of masculinity, see Carter Harrell Griffin, Supernatural Fatherhood through Priestly Celibacy: Fulfillment of Masculinity. A Thomistic Study (Rome, 2011).

24 Chapter 2 recapitulates and fills out several themes developed in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

25 Among the new themes introduced in this Letter is attention to the original creation as an “ordered world ... born out of differences, carrying with them also the promise of relationships” (§5).

26 The survey article by Edward Collins Vacek, “Feminism and the Vatican,” Theological Studies 66:1 (March 2005): 159-177, provides the most substantial response so far. See also Tina Beattie, The New Catholic Feminism: Theology, Gender Theory, and Dialogue (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).  

27 The Letter adds: “In this perspective one understands how the reservation of priestly ordination solely to men does not hamper in any way women’s access to the heart of Christian life” (§16). Feminists, predictably, objected to this suggestion.

28 In the USCCB edition of the Letter (2012, “Commentaries and Studies Series”), William Cardinal Levada reports that women experts worked with the CDF staff (“Introduction,” p. 4).

29 See M. Cathleen Kaveny, “What Is the Vatican Saying About Women? Conservative Catholics Might Be Surprised,” Wall Street Journal (Sunday, August 15, 2004): B03.

30 See Mulieris dignitatem, §30.

31 Some attempts have been made by Walter Ong, David Delaney, Anthony Esolen, et al. “Finding the Masculine Genius,” an interview with Esolen, has appeared on Zenit.

32 Pope John Paul’s apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici (50) acknowledged the need for “a more penetrating and accurate consideration of the anthropological foundation for masculinity and femininity,” and also the importance of promoting the greater participation of lay men in the Church.

33 According to John McDade, “The maleness of Jesus” (The Tablet [Feb. 25, 1989] 220-221), “if culturally we are unable to con­struct a positive account of maleness ... then our view of the maleness of Jesus will be similarly impaired.”

34 CDF, Inter insigniores §5; Pope John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem 23-26, and Pastores dabo vobis 22.

35 See Griffin, Supernatural Fatherhood, “masculinity is perfected in the generative gift of self in fruitful marital union …; the active, male power of generation is ordered to fatherhood; … and there are specific paternal virtues.”

36 Here I follow Mary F. Rousseau, “The Roots of Liberation,” Communio 8:3 (Fall 1981), 251-276 at 274, who says men have no “feminine side” and women no “masculine side” to develop.

37 See Giulia Paola di Nicola and Attilio Danese, “The Horizon of Reciprocity in the Family,” in Men and Women: Diversity and Mutual Complementarity (Vatican: Pontifical Council for the Laity, 2006), 151-173, for a recent attempt to discern sex-linked attributes.

38 Pope Francis implies as much where women are concerned.



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