The Table

I received the following email in response to my last post (Breaking News: Feminism!!!) from Luis Gutierrez, long-time supporter of women’s ordination:

Feminism is a sign of the times.  For your consideration:

It is about making visible the divine feminine in the Incarnate Word!

Oh, no, I thought! That word, complementarity! One of my ideas for this blog is to examine the various articles on that topic that erupt every once in a while. But note that I seem to find something else to write about.

So I examined the links above from Gutierrez’s Mother Pelican, A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability. I think my genius is brevity (you may not agree) and Luis’s is not. In solidarity, I insert the links here if you want more. I am not going to address “Patriarchy in the Judeo-Christian Tradition” except to say that it’s an idiosyncratic compilation of events from original sin to Pope Francis. It’s fun.

What I want to examine is “consubstantial complementarity.”

Gutierrez’s fundamental assumption is clear from the beginning: it’s culture, not human nature (I read “not natural law” here) that created “submission/dominance struggles” in primitive times — and that culture has evolved to value working together in structures of equality, which just happens to be alluded to in Galatians 3:29. So far so good.

But then Gutierrez finds in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) a way to the equality of men and women in every sphere, from families to ordination. He finds most convincing this section of a new translation of the TOB about the creation story:

… the meaning of “original solitude,” which can be referred simply to “man,” is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity; the latter is based on masculinity and femininity, which are, as it were, two different “incarnations,” that is, on two ways in which the same human being, created “in the image of God” (Gn 1:27) “is a body.” (The Meaning of Original Unity, Pope John Paul II, 7 November 1979 in Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, Pauline Books, 2006, page 157. See also note 12 in page 158.)

First of all, I would have used “human” where “man” is used above; we do have another word when trying to talk without making gender distinctions.

Second, the point is that Adam was human and that Eve, in being human, shared this “original solitude.” “Original unity,” which to me was THE ORIGINAL SIN, refers to the complementary roles determined by their genders. Gutierrez argues that this came after, and thus is less important than their shared humanity.

Third, really? It takes a phenomenal optimist to suggest that the texts which have been used for centuries to limit women’s roles (see Religious Patriarchy in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, for example) are suddenly to be used to prove “somatic homogeneity” or “Natural Consubstantiality,” or the sameness of men and women, humans as equal-to-each-other “body-souls,” especially when that text itself refers to “two different ‘incarnations.’”

Now I have to admit that I have never read the papal document, and that these brief quotes do not convince me that I would benefit from it. Perhaps as a serious blogger, I should, and Gutierrez provides a guide for his optimistic interpretation:

The entire TOB is a deconstruction of the patriarchal binary:

  • Having a body is more personal than being male or female (TOB 8:1)
  • Man and Woman are fully homogeneous in their “whole being” (TOB 8:4)
  • Bodiliness, not sex, is the foundation of the primordial sacrament (TOB 19:5)
  • Imbalance of male domination/female submission must be corrected (TOB 31:2)
  • The spousal meaning of the body is not limited to patriarchal analogies (TOB 33:3)
  • The spousal bond of Christ-Head and Church-Body transcends patriarchy (TOB 91:1)
  • The language of the body, male and female, is the language of the liturgy (TOB 117:5)

The original English translation is online and I have to say that I am not convinced by a brief run-through of these selections.

But enough. Gutierrez includes diagrams in much of his writing, and this working draft includes one. Most charming to me, and unaddressed in the text, is a little purple dot within the three concentric circles (body-soul, gender, body) that is identified as “Intersex.” Really? Big “Female Sex” in pink and “Male Sex” in blue, and “Intersex” in purple? In The Theology of the Body of John Paul II or just a question that is so obvious in 2017 that it cannot be ignored?

Happy New Year!

3 comments on “Sneaking into Complementarity

  1. Regina, I agree that sexism is the immediate and most universal consequence of original sin. However, with all due respect, some of your comments make me think that you are not understanding St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) correctly. The “two different incarnations” are of the same *flesh*!

    My personal understanding of the TOB is certainly heterodox, and I may be projecting my personal concerns and desires into the text. I am no theologian, and certainly do not presume to be infallible. However,
    I believe in my heart that there is a pony under all this TOB “stuff,” and it is well known that popes often speak with both sides of their mouth. I will keep trying to make my analysis more concise, but hope that others, better qualified than me, will study the TOB carefully, because I think it provides a theological anthropology that debunks religious patriarchy and shows that, for the redemption and the sacramental economy under the New Law, the masculinity of the Incarnate Word is as incidental as the color of his eyes. The best translation, based on the original manuscripts in Polish, is the one by Michael Waldstein, 2006,

    Hints: On the consubstantial nature of man and woman, TOB 8 is key. Also, note that the word “analogy” appears 139 times in this book. Pay attention to the explanations about the proper interpretation of analogies (e.g., in TOB 33:3) such as the bridegroom-bride analogy in Ephesians 5:22-33. There is a difference between complementarity and complementarianism!

    PS: For your perusal, my personal meditations on the TOB are compiled here:

    Note the explanations of my rudimentary Venn diagram to compare patriarchal gender ideology and the TOB.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Violet writes says:

    Rather amusing that JPII, seemingly a member of the male asexual (natural celibates) gender, thinks he knows about female asexuals, female lesbians, female heterosexuals, other genders, etc. I do not believe there is anything useful in TOB.

    I can usually discern ‘male’ and ‘female’ in appearance, but not in writings, unless the author gives a clue as to his/her gender. So no, I do not think all women think alike and have a “feminine genius” (code for lacking a male genius, supposedly the necessary ingredient for priestliness). Where is this mysterious male genius located?

    Matthew 22:30 — any oncological gender at soul level?? “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

  3. We as women just have a deeper connection to be able to understanding sexism! Why our world is still so unbalanced in war and distrust, lack of Love within.

    There is still a need to explain about my two contacts with “God’s Hand”.
    The first time appearing the morning of my fifth birthday, and not again until in my early thirties!
    During those twenty-five years, felt free to do mostly my own will, before a Spiritual “Rebirth” from words of Jesus to put God’s Will before my own. When I did, after much prayer, did not see anything only felt the strong presence I had felt as a child, come through the walls, wash over me and heard strongly the Word of “Equality”.
    Many years later felt but could not see the same “God’s Hand” in mine and while looking down The Hand spun me around in my tracks, from trying to walk away from The Church after only receiving rejection of the Message “Equality”.
    Many others from all beliefs are realizing too, it is time to stop the inequality, for political, as well as religious balance, to be able to bring out the best in all of us!
    The need to counter not only racism, and sexism, but the unfair hoarding of profits by a few elite, who now have about 90% economic control, over seven trillion people! Half in near-starvation wages, and gradually there will be more!
    Profits created by the workers, managers, consumers could/should be used for higher wages, basic needs like health, instead of just increasing the greed/power of those, by controlling media pedal hate, even sell weapons to both sides, cause continuing wars increasing danger of nuclear destruction!
    Words of “Love One Another, even Your enemies”, the universal “Golden Rule”, need the belief of “Equality” to fully respond!
    The last World Council of Christian Bishops declared there be “no more discrimination of race or sex… as not the Will of God. *1 Pastoral Constitution Article 29+, Vatican II, 1965. There are other such confirmations!
    For Blessings Within,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 − three =