Catholicity, Complementarity, and Communion
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 05, 2023
[Editor’s note: This is a long essay: much longer than we usually post on the Catholic Culture site. But we post it now because we believe that Father Pokorsky has provided a very useful, understandable summary of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, and how they are entwined with her teaching on the sacraments and indeed the nature of the Church. We think the essay will reward readers’ patience.]
God reveals His saving words and deeds through the Catholic Church. The Apostles’ Creed, the Seven Sacraments, and the Ten Commandments express the firm certainties of the Catholic faith. Within the context of sound doctrine (based on Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and Magisterium), theologians are free to speculate under the watchful eye of the Church. The study of theology—like Mary’s pondering of the Angel Gabriel’s greeting—deepens our understanding of God’s revelation.
In response to the agitation for the ordination of women, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. In 1994, he declared: “The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis). In recent years, prominent Catholic prelates have resurrected the possibility of female ordination, paralleling their promotion of the moral legitimacy of the LGBTQ ideology.
Let’s consider the foundations of these heresies, the consequences, and the Catholic remedy based on the theology of “sacramental sexuality.”
The Gnostic heresy
The Gnostic heresy underlies the LGBTQ and female ordination agendas. The heresy took several (at times contradictory) forms and swept into the Roman empire in the early day of the Church. At root, the Gnostics deny the inherent goodness of God’s creation, the material universe. Spirit—including God’s pure spirit—is incompatible with material creation. One Gnostic version holds that the superior “god of spirit” opposes a “malevolent god” of the material world. Another interpretation teaches that the human soul is “trapped” in a physical body. Modern variants include the view of man as “a ghost in a machine” (a philosopher’s description of Descartes’ mind/body dualism).
The Devil, in his envy, hates creation. Gnostics treat their bodies as optional appendages with behaviors that range from moral rigorism to promiscuity. The neo-Gnostic Albigensian sect of the Middle Ages held that conception is evil because it imprisons a soul in a human body. Abortion “liberates” a trapped soul to return to the cosmos. Alternatively, since the body is inferior or evil and our spirit good, we can use our bodily appendages for every form of sexual debauchery.
Gnostic heresy is pervasive today, particularly in matters of human sexuality.
Catholicity, complementarity, and communion
The Incarnation rescues us from the demonic Gnostic heresies that separate our bodies from our souls. In His Person, Jesus reconciles God and man. St. John reinforces the unity of body and soul and heavenly compatibility with earthly realities: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (Jn. 1:14) St. Dominic undermined the Albigensian confidence in its dualism when he prayed the Rosar,y using heresy-fighting words: “…and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The devout recitation of the Rosary is a formidable weapon against the Gnostic heresy.
We are embodied spirits, not “ghosts in a machine.” Our bodies express our souls. The separation of body and soul at death is unnatural and is the consequence of sin. God restores the fullness of our created nature with the reunification of body and soul during the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. We encounter God through the “matter and form” of the Sacraments. Catholics do not denigrate God’s good creation.
Our body has an indispensable communal or “nuptial” meaning. The “community of persons” is inherent in the revelation of the creation of man: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27) “Man” is an indispensable theological term that includes “male and female” in communion with each other. Catholic communion, equal dignity, and complementarity extend to the entire culture and society. Adam and Eve’s exclusive and faithful covenant of love replaces Gnostic promiscuity.
John Donne’s familiar and pleasant poem reflects Christian sensibilities and expresses the delights and sorrows of our communal nature:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Men and women share equal dignity as images of God, and their masculinity and femininity are complementary. In Genesis, Eve conceives a child: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’” (Gen. 4:1) Eve recognizes her child as a gift from God, and Adam mediates God’s love. His mediation is spiritual (his love for a woman as his wife) and physical (his physical embrace as a male). The marital embrace is sacramental: an outward sign of God’s love as mediated by a man.
Jesus expands the meaning of fatherhood without denying its physical attributes. He joins Adam’s physical fatherhood with Divine Fatherhood. “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Mt. 23:9) Adam’s fatherhood—physical and spiritual—participates in the Fatherhood of God. A man who violates God’s Fatherhood through immorality—abusing his sexuality or his wife or children—relinquishes his right to identify as a father until he converts.
As Eve recognizes the child as God’s gift through Adam as the Father’s “go-between,” she rejoices in her child but does not presume ownership. She actively receives the love of God through Adam’s marital embrace. She recognizes her child as a child of God and His gift to her and Adam. Humbly recognizing Adam’s role as mediator prevents treating children as selfish possessions—or even disposing of them in abortion.
Eve does not say with respect to her child, “My body, my choice.” She doesn’t possess her children and doesn’t exclude Adam from their lives. With Adam as a “go-between” or mediator of God’s love, the parents acknowledge their humble roles as good stewards of God’s gifts in loving communion. Their children are, above all, begotten of God and destined for heaven. Parental masculinity and femininity together reflect God’s abiding love for His children.
Male and female traits intersect up to a point. The love of a woman also mediates the love of God. But the mediation of Eve is distinctly different from the mediation of Adam in the marital embrace. Adam actively receives the love of Eve but according to the holy ensemble of the same marital embrace. Eve, not Adam, conceives a child. Adam mediates human life according to the specific pattern of God’s creation.
A mother nurtures her child with distinctly feminine attributes, and a father also cares for a child in his masculinity. But a father cannot sustain a child as a mother feeds her child at her breast. The first word a child usually learns is “Momma.” Psychologists suggest the GPS default voice is female because an unborn baby first hears its mother’s voice. Eve nurtures human life according to the specific pattern of God’s creation. God created us as body-soul composites. Our bodies express who we are. We communicate our behavior as males and females.
The nuptial unity of the Incarnation
The Incarnation affirms the harmonious compatibility of God and man, human nature and the divine, body and soul, matter and spirit. St. Paul helps unlock the mystery of the role of males as fathers and priests: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5)
Jesus is the Divine Bridegroom: “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” (Mk. 2:19) In His manhood—as a male—He sacramentally mediates the Father’s love to Holy Mother Church, giving His life for His bride. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.“ (Jn. 15:13) Jesus uses nuptial language on the Cross when He surrenders His life for the Church: “’It is consummated.’ And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.” (Jn. 19:30, DRV) His redemptive consummation mediates new life. The Church bears fruit as a mother gives birth to spiritual children in Him. Her children are baptized as children of God in preparation for the reception of the Eucharist.
Jesus is the New Adam: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21-22) The masculinity of Jesus is sacramental, the outward sign of His mediation of the Father’s love. His mediation of God’s creative love expresses a synthesis of His body (His mediation as the Divine Bridegroom on the Cross) and soul (“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”—Jn. 15:9). The Church is the guardian—not the owner—of the faith of God’s children redeemed by Jesus, not the owner.
The nuptial unity of the new and eternal Covenant
Jesus commands the Apostles during the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk. 22:19) Sacred Tradition affirms that Jesus gives them the dignity and duty to celebrate of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Him as men—males. The Apostles participate (just as fathers participate in the Fatherhood of God) in His sacramental mediation. They never replace or supplant Jesus as the One Mediator.
Although the first Mass on Holy Thursday anticipates the Cross and Resurrection, its nuptial character comes to fulfillment on Pentecost and the definitive incorporation of Mary and the disciples into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. The Church delights in the children mediated by Jesus through His Apostles, just as Eve delights in her children as God’s gifts through the mediation of Adam.
Mary is the New Eve. Just as the Woman Eve was “the mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20), the Woman Mary is the mother of all those living in Christ: “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17) “The title ‘Mother of the Church’ thus reflects the deep conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful.” ( Pope John Paul II, general audience, September 17, 1997 )
We celebrate the Mass with the chaste sexuality of priests and people. The priest in his masculinity (with the sanctuary as his sacred domain, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist) is sacramental, an outward sign of the invisible reality of God’s grace in Jesus—accessible by faith and Holy Orders—the priest mediates the Father’s love to His Church. Jesus is born anew at every Mass. In the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, and God and man are again reconciled. Mary is the Mother of the Church, and a priest is a mediator in Jesus. Mary receives God’s love as Mother through priestly mediation. As Mediatrix of all graces, Mary dispenses the Father’s gifts to her children through the hands of the priest in Holy Communion.
God spiritualizes His love—and our love—in the Sacraments without rejecting the things of the world. He uses “matter and form” for His encounters with us: water, oil, laying of the hands, bread and wine—accompanied and safeguarded by the powerful words of validity. The marriage covenant—with its offer and acceptance and its exclusive and fruitful fidelity—finds fulfillment in the offer and acceptance of the new and eternal Covenant. The “Amen” when receiving Holy Communion ratifies God’s Covenant with His people and the marriage covenant between husband and wife.
The teachings and miracles of Jesus are natural and restore our dignity. Sin, suffering, and death violate our human nature. Jesus refuses the Devil’s temptation to turn rocks into bread, but He consecrates everyday bread into the Bread of Life. He restores health, He raises the dead, and He forgives sins. In obedience to Him, we grow in our humanity. We love and become more lovable. When we discover His commandments and strive to live by them, the response of gratitude finds expression in worship, above all, the Eucharist.
God creates every human being in His image and likeness. All nations and peoples comprise the Church in the Mystical Body of Christ. Masculinity and femininity are outward physical signs of our complementarity. We need one another. No man is an island.
Gnostic ideologies undermine the Church, the Mass, and the Incarnation
The “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) ideology undergirds the LGBTQ agenda, and the promotion of female ordination is a Gnostic substitute. The diversity component stresses our differences more than unity (family, tribal, national, or religious). The equity component is unachievable because there will always be differences in physical and academic abilities and opportunities.
In women’s sports, the men pretending to be women win many events because male athletic abilities generally exceed those of females. The demand for “inclusion” pretends not to notice the class distinction between cultural elites and ordinary people. The “diversity, equity, and inclusion” ideology necessarily denies physical, intellectual, and societal differences. One size must fit all, at least for ordinary people. DEI is elitist and totalitarian. In contrast, the truth of the Word made flesh sets us free.
The successful agitation for ”gay marriages” (or unions) requires the Gnostic denial of physical differences to fit the diversity, equity, and inclusion mold. By rejecting the nuptial meaning of the physical structure of human sexuality, the LGBTQ ideology denies the significance and sacramentality of male mediation. Without a mediator, men and women become autonomous, and the sexuality of men and women is meaningless except for “diversity, equity, and inclusion” purposes. Without a mediator, the mission of Jesus becomes entirely Divine or merely human. The priesthood in Jesus also detaches from the Fatherhood of God. The confusion rejects the significance of gifts of masculinity and femininity in communicating God’s love. Confusion and competition among hopelessly “diverse” individuals replace the complementarity of the sexes.
The Incarnation, as the central event of human history, violates every component of DEI: Jesus is unique, God and Man in one Person. He redeems those who respond to His saving words. He uses nuptial imagery and reality to communicate His saving truths. DEI demands that physical characteristics of masculinity and femininity are necessarily dispensable or interchangeable. Hence, DEI elitists grant children the right to undergo genital mutilation if the children conclude they are girls in boys’ bodies (or vice versa). The DEI Gnostic ideology denies God’s creation as good and rejects the Incarnation and Redemption.
The contemporary Gnostic pursuit of autonomous “diversity, equity, and inclusion” undermines the complementarity and unity of man created in the Divine image. The ideology severs the mediation lifeline to the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. The ordination of women—where women self-identify as priests—disconnects the priesthood from masculinity and femininity from the Church (with Mary as Mother and Model). The Incarnation does not reconcile God and man (“man” is “male and female” in the community of persons). The Word overcomes existence in the flesh, or the flesh overcomes the Word: either an alien invasion (such as the gods of Greek mythology) or the birth of a merely human prophet (Islam).
The DEI religion rejects human and historical structures and expressions of Tradition. The mission of Jesus is incoherent and often devoid of substance and sacramental realities. The Mass becomes unintelligible and functional—even liturgically promiscuous (innovations violating the Covenant are legion). Bureaucracies—governed by DEI policies—replace the Church’s focus on faith, the Sacred Liturgy, Church history, Sacred Tradition, and salvation. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus is a fairy tale. (Indeed, the denial of the physical resurrection of Jesus is making a comeback after the crazy days following the Second Vatican Council.)
Theological reflection—detached from Scriptures, Tradition, and Magisterium—becomes meaningless as it transitions to revolutionary anthropological and sociological studies based on “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Policy statements—arrogantly denying Church teaching—are said to “catch up” with modern sociological studies. But the ideologies are old heresies and have only recently “caught up” to the Cartesian and ancient Gnostic views of the human person.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
The ordination of women
It isn’t surprising that an increasing number of Catholic prelates who promote the LGBTQ agenda also promote the ordination of women. Female ordination also denies the nuptial character of God’s Covenant and spiritually mutilates men and women. The lust to satisfy the unholy DEI demands of the culture denies masculine and feminine characteristics. The presumed encounter with God does not need a mediator who bridges eternity with time, the mediation of Jesus, or even the Incarnation.
Ordination identifies both men and women for “full-time ministry.” Priests undergo spiritual castration with the denial of the sacramentality of their bodies as God’s mediators. Men and women, masculinity and femininity, fathers and mothers, are distinctions without a difference. Fatherhood brings nothing to the priesthood. Men and women are autonomous. The sexual disorientation degrades the splendor of femininity designed by God to receive and nurture life. We hear women say, “I’m only a mother.” Anecdotally, a business executive recently denied the dignity of women with his politically-correct words of welcome for “men and child-bearing persons.”
Church programs overshadow and even replace the Mass and the Sacraments. The innovations deform the sacramental priesthood and reduce it to bureaucratic functional activities. Parishes become business franchises, and pastors become business managers rather than priests of God. Daily Masses are discontinued and become like many other social activities in the Church. The Pope no longer needs the stability of the “Chair of Saint Peter” fixed on the rock of Scriptures and Tradition to restrain doctrinal excesses. Like a grocery commodity, the expiration date on Church teaching depends upon changing demands of DEI.
Church bureaucrats become ravenous wolves and cannot confirm the sacrificial faith of Catholics in a morally disfigured culture. Sinners have nowhere to turn to for forgiveness and healing. Aligned with the cultural ideology of DEI, the clergy obscures the Church as a “sign of contradiction” with Jesus. Transformation in Christ becomes meaningless. The distribution of God’s grace and the merit we earn cannot vary. Diversity, equity, and inclusion render the salvation of souls inconsequential.
Our return to the peace and unity of Catholic complementary
A few doctors are emerging who are increasingly nervous about genital mutilation. They should be. The surgeries not only cause ripple-effect physiological problems, but they also cause severe psychological and emotional disturbances. A castrated male or a deformed female must live a life of deception. Hormone therapy said to “transition” human sexuality of our body-soul composites from one to another is a poisonous myth. Medical procedures that mutilate physical characteristics to conform to an ideology are destructive to the human person.
The ordination of women (effectively a transgendered priesthood) suffers a similar fate. Gnosticism strips men of their dignity (as mediators of God’s love) and dismisses the complementary feminine attributes of women (as mothers or potential mothers who receive and rejoice in His love). The DEI ideology leads to dissatisfaction, endless conflict, and horror.
God’s Covenant—with its faithful and exclusive “sacramental sexuality” and complementarity—purifies and restores human nature. Male and female, He created them. Adam and fathers, Jesus and priests—mediate the Father’s love. Eve and mothers, the Church and Mary—love and nourish their children.
In obedience to Jesus, we grow in our humanity and discover the meaning of our masculinity and femininity. We love and become more lovable. Our response of gratitude finds expression in worship, above all, the Eucharist:
God’s creation of man—with the faithful and exclusive complementarity of husband and wife—expresses the fullness of human nature.
- Male and female, He created them.
- Adam and fathers mediate the Father’s love.
- Eve and mothers love and nourish their children.
The Incarnation and Redemption confirm the compatibility of God and man, spirit and matter, and men and women.
- And the Word was made flesh and dwells among us.
- Jesus mediates the Father’s love.
- The Church and Mary love and nourish their children.
The New and Eternal Covenant needs “sacramental sexuality” for our encounter with God.
- Participating in Jesus the One Mediator, priests mediate the Father’s love.
- Through the words of consecration by the priest, the Word again becomes flesh in the Eucharist.
- The Church and Mary love and nourish their children with Holy Communion and the Sacraments.
As we recognize the nuptial dignity of male and female as God created us, we advance on the tranquil path of Catholicity (rather than “diversity”), complementarity (instead of “equity”), and communion (an “inclusion” that marries heaven and earth).
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