“Male and female God created them” (Genesis 1:28)
In his highly publicized encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis makes some fascinating insights into the ecology of the human body. There can be little doubt that Pope Francis has a thorough knowledge of Saint John Paul II’s well known “theology of the body,” and Francis mentions explicitly in his encyclical Pope Benedict’s “ecology of man.” Pope Francis states that a genuine human ecology involves the acceptance of our bodies in the male and female forms in which nature gives them to us. He states that it is “not a healthy attitude” which would seek to “cancel out sexual differences” between men and women.
These words of our Holy Father are found in section 155 of Laudato Si, under the heading, “Ecology and Daily Life,” and are set forth below:
155. Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.
The Holy Father Francis also wrote, just days prior to the release of the encyclical, these important words:
“… Being parents is based on the diversity of being male and female, as the Bible reminds us. This is the ‘first’ and most fundamental difference, constitutive of the human being. It is a wealth. Differences are wealth. “We men learn to recognize, through the female figures we encounter in life, the extraordinary beauty that women bear. And women follow a similar path, learning from male figures that the man is different and has his own way of feeling, understanding and living. And this communion in difference is very important also in the education of children”. (Pope Francis, June, 2015)
Marriage between a man and a woman is deeply embedded in the wisdom of creation and the ecology of the body. Pope Francis makes this point in a beautiful way in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, and Jesus affirms this truth in the most radical way possible (see Matt. 19: 3-10).
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.