Complementarity is at the Root of Marriage
On Monday, November 17, 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Colloquium being held at the Humanum conference on the theme “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.”
Pope Francis started his address by discussing the word complementarity: “To reflect upon ‘complementarity’ is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation.”
He followed this by reflecting specifically on the complementarity of man and woman. “This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family,” he said. He cautioned, however, not to think of the complementarity of man and woman simply as the idea that “all roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Male-female complementarity is much more than this: “Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children —his or her personal richness, personal charisma.”
As a result of this “great wealth” of complementarity in marriage, the family becomes the first “school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts.” It is the first “place where we can begin to ‘breathe’ values and ideals, as well as to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity.” In in times of tension, the Holy Father says that the family provides the necessary framework to resolve such issues.
Pope Francis warned, very directly, that “marriage and family are in crisis.” He stated that today we live in a “culture of the temporary” in which more and more people no longer see marriage as a public commitment. He asserted, “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings.”
This crisis, the Holy Father, said has led to a crisis of human ecology. It is known that natural environments need protection; however, Francis urged that social environments do as well. Humans have long understood our call to address conditions that threaten the natural environment, yet “we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well.” He stressed that we need to “foster a new human ecology and advance it.”
In order to do this, it is first necessary to promote the “fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.” Of these non-material goods, the family is of the utmost importance. Pope Francis declared, “The family is the foundation of co-existence and a guarantee against social fragmentation.”
On the rights and well-being of children, he said, “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
Pope Francis also urged the colloquium to extol another truth about marriage: “Permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” On this, Francis insisted that young people, who are the future, must be kept in mind. “It is important that they do not give themselves over to the poisonous mentality of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern,” he said.
Finally, he stated that the family cannot be reduced to an ideological concept, when in fact it is an “anthropological fact.” We should not speak of “conservative” or “progressive” notions of family because the reality of family transcends passing ideological labels.
In closing, Pope Francis confirmed that he will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September of 2015.