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Chapter 7: Equal Dignity, Communication, Interpersonal Relationships, and Resitution

Question A: How Is Equal Dignity Consistent with Diversity in Social Status?

Similarity in common humanity and difference in individuality both are necessary conditions for people to associate with one another. Since both factors, humanity and individuality, are present in all human persons, respect for human dignity must respond appropriately to both.

Christian love builds up on earth a network of relationships which will last forever in heaven. Love therefore responds to all persons in the same way, inasmuch as every person shares the same human nature and divine calling, and to each person in different ways, inasmuch as each has different gifts and needs; it is entirely self-consistent in doing this. Thus, in its own unique way, love transcends two defective ways of dealing with people’s sameness and difference: structures of dominance, which violate the equality of persons as human, and processes of impersonal leveling, which violate the uniqueness of persons as individuals. God-given sameness in humanity forestalls the need to pursue equality by eliminating differences; God-given differences in people’s gifts provide opportunities for them to fulfill themselves in communion by mutual self-giving.

1. Two Opposed Social Realities Block This Reconciliation

In the fallen human condition, not only do individuals treat one another unjustly, but societies are shaped by structures at odds with basic human rights (on sinful structures, see 4.A.3.e). While rightly opposing such structures, the movement on behalf of the absolute equality of individuals also attacks the dignity of persons, since their unique gifts belong to their personhood and are essential to their fulfillment.

Both social realities—unjust social structures and the movement toward absolute equality—develop their own pervasive attitudes, characteristic practices, and antagonistic ideologies. In confused and watered-down forms, both often affect different portions of people’s thinking and action without their being aware of it. It is important to understand them in their pure forms, however, in order to see their essential inadequacy and be equally ready to resist both.

a) Social stratification violates the equality of persons as human. Many social relationships have been and are shaped by institutionalized domination. A caste system is an obvious example; so are men’s domination over women, colonial powers’ domination over native peoples, slavery, and the legal nonpersonhood of the unborn. Such structures infringe on the fundamental human rights of those subjected to domination. Those who benefit from the injustice rationalize it by claiming that relevant differences between themselves and those whom they dominate mark objective degrees of humanity or human excellence, and that just social order requires social stratification reflecting their own inherently superior worth. Supported by ideology (racism, colonialism, or some other specific form of what in general can be called “an ideology of social stratification”), such social structures deny the equality as human beings of those who are dominated—deny that the dominated as persons have inherent worth transcending their social function or the value others attribute to them. Indeed, the ideology of stratification inevitably tends to reduce those dominated to the status of nonpersons or second-class persons.

b) Egalitarianism ignores the dignity of persons as different. The ideal of most secular humanists, not only collectivists but many liberal democrats, is not only to do away with every structure based on domination but to make all persons equal by making their social roles as alike as possible and disregarding the remaining differences. But differences among people’s natural endowments and attainments tend to lead to differences in social status, and people’s different situations also differentiate their opportunities. Thus, this ideal leads to egalitarianism and sociocultural homogenization: the impossible project of eliminating everything which requires differences in social roles—except, of course, for those factors reflecting people’s merely subjective preferences (see 6.E.6). In the pursuit of this ideal, egalitarians regard differences among people’s natural endowments, even those such as gender which serve fundamental human goods, as mere obstacles to universal equality and equal rights.

2. Love Responds to Every Person’s Equal Dignity

Created in the image and likeness of God and endowed by nature with the capacities to reason and make free choices, human persons enjoy precisely the same essential dignity (see DH 1, GS 12–17).1 Moreover, the importance of differences in status resulting from the fallen human condition is greatly reduced insofar as redeemed humans become children of God (see GS 22). To this all human beings are called, and love should extend even to those who seem to have rejected this calling, in the hope that they too will accept it. Thus, the same Christian love should embrace Jesus and every human person.

a) The dignity of persons is rooted in their relationship to God. Holding that human persons enjoy a spark of the divine, the Stoics already affirmed the dignity and fellowship of every member of the human family. But Christian faith knows a deeper ground for human dignity and communion:

 The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a “child in the Son” and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for the eternal life of blessed communion with God. . . .
 In virtue of his personal dignity the human being is always a value in himself and for himself, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never as an object to be used, or as a means, or as a thing.2
The phrase, “child in the Son,” points to Christian faith’s special basis for affirming the same essential dignity in every human being. St. Paul clarifies it: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. . . . There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3.26, 28).3

b) Love excludes discrimination which violates dignity. For egalitarians, equality among people is a goal to be attained by eliminating or ignoring differences. By contrast, the revelation that their divine origin and calling constitute the deepest basis of human persons’ dignity makes it clear that the equality which is important is not a goal to be reached but something God freely gives in creating, redeeming, and sanctifying human persons. That common dignity is the bedrock on which equality in fundamental rights rests: “The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves. As a result all forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable.”4

Christian love rejects the discrimination which faith finds unacceptable. Vatican II teaches:

The disposition of a human person toward God the Father and his or her disposition toward fellow human beings are so connected that Scripture says: “Whoever does not love does not know God” (1 Jn 4.8).
 The foundation therefore is taken away from any theory or practice which leads to discrimination, between one person and another or between one nation and another, with respect to human dignity and the rights flowing from it. (NA 5)
Consequently, love requires avoiding “every form—whether social or cultural—of discrimination with respect to the fundamental rights of persons, whether on the basis of sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion” (GS 29). This list is not exhaustive; other factors often are used to rationalize injustices, among them differences in nationality, wealth, health, physical or mental capacity, age, and personal appearance.5 Also, with respect to the rights flowing from human dignity, love rejects discrimination not only between individuals and peoples, but also between any other communities, classes, or groups whatsoever.

c) Love distinguishes among persons in accord with their dignity. Not all distinctions among persons violate their dignity. It often is right to treat people who have different needs differently, for example, parents rightly spend more money on the medical care of sickly children than healthy ones. Society also rightly treats criminals differently from the law-abiding. Their dignity as human beings should not be violated, but they may be punished in ways, such as imprisonment, which otherwise would violate fundamental rights.

Different people have different weaknesses and experience different temptations. Whether caused by natural factors or by culture, morally burdensome characteristics for which individuals are not responsible should not be used as an excuse for discriminating against them, and doing so would be similar to discriminating on the basis of race, religion, and so on. In this sense, sexual orientation should be included in the list of bases of unjust discrimination. However, in speaking of sexual orientation, many people actually mean readiness to engage in homosexual activity, and in this sense sexual orientation should not be listed among the bases of unjust discrimination. For homosexual activity is gravely wrong (see 9.E.3.e, 9.E.6) and so, like any other kind of grave wrong, provides a reasonable basis for dealing differently with those who voluntarily engage in it, both for their own good, the protection of other individuals, and the well-being of society as a whole.

3. Love Appreciates Persons’ Diverse Gifts and Potentialities

Loving everyone in Jesus with the same Christian love means acknowledging the same human dignity shared by all who are called to be God’s children and avoiding all discrimination with respect to every basic human right. But the same love extends to each person’s whole being, including all his or her diverse gifts and potentialities. Thus, St. Paul wrote his famous treatment of love (1 Cor 13) precisely to explain how communion should exist in Jesus’ one body, the Church, among members with diverse and complementary gifts which are to be exercised in an orderly and harmonious way.

Love appreciates differences, perfects them even as it unites those who differ, and motivates different people to use their various gifts in fulfilling the diverse, complementary responsibilities pertaining to their personal vocations. Thus, St. Paul teaches:

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . . .
 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor 12.4–7, 12–13)
While Christian love honors every excellence and respects those holding legitimate authority (see S.t., 2–2, q. 102, a. 1; q. 103, a. 1), it cannot treat differences of gifts, services, and good works as if they marked degrees of personal superiority and inferiority. For every gift, service, and good work is valuable in its own proper way, a way incommensurable with any other, and each makes its unique, indispensable contribution to the common good (see 1 Cor 12.14–26).

4. Love Precludes Using Power for Domination

In the one body with its many members, each member has its own role and enjoys its own excellence (see 1 Cor 12.14–26). Excellence implies power, and this immediately raises the question of how domination can be avoided. The answer is that the law of love requires those who should cooperate in open-ended communities (see 6.C.2) to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (see Eph 5.21). The power each person has because of his or her gifts is to be used for others’ benefit: “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received” (1 Pt 4.10; cf. GS 32). Indeed, love requires those with greater power to use it, not for domination, but to serve others more effectively (see Mt 20.25–28; Mk 9.35, 10.42–45; Lk 22.25–27; Jn 13.12–15). For instance, husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church in laying down his life for her (see Eph 5.25).6

Such love precludes domination, for nobody lays down his or her life for a nonperson or a second-class person.

5. To Violate Others’ Personal Dignity Is Grave Matter

The gospel is opposed to social stratification, which misinterprets differences among persons as if they marked degrees of dignity of human beings as such, consigns supposedly inferior persons to roles of menial service, and reduces the common good to what is fulfilling for those who supposedly are superior.

The gospel likewise is opposed to egalitarianism, which fails to appreciate the value of differences among persons, prefers the individualistic pursuit of fulfillment to mutual service, and reduces the common good to the sum of the goods of individuals.

In their extreme forms, both an ideology of social stratification and egalitarianism lead to treating persons as things, to be used or enjoyed. Stratification does this by rationalizing dominance and denying that all human beings are equal; egalitarianism does it by disregarding valuable differences among persons and substituting individualism for mutual service, so that true community becomes impossible and interpersonal relationships are reduced to mere arrangements for mutual exploitation. Either approach is at odds with the dignity of persons as individuals and the communion to which they are called. Acting according to either approach therefore is inconsistent with love of neighbor, and so is grave matter.

a) Treating others as property violates their personal dignity. The clearest case of treating persons as property is the form of slavery in which masters own slaves just as they own animals. Under this arrangement, it is often legal for masters to dispose of their slaves at will, beat them, sexually use and abuse them, mutilate them, deprive them of marriage and family life, and even exercise the power of life and death over them. While these plainly are grave injustices, the underlying wrong is the attempt to reduce the very person of the slave to the condition of an object of possession, use, enjoyment, and disposal—a thing without his or her own ends, a mere means to the master’s ends. Vatican II includes slavery in the group of sins against reverence for the human person characterized as infamies (see GS 27). It not only violates the dignity of enslaved persons but violates love, for one cannot love another as oneself and abide with him or her in Christ while at the same time treating that other as a thing.7

b) Certain other actions are very similar to enslaving people. Today everyone condemns slavery, and people in most parts of the world do not have the opportunity or motivation to commit the sin of enslaving another or holding a slave. However, it still is possible to be tempted to violate human dignity radically, in ways sharing more or less fully and plainly in the malice of slavery, and so human persons continue to be treated as things. Human individuals, including embryos produced in laboratories and still-living aborted babies, sometimes are used as material for experimentation or as a source of tissues and organs for the benefit of others; children, including babies conceived and gestated by contract, are bought and sold; women are sold or held captive and used, through systems of organized prostitution and otherwise; workers, particularly some migrant laborers and illegal immigrants, are exploited as fully as possible and receive only the minimum necessary to keep working.

These things usually are done without legally categorizing persons as property, yet those exploited are treated as things for others’ use and enjoyment, contrary to justice and love. In every such case, the offense against the person is so direct and so great that the sin plainly is very grave.

c) To violate others’ dignity is to hate them. Even without being treated as things in such gross ways, people can have their dignity violated by discrimination or the refusal to recognize their unique gifts and acknowledge their individual value. It is an important part of each person’s good to be a member of genuine communities in which his or her humanity is honored and his or her special gifts are appreciated and helped to flourish. To deny others’ equality as human beings or their gifts as unique individuals is contrary to this good; doing so by a deliberate act of will is contrary to love, and so is a form of hatred.

For instance, racism, even in the absence of animus against individuals, is radically contrary to love for members of a race considered inferior, since it negates their equality in humanity and implicitly conflicts with willing their full sharing in human communion. But an egalitarianism which goes so far as to despise the diverse gifts of different sorts of people—for example, the kind of feminism which refuses to recognize and appreciate the different values inherent in being a man and being a woman—also rejects their true fulfillment and manifests hatred by preferring a multitude of equal individuals to a communion of many members in one body, in which each member uses his or her special gifts in the service of others.

6. Women and Men Are Equal in Dignity but Complementary in Gifts

Men have dominated women in most societies and cultures, and an ideology of social stratification has rationalized it: precisely as persons, it has been assumed, women are inferior to men and naturally suited to be their subjects.8 The feminist movement originated in understandable and justified reaction to that injustice. However, some feminists are egalitarians; they not only denounce the injustice of male domination but deny the personal significance and social value of the difference between man and woman. Such feminism is appropriately called “radical,” to distinguish it from sound efforts to end male dominance and achieve justice for women.

Radical feminists regard sexuality as merely biological, and demand for women not only equality in fundamental rights but the greatest possible sameness in every social role and activity. So, for instance, radical feminists in general reject the complementarity of men and women in marriage and family life, while Catholic radical feminists claim the Church’s teaching is inconsistent in affirming women’s dignity and equality with men while denying them ordination to the priesthood. But the Church’s teaching on the significance of sexual differentiation shows how love reconciles diversity in gifts and social roles, on the one hand, with equality in human dignity and in every fundamental right, on the other.

a) Men and women are alike in dignity, complementary in function. Recent popes insist both that men and women have the same dignity and that the difference between the sexes has personal and social value:

The Church deems that a woman, as a person, enjoys a dignity equal to that of a man, but is ordained by God and by nature for different tasks, which perfect and complete the work assigned to man. A similar dignity, a complementary function: one can summarize in this expression the principle in the light of which the problem of woman’s work should be examined.9
And what is a woman’s complementary function? It is the counterpart of a man’s calling to fatherhood and to fatherlike responsibility for those who depend on him in various relationships: “Every woman is made to be a mother: a mother in the physical meaning of the word or in the more spiritual and exalted but no less real sense.”10

b) Not every social role is equally suitable for men and women. Discrimination against women, including that denying them an equal opportunity to participate in professional and social life, is unjust. But affirming equal human rights nevertheless is compatible with rejecting egalitarianism:

The equalizing of rights must not degenerate into an egalitarian and impersonal leveling. Egalitarianism, which is blindly pushed forward by our materialistic society, is little concerned with the specific welfare of persons, and contrary to appearances it takes no notice of what is suitable and what is not suitable for women. It thereby runs the risk either of ‘virilizing’ women or of depersonalizing them.11
For example, while fathers should share in the care of their small children, the primary responsibility in this matter naturally falls to mothers; and while women can help deal with challenges which must be repelled by physical force, generally men are better suited by nature to organize such actions and execute them.12 Such differences do not imply that individuals of either sex are less capable on the whole than those of the other, but that individuals of both sexes are naturally needed to fulfill complementary social roles.13

c) Women are justly excluded from ordination to the priesthood. The Church believes it impossible to ordain women as priests. It is not that women as persons or as Christians suffer from some defect in human nature or in divine grace. They, no less than men, are created in the image of God and called to be created anew in the likeness of the Word Incarnate. But Jesus, the divine bridegroom, has entered into covenantal communion with the Church as his bride (see Eph 5.22–33; Rv 19.7–8, 21.9, 22.17), and women as female are not suited to represent Jesus within the assembled Church in his spousal relationship with her: “It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom toward the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts ‘in persona Christi’, is performed by a man.”14

Underlying this argument against women’s ordination is the premise, defended at length by John Paul II, that the difference between man and woman is of more than biological significance, because it is an unalterable determining condition of their complementarity and fundamental vocation to fulfill themselves and each other in and by their mutual self-giving.15 God makes use of this significance of the difference between the sexes both in revealing himself in Scripture and in communicating himself by means of the sacraments of the Eucharist and holy order. If a woman were to act as Jesus’ proxy in the performance of the Eucharist, his husbandlike relationship with his wifelike Church would not be expressed, so that the very meaning of the Eucharist for everyone who participates in it would be obscured and rendered ambiguous. Whereas all members of the Church, including those in sacred orders and other men, must share in her feminine role as bride, united with her Lord in the one-flesh communion of his body, all would instead be led to think of themselves as a multitude of individual partners with the Lord “in the mystery of redemption.”16

7. Love Responds to Differences Due to Limitations and Defects

Not all important differences among people are based on their possessing different gifts or powers to serve one another. Some are based on limitations and defects: the helplessness of a baby, the handicap of a maimed or retarded person, the misery of a poor family, the wretchedness of an unrepentant sinner, the obtuseness of an unbeliever, and so on. Viewed without love, such differences can provide motives for discrimination or opportunities for exploitation; viewed with love, they provide opportunities for service, which builds up Jesus’ body. Thus, loving parents, teachers, nurses, pastors, and so on find their own fulfillment in the services they render, rather than in domination, and come to appreciate the value of others’ needs for the growth of communion in love.

1. Only the essential dignity shared by every human being is under consideration here. This must be distinguished from moral goodness and holiness acquired by cooperating with God’s grace, which sometimes also is called “dignity”; see William E. May, An Introduction to Moral Theology (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1991), 19–22.

2. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 37, AAS 81 (1989) 461, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 12.

3. However, Gal 3.28 should not be used as a proof text to deny the appropriateness of differences in the roles of men and women or their complementarity, since the verse, read in context, plainly means to exclude only the relevance of such differences for a Christian’s relationship to God; see Thomas Hopko, “Galatians 3:28: An Orthodox Interpretation,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 35 (1991): 169–86.

4. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 37, AAS 81 (1989) 461, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 12.

5. With regard to nationalism and racism, see Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 62–63, AAS 59 (1967) 287–88, PE, 275.62–63. With regard to those who are not physically or mentally normal, the Holy See, Document for the International Year of Disabled Persons, I.1, 3, EV 7 (1980–81) 1044–47, OR, 23 Mar. 1981, 6, teaches clearly: “The first principle, which is one that must be stated clearly and firmly, is that the disabled person (whether the disability be the result of a congenital handicap, chronic illness or accident, or from mental or physical deficiency, and whatever the severity of the disability) is a fully human subject, with the corresponding innate, sacred and inviolable rights. This statement is based upon the firm recognition of the fact that a human being possesses a unique dignity and an independent value, from the moment of conception and in every stage of development, whatever his or her physical condition. . . . A perfect technological society which only allowed fully functional members and which neglected, institutionalized or, what is worse, eliminated those who did not measure up to this standard or who were unable to carry out a useful role, would have to be considered as radically unworthy of man, however economically successful it might be. Such a society would in fact be tainted by a sort of discrimination no less worthy of condemnation than racial discrimination; it would be discrimination by the strong and ‘healthy’ against the weak and the sick.” With regard to potential discrimination on the basis of age, see John Paul II, Message to the World Assembly on the Problems of the Aging Population, 1, AAS 74 (1982) 1173–75, OR, 30 Aug. 1982, 4–5.

6. On this verse, John Paul II, General Audience (11 Aug. 1982), 4, Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 205–6, OR, 16–23 Aug. 1982, 1, comments: “Love excludes every kind of subjection whereby the wife might become a servant or a slave of the husband, an object of unilateral domination. Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and thereby subject to the Lord himself, just as the wife to the husband. The community or unity which they should establish through marriage, is constituted by a reciprocal donation of self, which is also a mutual subjection.” For a fuller development of this point, see 9.D.2; John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 10 and 24, AAS 80 (1988) 1674–77 and 1710–12, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 5 and 11.

7. Several New Testament passages seem to take for granted slavery’s moral acceptability, for example: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ . . .. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality” (Eph 6.5, 9). What is one to make of such passages? First, the Christians of the first centuries lived in an extremely antagonistic society, whose institutions they could not change; thus, while they took established injustices for granted, that must not be interpreted as condoning them. Second, while the master-slave relationship is not explicitly condemned by any New Testament writer, neither does any defend it. Moreover, the teaching that being a slave does not exclude one from the new covenant (see 1 Cor 7.21–24, 12.13; Gal 3.28; Col 3.11; Phlm 15–17) and that masters must treat slaves fairly (see Col 4.1; cf. Eph 6.9) calls for a change in the lived relationship between masters and slaves, and implicitly calls into question the conventional structure with its radical injustice. Third, the New Testament focuses on a more basic and widespread servitude: slavery to sin (see Rom 6.17) and its overcoming by the obedience of Jesus, who, though divine, accepted the role of a slave (see Phil 2.6–7). Thus, New Testament advice to slaves emphasizes Christian patience and mercy, which imitate Jesus in suffering injustices without hatred and returning loving service for the injustice suffered (see 1 Pt 2.18–25).

8. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 10, AAS 80 (1988) 1674–77, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 5, points out that the domination of men over women is a result of sin, and in this sense a divine punishment (see Gn 3.16), but no less unjust on that account, and concludes: “The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman’s personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.”

9. John XXIII, Address to a Congress of the International Federation of Young Catholic Women, AAS 52 (1960) 392, The Pope Speaks 6 (1959–60): 331. In Pacem in terris, AAS 55 (1963) 267–68, PE, 270.41, John notes with approval: “Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.” Vatican II (see GS 29) also teaches the sameness of women and men in human dignity. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., The Concept of Woman: The Aristotelian Revolution 750 BC–AD 1250 (Montreal: Eden Press, 1985), 292–315, shows that Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) worked out the complementarity of woman and man; but Aristotle’s view that woman is inferior insofar as different from man prevailed in theology until recently.

10. Pius XII, Address to Italian Catholic Women, AAS 37 (1945) 287, Catholic Mind 43 (1945): 708. Similarly, John Paul II, Address to Participants in the Fifth International Congress of the Family, 2, Inseg. 3.2 (1980) 1084, OR, 29 Dec. 1980, 7, teaches: “Some [married women] are tempted to seek a solution in movements which claim to ‘liberate’ them, although it would be necessary to ask what liberation it is a question of, and not to mean by this word emancipation from what is their specific vocation as mothers and wives, or imitation, leading to uniformity, of the way in which the male partner finds fulfillment.” A helpful philosophical-theological critique of radical feminism: Ronda Chervin, Feminine, Free and Faithful (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).

11. Paul VI, Address to the Members of the Study Commission on the Role of Women in the Church and in Society, and the Committee of the International Women’s Year, AAS 68 (1976) 200, OR, 12 Feb. 1976, 3–4.

12. See Benedict M. Ashley, O.P., Theologies of the Body: Humanist and Christian (Braintree, Mass.: The Pope John Center, 1985), 434–36. For a cogent criticism of feminists’ refusal to recognize and appreciate innate differences between men and women, and the deleterious effects of this refusal on marriage and the family, see Michael Levin, Feminism and Freedom (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1987), 16–97 and 264–96.

13. Alice Schlegel, Sexual Stratification: A Cross-Cultural View (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 356, concludes on the basis of studies in comparative anthropology: “It is clear that in all known human societies, gender provides the basis for a fundamental division in social function. In no society to date do men take primary responsibility for the care of young children, nor do women take a principal role in organizing and implementing activities of offense and defense, although the degree to which the opposite sex is involved in these activities varies greatly from society to society. Even where division of labor by sex is minimal or nonexistent . . ., this division of function occurs [note omitted]. Division of function, however, does not necessarily lead to stratification; rather, it can lead to balanced complementarity.”

14. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 26, AAS 80 (1988) 1716, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 12. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Inter insigniores, AAS 69 (1977) 98–116, Flannery, 2:331–45; Jean Galot, S.J., Theology of the Priesthood (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1984), 251–67; Ashley, Theologies of the Body, 530–31, 560–61.

15. See John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 6–7, AAS 80 (1988) 1662–67, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 3–4; the Pope also explicitly asserts complementarity of women and men precisely insofar as they are persons: Christifideles laici, 50, AAS 81 (1989) 489, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 16: “The condition that will assure the rightful presence of woman in the Church and in society is a more penetrating and accurate consideration of the anthropological foundation for masculinity and femininity for the purpose of clarifying woman’s personal identity in relation to man, that is, a diversity yet mutual complementarity, not only as it concerns roles to be held and functions to be performed, but also, and more deeply, as it concerns her nature and meaning as a person.”

16. See the draft document prepared by a committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Partners in the Mystery of Redemption: A Pastoral Response to Women’s Concerns for Church and Society,” Origins 17 (21 Apr. 1988): 757, 759–88. It might be objected that it would be no less fitting for a woman to act in persona Christi than for men to share in the Church’s feminine role as his bride. However, members of the Church as such do not represent anyone, and so no special symbolic significance attaches to their masculinity or femininity. Moreover, inasmuch as God has chosen to play the role of husband in establishing covenantal communion with humankind, there is no alternative to male Christians sharing in the Church’s feminine role, but there is an alternative to the ordination of women.