Christianity,  News

The Pope affirms the “Complementarity” of Marriage

Six videos have been released in conjunction with the Vatican’s colloquium on complementarity—an event being held now in Rome. I have not yet seen all six, but I have viewed the first one (see above). It is really well done. In fact, I would say that this is a must-watch video. It bears an international, timeless perspective on the fundamental “complementarity” of marriage—that is, that marriage is fundamentally a heterosexual union. It includes testimonials from N. T. Wright, Peter Kreeft, and many others.

I think that this video is expressing what Pope Francis himself declared today in his opening remarks to the colloquium. In a translation provided by the Vatican News website, the Pope affirms that marriage is irreducibly heterosexual in its nature. You can read his remarks here.


  • James Bradshaw

    Charles Manson recently wed his 20-something bride. By virtue of their mismatched plumbing, we are to believe that this union is somehow more worthy of recognition than any gay couple that exists? Such simplistic thinking. I dont get it, I must confess …

    • Charles Wm Wells

      James Bradshaw failed to note that the convicted murderer Charles Manson is in his
      80s and will marry his bride who is in her 20s from prison. It stretches the mind to find
      a bit of complementarity in the insanity of these pathological arrangements. It really boggles the mind and denudes religion of claim to the moral high road it once enjoyed
      to validate such arrangements as a marriage, and insists a couple who have lived in a loving same-sexed relationship for half a century, raised children, and enjoy grand-
      children cannot marry is beyond pharisaical.
      We know how Jesus felt about Pharisees and their strict adherence to the law.

  • Don Johnson

    My take is there is now de facto such a thing as a civil marriage and a religious marriage. In a religious marriage, that religion’s adherents can make any restrictions they wish on who may wed.

  • Tim Keene

    The complementarity in marriage the Pope advocates has nothing to do with the fixing of authority lines between husband and wife. He locates his concept in complementarity in 1 Cor 12 and not in 1 Tim or Eph 5. He sees complementarity in marriage as something that is worked out in different ways in different marriages. It is perfectly compatible with and probably even argues for an egalitarian view of marriage. Thus the headline to the post is utterly misleading.

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi TIM,
      I do agree with your comment that the Pope has a much expanded interpretation of the term ‘complementarity’ . . . I have not seen the videos, so I do not know how they handle defining the term other than what DENNY has shared about the first video. The Pope is bringing many people of faith together in hopes of increasing understanding of how best the Church can serve families in this present age where family life is in need of support for the sake of children and those who are vulnerable. As a Catholic, I appreciate that people of good will from the whole Christian family are interested in participating in this effort and I pray that from their collegial efforts, good will come.

      • Tim Keene

        Thanks for your interest
        The ‘much expanded interpretation of the term’ is not original to the Pope. A few years ago two huge IVP books on the issue came out simultaneously taking opposing views. One was titled “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy”. The key move of the Pope, which again is scarcely original to him, is to start the notion of Complementarity from 1 Cor 12, i.e. outside the specific issue of men/women. As soon as one does that, the hierarchies set up are on the basis of gifting/talent and not gender. And so the hierarchies are flexible, potentially and even usually temporary, and not the inflexible and permanent ones assumed by the who affirm “Complementarity” (with hierarchy) in marriage and church leadership.
        This is why I find it so strange for Denny to publicise the Pope’s views when they count against Denny’s views. Perhaps it is testimony to the generosity of Denny’s orthodoxy.

  • Robert Karl

    good primer to understand Francis on issues of the family and marriage, etc. is to read Humana Vitae by Pope Paul IV and The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul 2.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Peter Kreeft and Wright lack much linguistic knowledge. Sun and moon are male and female in French, and female and male in German. They switch back and forth frequently. The Japanese sun god is female. The Sumerian Sun god was female and the storm god was male.

    Only about one quarter of languages use sex related gender categories. Chinese, most African and Native American languages do not have sex related categories. That is, some have gender which represent animate or inanimate. Gender, in this case, refers to the fact that the language has noun categories but they are unrelated to sex.

    There are no words for masculine and feminine in Hebrew. Sex is related to our creatureness, as living, breathing beings, animal or human. The sun and moon actually have unstable gender assignment in Hebrew. In Genesis the sun and moon are both male. They actually are used throughout Hebrew literature with both genders. The Holy Spirit has three genders in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Has God inspired this? Or is this a feature of human languages?

    Could someone speak to a more scholarly approach to the linguistic analysis? Kreeft and Wright are misleading.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    There are some who believe so fervently in the universality of gender that they have developed a theory of the masculine electron and the feminine proton. But likewise, others believe with equal commitment in the masculine proton and the feminine electron. Let us preserve our religion from the universality of sexual complementarity and keep some sanity and faith in hesed and hokmah, loving kindness and wisdom. Let us look to the ungendered virtues that God wants us to aspire to.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Estonian, Turkish and Finnish lack gender. In Arabic, the sun is feminine and the moon is masculine. The notion that gender is universal and permeates the universe is used to affirm that there are gender roles in heaven. But which culture will God favour for sun and moon, creator of light and reflection of light? German, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic? All different.

    “We have already in part pointed out that the moon has been considered as of the masculine gender; and have therefore but to travel a little farther afield to show that in the Aryan of India, in Egyptian, Arabian, Slavonian, Latin, Lithuanian, Gothic, Teutonic, Swedish, Anglo-Saxon, and South American, the moon is a male god. To do this, in addition to former quotations, it will be sufficient to adduce a few authorities. “Moon,” says Max Müller, is a very old word. It was móna in Anglo-Saxon, and was used there, not as a feminine, but as a masculine for the moon was originally a masculine, and the sun a feminine, in all Teutonic languages; and it is only through the influence of classical models that in English moon has been changed into a feminine, and sun into a masculine. It was a most unlucky assertion which Mr. Harris made in his Hermes, that all nations ascribe to the sun a masculine, and to the moon a feminine gender.”

  • Jonathan Charles

    no Idea how one can believe in complementary nature of marriage when they believe men and women can just be swapped so how do NT Wright etc fit here?

  • Ned Flaherty

    The Vatican did not reach out to any major LGBT organization during the 12 months it spent planning this global convention. The Vatican invited no LGBT speakers, no LGBT participants, and no LGBT journalists. The only invitees were those known to oppose LGBT people, and the only speakers were those with proven histories crusading against them.

    This convention was the Roman Catholic church’s re-launch of its centuries-old effort to demean, derogate, disenfranchise, and demonize LGBT people by writing Roman Catholic religious superstitions into civil laws affecting everybody else.

    The papal view that marriage is solely about procreation, breeding, and animal husbandry has already been rejected by most modern societies.

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