Mother Pelican
Meditations on Man and Woman, Humanity and Nature

Luis T. Gutiérrez
Index Page


Meditation Seeking Understanding ~ Church

These pages are meditations on the mysteries of the creation, the incarnation, and the redemption. They explore the Christian understanding that all men and women are consubstantial in one and the same human nature, and are consubstantial with Jesus Christ as to his humanity. The meditations are based on a layman's reading of the Sacred Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Theology of the Body as they pertain to the egalitarian complementarity of man and woman, which transcends the patriarchal binary of mutually exclusive male-female opposites. This understanding of the complementary equality of man and woman applies to all the sacraments, sheds light on the great nuptial mystery of Christ and the Church, and would seem to support the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and the episcopate.

Apostolic Complementarity of Man and Woman

Preliminary Draft - 27 February 2016


In the Catholic Church, the resistance to the ordination of women is rooted in a sacramental theology that conflates the patriarchal gender binary with biblical revelation. This is a meditation on human nature, male and female, as it pertains to the sacramental priesthood of the New Law when unconstrained by the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law. This is a visceral issue that cannot not be settled by reasoning alone. This page attempts to support prayerful discernment by stepping outside of the patriarchal box and reconsidering the issue in light of the deposit of faith and the signs of the times.

On the mystery of the Church, experienced and embraced:

MERCY-4.0.jpg "How baffling are you, O Church,
and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer,
and yet how much I owe you!
I should like to see you destroyed,
and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal
and yet you have made me understand sanctity.
I have seen nothing in the world
more devoted to obscurity,
more compromised, more false,
and I have touched nothing more pure,
more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted
to shut the doors of my soul in your face,
and how often I have prayed
to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you,
because I am you, though not completely.
And where would I go?"

The God Who Comes
Carlo Carretto, 1910-1988

Acronyms and Links:

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine
Theology of the Body


The Fall of Man
Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7, 23; 3:16, 23-24; 5:1-2; CCC 371, 372, 383; TOB 2:4, 3:2, 4:2, 8:1, 8:4, 9:2
Image: Michelangelo: Paintings, Sculptures, Biography

In the beginning, man and woman were created as rational living beings composed of body and soul in the unity of the same flesh. Thus having a body, as well as having a soul, is more fundamental for human personhood than being male or female. All human beings, male and female, are consubstantial, i.e., share one and the same human nature. All men and women are fully homogeneous, not only somatically but in their whole being. The complementarity of man and woman does not cancel their full equality as human persons. The egalitarian complementarity of man and woman is ordered to the communion of persons in God's image, not to male domination and female submission as in the patriarchal binary that emerged from original sin but has been overcome by the redemption.


The natural unity of man and woman is the original unity of man and woman. One human nature, one homogeneous flesh. Unity in diversity, image of God, personally and in interpersonal communion.


The patriarchal "binary" emerged after original sin. It is no longer credible as an adequate anthropology. The TOB is neither radically feminist or radically patriarchal.


Real differences do not cancel real equality in human personhood. Other than genitally, the complementarity of man and woman does not mean mutually exclusive roles. Such mutual exclusion in family and church is heritage from radical patriarchy, not divine revelation.


Bride of the Holy Spirit, Missionary Servant, Mother of God, Mother of the Temple
Luke 1:38-39, 46-56; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 5:27; CCC 773, 973; TOB 8:1-4, 21:5-6, 97:2, 102:4
Images: Visitation - Jerusalem Patriarchate, Nativity - Carmel of Reno,
Lectio Divina - Carmelite Order

God assumed human nature when Mary accepted her unique vocation to be the mother of Jesus. In Mary, the Eternal Word became flesh, as flesh of her flesh. Thus Mary preceded the entire sacramental economy. She who had never been baptized, by her fiat became the Mother of God. In Mary, the Old Law was fulfilled by being turned upside down and inside out. In her womb, the omnipotent God became the most vulnerable Servant of the New Law. The Holy Family was not a patriarchy, thus revealing that the Holy Trinity is not a patriarchy. Jesus would never identified himself as a patriarch, thus revealing that his spousal love for the Church is not essentially patriarchal. Jesus Christ is head of the Church because he is a divine Person and our Redeemer in the flesh, not because he is a human male. Mary is the type of the Church, the type of humanity; she is the sinless bride that preceded sinful humanity, and a Church of baptized sinners, in the nuptial communion of the sacramental economy.

Incarnation in Mary of Nazareth ~ Theotokos ~ Apostolic Mission to America

The "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine" dimension (CCC 773). Mary was an apostle, and much more than an apostle, long before the 12 apostles show up in the New Testament. Mary is the "apostle of the visitation," a mission she continues over the centuries by way of her "visitations" (apparitions) in so many places of the Christian world.


Human bodies are male or female, human persons are male and female. Either in marriage or celibacy, man is incomplete without women and vice cersa.


Sexual differentiation happens in one and the same kind of dust/flesh (Genesis 2, TOB 8).


All human beings, male and female, are somatically homogeneous "body-souls."


The body is a sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. The first Eve came out of the fist Adam. The new Adam came out of the New Eve. Same flesh, same human nature.


Redemptor Hominis ~ The Paschal Mystery

Redemptoris Mater ~ Marian & Apostolic Dimensions of the Church
N.B. The Marian dimension precedes the apostolic dimension and the sacramental economy
Mark 16:3; Luke 2:52; John 4:27, 16:12-13, 19:26-27; Galatians 3:28; CCC 26ff, 773, 1066ff, 1691ff; TOB 31:2
Image: Kerstin Lundquist's Blog

All the mysteries of the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Ascension, are made visible in the flesh of a concrete human being, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived in one place, at one time, in one family, in one culture. He grew up as the son of his parents, worked for a living, went around doing good and planting the seeds of the God's kingdom as best he could, challenged his culture without imposing anything that people could not understand, had male and female friends who became disciples, had male and female detractors, and died as a servant king but rose as the Servant King. He chose celibacy for the sake of the kingdom and by choice never became a father, but would not have been able to be a mother; for sexual differentiation is a gift but also a limitation of the human condition. Jesus was God in time and space, yet like us in all things but sin.

What a mystery! The first millennium of the Christian era was spent defining the Creed and the "one person, two natures" Christological dogmas. The second millennium was spent defining the sacraments and the Marian dogmas that prefigure the Church. Perhaps the third millennium will be about understanding the great nuptial mystery of Christ and the Church, and further embracing the tripod of redemptive fruits he gained for us: the transition from the Old Law to the New Law, the emancipation from all forms of slavery, and the restoration of male-female communion. But the patriarchal binary is the stone that still blocks the entrance to the tomb, and this imbalance of male domination and female submission must be corrected during the "already, but not yet" time window of the pilgrim Church that goes from Pentecost to his second coming in glory.


We know about 12 male disciples (Matthew 10:2-4) and 12 women disciples: 1. Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:38, John 2:12, 19:25) 2. Mary's sister, Jesus' aunt (John 19:25) 3. The mother of James and John Zebedee (Matthew 27:55-56) 4. Mary Magdalene (John 20:16) 5. Joanna, wife of Chuza (Luke 8:3) 6. Salome (Mark 15:40-41) 7. Susanna (Luke 8:3) 8. Mary, wife of Cleopas (John 19:25) 9. Simon Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:15) 10. Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus (John 11:27) 11. Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:3) 12. The Samaritan woman (John 4:39). Why only the 12 males appointed as "apostles" during the public ministry? Hints: John 4:27, 16:12. What about after the resurrection? What about the 24 elders in Revelation? Note: 12 + 12 = 24. Why not 12 male and 12 female? Why should we assume that all 24 are always to be male after Pentecost?


Nuptial Covenant of Christ and the Church
Genesis 2:24; Matthew 4:18-22, 16:19, 18:18, 19:4-5; Acts 15:28; Ephesians 5:21-33; CCC 796, 802-810, 1616; TOB 1:3, 2:1, 8:1, 19:5, 33:3, 87:2-3, 91:1, 93:6, 97:2, 99:2, 102:1
Image: Biblical Hebrew Studies

When Jesus gave the power of the keys to Peter, he was submitting to the will of the Church on earth. This is a great mystery (mysterium magnum) and may be the most beautiful and most misunderstood mystery of the Christian faith. He who is Priest, Prophet, and King, as well as Victim, voluntarily entrusted the continuation of his mission to the Church and gave her the power, wisdom, and authority to sacramentally bring the Good News to all nations. The old nuptial covenant between God and Israel now becomes a new covenant between Christ and the Church, who becomes one flesh with Christ and the great sacrament (sacramentum magnum) of divine mercy in this world.

It is a nuptial mystery that encapsulates the primordial sacrament of male-female unity in one flesh but also reveals that there is a Christ-Church unity that points to a God-Human unity (theosis) as the ultimate goal of evangelization until the Lord returns in glory. The spousal meaning of the body, both the human body and the Church as the body of Christ, is by no means limited to a superficial patriarchal interpretation of the bridegroom-bride analogy. The spousal bond of Christ-Head and Church-Body radically transcends the patriarchal binary of male domination and female subordination. Jesus Christ is head of the Church because he is a divine Person and our Redeemer in the flesh, not because he is a human male. This nuptial meaning of the Christ-Church mystery as a communion of persons, in the image of the Trinity, applies to all the sacraments.


TOB 8-10 ---> 1-133 (sacramentality of Marriage)


TOB 8-10 extended to sacramentality of Holy Orders ---> 1-133 extended to sacramentality of Holy Orders


Mary of Nazareth, the Samaritan Woman, and Mary Magdalene

Apostolic Succession and the Hierarchy of the Church, Male and Female
Psalm 8:4–6; Mark 16:2-3, 9-11; Luke 1:38; John 1:1-3, 14; 4:27-34: Romans 16:3-7; Philippians 2:7-8; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 10:10; Acts 15:28; CCC 239, 242, 248, 262, 370, 467, 685, 703, 1577, 1598, 2789; TOB 1:3, 2:4, 3:2, 4:2, 8:1-4, 13:1, 19:2-5, 21:6, 25:2, 31:3, 33:2-4, 35:5, 41:1, 58:2, 59:4, 65:3, 66:2-4, 67:3, 69:4-8, 70:5-7, 75:3, 76:5-6, 78:5, 79:9, 80:1, 81:4, 86:4, 87:5, 89:3-8, 90:1-6, 91:3, 92:6, 93:5-6, 94:5, 95:2, 95b:1, 96:5,7; 97:5, 99:2, 102:4-7, 104:4-5, 114:8, 115:6, 116:5, 117:5, 117b:2, 6, 121:1-3, 122:1-2, 123:7, 124:1, 126:2, 129:2-5, 130:5, 133:3
Images: Madonna of the Magnificat, Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Welcome to Women Bishops

Points to be considered:

  • HEAD & BODY ~ Our Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church because he is a divine Person and our Redeemer in the flesh, not because he is a human male. Any baptized person, male or female, can be ordained to act in persona Christi capitis.
  • UNITY IN DIVERSITY ~ All humans, and therefore all the baptized, are somatically homogeneous and consubstantial in their whole being, their redeemed bodies being of the same flesh and making visible their souls as images of God; and their fundamental unity in one and the same human nature, and equality in personhood, subsists intact regardless of sexual differentiation or any other pyschosomatic diversity.
  • BODY SACRAMENTALITY ~ For the redemption, what matters is that God assumed a human body ("This is my body"). Sexual differentiation is a gift but is also a limitation of the human condition. Jesus is "like us in all things but sin". For the sacramental economy, the masculinity of Jesus is as incidental as the color of his eyes. This applies to all the sacraments, including the ministerial priesthood. The exclusively male priesthood is patriarchal heritage received from the Old Law that has yet to be discarded under the New Law.
  • HUMAN LANGUAGE ~ "God is Love." "God the Father" is not exclusively male. "God the Son" was the Eternal Word before the incarnation, and not exclusively male. "God the Holy Spirit" is not exclusively male. The Trinity is a communion of divine persons, not a patriarchy. The Holy Family was not a patriarchy. Jesus never identified himself as a patriarch. The Church is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic," and is the communion of all the baptized, but is not essentially patriarchal. As the family evolves from male headship to joint male-female (father-mother) headship, the patriarchal language that obscures biblical texts and magisterial teachings is becoming an obstacle to grace.
  • MARY THEOTOKOS ~ Mary preceded the sacramental economy, and hers was a unique and unrepeatable ministerial vocation (Mother of God) that does not preclude the ordination of baptized women. She is a human person, not a divine person. Priests and bishops are human persons, not divine persons. If a female human person can be the Mother of God, a female human person can be a member of the Church hierarchy.
  • THE 12 APOSTLES ~ In choosing 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel, Jesus was acting within the limits of his mision to patriarchal Israel and what his disciples could understand. Would Jesus make the same choice for the Church of the 21st century?
  • CHURCH AUTHORITY ~ The male-only priesthood is a choice the Church makes, not a dogma of the Catholic faith; and the Church, by the power of the keys, has the authority to ordain women as soon as it is recognized that the patriarchal binary is an obstacle to evangelization in a post patriarchal world. Would Jesus, in today's world, choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel?
  • SACRAMENTAL COMPLEMENTARITY ~ Humanity is male and female. Just as man and woman complement each other in the sacrament of marriage, they also complement each other in all the sacraments, including Holy Orders. Apostolic succession is not contingent on masculinity. The dogma on the sacrament of Holy Orders (Council of Trent) does not mention a masculinity requirement for ordination. The apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is authoritative but is not an infallible definition of the patriarchal (male-only) priesthood as a divinely revealed dogma. The letter "definitively" confirms the hierarchical constitution of the Church, but does not preclude the hierarchy from ever ceasing to be a patriarchy. Once the artificiality of the patriarchal gender binary and the egalitarian complementarity of man and woman are recognized, there is absolutely no dogmatic impediment to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.

  • DISCERNMENT ~ Further enriching the hierarchy with the sacramental complementarity of man and woman would be more conducive to integral human development as well as an integral ecology. The patriarchal family is passing away, and the patriarchal hierarchy of the Church is becoming an obstacle to grace and the mission of evangelization. Here and now, the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate would be for the glory of God and the good of souls.

    Other than genitally, the complementarity of man and woman does not mean mutually exclusive roles. Such mutual exclusion in the apostolate is heritage from radical patriarchy, not divine revelation. For the mission of evangelization, it is time to give top priority to the third leg of the Pauline tripod (Galatians 3:28) and start ordaining women to the priesthood and the episcopate, for the glory of God and the good of souls.


    This meditation does not attempt to "prove" anything. It is a personal reflection about a visceral issue that cannot be resolved by reasoning alone, and prayerful discernment of Christ's will is required. The truth is timeless, but the Church's understanding of the truth is not timeless; the faith is always the same but the Holy Spirit enables the Church to bring out of the deposit of faith what is new and what is old (cf. Matthew 13:52).

    Lord, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change,
    The courage to change what I should change,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Mary, Mother of the Church and Untier of Knots, pray for us.

    |Back to Title|

    PelicanWeb Home Page      Index of Meditations

    "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ...
    This is a profound mystery—
    but I am talking about Christ and the church..."

    Ephesians 5:21-33


    Write to the Author
    Send email to Subscribe
    Send email to Unsubscribe
    Link to the Google Groups Website
    Link to the PelicanWeb Home Page


    Creative Commons License
    ISSN 2165-9672