There Are Two Sexes, and They Are Complementary — Denial of This Fact Brings Ruin

“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” (CCC 2393)

Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Paradise with the Creation of Eve,” ca. 1638
Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Paradise with the Creation of Eve,” ca. 1638 (photo: Public Domain)

Married couples complement each other. Marriage is founded on a mutual understanding of the difference between the sexes — a difference that is complementary, and has the character of law.

We know through faith and reason that this complementarity between the sexes belongs to the act of Creation, and that God has given it a final destination and goal — the spiritual and bodily union in human love that will be the source of new human life.

This objective of love is an absolute truth, since human life cannot be brought about in any way other than through a man and a woman sexually. And what is biologically complementary is also spiritually complementary. The soul is composed not of matter (biological or otherwise), but is spiritual. 

Death is evidence of the soul’s existence. What has made up a person during his or her lifetime will someday be gone. Death has occurred and the body does not move. There is no movement in the eyes. They do not look at you because the soul has left them. 

Edith Stein says that the souls of the man and of the woman are not identical — not because of some immaterial difference, but because they harmonize with each person’s physical nature. She also says that there are no clear limits between what is masculine and feminine in the souls and that they much resemble each other but are polarized in one direction or the other.

In other words, in each soul there is both a masculine and a feminine pole, but one of them is always stronger or more concentrated. 

“Gender ideology” disregards this obvious polarization and thereby ignores the differences between the sexes, with the result that the concept of complementarity seems less and less meaningful. What stands before us is a “unisex person,” with immense consequences for the emergence of a new society.


Christian Doctrine Illuminates Natural Truth

Bodies die, but a spiritual soul is immortal. The Christian belief in the Resurrection is necessary to understand thisimmortality of the soul. Without the belief in the Incarnation, the belief in Christ’s Resurrection would be mere speculation. Without the belief in the Incarnation, life is only something phenomenal, without any particular sense for man after bodily death. 

From such denial of the Incarnation follows a purely materialistic view of the human being that is blind to the full reality. The great celloist Mistslav Rostropovich tells us that, as a student at the Moscow Conservatory, he was taught according to Marxism-Leninism that the spiritual does not exist and that everything is material. But Rostropovich himself said later that he could not imagine that Beethoven, Mozart and Bach are dead. He believed they were alive and existing in another condition. 

The creation of new human life depends entirely on the supernational dimension of sexual difference. It is a question that only faith can explain. The importance of faith cannot be underestimated. It is personal, and more than that — it adheres to the entirety of divine revelation and the natural law.

Jesus says it solemnly with his authority:

”You, therefore, must go out, making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all the commandments which I have given you” (Matthew 28:19).

The virgin birth of our Lord is proof that procreation is a process of the divine law. The virgin birth is also proof that giving birth generally, and giving birth of new human life in particular, is of a supernatural character. There is a reality, invisible to the eye, that is the origin of everything that lives and moves.

Complementarity Is a Cornerstone of Creation

When we understand that God created all living things on the sixth day with the same divine power as he created man, as Holy Scripture reveals to us (Genesis 1:20-28), we may also realize that the complementarity of all living things is a cornerstone of Creation. 

Pope St. John Paul II explains in Gratissimam Sane:

“‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’ (Genesis 1:28). … The Book of Genesis employs the same expressions used earlier for the creation of other living beings: ‘multiply.’ But it is clear that these expressions are being used in an analogous sense. Is there not present here the analogy of begetting and of fatherhood and motherhood, which should be understood in the light of the overall context?”

Those who understand this much, but refrain from moving toward faith and adoration of God, will be forced, by their own logic, to seek traces of an autonomous development of matter reaching some level of life in various forms. In such a vision complementarity is accidental and not a natural law. 

As we realize the significance of the complementarity of the sexes, we should ask ourselves: How are these complementary traits of character expressed in everyday life? What fundamentally characterizes the masculinity of a man and the femininity of a woman? It is only when we are able to identify certain traits that we will be able to understand the interactions between the sexes and ask the question, “How strong are the complementary relations today?” 

The man’s “ruler” characteristics and the woman’s security needs are iconic concepts. For better or for worse the man must rule over something to give the woman security and the woman must seek security to shape the activity of the man. St. John Paul II says in Mulieris Dignitatem, speaking of the virginity and motherhood of the woman Mary:

“These two dimensions of the female vocation were united in her in an exceptional manner, in such a way that one did not exclude the other but wonderfully complemented it.”

Again we see the fundamental importance of complementarity. 


Equality Is Displacing Complementarity

When modern society focuses on its security and organization, we may notice a certain feminization of society. The earlier masculine military dominance has become only a supporting feature. 

In countries like Sweden, education has shifted from an emphasis on competence and academic achievement to focusing on relationship skills with “equality” as the overarching goal. The more we emphasize this equality the less we shall have of complementarity thinking. 

If this is indeed the case, complementary relations are obviously doing poorly. It would be sadly serious since it also means that people will be more self-fulfilling and more lonely. Human love will grow more desperate in its search — and impossible to satisfy. 

We can then see both advantages and disadvantages with the complementarity and the sexual difference in our days. The man’s “ruler” characteristics may go beyond a point of no return and the woman’s search for security may turn into a masculine drive for power and dominance in the absence of motherhood and family. The wisdom of natural law is God’s help to us all. We cannot afford to let it go. 


Consequences of Lost Complementarity

What will be the consequences of denying complementarity and overlooking sexual difference in marriage, as in the case of same-sex unions? 

If a man’s fatherly and husbandly role turns into domination over the woman, the relationship will deteriorate, even to the point of domestic violence. And if the woman’s need for security becomes distorted, the security of the marriage will suffer emotionally and socially. This all happens because of the denial of the law of complementarity. 

To understand the good things God has planted in each of the human sexes one must understand how the roles of the two interact in everyday life without denying what is specifically manly and womanly in human nature. 

This is the area where human conscience must be formed and refined. The need of spiritual guidance will increase in Christian communities. More time and reflection must be dedicated to moral philosophy and moral theology. 

In his 1994 Letter to the Families, Pope St. John Paul II says:

”I speak with the power of his truth to all people of our day, so that they will come to appreciate the grandeur of the goods of marriage, family and life; so that they will come to appreciate the great danger which follows when these realities are not respected, or when the supreme values which lie at the foundation of the family and of human dignity are disregarded.”

May we as Christians learn from the Holy Father to appreciate everything God gives us in the natural law of God’s Creation.