MARRIAGE AND THE COMPLEMENTARITY OF MALE AND FEMALE *
William E. May
Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral Theology
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at
The Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C. 20017
The "Beatifying Beginning" of Human Existence
It is fitting to begin our investigation into marriage and the complementarity of male and female with the first two chapters of Genesis. It is fitting to do so because these chapters, which contain the stories of what Pope John Paul II has called the "beatifying beginning of human existence,"  set forth precious truths about men and women of utmost importance to our topic.
The narrative found in the first chapter of Genesis, attributed to the Priestly tradition, declares:
In the second chapter of Genesis, attributed to the Yahwist source, we find the following:
In my opinion, three crucial truths about men and women, marriage, and the complementarity of the sexes are rooted in these texts: (1) that men and women are equally persons; (2) that God is the author of marriage, the one who gives to it its defining characteristics; and (3) that men and women are body-persons, not spirit-persons.
1. The personhood of man and woman. That both man and woman are equally persons is luminously expressed in Genesis 1, even though it does not use the term person. But the text makes it clear that human beings, male and female, are persons, for it affirms that "God created man [ha ’adam] in his image; in the divine image he created him, male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Note that the Hebrew word, ’adam, is not used here as a proper name for the first human male, as it was in later texts of Genesis, but rather as the generic term to designate Man, a human being, whether male or female. Being created in the image of God, Man, male and female, is a person, i.e., a being endowed with intellect and will, with the capacity to come to know the truth, to make free choices, and by so doing to be self-determining. Both the man and the woman are thus persons, the sort of beings toward whom "the only proper and adequate attitude," as Karol Wojtyla has said, "is love."  And to these human persons made in his image, to the woman as well as to the man, God gave dominion over the earth and the non-human creatures inhabiting it, its waters, and its atmosphere.
The truth that woman, like man, is a person is expressed more poetically in Genesis 2. There the man, who is initially identified by the generic term for human being, adam, is created first. But it "not good" for him to be alone. The other living creatures of the earth, however, are not equal to him; they are not worthy to be his companion, his partner. Thus the Lord God, after casting the man into a deep sleep, forms from his rib a woman so that there can be a creature noble enough to be his partner, to share life with him. And on awakening from his sleep the man delights in finding this partner, this "bone of his bones and the flesh of his flesh," and in his delight gives to her the name ishah, "woman," and to himself the name ish, "man." Both are obviously regarded, in this text, as equal in their dignity, one far surpassing that of the other living creatures God has made.
In addition, if we reflect on these Genesis passages in the light of revelation, we realize that God, who created man and woman, is a God who is love and who, in himself, "lives a mystery of personal loving communion" in a Trinity of persons. It thus follows that by creating man and woman in his own image, by making them persons, "God inscribed into the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility of love and communion." 
2. God is the author of marriage. A second major feature of these texts is that they are accounts not only of the origin of the human race, male and female, but also of the origin of marriage. They proclaim that God is the author of marriage, the one who gives to it its "defining characteristics."  Indeed, it is to both these passages of Genesis that Jesus later referred when, in responding to the Pharisees' question about divorce, and in replying that it was only because of the "hardness" of human hearts that Moses had permitted divorce, he insisted that divorce was not God's will, for "At the beginning of creation God made them male and female [Gen 1:27]; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one [Gen 2:24]. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore," he concluded, "let no man separate what God has joined" (Mk 10:6-9).
What are these "defining characteristics" of marriage? A central one is that marriage is an intimate, personal union between one man and one woman in which they "become one body, one flesh." By giving themselves to one another in marriage, a man and a woman actualize their vocation to love and to enter into a communion of persons.
Here it is important to note that the text of Genesis 2 clearly indicates that the reality of marriage comes to be when a man and a woman "give" themselves to one another by an act of irrevocable personal choice. Pope John Paul II brings this out in commenting on Gen 2:24:
The act of marital consent is an act of choice, whereby the man chooses this particular woman as the irreplaceable and nonsubtitutable person with whom he wills to share his life henceforward until death, and whereby the woman in turn chooses this particular man as the irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable person with whom she wills to share her life henceforward until death. Marriage is, therefore, the intimate partnership of life and love between man and woman, brought into being by their own act of irrevocable personal consent.
Another "defining characteristic" of marriage is set forth in Genesis 1, where the man and the woman--the husband and wife--are blessed and commanded to "be fertile and multiply" (Gen 1.28). This text shows that marriage and the intimate partnership of love and life that it establishes between man and woman is ordered to the procreation and education of children.  Inasmuch as the union of man and woman in marriage is dynamically oriented to the generation of new human life, we can see one of the reasons why God created man in two differing but complementary sexes, male and female. The human race is sexually differentiated into male and female because it must be so if it is to survive. A man cannot generate new human life with another man, nor can a woman do so with another woman. In generating human life man and woman do indeed "complement" one another. Fertility, we need to keep in mind, is a blessing from God, and it requires the complementary fertility of husband and wife. One biblical scholar, commenting on this passage, has appropriately observed: "Progeny is a gift from God, the fruit of his blessing. Progeny are conceived because of the divine power which has been transferred to men." And, he continues, "[T]he blessing...indicates that fertility is the purpose of the sexual distinction, albeit not the exclusive purpose of this distinction." 
3. Men and women are body-persons, not spirit persons. A third critically important feature of these texts is that they characterize human persons, male and female, as bodily beings. The account in Genesis 1 describes them as living beings who are bodily and sexual in nature, blessed with fertility and summoned to multiply their kind. Genesis 2 is even more graphic in showing the bodily character of the human beings whom God, as Genesis 1 instructs us, created in his own image. For Genesis 2 shows that Man
Moreover, it is clear from Genesis 2 that the human body is personal in nature and that it reveals or discloses the person. For "the man," on awakening from the deep sleep into which the Lord God had cast him and on seeing "the woman" who had been formed from his rib, declares: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." In uttering this cry, the man, as Pope John Paul II has noted, "seems to say: here is a body that expresses the 'person'!"  Men and women, in other words, are persons, but they are not spirits or disembodied minds. When God created Man he did not, as some dualistic-minded theologians today think, create "an isolated subjectivity...who experiences existence in [either] a female body-structure...[or] a male body-structure."  Quite to the contrary, God, in creating human persons, created persons who are bodily in nature.
This is a matter of utmost importance. Human persons are bodily, sexual beings. Their sexuality, "by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts mutual and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something merely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such," and it does so because human sexuality is the sexuality of a human person and is hence personal in character. Sexuality has to do with our bodiliness. Our bodies, however, are not impersonal instruments that are to be used by our persons; instead, they are integral components of our being as persons. From this it follows that the more apparent anatomical differences between males and females are, as one contemporary writer puts it, "not mere accidentals or mere attachments...[instead], differences in the body are revelations of differences in the depths of their being." 
The human body, in other words, is a revelation of a human person; and since the human body is inescapably either male or female, it is the revelation of a man-person or a woman-person. Precisely because of their sexual differences, manifest in their bodies, the man-person and the woman-person can give themselves to one another bodily. Moreover, since the body, male or female, is the expression of a human person, a man and a woman, in giving their bodies to one another, give their persons to one another. The bodily gift of a man and a woman to each other is the outward sign, the sacrament, of the communion of persons existing between them. And this sacrament, in turn, is an image of the communion of persons in the Trinity. The body, therefore, is the means and the sign of the gift of the man-person to the woman-person. Pope John Paul II calls this capacity of the body to express the communion of persons the nuptial meaning of the body.  It is precisely for this reason that genital coition outside of marriage is gravely immoral. When unmarried individuals have sex, the sex act does not unite two irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable persons but rather joins two individuals who are in principle disposable, replaceable, and substitutable. But when husband and wife give themselves to one another in the marital act, they do so as irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable spouses. Pope John Paul II has expressed this truth eloquently:
Our examination of the Genesis texts has shown us that man and woman are equally persons, that God has made them for each other, and that they are complementary in their sexuality. But the nature of their sexual complementarity needs to be set forth in more detail. It is evident that their sexual complementarity is intimately related to their vocation to parenthood. For husbands and wives, as we have seen in examining the "defining characteristics" of marriage, have the high vocation, the munus or noble responsibility, to cooperate with God in handing on human life and in giving to new human life the home where it can take root and grow.  Not all men and women, of course, become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Yet all men are potentially fathers and all women are potentially mothers. Even if they do not generate children, as men and women they are called upon to exercise analogously a kind of spiritual fatherhood and spiritual motherhood in the living out of their lives.
I will now endeavor to express more specifically the complementarity of male and female. I will begin by reflecting on the act which is "proper and exclusive to spouses,"  namely the marital act.
The Marital Act As Expressing and Symbolizing the Complementarity of Male and Female
A man and a woman become husband and wife when they give themselves to each other in and through the act of irrevocable personal consent that makes them to be spouses. They become literally "one flesh," "one body," when they consummate their marriage and give themselves to each other in the act proper and exclusive to them as spouses, the spousal or the marital act. In this act they come intimately to "know"  each other in an unforgettable way, and to know each other precisely as male and female.
The marital act is a unique kind of act. It is the personal act of two subjects, husband and wife. In it they "give" themselves to one another and "receive" one another. Yet they do so in strikingly different and complementary ways, for it is an act made possible precisely by reason of their sexual differences. The wife does not have a penis; therefore, in this act of marital union she cannot enter the body, the person, of her husband, whereas he can and does personally enter into her body-person. He gives himself to her and by doing so he receives her. On the other hand, she is uniquely capable of receiving her husband personally into her body, her self, and in so doing she gives herself to him. The wife's receiving of her husband in a giving sort of way is just as essential to the unique meaning of this act as is her husband's giving of himself to her in a receiving sort of way. The husband cannot, in this act, give himself to his wife unless she gives herself to him by receiving him, nor can she receive him in this self-giving way unless he gives himself to her in this receiving way.  As the philosopher Robert Joyce says, "the man does not force himself upon the woman, but gives himself in a receiving manner. The woman does not simply submit herself to the man, but receives him in a giving manner."  Note that in the marital act the husband is not active and the wife passive. Each is active, but in differing and complementary ways.
In giving himself to his wife in the marital act, moreover, the husband releases into her body-person millions of his sperm which go in search for an ovum. Should his wife indeed be fertile and an ovum present within her, one of the sperm may succeed in uniting with it, in becoming "one flesh" with it, and in doing so bring into existence a new human person. These facts dramatically illumine another dimension or aspect of the male-female sexual complementarity. The man, as it were, symbolizes the superabundance and differentiation of being, for his sperm are differentiated into those that will generate a male child and those that will generate a female child. The woman, as it were, symbolizes the oneness or unity of being (insofar as she ordinarily produces only one ovum) and what we might call the withinness or abidingness of being. 
In reflecting on the significance of the marital act we can also say, I believe, that the man, the husband, is the one who emphasizes, in giving himself wholeheartedly to his wife, an outgoing, productive kind of joyful existence, while the woman, the wife, is the one who emphasizes, in receiving her husband wholeheartedly into her person, the abidingness and peaceful tranquillity of existence.
"Defining" Man and Woman, Male and Female
What this analysis of the marital act suggests is that human sexuality is a giving and a receiving, a superabundant, outgoing otherness and a peaceful, rest-bringing withinness. By virtue of their sexuality--which, we must remember, is not something merely biological but something that "concerns the innermost being of the human person"--men and women are summoned to give themselves to others and to receive them, and to do so in a unique and exclusive way in marriage. They are likewise summoned to be outgoing and superabundant in their giving and to bring others peace and rest by receiving them within themselves. But men and women, males and females, give superabundantly and receive in peaceful tranquility in strikingly different modalities.
Human sexuality, in other words, is realized differently in male and female, in man and woman. Male sexuality emphasizes giving in a receiving sort of way and the superabundant plenitude and otherness of being; female sexuality emphasizes receiving in a giving sort of way and the peace-giving, rest-bringing withinness of being. It therefore seems to me that Joyce's way of "defining" man and woman is correct. He does so as follows:
Moreover, as we have seen, the man emphasizes in his being the superabundant otherness or plenitude of being whereas the woman emphasizes its withinness and abidingness, its capacity to bring rest and peace. Man and woman, we must remember, are made in the image of God. They are two differing and complementary ways of imaging Him. He is both the superabundant giver of good gifts and the One who is ever within is, who is with us and for us, and who longs to welcome us and to give our hearts refreshment and peace. He is, as the beautiful hymn of Henry Van Dyck expresses it, both the "Wellspring of the joy of living" and the "Ocean depth of happy rest."  Both man and woman are to image God in his superabundant goodness and his peaceful immanence, to image him as the "Wellspring of the joy of living" and "Ocean depth of happy rest." But the man, in imaging God, emphasizes his transcendent, superabundant goodness, his glory as the "Wellspring of the joy of living," while the woman, in imaging God, emphasizes his immanence, his "withinness," his glory as the "Ocean depth of happy rest."
The man, like the woman, is summoned to receive as well as to give, to be an "ocean depth of happy rest" as well as a "wellspring of the joy of living"; the woman, like the man, is summoned to give as well as to receive, to be a "wellspring of the joy of living" as well as an "ocean depth of happy rest." Since this is so, it is reasonable to hold that within every human person, male or female, there is the "masculine" (the emphasis on giving in a receiving way, on being a "wellspring of the joy of living") and the "feminine" (the emphasis on receiving in a giving way, on being an "ocean depth of happy rest").  It is therefore possible to think of a man as a being who dynamically combines maleness, the masculine, and the feminine, while the woman is one who dynamically combines femaleness, the feminine, and the masculine. This in no way, however, as Prudence Allen among others has noted, implies that we are moving "to an androgyny, or a theory of identity of all human beings, because the starting point, the maleness or femaleness, is always different for the two sexes. The combination of the three factors of male, masculine, and feminine in a male individual would always differ from the combination of the three factors of female, masculine, and feminine in a female individual."  The point is that males and females, men and women, embrace within themselves the masculine and the feminine, but they embody and manifest these aspects of their personality in differing and complementary ways.
Precisely because the woman's sexuality emphasizes the withinness, the abidingness, the sameness of being and because the man's sexuality emphasizes the outgoingness, the expansiveness, the otherness of being, a woman's sexual identity is more interior, intimately linked to her being, her bodiliness, whereas a man's sexual identity is more exterior, intimately associated with his activity. It is for this reason, as numerous studies have shown,  that a woman more easily comes to a realization of what it means to be feminine and a woman than a man does in coming to realize what it means to be masculine and a man. The man needs, as it were, to go out of himself and prove himself in the world.
Insofar as they differ in their sexuality, men and women manifest major differences in their social behavior. Women, as many studies point out, tend toward responding to situations as entire persons, with their minds, bodies, and emotions integrated, whereas men tend to respond in a more diffuse and differentiated manner. Again, women are, on the whole, more oriented toward helping or caring for personal needs, whereas men, on the whole, are more inclined to formulate and pursue long-range goals and to achieve particular sets of prescribed ends. Or, to put the matter somewhat differently, we might say, with Steven Clark, that "in social situations men are more oriented to goals outside the situation (what the situation can become), women to internal goals (relieving needs, giving comfort and pleasure)."  Note, however, that all this is a matter of emphasis, corresponding to the ways in which men and women tend to emphasize their sexuality. Men, too, can and do respond as entire persons and care for personal needs, and women, too, can and do differentiate between their emotions and their intelligent judgments and make long-range plans. But the tendencies noted are real and correspond to the personalities of men and women as sexual persons.
With this understanding of man and woman, male and female, and of their sexual complementarity in mind, we can now look more closely at the relationship between man and woman in marriage and to their vocation as fathers and mothers.
Woman as Mother, Man as Father
The marital act, which expresses and symbolizes the complementary sexuality of man and woman, is an act that is open not only to the communication of the unique and exclusive love proper to husbands and wives, but also to the communication of life. For it is in and through the marital act that new human life comes to be in the way God wills that it come to be. New human life can, of course, come to be in and through the acts of adulterers and fornicators, and when it comes to be in this way the new human life is indeed a new human person, a being to be loved and cherished and respected by all. But when new human life comes to be in this way it is insulted and harmed, and a tragedy has occurred. For non-married men and women do not have the right to generate new human life, just as they do not have the right to engage in coition. They do not have the right to generate human life precisely because they have not, through their own free choice to marry one another, given to themselves the capacity to receive such life lovingly, to nourish it humanely, and to educate it in the love and service of God and neighbor.  Practically all civilized societies rightly regard as utterly irresponsible the generation of human life through the random copulation of unattached men and women. [In my opinion, it is a sign of a new barbarism that many in our society now assert the "right" of single men and women to have children, whether generated by adultery or fornication or by making use of so-called "reproductive" technologies.]
But God wills that new human life come to be in and through the loving marital act of husbands and wives. He does so because they have, precisely by virtue of the fact that they have given themselves unconditionally and unreservedly to one another in marriage, capacitated themselves to receive human life lovingly, nourish it humanely, and educate it in the love and service of God and neighbor. They are the ones who can give this new life the home that it needs to take root and grow.
When new human life comes to be in and through the marital act, it comes to be within the wife, within the mother. This new life, like every human life, is, as Pope John Paul II says, entrusted "to each and every other human being, but in a special way the human being is entrusted to woman, precisely because the woman in virtue of her special experience of motherhood is seen to have a specific sensitivity towards the human person and all that constitutes the individual's true welfare, beginning with the fundamental value of life."  Indeed, as the Holy Father also observes,
We can see here how, in motherhood, the woman's sexuality as a "receiving in a giving sort of way" and as symbolizing the withinness of being and God as the "ocean depth of happy rest" is manifested. Moreover, as the Holy Father's remarks indicate, the tendency of women to respond integrally to situations, with mind, body, and emotions integrated, and to be oriented to personal needs is magnificently revealed in motherhood. In his comments, the Pope referred to the woman's "unique intuition" and "understanding" of what is going on within her. Here what he has to say fits in well with what we have seen before about the psychic-spiritual life of women, and indeed seems to be corroborated by all that we know about their lives. I believe that Benedict Ashley has summarized this matter well. He writes:
The woman, therefore, is the one to whom new human life is entrusted in a very special way. But she is, precisely because of her sexuality and her way of imaging God, prepared to receive it lovingly and give it the care it needs in order to take root and grow.
It is important to stress here the immense contribution that mothers make to human civilization in carrying out responsibly their vocation to receive new human life and to care generously for it, especially during its early years. While women indeed have, as Pope John Paul II has emphasized, "the same right as men to perform various public services," it nonetheless remains true, as he has likewise said, that "society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home." And it is absolutely imperative to overcome "the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family." 
But new human life is also entrusted to the man, to the husband. He is its father. But fathering, as indicated by Pope John Paul II in one of the passages cited above, is something that man must learn. Mothering, too, entails learning. But it is universally recognized that fatherhood and, in particular, the fatherhood necessary for a father-involved family, is much more a cultural achievement than is mothering. As Peter Wilson has put it, "simply stated, an adult female will be naturally transformed into a social mother when she bears a child, but there is no corresponding natural transformation for a male." 
In order for children, boys and girls, to develop well as integral persons, they need their fathers' care. Their fathers must become involved in their families.  The bond between children and their mother is strong by virtue of their symbiotic tie during pregnancy, birth and nursing. Indeed, as John W. Miller has said, "it is this biologically determined relationship, so essential in laying the foundations of healthy development, that shapes those qualities usually associated with mothering: unconditional availability, receptivity, and tenderness."  But for the well-being of these children the father's loving presence is needed. When they are effectively present to their families and to their children, fathers must, as Miller notes, "insert themselves into the bond between mother and child as a 'second other' by an initiative very much like that of adoption. Where this initiative is energetic and winsome," he continues:
But for fathers to succeed in this task, they must properly manifest their sexual complementarity to their wives and the mothers of their children. From all that has been said thus far, we can see that for fathers to do this they must be seen as those who emphatically give in a receiving sort of way, who image God as the wellspring of the joy of living. We have already seen that, on the whole, men tend to be more differentiated in their responses to persons and situations, to be more goal-oriented, and that their sexual identity depends to a much greater extent than does a woman's on what they do. While a woman nurtures, a man, as Ashley puts it, "tends to construct, i.e., to impose an order on things, whether it is the simple physical fact of initiating pregnancy, providing the home as shelter and protection, or the more spiritual tasks of disciplining the children physically and mentally, or undertaking the work of the wider social order. Where the woman allows the child to grow, the father causes the child to grow." 
The father has the primary responsibility to provide his wife and his children with food, shelter, and protection, particularly during her pregnancy and their infancy, to give his children (and their mother) a sense of security by his presence and reliability. In saying that the father has the responsibility to provide for his wife and children, I do not mean to foreclose the possibility that in specific families the wife-mother may be the one who contributes more economically to the family. It may be that she has special talents and has acquired more marketably profitable capacities and could therefore more adequately meet the financial needs of the family than could the husband-father. But even in such situations, it is nonetheless still the husband-father's primary responsibility to see to it that the wife and children are provided for. Only if he is allowed to do so can he dynamically combine his maleness with the masculine and the feminine within him.
The father-involved family, as we have seen, is a fragile cultural achievement. And a family will be father-involved only if the husband-father is given the support necessary to be the one who gives in a receiving sort of way, who is the wellspring of the joy of living. If a culture ceases to support and encourage "through its mores, symbols, models, laws, and rituals, the sanctity of the bond between a man and his wife and a father's involvement with his own children, powerful natural forces will inevitably take over in favor of the mother-alone family."  And this is a tragedy.
Here it is important to realize that fathering and mothering are by no means mutually exclusive. The complementarity between males and females is sharply differentiated at their biological roots--only the woman can conceive and nurture the child within her womb and nurse it after birth. Nonetheless, the personality and character traits (the "masculine" and the "feminine," the "wellspring of the joy of living" and the "ocean depth of happy rest") are present in both males and females, although, as we have seen, with different emphases in each. Children need to be both accepted and nurtured, to be challenged and held to standards, and both mothers and fathers must accept and nurture their children, challenge them and hold them to standards. But they do so in somewhat differing modalities, with the mothers accentuating acceptance and nurturance, the fathers challenging and disciplining. 
Before concluding these reflections on marriage and male-female complementarity, it is necessary to examine, albeit much too briefly here, the significance of the third chapter of Genesis and of the fifth chapter of Ephesians relative to marriage and the complementarity of male and female.
Genesis 3:16 and Ephesians 5:21-33
The third chapter of Genesis tells the story of the disobedience of man and woman (Adam and Eve) to God and their "fall." It shows how their sin terribly harmed human persons and, in particular, the male-female relationship in marriage. In punishing the woman for her disobedience God said: "your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master" (Gen 3:16). As a result of the fall, concupiscence entered the human heart. Because of their physical strength and because the biology of the generative process allows men more opportunities to abuse their role, husbands and fathers, unfortunately, have often led the way in irresponsibility. Mothers and wives have, on the other hand, been tempted to become manipulative.  A "re-creation" of human persons, male and female, and of marriage itself was needed.
This "re-creation," thanks to God's bounteous mercy and goodness, has indeed taken place. For he has sent us his Son to redeem us and to bring us to a new kind of life. Through the saving death and resurrection of Jesus we have been liberated from sin and made new creatures. Through baptism we die to the "old man," to Adamic man, to sinful man, and put on the new man, Christ.
The marriage of Christians, of those who have, through baptism, become one with Christ and members of his body, is moreover a sacrament. It is a holy sign of the life-giving, love-giving union between Christ and his bride the Church. And not only is it a holy sign of this life-giving, love-giving union, but it is also, for those men and women who clothe themselves with Christ and abide in his love, an effective sign of this union, one that they can, with God's grace, realize in their own married lives and in this way mediate to the world the redemptive love of Christ. As Pope John Paul II has said,
Indeed, as Pope John Paul II continues, "by means of baptism, man and woman are definitively placed within the new and eternal covenant, in the spousal covenant of Christ with the Church. And it is because of this indestructible insertion that the intimate community of conjugal life and love, founded by the creator, is elevated and assumed into the spousal charity of Christ, sustained and enriched by his redeeming power." Because of this "spouses are...the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers." 
The beauty of Christian marriage as an image of the bridal relationship between Christ and his Church is set forth eloquently in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where we read:
Here I cannot attempt to comment at length on this passage.  Today this text is, unfortunately, not held in honor by some, who believe that it is demeaning to women insofar as it speaks of the wife's "submission" to her husband, who is characterized as her "head." My remarks here will be limited to the issues of submission and headship.
Pope John Paul II has, I believe, done much to help us understand this passage in its total context within the good news of salvation and in this way to appreciate properly the "submission" involved in marriage. In his commentary on this passage he first observes that the exhortation to husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church summons not only husbands but all men to be imitators of Christ in their dealings with women. And in Christ's love "there is a fundamental affirmation of the woman as person." Continuing, he then says:
From this it is clear that this passage in no way countenances male domination nor does it impose on wives a one-sided subjection to their husbands. The intention of the sacred writer is to call Christian husbands and wives to live their marriage relationship in mutual self-sacrifice, after the model of Christ.
With respect to the "headship" of the husband and of the father in the family, I hold that there is a genuine truth, necessary for the father-involved family, at stake. I will briefly attempt to show why.
First of all, there is need for authority in any human community. Authority, however, must not be confused with domination and the exercise of power; indeed, domination and the exercise of power are abuses of authority. Authority is, rather, a necessary principle of cooperation and thus a role of service to the community. Marriage and family life involve cooperative action and require unified decisions, and to make decisions is the proper task of authority within marriage and the family, as it is within any human community.
Authority, in short, is not domination but decision-making. Husbands and wives surely share in this authority, which usually entails common deliberation and often results in consensus. But at times decision-making authority cannot be exercised in this way. Emergencies arise, when there is little or no possibility for common deliberation and consent. At other times, consensus may not emerge. Yet, for the common good of the marriage and of the spouses, authority must be exercised by one or the other spouse. It seems to me that here the complementary differences between male and female are relevant and that these differences support the view that the husband is the one who is required to exercise it.
This is clearly the case in emergency conditions. The identity of the one who is to exercise authority must be clear when emergencies arise, and several attributes of the husband are crucial in such emergencies: his size and strength, his capacity for setting long-range goals and particular objectives for reaching them, his capacity for differentiating. When emergencies arise that require the cooperation of both spouses (and, at times, the children as well), the husband-father is often the one best suited to make and execute decisions. If authority in family emergencies pertains to the husband-father, it is fitting that he exercise it for the family as a whole in other instances when this is required--when cooperation is essential but no consensus can be reached. The proper exercise of this authority is by no means a matter of domination, but rather a gift to the marriage and to the family. In order for the husband to exercise his authority properly, he must be willing to be self-sacrificial and to subordinate his own individual interests to the well-being and good of the marriage and the family. In this way he will manifest his love for his wife and reveal and relive on earth "the very fatherhood of God," ensuring "the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family." 
Marriage is the "creation of a lasting personal union between a man and a woman based on love."  It is a communion of persons intended to bear witness on earth and to image the intimate communion of persons within the Trinity.  It is a sacrament of the love-giving, life-giving bridal union between Christ and his Church, ordered to the procreation and education of children who are to be lovingly received, nurtured humanely, and educated in the love and service of God.
This beautiful partnership, this wonderful covenant of love, unites human persons who differ in their sexuality and complement each other. Both husband and wife are to give and to receive; both are to image God as the "wellspring of the joy of living" and the "ocean depth of happy rest." But each is to do so in his and her indispensably complementary ways, the husband emphatically giving in a receiving sort of way and serving as the "wellspring of the joy of living," and the wife emphatically receiving in a giving sort of way and serving as the "ocean depth of happy rest." Their marital love, exclusive of others in the intimacy of their partnership of life and their one-flesh union, is the kind of love that is inclusive insofar as it reaches out to others and bears fruit in the world in which they live, as they joyously accept the gift of children and serve the needs of the society in which they live. The home based on the union of man and woman in Christian marriage is indeed a "domestic Church,"  a witness to the truth that God is a loving Father and that the Church is our mother, and that all human persons, male and female, are called to love and communion.
* This essay was published originally in Anthropotes: Rivista sulla persona e la famiglia 8.1 (1992) 41-60; an abridged version appeared as chapter 2 of my Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family Is Built (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995).
 See Pope John Paul II, "Nuptial Meaning of the Body," General Audience of January 9, 1980, in Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1981), p. 108. In this text Pope John Paul II is explicitly concerned with the account in Genesis 2, but the expression "beatifying beginning" can also be applied to the narrative in Genesis 1.
 Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, trans. H. T. Willetts (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1981), p. 41.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 11. All men and women are called to love and communion. As the Holy Father notes later in this same passage, "Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person, in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is in its own proper form an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being 'created in the image of God.'"
Some men and women freely choose celibacy in order to give themselves more fully to the service of our Lord and his people. Others, who may earnestly long to marry, accept celibacy because for one or another reason it is not possible for them to marry. For such men and women the requirements of the truth--of God's reign--impose a "situational celibacy." On this see the observations of Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery (New York: Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1965), p. 120; see also Roger Balducelli, O.S.F.S., "The Decision for Celibacy," Theological Studies 36 (1975) 219-242.
 Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery, p. 24: "To be created by God, or to be named by him, implied a commission to serve him. The whole of the Old Testament ethic of marriage and family was based on this. The things of the earth and man received their hoq or huqqah [their statutes of limitation, their defining characteristics] with their creation; each received, on creation, its intrinsic conditions of existence, its defined limits." That God is the author of marriage has always been affirmed by the magisterium of the Church. See, for example, Council of Trent, DS, n. 1797; Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii, DS, n. 3700; Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, n. 48.
 Pope John Paul II, "Marriage Is One and Indissoluble in the First Chapters of Genesis," General Audience of November 21, 1979, in Original Unity of Man and Woman, pp. 81-82.
 On this see Gaudium et spes, n. 48: "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory." See also n. 50: "Marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children. Indeed, children are the supreme gift of marriage and greatly contribute to the good of the parents themselves."
 Raymond Collins, "The Bible and Sexuality I," Biblical Theology Bulletin 7 (1977) 156.
 Leon Kass, "Man and Woman: An Old Story," First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 17 (November, 1991) 16.
 Pope John Paul II, "Nuptial Meaning of the Body," General Audience of January 9, 1980, in Original Unity of Man and Woman, p. 109.
 On this see Anthony Kosnik et al., Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought: A Study Commissioned by The Catholic Theological Society of America (New York: Paulist, 1977), pp. 83-84. An excellent critique of the dualism underlying much contemporary thought, including that of influential Catholic theologians, is provided by Germain Grisez, "Dualism and the New Morality," in Atti del Congresso Internazionale (Roma-Napoli, 17-24 Aprile 1974): Tommaso d'Aquino nel suo Settimo Centenario, Vol. 5, L'Agire Morale (Napoli: Edizioni Domenicane Napoli, 1977).
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 11.
 Robert E. Joyce, in Mary Rosera Joyce and Robert E. Joyce, New Dynamics in Sexual Love (Collegeville, MN: St. John's University Press, 1970), pp. 34-35.
 The "nuptial meaning" of the body is developed in many of the addresses of Pope John Paul II on the "theology of the body." See in particular, "Nuptial Meaning of the Body," General Audience of January 9, 1980, in Original Unity of Man and Woman, pp. 106-112; "The Man-Person Becomes a Gift in the Freedom of Love," General Audience of January 16, 1980, in ibid., pp. 113-120; and "Mystery of Man's Original Innocence," General Audience of January 30, 1980, in ibid., pp. 121-127. An excellent introduction to the thought of Pope John Paul II on this matter is provided by Richard M. Hogan, "A Theology of the Body: A Commentary on the Audiences of Pope John Paul II from September 5, 1979 to May 6, 1981," in Fidelity 1.1 (December, 1981) 10-15, 24-27.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 11.
 A rich analysis of the Latin term, munus, used in many magisterial texts to designate the vocation to parenthood, is provided by Janet Smith. See her Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America, 1991), esp. pp. 136-148. See also her "The Munus of Transmitting Human Life: A New Approach to Humanae Vitae," Thomist 54 (1990) 385-427.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 11.
 "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying: 'I have begotten a man with the help of the Lord'" (Gen 4:1).
 When non-married males and females engage in sexual coition, they do not "give" themselves to each other or "receive" each other. Their act in no way expresses and symbolizes personal union precisely because they have refused to give and receive each other unconditionally as persons. In genital union, such individuals do not make a "gift" of each other.
 Robert E. Joyce, Human Sexual Ecology: A Philosophy and Ethics of Man and Woman (Washington: University Press of America, 1980), pp. 70-71.
 On this see Joyce, ibid., pp. 70-71: "The man emphasizes in his way the giving power of being and the otherness of every being in the universe....The man emphasizes (with his sperm production) manyness, differentiation, and plurality...characteristics based on uniqueness and otherness." The woman, on the other hand, "emphasizes...the receiving power of her being and the withinness of every being in the universe....The woman emphasizes (with her ova production) oneness and sameness...characteristics based on withinness and superrelatedness."
 Ibid., pp. 67-69. This way of expressing the complementary character of male and female sexuality and of man and woman may seem, on the surface, to conflict with some things that Pope John Paul II has said. For instance, in his General Audience of February 6, 1980, "Man and Woman: A Mutual Gift for Each Other," the Holy Father, commenting on the text of Genesis 2, observed: "It seems that the second narrative of creation has assigned to man 'from the beginning' the function of the one who, above all, receives the gift [of the woman]. 'From the beginning' the woman is entrusted to his eyes, to his consciousness, to his sensitivity, to his 'heart.' He, on the other hand, must, in a way, ensure the same process of the exchange of the gift, the mutual interpenetration of giving and receiving as a gift, which, precisely through its reciprocity, creates a real communion of persons" (in Original Unity of Man and Woman, p. 133). This would seem to imply that male sexuality is a receiving in a giving way and female sexuality is a giving in a receiving way.
I do not, however, think that there is any real opposition between Joyce's way of expressing the male-female difference and what Pope John Paul II says here. Genesis 2 certainly portrays the woman as God's wonderful gift to the man, to whom she is entrusted and who is to receive her lovingly. But neither Genesis 2 nor Pope John Paul II are here concerned with the precise modality whereby the man is to "receive" the woman and "give" himself to her and vice versa. The man, in fact, "receives" the woman given to him by God by taking the initiative, giving himself to her and giving to her her name in his poetic cry: "This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' has she been taken"--the "biblical prototype," as Pope John Paul II has noted elsewhere, of the Song of Songs [in "By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God," General Audience of November 14, 1979, in Original Unity of Man and Woman, p. 71]. God presents the woman to the man as a gift that he is to welcome lovingly; but the man, in his cry of joy on seeing this woman, surrenders or gives himself to her and by doing so receives the woman "entrusted to his eyes, to his consciousness, to his sensitivity, to his 'heart.'"
 Henry Van Dyck, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," Poems of Henry Van Dyck (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, n.d.). This beautiful hymn has been set to music using as the musical score Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
 Joyce, ibid., p. 68, expresses this idea by saying that his way of defining man and woman "takes into account that every person is male [I would say "masculine" rather than "male"] or female [I would say "feminine" rather than "female"] within. Every person has a human nature, which includes the ability and the tendency to share the gift of self. Both a man and a woman are structured in a way that naturally enables them to give in a receiving sort of way and to receive in a giving sort of way....But the nature of man is a dynamic orientation to emphasize, at all levels of his being, the receiving kind of giving; while the nature of a woman is a dynamic orientation to emphasize, at all levels of her being, the giving kind of receiving."
 Sister Prudence Allen, "Integral Sexual Complementarity and the Theology of Communion," Communio: International Catholic Review 17 (1990), p. 533.
 See for example, the following: J. Bardwick, Psychology of Women (New York: Harper & Row, 1971); Margaret Mead, Male and Female (New York: Dell, 1949); Robert Stoller, M.D., Sex and Gender: On the Development of Masculinity and Feminity (New York: Science House, 1968); Lionel Tiger, Men in Groups (New York: Random House, 1969). Their common point is that men need to go out of themselves in order to discover and secure their masculinity whereas women do not. An interesting account of this issue is provided by Walter Ong, S.J., Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), esp. pp. 70-80, 97-98, 112-115. This accounts for the fact, as Ong notes, that "[T]he received symbol for woman, Venus's mirror, adopted by feminists apparently everywhere, signifies self-possession, gazing at oneself as projected into the outside world or environment and reflected back into the self from there, whole. The received symbol for man, Mars's spear, signifies conflict, change, stress, dissection, division" (p. 77).
 On this see Steven Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1980). In chapters sixteen and seventeen (pp. 371-466) Clark summarizes relevant material from the descriptive social sciences and experimental psychology bearing on the differences between males and females. Clark provides an exhaustive search of the literature, providing excellent bibliographical notes.
 Clark, ibid., p. 390.
 Centuries ago St. Augustine rightly and wisely noted that one of the principal goods of marriage is children, who are to be received lovingly, nourished humanely, and educated religiously, i.e., in the love and service of God. See his De genesi ad literam, 9.7 (PL 34.397).
 Pope John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, n. 51. See also Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 30: "The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way--precisely because of their femininity--and this in a particular way determines their vocation."
 Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 18.
 Benedict Ashley, O.P., "Moral Theology and Mariology," Anthropotes: Rivista di Studi sulla Persona e la Famiglia 7.2 (Dicembre 1991) 147. Ashley refers to Mary F. Belensky et al., Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind (New York: Basic Books, 1988) for an empirical study supporting the idea that women are more intuitive than men. He refers to St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae 1, q. 79, a. 9, 2 Sent., d. 24, q. 2, a. 2, and De Veritate, q. 15, a. 2 for the distinction between intellectus, ratio superior and ratio, ratio inferior.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 23.
 Peter Wilson, Man the Promising Primate: The Condition of Human Evolution (2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), p. 71; cited by John W. Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering: Why We Call God "Father" (New York: Paulist, 1989), p. 11.
 One of the greatest tragedies in contemporary American society is that twenty-five percent of all children under 18 in the United States is raised by just one parent, usually a divorced or unmarried mother. More than 16 million children in the United States currently live in single-parent households headed by a woman, deprived of their fathers' presence. On this see Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families (Final Report of the National Commission on Children) (Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Children, 1991), pp. 4, 18.
The bad effects on children caused by the absence of their fathers are well described by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Gender & Grace: Love, Work, & Parenting in a Changing World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), pp. 132-143, 182-183. See also David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America (New York: Basic Books, 1996).
 Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering, p. 57.
 Ashley, "Moral Theology and Mariology," 140.
 Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering, p. 19.
 Worthwhile observations concerning the indispensable help fathers can give their children by communicating to them the knowledge and techniques they need to deal with the wider world, by setting standards and challenging them are provided by Basil Cole, O.P., "Reflexions pour une spiritualite mascuine," trans. Guy Beduelle, O.P., Sources (Fribourg) 12 (March-April 1987) 49-55.
 On this see the perceptive comments of Van Leeuven, Gender and Grace, pp. 44-48.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 13.
 A very perceptive and thoughtful commentary on this text is provided by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, "Ephesians 5:21-33 and Humanae Vitae: A Meditation," in Christian Married Love, ed. Raymond Dennehy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981), pp. 55-73.
 Pope John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, n. 24.
 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 25.
 Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 218.
 On this matter, the excellent essay of Mary Rousseau is most helpful. See her "Pope John Paul II's Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: the Call to Communio," Communio: International Catholic Review 16 (1989) 212-232.
 See Vatican Council II, Lumen gentium, n. 11; Apostolicam actuositatem, n. 11; Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 49.
Version: 23rd November 2002