Male and Female He Created Them

by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The title comes from Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” This is the pattern that God stamped into creation at the very beginning, and is the basis for the spirituality of what the Church refers to as “responsible parenthood”. I myself first became award of and interested in the Church’s teaching in the are of responsible parenthood when I first entered the seminary back in the 1970’s. While the basics of this teaching always made sense to me, it all really hit home when I was privileged to attend a talk by the Billings. Although the term had not yet been coined in Papal teaching, the principle of human ecology became abundantly clear to me at that time, and I understood how the Church’s teaching is confirmed by biology, how it is all oriented toward creating new life, and nurturing that new life once conceived and then after birth.

The experience of our society ever since then has only confirmed for me the wisdom of the Church all the more, and the interconnectedness of all of these dimensions of life. We see all around us the consequences of the demise of our understanding of the correct ordering of society and of the human person in these areas. We see it in the attacks on the sanctity of human life, in so many different ways. We see it in the social costs of family fragmentation . Indeed, we have known for decades the dire consequences specifically of fatherlessness: increased rates of incarceration, youth violence, teen pregnancy, failure in education…and the list goes on.

That’s certainly bad news. I’ve heard it said that before people are open to the good news, they have to know the bad news. But we have good news, we have the antidote to these social woes: the spirituality of responsible parenthood.

I will take as the basis for this teaching a book entitled Love and Responsibility, written back in 1960 by the then Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla. As many of you know, this book served as the blueprint for what later would be called the “Theology of the Body”, an extensive teaching he developed as Pope John Paul II during his Wednesday General Audiences from September 5, 1979 to November 28, 1984.

In this groundbreaking work, John Paul speaks about two different ways of understanding the human person. He begins, though, by speaking about the moral imperative, which he gets from the 18th century philosopher Emmanuel Kant, who was a great influence on his own philosophical thinking. Kant says, “The moral imperative is to act always in such a way that the other person is the end and not merely the instrument of your actions”. He then critiques the philosophy of utilitarianism , obviously meaning to use or to take advantage of. Utilitarianism extols what is useful—which means, whatever gives pleasure—and excludes the opposite. So the premise of the philosophy of utilitarianism is to be happy, to live pleasurably. So herein, the Pope says, lies the problem: “If pleasure is only or at least the main good, and therefore the whole basis of moral norms in human behavior”, then, he says, “(e)verything we do must of course be looked at as a means towards this one good, this single end. Hence the human person, my own or any other and every person, must figure in this role as a means to an end, the end being pleasure.” Now, by “pleasure” here he means not only pleasure in the sense of physical sensation. There are other types of pleasure as well, that is to say, pleasure in the sense of whatever gives delight—intellectually, aesthetically, and so forth. But, he says, this is a special threat in the sphere of sexual relations. He states: “The great danger lies in the fact that starting from the utilitarian premises it is not clear how the cohabitation or association of people of different sex can be put on a plane of real love, and so freed from the dangers of ‘using’ a person…and of treating a person as the means to an end. Utilitarianism seems to be a program of thoroughgoing egoism quite incapable of evolving into authentic altruism. ”

He then speaks about what he calls the “gospel norm”, or the “personalistic norm”. This is the New Testament commandment of love. He says that love towards a person is implicitly opposed to the principle of utilitarianism, which can never arrive at real love. The personalistic norm establishes an objective criterion that is not dependent upon my subjective whims. The personalistic norm, in its negative formulation, is: “the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end”. The positive formulation puts it this way: “the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love. This positive content of the personalistic norm is precisely what the commandment to love teaches.” And so he says, “Only love can preclude the use of one person by another. Love is conditioned by the common attitude of people towards the same good which they choose as their aim and to which they subordinate themselves. Marriage is one of the most important areas where this principle is put into practice.” In order, then, to exclude the spouses from using each other, or one using the other, they must have a common end. And this end, he says, “is procreation, the future generation, a family, and, at the same time, the continual ripening of the relationship between two people, in all the areas of activity which conjugal life includes.” He is alluding here to the two ends of marriage: the procreation and upbringing of offspring, and the mutual good of the spouses; procreation and unity. Clearly, by its very nature, by just looking at the physical act, that is what conjugal love is for. And that’s why the Church understands these to be the two ends of marriage: to bring men and women together to produce and educate the next generation of citizens.


About The Author

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, a native of San Diego, earned his BA from the University of San Diego, and his STB in Theology, Doctor of Canon Law, from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Having served as Auxiliary Bishop of San Diego and Bishop of Oakland before being appointed the ninth Archbishop of San Francisco, he brings a statewide vision to the mission of CANFP, and has served on the Executive Board since 2009.


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