"Why Is It Important to Society to Safekeep the Covenant of Marriage Between A Man and A Woman?" At one of his recent general audiences, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family, focusing again on the complementary relationships of men and women. He commented on the second account of the creation of man in Genesis. The first man, Adam, is created “alone”—and God determines to make for him “a helper suited to him.” When the first woman is presented to the man, he recognizes in her “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Finally there is a mirroring, a reciprocity. The Pope went on to say, “The woman is not a ‘replica’ of the man; she comes directly from the creative act of God. The image of the rib does not in any way express inferiority or subordination; but, on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary.”
God is generous to the man and the woman, confiding the care of the earth to them. But, the Pope said, the “evil one” introduced “suspicion, disbelief, and mistrust” in their minds—and ultimately led them into the first sin: “Their sin generated distrust and division between the man and the woman, causing their relationship to be undermined by a thousand kinds of abuse and subjugation, of deceitful seduction and demeaning humiliations, up to the most dramatic and violent.” He also spoke about “the negative excesses of patriarchal cultures… the multiple forms of ‘machismo’… and the abuse and commodification of the female body in the current media culture.” But he also warned about “the recent epidemic of distrust, of skepticism, and even of hostility that is spreading throughout our culture—in particular, stemming from an understandable diffidence on the part of women—regarding a covenant between man and woman—at the same time achieving the intimacy of communion and the safeguarding of the dignity of difference.”
Pope Francis continued, “If we cannot generate sympathy for the covenant between men and women, children will be increasingly uprooted. The social devaluation of the stable and generative covenant of the man and of the woman is certainly a loss for everyone. We must recover the honor of marriage and the family. The safekeeping of this covenant between man and woman is for us believers, therefore, a challenging and exciting vocation in today’s world.”
The Pope concluded his catechesis with the image from Genesis of God clothing Adam and Eve after their sin: “It is an image of tenderness towards the sinful couple that leaves us open-mouthed with wonder. It is an image of paternal safeguarding of the human couple. God Himself cures and protects His masterpiece.”
A Brief Summary of the Pope’s Catechesis: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we recall God’s creation of man from the ground. He is placed in the garden, where he is to care for creation. Yet God sees that man is alone, and so he creates woman, someone complementary with whom man can share his life. Man and woman are created to live a life of reciprocity, to enter into a covenant together. Yet sin introduces discord into their relationship, lack of trust and suspicion. We see throughout history the fruit of this sin, especially towards women—oppression, violence and exploitation. Most recently, this mistrust and skepticism has led our culture to disregard the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, that covenant which deepens communion and safeguards the dignity of their uniqueness. When the stable and fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is devalued by society, it is a loss for everyone, especially the young. For all our sins and weaknesses, our vocation is to care for the covenant of marriage. It is a vital and energizing vocation, through which we cooperate with our Heavenly Father, who Himself always cares for and protects this great gift.