Cardinal: Confused World Obscuring Gender Identity

Says God's Plan Is Source of Happiness

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By Marta Lago

ROME, FEB. 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Living one's masculine or feminine identity according to God's plan is a source of happiness, but the world is confused about what that means, says the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko affirmed this to ZENIT during the international conference on the theme "Woman and Man: The 'Humanum' in its Entirety." The Vatican conference marked the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter "Mulieris Dignitatem." Benedict XVI addressed the conference participants Saturday, the day it ended.

Cardinal Rylko gave the inaugural address Thursday, affirming that John Paul II's letter is still relevant because we find ourselves faced with the "rapid and profound transformation of models of feminine and masculine identity and the relation between the sexes."

The cardinal said this is a consequence of "new cultural paradigms" and among these, there are two dominant tendencies of radical feminism: "Empowerment," which wants to defend femininity, "making woman the antagonist of man"; and the "ideology of gender," which wants to eliminate sexual difference, understanding it "exclusively as the result of sociocultural conditioning."

An "extremely confused" concept of masculine and feminine identity is derived from these, the prelate contended, which reflect a modernity without points of reference that substitutes a plurality of opinions for truth.

Families threatened

The cardinal said this tendency "particularly threatens and calls into question" the figure of the mother and the father, and thus the institution of heterosexual marriage and two-parent families.

Concretely, he pointed to the fact that "a great battle for the human person is going on, a battle for his dignity and transcendent vocation; it is being fought around women and the concept of femininity."

Conscious of this, the Pontifical Council for the Laity has followed "with great interest all that which is happening in the vast world of women at a cultural level, at a social level and at a political level," the cardinal explained to ZENIT.

"We, as a dicastery concerned precisely with the laity, are particularly committed to confronting this great challenge of the Church today, and above all lay Catholics have to confront it, because," he stressed, "this anthropological challenge is not aimed simply at the Church in the abstract but precisely at Catholic men and women."

"There needs to be a denunciation of the injustice and the discrimination against women, there needs to be a denunciation of the dangerousness of the new cultural paradigms promoted at a global level in the world today, but above all there needs to be witness," he said. This witness must be translated into "a positive proclamation that it is worthwhile to live one's own identity, masculine and feminine, according to God's design, that this is beautiful and gives so much happiness," he told ZENIT.

New feminism

In his address, Cardinal Rylko recalled the teaching of John Paul II: "Femininity and masculinity," he said, "are complementary, not only from the physical and psychological point of view, but ontologically." It is "thanks to the masculine and feminine duality that the 'human' is fully realized."

He continued: Neither "a static and homogeneous equality" nor "an abyssal and inexorably conflictual difference": the man-woman relationship is natural and answers to God's plan, which is the unity of the two, "which enables each," the late Pope wrote, "to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility."

The person "always and only exists as feminine and masculine," the cardinal added.

Indeed it was John Paul II who invited the laity "to be promoters of a new 'feminism,'" which knew how to "recognize and express the true feminine genius in all of its manifestations of civil coexistence, overcoming all forms of discrimination, violence and abuse," Cardinal Rylko affirmed.

"The moral and spiritual strength of a woman," John Paul II said in "Mulieris Dignitatem," "is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way," and this sensibility is necessary for every human person," the prelate recalled.

For this reason, Cardinal Rylko emphasized that "there also emerges a special role for women in the evangelization of culture."