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Literally Messing with their Brain. What Recent Scientific Studies Can Teach Us About Ourselves and Raising our Children

December 9, 2013

120913In modern times there has been a tendency to downplay the differences between men and women, preferring to see whatever differences have historically existed as simply social constructs. This thinking was insisted upon by many as a kind of political correctness that must be held otherwise punishment and excoriation was sure to follow.

Nevertheless, most people with common sense have always known that men and women are very different, and that these differences are not simply the result of social constructs or the way people were raised.

Now scientists have made discoveries not only affirming that men and women are different, but helping to show one of the reasons why.

At the heart of the recent studies, and discoveries, is the fact that men’s brains and women’s brains are usually wired very differently. While the pathways that set up in the brain can be influenced by the setting in which one is raised, especially at the time of puberty and before, the study shows that there is a very strong tendency for men’s brains to be wired front to back, and for women’s brains to be wired right to left.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

This difference in the way the nerve connections in the brain are “hardwired” occurs during adolescence…

A special brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which can measure the flow of water along a nerve pathway, established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map of the brain…

Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks…

Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills – such as map reading – while women tend to better in memory tests, such as remembering words and faces, and social cognition tests, which try to measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”.

“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” said Rubin Gur of Pennsylvania University, a co-author of the study.

You can read more of the study here: Study Shows Brain differences

Now of course I’m not writing a science blog here, but I would like to make a couple of comments, one of them theological/philosophical, and the other moral.

First, regarding the theological/philosophical point. While it is refreshing to see science affirming what we all basically know by ordinary sense and experience, namely, that men and women think very differently, it seems nevertheless that a certain caution is in order. For in our materialistic and reductionist times there is a tendency to reduce the human person to merely the biological and especially, to the brain.

But of course, even at the physical level, we are more than a brain on a stick. Our whole central nervous system, interacts with our brain, as does the whole of our body, forming a very mysterious mind-body, connection that contributes very strongly, and collectively to our sense of “I” as a person.

Beyond the complexities and magnificence of our physical nature, is also the mysterious and powerful presence of our soul. Surely our soul interacts with our brain, and our whole body, both influencing it and being influenced by it.

And good though this study is, and interesting besides, we cannot simply explain the differences between men and women by studying brains. Why is this?

Theology and philosophy speak of the soul is being the “form” of the body. What does it mean to speak of the “form of the body?” Well consider if you’re going to design a glove. How would you design it? Well, you would look at the form and function of the hand. The hand then, is the form of a glove. Now a  hand has a certain size and four fingers with a fifth opposeable thumb. But the fingers of the hand also move along three hinges or joints.

Thus, in designing a glove, four fingers, with an opposeable thumb are required. And also required is the capacity of the glove to permit the movement of the fingers. All of these factors give rise to the design and features of the glove. Thus the the hand is the form of a glove.

And so, when we speak of the soul as being the form of the body, we are saying much the same thing. The soul has certain capacities, and the body, that God designs, reflects these capacities. And thus, our soul as a powerful intellectual capacity, and the capacity to reason, therefore we have large brains. The soul also has the capacity to express its thoughts, and so the human person has the physical capacity, using our larynx,  tongue, lips etc  to communicate. Our souls also have an emotional capacity and the ability to exhibit subtle cues, and thus our faces and hands and other bodily movements are very expressive of our emotional state and inner thoughts. Our soul also has the capacity to do both grand works, and very delicate and close work, and thus, our hands especially, are able to lift heavy objects, and yet also do very delicate and close work.

Well,  you get the point, the design of our body is reflective of the capacities of our soul, the soul is a form of the body. Now dogs, for example, do not talk, not simply because they lack a larynx, but chiefly because they have little or nothing to say. Human beings on the other hand have a lot to say, and our body has many faculties to accomplish that fact.

Therefore, in an article such as this, science is doing what science does best, namely looking at the physical aspects of the human person. I do not ask more of science than this, and appreciate the insight of an article like this.

But as a theologian and a philosopher I want to insist that men and women are different, not simply because their brains tend to be wired differently, but also because their souls have different capacities and gifts. I am not male simply because my body is male, my soul is also male.

We live in an age the things that thinks a “sex change” operation can change our sexual identification. It cannot. Our bodies manifest our soul, for the soul is the form of the body. Mutilating the body, does not change the soul. In a fallen world, there are occasional situations which set up where, due to genetic damage etc. some are born with ambiguous bodily features. But this is an anomaly, and anomalies do not deny the nature of things, but on account of their rarity, affirm the nature of things.

In no way do I write this reflection on the soul, as a denial of what science shows. I only write to remind those of us who believe to remember that we are more than brains and bodies. And this is especially important to remember in reductionist times such as these. In this case, science affirms the clear differences men and women generally show. I wish only to add that these differences are explained by more than brain chemistry; they reach also the soul.

The second principle I wish to speak to, is more in the moral realm. For, as the study shows,  it would seem clearer than ever, that not only are men and  women different, but that they complement each other.

The study says that men are more spatial and analytical, less and less empathic whereas women are better at tasks requiring memory, intuition, and the navigating of complex relationships.

It is strongly evident, that all these qualities are important, even essential to properly navigate life and therefore, men and  women need one another both socially, but also in marriage, and especially in the important and critical task of rearing and forming children.

It is  commonly held today that it does not matter if a child has only one mother, or one father or two fathers or two mothers. But of course common sense tells us that it does matter.

Those of us were blessed to be raise by a father and mother know that our mother witnessed to and taught us many things that our father could not. Likewise our father witnessed to and taught us many things that our mother could not.

Masculinity and femininity have important things to contribute to the raising of every child. To intentionally deprive children of this complementary relationship of a father and a mother is to impoverish that child.

The study shows that the wiring of the brain tends to take place especially at the critical moment of puberty. And thus, it seems that for a child to be lacking masculine and feminine examples close at hand, we may find that the wiring and pathways of their brain are quite literally affected,  surely also their soul.

Of course this insight is affirmed by our experience of the last 40 years where increasing numbers of children are not raised by their father and mother,  but are raised in all sorts of other abnormal situations. It is quite obvious that many social ills come from this abnormal situation ranging from lower test scores and graduation rates, all the way through more serious social problems such as teenage pregnancy immaturity, poverty, sexual confusion and even suicide. The study even hints at the rise in autism as being tied to how the brain is formed in the critical puberty and pre-puberty years.

If it is true that there is more to our thinking patterns than social convention etc. and that our thinking patterns are quite literally hardwired into our body in our critical formative years, then we can see the moral imperative of ensuring that children are in the proper environment with a father and a mother, a male and female influence, and  help ensure proper brain development. And I would add at the soul be properly formed.

A young boy, without his father, without a male influence may find many conflicts set up as his brain which is meant to be wired from front to back does not receive the proper example for this to more properly take place. Likewise for young women.

I can hear some of the rebuttals now: “Where’s your data, where are all the studies?” And to this I would simply say “Where are yours?” Studies ought to be made. But in the meantime, we have no business experimenting on children if there is reason to doubt the children are effectively raised in single-parent settings or single-sex settings. And common sense tells us there is reason to doubt it.  I should think that the burden of proof would be on those who want to engage in social experimentation with children.

If anything, this study tends to reaffirm that the formation especially at the time of puberty, is important to get right. Nature, and nature’s God supply a father and a mother. We are foolish to set aside this model, as we largely have culturally speaking. We may literally be messing with our children’s brains and futures.

Comments (53)

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  1. RichardGTC says:

    If original sin were a shot of whiskey, then single-parent settings by choice and same-sex parenting would be as though saying, “Make mine a double!”

  2. R in Indiana says:

    Being raised in the 70’s and 80’s, I’m certainly a product of an education system that says that girls and boys are the same. As a parent, I know this is hogwash. I simply can not enumerate the ways that my two sons are different than my daughter. I have been thinking more and more about how feminism has robbed women of their role as wives and mothers. While the sexual revolution gave women more opportunities, it also forced them to answer the question–what do you want to be, with a role other than wife and mother. Women are born with a natural vocation to be a wife and mother–not all women will fulfill that role, but it is the most natural. Now, we expect that women will dream of being astronauts and lawyers and president. All of these career vocations are wonderful choices, and women certainly bring a lot of strength to these roles. However, it is difficult to be a great mom and have a career. I would argue that there are lots of good moms out there who have careers, but it is not the same as being a great mom who is focused on her home and children. Some people would argue that women need to have a career outlet to feel fulfilled. I would argue that the fulfillment is meaningless. I worked very hard for the last 15 years, and I did very good work, and none of it matters. I was well compensated, and now it may as well not have existed. Yet the time that I have spent with my children, the love that I have shown them will last forever, not just in their lives, but in how they treat their children and in how they interact with the world. We are all a product of the past generations, both biologically and socially, because we pass down our thoughts and fears about the world. I was at the time happy to have had opportunities to function in the workplace, but now as I approach mid-life, I wish that someone had told me that my role as wife and mother was much more important and larger than anything that I would have done or ever will do as a career.

    • I Like The Church Fathers says:

      “feminism has robbed women of their role as wives and mothers”

      It has done more than that. It has actually made women [not men] less happy:

      http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic457678.files/WomensHappiness.pdf

      Feminism drives a wedge between the sexes, causing men and women to compete and mistrust each other rather than complement each another. It provides men with a disincentive to fulfill their role as a provider for women and children. No wonder it makes women less happy.

      Feminism is evil and an error. The Church should speak out against it.

    • Leon Walsh says:

      Spot on !

    • Dismas Dancing says:

      While spending 30 years in the USMC, my bride remained a stay-at-home Mom while I criss-crossed the world doing my duty. When the kids were older, the entire family moved to the Far East for a four-year accompanied tour on Okinawa(Japan) and a two-year accompanied tour in Korea. When I finally retired from the Corps in 1995, all the kids were off to college. It was only then that my bride decided to take on a career; and is still at it nearly 20 years later. Her life as a Marine wife, mother of four military brats, and single Mom when I was off to foreign shores provided a wealth of feminine/motherly fulfillment that continues to pay magnificent dividends as our children turn to us with thanks as they motor through their own lives as parents and responsible citizens. No amount of fulfullment she enjoys now as a “career professional” comes anywhere near the wholesome and total satisfaction she enjoyed as a Mom who unselfishly dedicated her life to support of her husband and the selfless and wise rearing of her children. Her life certainly doesn’t come close to copying the feminists’ “template” of a “fulfilled woman”; but there is a fulfilled husband, two grown men, and two grown women with their own families (9 grandchildren) who will tell you just how much their Mom’s total dedication to them is appreciated in countless ways. We were, by no means, perfect. And my wife’s professional road has been less rocky because of some of the good things that came of the so-called feminist movement as it relates to economic realities. That said, the real harm that has come to “non-traditional” families because of both the feminist and the gay/lesbian movements has had significant repercussions all through society. When I joined the private sector following my military service, it was painfully obvious what these movements and the PC approach to everything concerning them has done, and is now doing to our society–things which the left and the media simply will not report. Denying the very real necessity of “traditional” families and the crucial role they have in maintaining a well-ordered society is not doing our country and its citizens any favors. Catholics, in fact, all Christian families, need to honestly strive to do the best in their power to maintain the family, the fully integrated family, as the bedrock of both our Church and the nation if we are to survive. It will take courage and a good deal more than lip service from us. But faithful we must be in the fight against the current norms or our second and third generation progeny will never have a chance.

  3. Cathy R. says:

    Matthew 22: 30 – At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. NABRE

    Galatians 3: 28 -There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. NABRE

    I don’t know Msgr. Those two quotes plus several others lead me to believe that the soul does not have a particular sex. Our souls are well beyond those simple designations. As for the male/female differences between our bodies and our minds yes-exactly. Women are not men and we should stop pretending that they are!

    As for children being raised by parents (0ne male and one female). I do believe that this is the optimal way to raise a child – but for various reasons in history the rearing of children has fallen mostly to women and the extended female family. (aunts, grandmothers, neighbors). This has happened because men were historically needed for hunting parties, wars, fishing etc….(Many young men didn’t see their dads during WWII). Men were frequently not available, for months or even years at a time. some men even died an untimely death due to these pursuits. Many societies would try to provide male leadership to young men (after puberty) by allowing them to join the men in hunting etc….but the fact remains that young children were frequently raised by groups of females. This does not seem to twist the soul of these children. I believe the problem is actually in the open acknowledgment and approval of sin in the society (as is happening now). I believe that the soul of the children (and adults) know deep down, that the sin is wrong and this is what twists the soul and the mind resulting in the dysfunctional behaviours we see around us.

    • Your use of scripture is certainly flawed as these texts have nothing at all to do with the subject you trot them out for. You Cathy ARE female, you don’t just wear a female body. Your body and soul are not divisible (except perhaps intellectually), they are one reality. Hence your soul is female because your are female and because your soul is the form of your body. Whatever anthropology you propose, I am not sure, but it isn’t a Christian anthropology.

      The rest of your comment is flawed logically. You say that two heterosexual parents are optimal. At which point then I want to say, fine. Stop there. To intentionally choose to raise children in a less than optimal setting is unjust. Your historical views are rather vague (e.g. hunting parties…fishing etc). But even the close in the WWII makes my point. I don’t know how many children were without a father in those years (18-25 year old males predominated among the troops, most unmarried). But lets take your premise. Can you not see that the WWII generation (so-called “greatest generation’) produced one of the most selfish, egotistical, immature and dysfunctional generations this world has yet known? The boomers threw a self-centered revolution that was so systematic and deep that one can only conclude that or brains were messed up. Drugs, alcohol, sex, lack of faith, hatred for authority, relativism. Divorce, abortion, promiscuity, cohabitation, fatherless children, feminism, empty churches, empty cradles. Welcome to the wonderful world of the boomers (of who I am sadly a member). So while I don’t care about your cave man examples, the WWII example is pretty clear to me but you draw precisely the wrong conclusion.

      • Cathy R. says:

        I don’t think I was just “trotting something out” as you say. I just don’t see were the church has ever claimed that our souls have a particular sex nor that our sexuality will have much bearing on who we are in Christ maybe it does” but it is not a focus for me anyway.

        Wasn’t really talking about cave men. We could talk about countless wars where men were missing for a long period of time- how about the crusades? In this country whalers left home for many months or for a year or more to hunt their quarry. Johnny marched off to the civil war and was gone for quite some time.
        I too am a member of the boom generation and they were (are) sometimes a selfish bunch. The “baby boom” “officially” started after WWII (1946 -1965). Fathers were mostly home at that time.

        By the way, I do feel like you were scoulding me in your reply.

        • I am disagreeing, not scolding. Please remember that typed answers cannot convey tone. But you are gravely off base in your understanding and use of Scripture here, this must be said. Further your remarks about the soul are Gnostic, this too must be corrected. Sorry if the emotions are less pleasant. If you want to call it scolding fine, I would call it correction.

          I didn’t mention WWII You did, just following your example. I suspect the problems of the boomers were more due to the fact that the “greatest generation” was traumatized by the depression and the war and they over-corrected, not wanting their little “darlings” to suffer as they did. Hence a spoiled bunch of brats entered the world in droves as adults by the 60s and the downhill got steeper with each year of the revolution. War, especially tends to do that. Most social revolutions come in the aftermath of war and the clash of civilizations. As for men being absent, no doubt they often were, but an anomaly does make the case. You mention the anomaly but no work to consider if it lead to good or bad result. Further you simplify by suggesting that in the past children were raised by women and groups of women. You do understand this is a simplification, don’t you. Nuclear families were all but unknown prior to the 1950s and you seem to ignore the possibilities of the extended family networks and multiple generations present to children prior to suburbs. And even if you can find a time were men were as absent as you describe, perhaps that would merit a study on the effect that were had on children due to that. My article explores what God and nature set forth, not what sinful humans of any period have done or not done.

          As for the Church having “official teaching” – She doesn’t have to have an “official” teaching about everything. There is no teaching for example about wearing socks or that ears are a normal part of the human anatomy, or that joy is a human emotion.

          However, it is clear that you express Gnostic dualism, and there is a clear stance of the Church against that. Your view would also seem to violate the basic synthesis articulated by St. Thomas who said, anima mea non est ego. In teaching this he expresses the fundamental Christian teaching that disavowes the substance dualistic view of the person as a discarnate personality wherein the body is a mere accidental appendage for the spiritual self. And while the views of the “souls” in heaven may be a mysterious reality for us to grasp, both Scripture and tradition insist that the body must and will rise, for I am my body, (I am not just my soul). Thus your quote of the angels text above is misguided since we will live like the angels, (who do not have sexual intercourse) but we will not be angels. We will be human beings, and not just bodiless sexless (i.e. genderless) ghosts, but with glorified bodies. For to be human is to be a union of body and soul, wherein the body expresses the soul.

          The anthropology of the human person that flows form scripture, and basic Christian teaching is clear: you are female I am male. Your right hand is a female right hand. I would be absurd to speak of your right hand as having some other sexual distinction (or none at all). Why?, Because it is part of you, and you are female. This is even more the case with your soul since it is the form of your body which is female because your soul informs it as such.

          As I say, Your own view would be reflective of the dualism of the Gnostics. Your soul and body though intellectually distinguishable are not distinguishable in reality, they are one, and interpenetrate each other. Further the soul is not “in” the body as if the body were a mere container.

          If all this confuses you I am sorry, but it is a sign that you have been schooled by the reductionist, dualist, world in this manner. Gnostic dualism must give way to Christian anthropology for you.

          Also your use of the Pauline text “no male or female” is about dignity as being children of God, not about denying differences, which there clearly are, from the very hand of God. If you look up the text you will see that Paul is talking about dignity before God, all the baptized are his children, that is our dignity. St. Paul was not a gnostic.

          • one anonymous says:

            Not to be off subject, but, I understand what you are saying about the soul and body being “one, and interpenetrates each other…” but I do wonder about near death accounts of a person being “out of the body” and even watching as the body is being worked on by doctors, etc. There are so many many of these accounts now with our advanced technologies bringing people back from a very long time considered dead. This I have wondered about and if you can shed some light on that to maybe explain this phenomenon? Thank you.

          • Yes agreed, but that the Body will rise is God’s way of saying that a human being without a body is neither fully redeemed nor whole. The Body must rise, the trumpet must sound.

          • one anonymous says:

            Thank you, yes, I am so looking forward to that day. I want to be there more than anything, what a wonderful, magnificent day!! I want to hear the trumpet sound and be with the Saints!! And I so look forward to meeting you and so many others then. It doesn’t seem as though it is so far off.

          • K. Louise says:

            If I am my body, is it incorrect for someone to say at a funeral, where of course there is a casket with a body, “He is not here”? I’ve heard that said so many times even by the ordained. Sorry to change the subject.

          • Death is mysterious and we don’t really know how to talk about it. So we use a lot of euphemisms. The body must rise, that is clear for it does not pertain to us to be without our body. But then what of the “souls” in heaven. Again, not sure. We tend to think of them as souls floating about waiting for their body to rise. But that may just be our temporal way of talking and thinking. They are in eternity, the fulness of time, which is not linear time. Thus perhaps for them, there is no waiting and all is fulfilled. Not sure how it all works but they are certainly not on Eastern Standard Time.

          • Vincent Torley says:

            Hi Monsignor,

            Thank you for your article. I do feel that there are fundamental differences between men and women. On that point I completely agree with you. However, I was struck by what you said in your response to Cathy: “your soul is female because you are female and because your soul is the form of your body.” This puzzles me. As I understand it, since men and women have the same nature, their souls must be identical; otherwise they would be of different species. I’ve just found an interesting article on the Internet at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=2793 . It’s by Dr. Kristin Popik, and it’s the first of a two-part series on Aquinas’ philosophy of woman (a condensed version of her Ph.D. on the subject). She writes:

            “For Aquinas as for Aristotle, man is a composition of soul and body and yet one substantial unit; the relationship between the soul and the body is the act-potency relationship of form and matter. The human soul as form actuates the body, making it alive and making it a human body, comprising with the matter or body one supposit, man…

            “But the form of a thing determines its nature or essence, gives the thing its definition, and makes it part of a species. What a thing is, then. is determined by the form of that thing, not specifically by its matter. Since men and women both have the same substantial form of rational soul, they have the same human nature, they are essentially equal and belong to the same species.

            “In his Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Thomas directly discusses this question of woman being in the same species as man. Although male and female are contraries, and specific difference always has the nature of contrariety, Thomas agrees with Aristotle that women do not differ specifically from men… Hence they are the same type of being; they are equal in essence.

            “This fundamental equality of men and women in their nature as humans is confirmed by St. Thomas in his discussions of the image of God, which is in all men. The image of God chiefly consists in intellectual nature: it is with respect to the soul of man (in which there is no difference of sex), not with respect to his body, that he is made in the image of God.”

            Dr. Popik writes of “the soul of man (in which there is no difference of sex).” What are your thoughts on the subject, Monsignor? Do you agree with her interpretation of Aquinas?

          • No. There is one human nature, but we come in two kinds or sexes. And these kinds compliment and complete the picture. Let us make man in our image male and female he created them. Distinguishing in this way between the soul and body as some do is to offend against the unity of the person and/or to locate the person essentially in the soul and see the body more as an appendage or incidental expression.

            As for Aquinas, I see no conflict, and would call your attention to the word “chiefly.” God does not have a body, but he made us to have one, and the Soul is the form of that body. Equal in essence does not have anything to do with sexual differentiation which clearly exists.

            I think the last sentence is just that, an interpretation. I know nothing of Dr. Popik so I do not mean to cast doubt on her credentials or even motives, but I DO sense something of an agenda that seems distinctively modern and possibly influenced by feminism too much. Again, this is my hunch, I am in no way certain of it and make no accusations of it based on a clip, I just sense an argument more keen to argue for equality than to accept that some differences come from God and do not offend against equality. Equal does not mean the same. I am me, you are you, but thought different, we are equal before God in dignity.

        • Nathan says:

          Read Chapter 17 of St Augustine’s City of God where he refutes those in the early Church who read those verses the same way you do and concluded everyone would be raise male on the last day. The Church’s official teaching, as laid out by Augustine, is that men will be men forever and women will be women forever. Have a Blessed Advent.

          • Cathy R says:

            No Nathan, never thought that all would be male on the last day. but I don’t think one’s gender will be all that important since nobody is married nor given in marriage in the next world. In this (present) life the differences in gender are (mostly) oriented towards marriage & children. Maybe God has another purpose for the genders in His kingdom (I would not even venture to guess what that might be.) I looked up dualism & gnosticism and I don’t think that I fall into either of those categories- sorry y’all think so.

            God bless.

          • Jacob says:

            I believe he was referring to your idea that “the soul does not have a particular sex”. This is at least gnostic leaning because it rejects the body as a part of the human identity. Your use of the phrase, “beyond simple designations,” treats the physical nature of the human being as if it doesn’t have any effect on the identity soul. This is problematic from a Christian standpoint. I grant you that we don’t know what God’s plan is for gender in Heaven, but we do know that in men will remain men and women will remain women. Identity is still important; that’s what Msgr seems to be focusing on.

            A wonderful philosophy teacher I used to know loved to describe the human identity like this: the body is the physical expression of the human soul and the soul is the spiritual expression of the body. The distinct human identity is found in each expression, but is complete and perfect in the union of the two. This is sort of redundant to what Msgr said, but I was able to understand these concepts better when I heard it this way. I’m positive he knows far better than I do, how much gnostic thought and its offspring has plagued the Church throughout history, so that’s why it’s such an important correction to make.

          • anna lisa says:

            Cathy, Iook up Peter Kreeft’s article titled, “Is There Sex in Heaven?”. I think you will find it interesting. 🙂

  4. Carol Moeller says:

    I think this is an interesting view from St. Benedicta of the Cross,OCD (Edith Stein)

    “Whether man or woman…each one is called to the imitation of Christ. The further the individual continues on this path, the more Christ-like he will become. Christ embodies the ideal of human perfection: in Him all bias and defects are removed and the masculine and feminine virtues are united and their weaknesses redeemed; therefore, His true followers will be progressively exalted over their natural limitations. That is why we see in holy men a womanly tenderness and a truly maternal solicitude for the souls entrusted to them while in holy women there is manly boldness, proficiency and determination.”

  5. annmarie says:

    Love the post. Agree with most. However, I am from the generation just before you Msgr. And I lived that which spawned the destructive, modern, feminist movement. There was a different rejection of the whole woman, body and soul in those days. In a nutshell, the world was deprived of her influence acting within it. Rather, she was confined to a home. Her children and family were deprived of a woman “fully alive” because society narrowed her sphere. I think it is the old old Catechism which describes that phenomenon under the entry “Woman” if memory serves. We must be careful.

    • Pam H. says:

      Historically speaking, women did have jobs besides “homemaker” (i.e., cooking, cleaning, caring for children). Biblically, they made cloth or baked goods, etc., which were sold for profit. St Therese’s mom ran a business. Neither scenario (the false “strictly homemaker” one where the wife is confined to household duties and nothing else, nor the corporate feminist one) is ideal. Certainly, homemaking is a duty. But most women are capable of other things as well, and as long as these do not detract from homemaking, they should be supported. In my own experience as well, this was not the case.

      • annmarie says:

        Yes. You make my point nicely. We need a radical restructuring of society to avoid the isolation of the feminine in the home and the masculine in the world isolated from his family, which is a direction I hear many yearning for. Atleast some not old enough to have experienced it. You know, Mom at home Dad at work.

  6. Kevin says:

    Humm….typical men (those who like football and other sports…)? What of the rest of men who say – who are more intuitive, who do not do well at map reading and motor skills -do not like sports? But like books and are more intuitive -have an eye for beauty –tend more towards theology and love Paul Claudel -who may be more intuitive then their wives (who are better with the map reading!)?? Mis-wired? (no!) Or rather there is that diversity in creation that God has given (male -female being not reduced the the study noted – but there being a bell curve of sorts even within the two genders -while still remaining distinctively man and woman)– far beyond such partial studies….

    • All good question. I tend int he directions you describe: I am intuitive, creative and communicative, I am also well able to relate etc. My experience however is that I do this in ways different than the women who exhibit these qualities.

      But more critically to your point, I think you are helping illustrate WHY it is so critical for children to have two parents, a Mother and Father. For otherwise, the necessary complimentarities may not set up in our personalities. If there are already strong tendencies in the male and female brain, all the more reason that to have the complementary and contrasting example.

      • Kevin says:

        Yes I agree – Mother and Father. And they being female and male -of various aspects is very important. God knows what he is doing in making it so 🙂

        • Kevin says:

          And interestingly in some areas where I am lets say “not typical” male – Mom is “not typical” female. 🙂 So both the complimentary male -female and the some complimentary “a-typical-ness” as a bonus.

  7. Lindy Taylor says:

    This article is most definitely inspired! YES! AMEN! I agree with every word and with your response to the comments as well. Yes, we are created by a perfect and eternal being (God), and because all His works are also eternal- (we go from this mortal state to an immortal resurrected state at some point)- we are destined to fulfill the eternal role of manhood or womanhood in perfect harmony and joy.

    You are clear about something that really shouldn’t have to be defined, but unfortunately, there is a desperate NEED for it in our time. You are so right- the burden of proof should be on the anomaly, not on what is so obviously given to us by God as the ideal.

  8. Pam H. says:

    Just a random comment: dogs do have a great deal to say, albeit not such complex theoretical ideas as humans communicate. They do “speak” a great deal, too, but in body language – a minute twitch of an ear, inflection of the eye, glance, position of tail, paws, etc., can say something subtly different from another, similar position. They are really quite eloquent, once you get the hang of their language, as many dog owners know.

  9. Erika P. says:

    Monsignor Pope,

    Recently, I graduated from college obtaining a degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Child and Family Consumer Science. I had instructors that emphasized in gender equality: men and women are the same, and society tells us how to dress and act, ect. As I listened to these ideologies and read abstract journals about child development, I could never take a liking in them. I felt they weren’t answering to life’s question in the fullness of truth. As a student, observing and listening to their ideologies, I became aware what they’re proposing has hurt families, and male and female relationships. Children need a mother and father. It has been proven that a child that does not have the other it affects them physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Its unfortunate that our professors don’t understand or don’t want to realize that the foundation of society is the family, and if you destroy the family, society weakens.

    I have learned more about child development, family issues, and who we are as persons through Holy Mother Church. I feel she has the answers to family and marital issues, I pray that people take the time and read what the church has to say.

    Recently, I became familiar with your blogs and ever since then I look forward to reading them. You do a good-job explaining matters of faith, morals, and culture in a simplistic form. Please pray for me that I pass my exams to get into the credentials, so that I become a special education teacher. Thanks and Gob Bless!

  10. jmeeder17 says:

    Monsignor,

    At first, I was in full agreement with you, but was prompted to reflect on this a little further.
    It would seem that that soul is most definitely united to the body, but I do not think that we can say that the soul has gender. According to Aquinas:

    If, however, the intellectual soul is united to the body as the substantial form, as we have already said above (Article 1), it is impossible for any accidental disposition to come between the body and the soul, or between any substantial form whatever and its matter (Sum. I, Q. 76, vii, co.).

    We are in agreement so far. The body and the soul are united by the design of creation.

    I don’t think gender is considered a quality or characteristic of the soul on its own in perennial philosophy, although, even in the separated stage after death, one would be aware of whether their flesh had been male or female. This information would be in the intellect which is part of the soul. So, I don’t know if that would qualify as gender being a part of the soul. This may be slightly out of context, but when Aquinas asks, whether the intellectual soul is produced from semen, he reasons, “Now the body has nothing whatever to do in the operation of the intellect,” (Sum. I, Q 118, ii, co.).

    Gender is definitely part of the body, and thus a part of our personhood when soul and body are united, but I am not so sure that the soul itself has gender as a quality.

    To clarify, in moral principle, we are in agreement; my concern is the theological perspective of the nature of the soul.

    • But that is just the point. I am speaking of the nature of the person. Whatever parts or aspects of the human person we may distinguish, I am one, I AM male, it is not just a part of me that is male. For I am one person. I am not a person who happens to be male. I am a male person. Maleness is not simply an extrinsic quality. If the form of the body is the soul then my maleness is there obviously there for the soul is the form of the body, the body expresses the soul. And while we may distinguish parts of the human person for the sake of discussion, we ought be careful to avoid dualistic notions that sever the unity that is proper to the person. Hence St. Thomas says, rightly, he is not simply his soul (anima mea non est ego). Your quote of the intellect having nothing to do with the body is a separate question as you point out. I would also argue that it is a kind of hair-splitting to say that the soul itself does not have gender as a quality: a kind of per se vs. per se ipsum or even per se ipsissimum We could on forever with semantic arguments that miss the point of the unicity of the person, which you admit.

      I think at the heart of our disagreement here (and I would argue your error), is the failure to understand what it means to say that the soul is the form of the body. I also wonder if you are not overly equating soul with intellect.

      • jmeeder17 says:

        Monsignor,

        Thank you for pointing out my error. I think I was “overly equating soul with intellect” as you put it. As St. Augustine said, “in each body the whole soul is in the whole body, and in each part is entire,” (De Trin. vi, 6). Thank you for the clarification.

  11. Alana says:

    Ask and it shall be given! Did you see this article today on LifeSiteNews? “Growing up without a father transforms children’s brains: Study.” Here is the link: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/growing-up-without-a-father-transforms-childrens-brains-study

  12. ph. martin says:

    I am a bit puzzled to read that our soul is either male or female. Does the sexual distinction go as far as separate the whole humanity in two unrelated realms? I thought that the human soul, as a spiritual reality was not polarized at all. In a certain way, isn’t every human soul female, called to become the spouse of Jesus Christ? I’d be glad if you could elaborate on that subject.

    • Well they are not two unrelated realms, but by God’s design we humans come in two types who complete each other. Your argument is with God, not me. The “female” notion of the soul is a grammatical construction (anima is a feminine noun), but grammatical gender is not human sexual distinction, it is just a grammar construct. Other words like terra (earth) and universera, creatura all these are feminine words grammatically. But this is a sacramental distinction wherein all of creation is feminine in relation to God since God acts upon it and it receives. But to speak sacramentally and paradigmatically is not to speak univocally. The sacramental order may use a feminine gender (in certain languages that use grammatical gender) in the word “rock” (e.g. petra) but of course a rock doesn’t have a sexual distinction, it is just a thing. Further, though God is masculine to all things in the sacramental way of speaking, God is not “Male” God, as God, is pure spirit, he has no body, and as such has no sexual distinction. Hence we need to understand the context of language and the limits of it. Your soul may be spoken of as feminine in relational and sacramental manner of speaking. But your soul, if you are a man is not feminine in the literal or univocal sense of speaking any more than a rock is feminine or God is male.

      Bottom line PH you are what you are, there is no part of you that is something else. Not sure if you’re male or female, but whatever your that is what you are and there is no part of you that is something other than you are.

  13. will says:

    Msgr. Pope so im curious you yourself brought up intersexed people so i think this question is warranted. if a person is intersexed then what gender is their soul? also the percentage of intersex births are one point seven percent. witch might seem a very small number but compared to most people born with autism is just a .9 percent.

    • I have never heard of this word intersexed and my spell checker won’t even let me type it except by repeated override. SOunds like a coined term. I think the use of the term is loaded by those who coined it and I would not accept as a premise that some one is intersexed which I presume to mean or assert that they are both.

      But to Answer your question: I don’t know.

      Anomalies are a poor way to argue principles and I just don’t want to go down rabbit holes. There are just some things that happen in a fallen world and in cases like these we would just have to guess I suppose or take whatever evidence we have and go with that and have the child raised one way or another.

      I have no reason to doubt your number but I do wonder how this could be measured accurately since I suppose that many would wish to keep things like this confidential. So the number may be an estimate or it may be accurate, but I wonder.

      Either way 1% is an anomaly. Deformities however do not make for general norms or rules since they are just that, deformities, things which lie outside the norm and which, like in many fields including math and statistics should simply be seen as outliers and set aside, in crafting understanding or response.

  14. ph. martin says:

    So we must hold that there are two distinct types of human soul? One masculine, one feminine. A bit peculiar for immaterial realities, no? I thought the sexual distinction was only relative to the body, the “material” part of the human being. Not that it matters much, as both are always to be unified in one single entity, but still..

    • I think so. But to a certain extent you saying this based on terminology you use. I think it is important to realize that some things we can distinguish intellectually cannot be separated in reality. For example, consider a candle flame. We can intellectually distinguish the heat from the light. But in reality we cannot put the heat over here and the light over there. They are so united as to be one. Hence, just because you or I or anyone wants to insist on this or that distinction doesn’t mean its there in reality. So I would answer your question Yes. But I also feel uncomfortable in the way you say it “distinct types” both words have rather rich and varied meanings tupos in Greek is not used the same by all etc. So to some extent we are limited with human language. So maybe I’ll Yeah, sure, why not, if you mean by type what I mean and if you mean by distinct what I mean and if you mean by mean what I mean. 🙂 Ah Philosophy. So much depends on terms and how they are used. I once heard it said that philosophy is the science of knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing. Perhaps this is not fair, but it does have a certain ring of truth about !

  15. Corey Harrison says:

    Msgr Pope,
    I do not want to belittle the point of your article, as I thought it was very good, however, I do want more clarification on whether the soul has gender. I can remember in my college seminary (I am currently in Third Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD) discussing whether or not souls have gender. My professor argued that no, they do not have gender per se. His reasoning, at least to my memory and my understanding, was that in the genus of animals, you have the rational and irrational. Thus, it is the rationality of humans that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Thus there is a specific difference between rational aminals and non-rational animals. So it is with every different species of a genus, there must be something specifically different about them to classify them as a species.
    I hope that previous article makes sense. Moving, the human species (like most, if not all animal species) is divided into male and female, however, they are not different species, rather different ways of expressing what it means to be human. Now, I do not disagree with you that the soul is the form of the body, and while I do not know if I am going to express this right, I do disagree that souls have gender. This is because, while the our soul is the form of our body, they are not the responsible or the principle of individualization. The problem lies in male and female do not exist out there as some sort of platonic form or similar way. To be male and to be female is an individualization of being human. There are differences in maleness and femaleness, but these differences are accidental to what it means to be human, if they were not accidental to what it means to be human. In other words, it is our rationality that makes us human, and that is expressed in individual ways in being male or female. Now, if the soul was male or female per se, in itself, that would mean it was the principle of the individuation of humanity, and thus it would mean that to be male and female would have to be separate species.
    To conclude, I agree that we can call the soul male or female insofar as the maleness and femaleness of the our body impresses that on our soul, but to say souls are created male or female, that would mean they are the cause of our individuation, there would be a specific difference between being male and female, making the two difference species. St. Thomas says that men and women are the same species, as they both have a rational soul, and it is through that rational soul that we are made in the image of God.

    p.s. If I am too confusing here, please let me know. I have given this a lot of thought, but between me posting this during finals week, and it being hard to express myself using posts rather human talking face to face with someone, I don’t know if what I wrote is as clear as I wanted it to be, or as it was in my own head.

    • I am puzzled by your use of the Word “gender” Is not gender a word from the world of grammar and referring a distinction of nouns? Do you mean instead “sex” which is the distinction between human beings? IOW does not the word gender answer “what class of nouns is this (M, F, or neuter)?” And does not “sex” refer to what sort of human being is this…i.e. what is your sex…Male or female?

      OK – so a little of the Socratic Method here:

      Why does your quote from Thomas referencing a rational soul require that human species have a non-sexual soul?

      You say that sexual distinction is an accident, Are you then saying that if “John” has his testicles cut off along with a little hormone therapy he can become a woman? since you seem to posit sexuality in the body as a accidental thing of the body but not the soul? Hence If John adapts his body and does hormone therapy, does “He” become “she” ???

      If not, why not?

      Why do you set opposed “individuation” and the presence of sexual distinction?

      To put it another way, Why must a soul without sexual distinction be required for their to be “one species?”

      Also, since “species” refers to “what is seen” (specio = I see) and humans are always seen as male or female then why do you posit that our species must actually be something that has never been seen, i.e. a sexless soul?

      Does not the word “species” make the case for our one humanity coming in two complimentary types since we have never seen anything else?

      Also, you mention the soul not having a sexual distinction “per se” Are you saying that the “se” is not the same “I” who am male?

      But if so, how can I be more than one “se” ? Are you saying that there is an “it” (a “se”) that is not me, which is sexless?

      But then how it that a sexless “se” (it) is part of me who IS male, especially given that the soul is the form of my body which is male?

      Are you saying the distinction does not reside in the soul qua soul? If so why, and what is your evidence?

      If it does not reside in the soul qua soul, then whence do bodily differences arise?

      Perhaps you mean by the “soul per se” a soul vs. the soul. In which case “a soul” could be an angelic soul. But if that is the case, do you argue that the human soul soul is not “per se” human but could just as easily have been an angel? But if that is the case then is a human soul, which forms a body, no different than an angelic soul. IOW do we really have an angelic nature and not a human one?

      Similar question: if the soul is the form of the body, but there is no sexual distinction in the soul at all, whence does sexual distinction arise? IOW If it is merely accidental as you say, then whence does the accident arise? i.e. what is the cause of the effect of male and female if the soul, which is the form of the body, is not the said cause?

      How does your notion of non-sexual human species with only accidental differences evade the charge of being an abstraction since there seem to be no actual occurrences of a human being without a particular sex ever having been manifest, seen or experienced?

      At the end of the day, it seems to me that it is impossible to conceive of a human person without reference to sex (or “gender” as you say). For it pertains to us to be bodily-persons, not angelic ones. A conception of the human person apart from the body and therefore apart from sexual distinction is an abstraction in the extreme. As far as I can tell, in the universe of existing things, no such entity exists, nor can we point to one ever having existed. Your “solution” of positing sexual distinction in the body merely as an accident, does not answer the question of whence this arises. For the body is an expression of the soul. Sexual distinction cannot “exist” as an accident, that does not explain it. It must have a cause. (Prescinding from God as first cause, for that is true of all existing things), since the soul is the form of the body, a body with sexual distinction, its cause must be there. Further, and finally, I insist in saying I am male. Not that just part of me is male, or that I merely have a male body. I am male, through and through.

  16. ph. martin says:

    Very interesting question. Perhaps it would be useful to read the Scriptures in connection with it. I guess that the distinction in union has something to do with the trinitarian image of God in his(its) human creature, and with the nuptial mystery of the Church, mystical body of Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist.