On Laudato Si’, Fratelli Tutti, and the Terminal Decline of Patriarchal Civilization

December 7, 2020

The encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (Pope Francis, 2015) is about “everything is connected.” The encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti (Pope Francis, 2020) is about “everyone is connected.” But what about the artificial disconnections that are induced by from the patriarchal culture? What about the artificial disconnections due to patriarchal gender ideology? What about the artificial disconnections due to religious patriarchy? The patriarchal religions are a grave obstacle to integral human development, and the transition to an integral ecology, during the terminal decline of patriarchal civilization.

It is increasingly difficult to deny that industrial civilization is entering a phase of terminal decline. All the evidence points in this direction, as summarized in this collection of images about the Anthropocene.

Actually, the industrial civilization is but the latest stage of the patriarchal civilization that emerged during the Agricultural Revolution. This latest stage started with the Industrial Revolution powered by fossil fuels, with the consequent great acceleration of population and consumption growth and the side effects of toxic pollution, resource depletion, and chaotic complexity of the global system.

In the encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis deals with this global reality and observes that modern anthropocentrism has degenerated to the point that social cohesion and the very integrity of the planet are compromised. In the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, he concludes that the only remedy is a new culture of fraternity and social friendship of the kind shown by the Good Samaritan.

Pope Francis, a good and admirable man, is going as far as he can within the limits of his patriarchal institution. But it is precisely the ancient patriarchal culture, including biblical patriarchy, that constitutes the most formidable obstacle to attain the social renewal that he proposes; for patriarchy is intrinsically divisive, starting with artificial divisions in the gender dimension of human life, whence divisiveness mutates into sexism, racism, and all other ideologies that often make social friendship practically impossible.

In the Catholic Church, the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death is considered to be sacred; but the dignity of serving in the ministerial priesthood is still reserved to men alone. Similar aberrations continue to prevail in many other religious traditions, with ferocious culture wars ensuing in the process of dismantling patriarchal theologies that no longer pass the smell test.

Real personal dignity is not an individualist abstraction. Human beings are social animals, so there is a relational dimension to personal dignity. There is no such thing as personal dignity in isolation from others. The relations between men and women, between husband and wife, between parents and children, between managers and laborers, between people of different races and ethnicities, between people of different countries, etc., are decisive in shaping the dignity of each person.

From the beginning, human nature is relational:

(m)adam: Adam’s Rib Reframed, Lizzie Berne DeGear, 5 April 2020.
“Eve was made from Adam’s rib. Everybody knows that. But… does the Bible actually say it? In this delightful short film, Bible scholar Lizzie Berne DeGear teams up with animator Martha Mapes to breathe new life into an old story we thought we all knew.”

Note: This exegesis is fully consistent with the Theology of the Body in regard to the original embodied unity (natural somatic homogeneity) of man and woman. See also:
Humanity, Male and Female ~ Relational Complementarity in Consubstantial Unity

It is unfortunate that the gender dimension of human relations is entirely missing from both Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti. Who can deny that gender relations are tightly coupled with the unavoidable issue of overpopulation, and with issues of human developmenteconomic globalization, and environmental degradation?

There can be no responsible parenthood without a renewal of gender relations. There can be no integral human development under a patriarchal anthropology that negates how the male and female in each person affects all interpersonal relations. There can be no integral ecology in a patriarchal civilization, because the domination/subordination relation between man and woman extends to human supremacy over the human habitat.

Gender shapes the world. Gender shapes all human relations and all interactions between humans and the human habitat. The patriarchal gender ideology of male headship is artificial — unnatural — and distorts all human relations in families, societies, and human ecology. The religious manifestation of patriarchal gender ideology is even worse, because it elevates false gender stereotypes to divine laws. Consider the following impacts of patriarchal gender ideology:

  • It constrains integral development of the human person by suppressing the woman in man (anima) and the man in woman (animus). This is based on centuries of empirical evidence: Human Development, if not engendered, is endangered.
  • It also constrains integral development of human persons by replacing personal intercommunion (communio personarum) by an artificial norm of male domination and female subordination that is legacy of original sin. It diminishes the gift of love and the gift of life, and thereby renders responsible parenthood practically impossible.
  • It effectively excludes 50% of the population from deciding what is for the common good. Even worse, it induces some women to become more patriarchal than the patriarchs.
  • It reduces the principle of solidarity to the principle of fraternity. In gender relations, as in race relations, equal but separate is not equal.
  • It reduces the principle of subsidiarity to a pecking order as observed in irrational animals. Women are thereby marginalized from roles of governance at all levels in all institutions.
  • It reduces the principle of sustainability to seeking expediency and efficiency at the expense of foresight and resilience. See Apologies to the Grandchildren.
  • In brief, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti are reduced to 40573 + 42,992 = 83565 words of “pie in the sky” as long as patriarchal gender ideology prevails in social and religious institutions. The encyclicals are beautiful, but it is time to face the social, political, and economic realities of our globalized world inhabited by 7.8 billion people with basic needs and insatiable appetite for more goods and services. Contrary to patriarchal delusions of grandeur, infinite growth in a finite planet is an ecological impossibility.

The Seneca cliff looms ahead. For over fifty years now, scholars in the biophysical and human sciences have been warning us that industrial civilization is passing away. Pope Francis has issued two encyclicals, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, that state the predicament and open new horizons. There are no technological fixes. We should not allow demagogues and charlatans to distract us with false promises. It is, fundamentally, a cultural issue. “All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution” (LS # 114). We better stop messing around with abstractions and false hopes, and get moving.

Patriarchal religions, by fostering a culture of toxic masculinity and subordination of everything feminine — including Mother Nature, the planet that is our common home — exacerbate the current predicament of human civilization. There is no way in the world that the worldwide social and ecological crisis brought about by globalization and unbridled materialism can be resolved under political and religious institutions that enshrine patriarchal gender ideology. Solidarity and patriarchy are mutually exclusive. Patriarchal economies are not sustainable. The patriarchal mindset of “divide and conquer” in driving us toward a Seneca cliff. Religious institutions are complicit as long as they refuse to admit women to roles of authoritative religious service.

One Sacred Community

One Sacred Community by Mary Southard, CSJ. In the Christian tradition, the mystery of the redemption refers to deliverance from patriarchy and other consequences of sin. It means a complete healing of human nature that enables people to seek integral human development, individually and collectively, in harmony with the human habitat.

Luis Teodoro Gutiérrez

I am a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition, Cuban-American, married to Lourdes María Valdés since 1963, two children, four grandchildren. I hold B.S. and M.S. degrees in Industrial Engineering (University of Florida, 1967, 1968) and a Ph.D. in Industrial & Systems Engineering (Georgia Institute of Technology, 1974). After working 40 years in industry and professional consulting (Registered Professional Engineer, Maryland, 1975), now I spend most of my time doing independent research and working on this website and journal. My current research focus is the confluence of cultural evolution, religious traditions, emerging technologies, solidarity and sustainability issues, integral human development, and the transition to an integral ecology.

Tags: building resilient societies, gender equality, patriarchal religions, patriarchy