Mother Pelican

(Source: Luis T. Gutiérrez*, Mother Pelican Journal)

Fratelli Tutti is a beautiful encyclical that goes from “everything is connected” to “everyone is connected.” However, the gender connection is missing.

As long as the Catholic Church remains a patriarchal institution, this encyclical amounts to 42,992 words of pie in the sky.

History confirms that patriarchal religions hinder human communion and ecological conversion. It is hard to foster a “culture of encounter” as long as women are excluded from key roles of responsibility and authority in church and society.

Patriarchal societies are not the only problem. Patriarchal religions are a significant part of the problem.

It is time for all the patriarchal religions to recognize, in doctrines and practices, that patriarchal gender theory belongs to an obsolete culture of female exclusion and is harmful to human development and the human habitat.

Fratelli Tutti is structured as follows:

Chapter 1 – Dark clouds over a closed world
Chapter 2 – A stranger on the road
Chapter 3 – Envisaging and engendering an open world
Chapter 4 – A heart open to the whole world
Chapter 5 – A better kind of politics
Chapter 6 – Dialogue and friendship in society
Chapter 7 – Paths of renewed encounter
Chapter 8 – Religions at the service of fraternity in our world

It is a massive document: 287 sections, 288 references, 42992 words. Under the above headings, the good pope addresses every conceivable issue about human fraternity in today’s world — except gender issues.

The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor under the oppression of an industrial civilization hypnotized by the myth of unlimited economic growth are discussed, and the parable of the good Samaritan is recommended as a meditation on human fraternity.

Many other issues are mentioned: the rippling effects of globalization, the plight of migrants, abolition of the death penalty, politics at the service of people and not at the service of the economy, etc.

Goodness, why is it that gender issues are totally ignored in a document addressed to all men and women of good will?

Could it be that the Catholic Church has no answers for gender issues that have been central to public discourse for over 100 years? Or could it be that the church hierarchy is willing to see the specks in the eyes of the laity, and the general population, but is not willing to see the specks in their own eyes?

Gender shapes the world. All the issues mentioned in the encyclical pertain to human relations and, given that human nature is male and female, all human relations are gender relations.

Responsible parenthood, and all reproductive issues, are gender issues; people reproducing like rabbits (irresponsible parenthood) induce overpopulation, a crucial social and ecological issue in today’s world.

All manners of sexual abuse are gender issues, the stronger partner asserting power by abusing the weaker partner — leading to sexual promiscuity, single parents, rapes, abortions, and other unnatural deviations from natural and healthy conjugal life.

Likewise, we know that human development, if not engendered, is endangered. Fostering a “culture of encounter” is proposed as a path for engendering a better world.

But isn’t a culture of encounter” endangered unless it is engendered? Is it meaningful to propose some abstract universal fraternity that is not embodied in fraternity between the males and females of the human species?

With all due respect for Pope Francis, who is undoubtedly a good man and one of the most visionary religious leaders we have, there is a huge vacuum in Fratelli Tutti. For 100 years now, modern psychology has shown that integral human development is hindered unless the man in woman, and the woman in man, are fully integrated; and such integration can be attained only via the communion of persons, men and women.

Furthermore, since human relations with nature reflect the relations between man and woman, it follows that it is practically impossible to attain an integral ecology, as defined in Laudato Si’, in the absence of gendered fraternity between the males and the females of the human species.

Thus it seems reasonable to evaluate the encyclical as follows:

Fratelli tutti


  • Addressed to all men and women of good will, believers and unbelievers.
  • Emphasis on fraternity at all levels — global, local, public, domestic, etc.
  • That the letter is addressed to both men and women is made clear 52 times.
  • Racism is mentioned several times, but sexism is never mentioned. Why?


  • Offers guidance on policies and best practices for human development and the common good.
  • In the tripod of freedom, equality, and fraternity, the fraternity leg is very weak at the moment.
  • Whence, in the tripod of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability, all three legs are wobbling.
  • The survival of humanity is at risk unless the intrinsic dignity of the human person is upheld.


  • The impossibility of universal fraternity in the patriarchal culture of dominion.
  • Likewise, ecological conversion is impossible in the patriarchal culture of dominion.
  • The survival of humanity is at risk unless the patriarchal culture is dismantled.
  • The risk is greater unless the patriarchal religions become integrally fraternal.

The encyclical goes as far as possible within the walls of the patriarchal system. It seems that letting the church out of the patriarchal box will be for another pope to do, as the signs of the times continue to resound in human civilization.

It may be significant that Francis uses the analogy of “walls” in many dimensions; see sections 4, 27, 35, 146, 195, 276, 284. The last sentence of section 27 deserves memorization: “Those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built.”

One meaning of Fratelli Tutti is clear from what it does not say. That such a long document so utterly fails to consider the gender dimension of human relations means either that the church hierarchy does not have answers or is not willing to act and prefers to remain silent.

With traditionalists going to extremes such as claiming (based on what?) that the ordination of women is an ontological impossibility, it could be that it boils down to an issue of ecclesiastical politics; the fact that women are naturally consubstantial with men is “an inconvenient truth.” So much for salus animarum suprema lex (the supreme law is the salvation of souls).

In a recently published book, John Wijngaards documents the painful history of the Catholic Church condoning slavery until as recently as the late 19th century. As a human institution, the church embedded in the prevailing culture. Jesus of Nazareth, in his humanity, was embedded in a patriarchal culture that he accepted as a given; even though he challenged the religious establishment of his time, which led to his crucifixion.

As Wijngaards points out, the church is not better than Jesus. The church does not have a crystal ball that can predict the future, so it must adapt practices and deepen doctrines gradually, in response to the signs of the times.

But 19 centuries is a long time, and one is tempted to suspect that procrastination, political convenience, and just plain resistance to change, played a role in arguing that slavery is “natural law.”

For the same reason, one is tempted to infer that the rigid resistance to the ordination of women has little to do with divine revelation and much to do with ecclesiastical politics.

Article 1024 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law is the rigid wall that keeps the church confined in the patriarchal cage. It is brutally succinct: A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly. This is where the rubber meets the road.

It would be so simple to edit the canon to read person rather than male, and start ordaining women to the priesthood and the episcopate. Simple, but not easy, because the hierarchs do not want to cease being patriarchs, and every conceivable rationalization is being used to keep delaying what is inevitable.

For the struggle for female emancipation is irreversible, as irreversible as was the struggle for slave emancipation, and the church does not have an unlimited amount of time to face reality and maintain credibility for moral leadership.

The dignity of the human person is mentioned many times in Fratelli Tutti. It is the foundation of the solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability pillars of Catholic social doctrine. Likewise, it is foundational for the tripod of freedom, equality, and fraternity — especially integral fraternity, sanitized of “male headship” as assumed to be “natural law” in patriarchal gender theory.

It follows, that it is also foundational for an integral ecology, because there can be no integral ecology without an integral anthropology. So women have the same dignity as men, but not enough to serve in apostolic succession by being invested with “the dignity of the priesthood”?

Let us pray that the Catholic Church, and other patriarchal religious institutions, will find the wisdom and the will to step out of the ancient patriarchal walls so they can contribute more effectively to guide people toward improved social justice and a sustainable human ecology.

The World Energy Outlook 2020, released 13 October 2020 by the International Energy Agency, conveys the gravity of the human predicament in the decades ahead.

These summary charts make it evident that “there are no short cuts; only profound changes, guided by good policies, can deliver a better energy future. This is a choice – for citizens, investors, companies, but most of all for governments.”

For technical reasons (EROI), as well as political, demographic, economic, and ecological realities, it is not wise to expect that some divine intervention will come to get humanity off the hook.

Unless there is a radical cultural evolution from dominus to frater, as proposed by Pope Francis, the outlook for our grandchildren is bleak.

But fraternity under patriarchy is not integrally fraternal; for social equity and ecological integrity in our overcrowded and degraded planet, we need all men and women of good will to really become brothers and sisters.

Canon 1024, which excludes women from ordination in the Catholic Church, is symptomatic of religious patriarchy. It is rooted in patriarchal gender theory, the artificial, unnatural anthropology of the sex/gender binary, male headship, and rigid masculine/feminine role stereotypes.

We all know that boys are boys, and girls are girls, but both are equally human and equally responsible for the care of each other and the care of creation.

After the redemption and the resurrection, the curse of “original sin” (Genesis 3:16) has been healed, there is no need for male circumcision (Acts 15:28), and there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

All rationalizations about male priests being “icons of Christ” have been shown to be historical fabrications that are theologically baseless.

The patriarchal culture of male dominion is no longer conducive to human development and ecological integrity. Time to move on!

*Luis T. Gutiérrez is the owner and editor of the Mother Pelican Journal.

More on Novena from our friends at Mother Pelican:

Opinion: “A patriarchal ecology of human dominion over nature is no longer sustainable”

Opinion: “The idea that God is male is by far the biggest religious travesty in human history”

Opinion: “Church patriarchy is an obstacle to integral human development, integral humanism and integral ecology”

Opinion: “It is time for the Pope to apologise for the patriarchal sexism that has excluded women”

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