Is masculinity/femininity soul deep?

I seem to recall Father Corapi saying that femininity and masculinity are soul deep differences. His example is how physically a man cannot bear children and spiritually a woman cannot become a priest. Likewise, men and women have different spirituality.

Does anyone know of an encyclical or something in the Catechism indicating the depth of our gender unto our souls?

I don’t know about modern pronouncements, but at least some of the Early Church Fathers held the belief of gendered souls, for example, Tertullian’s Treatise on Souls (chapter 36) holds that the soul, being created with the body is inseparable in this regard.

I have to go, so I can’t say much on the subject, but the Aristotelean/Thomist definition states that “the soul is the form of the body.” The form, or organizing principle, of the human body is clearly gendered, being always either male or female. This is the precise logical equivalent of saying that the human soul is either male or female.

So, short answer: yes.

A long answer would address the difficulties that arise in considering transsexuals, hermaphrodites, and other persons with developmental deformations, but I’ll have to leave those complexities to others.

Here are the Thomistic propositions concerning the soul quoted from the (old) Catholic Encyclopedia; I’ve emphasized the most important propositions. You can find more on New Advent:

the rational soul, which is one with the sensitive and vegetative principle, is the form of the body. This was defined as of faith by the Council of Vienne of 1311;
the soul is a substance, but an incomplete substance, i.e. it has a natural aptitude and exigency for existence in the body, in conjunction with which it makes up the substantial unity of human nature;
•though connaturally related to the body, it is itself absolutely simple, i.e. of an unextended and spiritual nature. It is not wholly immersed in matter, its higher operations being intrinsically independent of the organism;
•the rational soul is produced by special creation at the moment when the organism is sufficiently developed to receive it. In the first stage of embryonic development, the vital principle has merely vegetative powers; then a sensitive soul comes into being, educed from the evolving potencies of the organism — later yet, this is replaced by the perfect rational soul, which is essentially immaterial and so postulates a special creative act. Many modern theologians have abandoned this last point of St. Thomas’s teaching, and maintain that a fully rational soul is infused into the embryo at the first moment of its existence.

In other words, the soul is inextricably bound up with the body. It is (de fide) the form of the body and therefore must include gender. Regarding difficulties of those born deformed, the exception proves the rule, but these, too, can be explained in different ways. Someone will (from my understanding) be more of one than the other. He ought to correct himself (if possible) in order to foster that. Again, I’m not a biologist, so I don’t have all the answers to the question, though I don’t see much difficulty in the situation according to principle.

What an interesting question! I look forward to seeing the responses.

I couple of questions:

Wowbagger, can you explain this a bit more? On the face it seems in danger of begging the question. Could there be any other explanation for specific instances of actualized gender aside from the organizing principle, the substantial form? I mean, could the difference be attributed not in the substantial form but in the matter? Or, could the gender difference be an accidental form and not from the substantial form?

IntegraCatholic, can you explain why the conclusion that it includes gender follows necessarily from the (true and de fide) proposition that the soul is the form of the body? Can you lay out the steps?

Thank you both (and any others) for your help,


Thanks for catching that mistake. I shouldn’t have said it’s part of the soul. That’s incorrect. It’s a part of the substance of a human being but not of the soul itself.

I haven’t taken metaphysics yet in philosophy, but I will be next semester. Hopefully, everything I say will be correct. It is what I have gathered from the preliminary philosophy classes I’ve taken. (I’m graduating next semester with a degree in philosophy.)

When speaking of any “thing,” we speak of substance and accidents. There are nine categories of accidents, none of which change the essence of a thing (e.g., quantity, quality, relation, etc.). The substance is the real essence of the thing. Any substance is made up of form and matter. While the soul is the form of the human being, the body is the matter. The body clearly includes gender, and this gender is of the essence of what we call “male” or “female.” Apart from substance, there can be accidents that also relate to gender, but the gender is clearly a part of the substance, too.

So the body is always either male or female, without exception - and there can be no exception on theological grounds - except where it, er, isn’t. But we ignore those.

Then of course there’s the problem of animals which change sex naturally, and for whom it’s normal rather than a “developmental deformation”. Or those mammals with three sexes, such as the naked rat mole. Queen, Male, Neuter.

I’m intersexed, by the way. A protandrous (female) pseudohermaphrodite. Born looking male, changing to look female later in life. My Gender Identity has always been female, but when you look like a footballer not a cheerleader, you try to conform to society’s - and the church’s - expectations.

Until your body changes, and you can’t pretend to be that sex any more. It would cause scandal, for one thing, an obvious woman dressing like a man.

I’d be fascinated to see the theological explanations for syndromes such as 5ARD or 17BHDD.

Groups such as the Guevedoces of the Dominican Republic.

During the early 1970s, Dr. Julianne Imperato, a Cornell endocrinologist, conducted an expedition to the Dominican Republic to investigate reports of an isolated village where children appearing to be girls turned into men at puberty. In the village, these children were known as ‘guevedoces’ (literally, penis at 12 years). Also known locally as machihembras (‘first women, then man’), these pseudohermaphrodites were documented serially in the following photographs published originally in the American Journal of Medicne (Am. J. Med. 62: 170-191, 1977):

In an isolated village of the southwestern Dominican Republic, 2% of the live births were in the 1970’s, guevedoces (actually male pseudohermaphrodites). These children appeared to be girls at birth, but at puberty these ‘girls’ sprout muscles, testes, and a penis. For the rest of their lives they are men in nearly all respects (see photograph 6 below). Their underlying pathology was found to be a deficiency of the enzyme, 5-alpha Reductase.

Then there’s the Turnim-Men of the Sambia Tribe of New Guinea - also due to 5ARD.

And the other clusters of such conditions around the world. CNN had a good short documentary on one of them, in Jubayah in Gaza.

That’s 17BHDD syndrome, which causes similar effects. Male to Female changes (like my own) happen from a variety of natural causes, but are much rarer.

Oddly enough, people like myself get little guidance from expert theologians. The people who know all there is to know about the Theology of the Body. Our existence troubles them, you see.

They can deal with most Intersex conditions - those where the appearance at birth, even if unusual or ambiguous, can be explained away as the consequence of the fall, only superficial etc. But pseudohermaphrodites, who get a natural apparent sex change… they have difficulty with. Many deny our existence. I’ve been asperged with holy water once, to drive me away. I felt rather sorry for the guy, actually.

Oddly enough, it appears that sex is unchangeable. That it’s set in the womb, long before birth. You see, not all those who change naturally can cope. Many find the change a blessed release from the Hell of transsexuality - having a male brain in a female body. But for some, the girls… they beg for medical intervention to end this obscene nightmare.

From Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

And from Gender change in 46,XY persons with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency. by Cohen-Ketternis:

Gender role changes were reported in 56-63% of cases with 5alpha-RD-2 and 39-64% of cases with 17beta-HSD-3 who were raised as girls. The changes were usually made in adolescence and early adulthood. In these two syndromes, the degree of external genital masculinization at birth does not seem to be related to gender role changes in a systematic way.

The Theological musings on the subject seem to me to be akin to the Theological musings about how the sun had to rotate around a stationary Earth, and the intellectual gymnastics involved in explaining away Intersex conditions - including Transsexuality - akin to adding more and more epicycles to perfectly circular orbits.

But that’s just me.

Mulieris Dignitatem (Dignity and Vocation of Women) has quite a bit to say on the subject.

A warning from the Pope, about those like me.

(The Church) must also protect man from self-destruction. What is needed is something like a human ecology, correctly understood.

If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics. What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the “language” of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.


It would not be inaccurate for me, and those like me, to be classed as “Vermin” in His Holiness eyes. So I beg your pardon for my harsh tone. I’ve really got to work on the whole “turning the other cheek” bit. Sorry.:sad_bye:

To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism. Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America.

The Church, as reported in The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston (and America’s oldest Catholic newspaper) , is thus against Civil Rights for such as I in Massachusetts.

BRAINTREE – A bill that seeks to broaden existing anti-discrimination statutes should not pass, opponents say, because it would have mammoth social and legal ramifications.

The proposed Transgender Rights Bill, which is being discussed by lawmakers on Beacon Hill, would add gender identity and expression to the state’s existing anti-discrimination and hate crimes statutes.

Proponents claim the bill is a necessary civil rights legislation due to perceived high rates of discrimination against and a lack of legal protection for the transgender community.

In legislative testimony on the bill in July 2009, Ed Saunders, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said…the bill “seeks to impose a far-reaching and unfairly skewed remedy” to a problem that affects a small number of individuals with a medical condition that makes them experience “clinically significant” discomfort in certain settings by overriding the privacy interests of other persons.

Saunders also said that existing legal policies regarding biological differences between genders would be undermined by the bill.

He’s right. My existence makes many uncomfortable. And to legally recognise biological reality would cause change in all sorts of areas. Adoption. Marriage.

A bill that would discourage murderous assaults on me, and prohibit me from being fired just because of what I am, is seen as an “attack” by His Holiness. Presumably because my existence threatens a central part of Church dogma.

Now I’m going to read and meditate on this passage, though I’m no Christian. And try, despite my human failings and sinfulness, to implement it within myself. I find this passage to be of great solace, and a useful guide.

[BIBLEDRB]1 Corinthians 13[/BIBLEDRB]

I’ve really got to work on the :“is not provoked to anger” bit. Sorry, you don’t deserve my harsh tone. May I ask forgiveness please?

The thing is… my child in Intersexed too. It’s not for my own sake that I do this, it’s for him. 8 is a little young to be a “threat to all humanity”, explaining that to him has proven difficult. I made a vow at his Baptism to see him raised in the Catholic Faith, you see, so I have to.

You are very off-topic in my thread. But the Pope has never called you “vermin” that I’m aware of.

Thanks. Doing a keyword search for “soul” here are the closest references to what I’m looking for.Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special “part” in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood - even though it belongs to both - is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who “pays” directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. IThe Catechism also cites the Council of Vienne, which IntegraCatholic quoted earlier. The Catechism reads:*365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.*And:2332 Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

Also, in sacramental teaching, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders leave an “indelible mark” on the soul to my understanding. And Holy Orders can only be given men, and it is forever. Thus, it seems that when a priest who has died is in heaven (prior to being reunited with his body) his soul retains the mark. This to me also suggests that a person’s very femininity or masculinity is on his soul as well.

Grace & Peace!

I think we need to make some distinctions here between the concepts of masculine/feminine and the the material facts of gender. Someone’s gender–male, female, intersexed–could very well be seen (according to classical anthropological notions) as a physical manifestation of a property of the soul. But the soul itself is not male or female. Our Lord explains that there is no marriage in heaven–which would make gender redundant.

But the concepts of masculine and feminine are richly symbolic–and also rather thorny. They describe changeable social norms and patterns of cultural conditioning regarding gendered behavior. But they also describe ancient ideas of active and passive. They refer to specific qualities observed in certain natural polarities and dualities. But at root, they are concepts with which we attempt to grasp (often failing to grasp) certain realities.

For instance, in relation to God, all souls are feminine–that is, all souls are made to receive grace and influence from God. Meister Eckhart states (and I paraphrase)–what good is it if the angel comes to Mary and says “you shall conceive” if the angel does not come to my own soul and say, “you too shall conceive”? In this way, Eckhart underlines that we are all called to be theotokoi as Our Lady is the Theotokos.

All of which is to say that, in some measure, masculine and feminine are not absolutes. The qualities of the soul to which they refer in this specific conversation may be expressed in certain physical manifestations in the body, but that does not mean that masculine is to be equated with male genitalia, or that male genitalia is even the most fitting sign of a “masculine” soul. Nor does it mean that culturally typical masculine behavior arises either from the presence of male genitalia or from a faculty of the soul.

Under the Mercy,

All is Grace & Mercy! Deo Gratias!

I disagree with the conclusion here, both in light of the Church docs cited earlier, and because no marriage refers to our “marriage” to God. Marriage is a temporal institution. Thus, those Jews who were challenging Jesus by asking “in heaven who’s wife will she be” they were not understanding the temporal nature of worldly marriage itself. I do not think therefore that our masculine or feminine qualities disappear or are suspended when we attain the beatific vision. If you have different thinking on this, please share. But I would like you to incorporate the Church docs cited above in your answer, if you choose to do so. :o

Um… no. We don’t ignore them. I think I was pretty darned clear: dealing with those complexities would have required another long paragraph – possibly two – probably involving footnotes. I didn’t have time to write that up in the ten minutes I had to reply (or the five minutes I have now).

Look, you have gender identity issues, fine. You’ve had trouble with other theologians, fair. If I had the time to talk about it, I’d enjoy doing so. But your response was downright nasty, and I have done nothing to you to deserve that.

Grace & Peace!

I only have time for a quick response, but wanted to say that I think our differences in opinion have to do with this–to me, male or female genitalia are tangentially, not directly, related to the concepts of masculine or feminine. Our masculine or feminine qualities may indeed be intact when we experience (by God’s grace!) the beatific vision. But I don’t think that that means that my soul will have a penis.

With reference to the previously cited docs, I don’t find that what I’ve said in any way contradicts them. Granted, the conclusions I would draw (with respect to sexuality) do not necessarily agree with the catechism in many of its details, but with what you quoted, I don’t disagree in the least.

Under the Mercy,

All is Grace and Mercy! Deo Gratias!

I agree. Masculinity/Femininity can exist without physical genitalia involved.

animals are not human, they do not have souls, the discussion of animal genders is irrelevant here.

+The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that Sacred :bible1: Scripture is infallible . . . and Sacred :bible1: Scripture teaches us the incredible complimentarity mystery of the separate and different natures of men and women . . . and the created purpose and treasure of differences of the masculine and the feminine as being wonderfully purposed by God for **His **good purpose and His glory . . . and every portion of the revelation of the creation of each of these male and female different personages . . . initially as Adam and Eve . . . are indicated as entirely separate and different from each other re the created complimentary of their masculinity and femininity of beings . . . body . . . soul . . . and spirit . . . *even the very substance used to create them was different . . . *
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread
till thou return to the earth,
out of which thou wast taken:
for dust thou art,
and into dust thou shalt return.
- Genesis 3:19

26 And he said:
Let us make man
to our image and likeness …
- Genesis 1:26

[INDENT][INDENT]**Bishop Challoner’s Douay Rhiems Commentary on this verse: ** 26 “Let us make man to our image”… This image of God in man, is not in the body, but in the soul; which is a spiritual substance, endued with understanding and free will. God speaketh here in the plural number, to insinuate the plurality of persons in the Deity.[/INDENT][/INDENT]

And the **Lord God **built the rib
which he took from Adam
into a woman:
and brought her to Adam.
- Genesis 2:22

[INDENT]Genesis 1:27
And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.

Genesis 5:2
He created them male and female; and blessed them: and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

[INDENT]"Absorb the :bible1: Word****, without which we cannot grow in His image.** If I don’t know Him**, I can’t grow in Him**.** What makes me like Him the most is taking this :bible1: **Word **and placing it in my heart :heart: and soul and that is what will make you, and your life, beautiful.” —Mother Angelica [/INDENT][/INDENT]As a people of FAITH we know that the “words” of :bible1: Scripture are God’s alone . . . pure and undefiled . . . not man’s . . . man in relation to Sacred :bible1: Scripture was God’s wholly surrendered instrument in perfect restored communion with his **God **. . . used as God’s “paintbrush” so-to-speak, using the medium of “pure language” to help in all holiness to recreate, cure and reform man’s fallen sinful soul . . . and to teach us the holy infallible truths of God and His true nature and the true nature of creation’s men and women and their . . . *utterly different *. . . yet complimentary natures . . . and His wonderful plan for the salvation of the souls of both . . . men . . . and women . . .

[RIGHT]all for Jesus+
thank You Sweet Spirit of our Holy God+[/RIGHT]

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