Sexuality and Formation

(From the instruction Directives on Formation of Religious Institutes, given by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 1990.)

39. Today’s generations have often grown up in such integrated situations that boys and girls are not helped to know and appreciate their own respective wealth and limitations. Formation in this area is particularly important due to apostolic contacts of all kinds and the greater collaboration which has begun between religious men and religious women as well as present cultural currents. Early desegregation and close and frequent cooperation do not necessarily guarantee maturity in the relationships between the two sexes. It will therefore be necessary to take means to promote this maturity and to strengthen it with a view toward formation for the observance of perfect chastity.

Moreover, men and women must become aware of their specific place in the plan of God, of the unique contribution which respectively they should make to the work of salvation. Future religious should thus be offered the possibility of reflecting on the role of sexuality in the divine plan of creation and salvation.

In this context reasons must be given and understood to explain why those who do not seem to be able to overcome their homosexual tendencies, or who maintain that it is possible to adopt a third way, “living in an ambiguous state between celibacy and marriage” must be dismissed from the religious life.

40. God did not create an undifferentiated world. Creating the human person to his own image and likeness (Gen 2:26-27), as a reasonable and free creature, capable of knowing and of loving him, God did not wish man to be alone, but in relation with another human person, woman (Gen 2:18). Between the two is established a “mutual relationship: man to woman and woman to man.” “The woman is another ‘I’ in a common humanity.” This is why “man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side’ or ‘together,’ but they are also called to exist mutually ‘one for the other’.” One can easily see the importance of these anthropological principles, since there is a question of forming men and women who, through a special grace, have made a free profession of perfect chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

41. A “penetrating and accurate consideration of the anthropological foundation for masculinity and femininity” will aim at “clarifying woman’s personal identity in relation to man, that is, a diversity yet mutual complementarity, not only as it concerns roles to be held and functions to be performed, but also, and more deeply, as it concerns her nature and meaning as a person.” The history of religious life bears witness to the fact that many women, within the cloister or in the world, have found there, an ideal place for the service of God and others, conditions favorable to the expansion of their own femininity and, as a consequence, to a fuller understanding of their own identity. This growth in depth is to be pursued with the help of theological reflection and “the help that can come from different human sciences and cultures.”

Finally, for a clearer perception of the specific character of the feminine religious life, one should not forget that “the figure of Mary of Nazareth sheds light on womanhood as such by the very fact that God, in the sublime event of the incarnation of his Son, entrusted himself to the ministry, the free and active ministry, of a woman. It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement.”

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