In an essay she published Friday at National Catholic Reporter, Sister Maureen Fiedler notes that the word to be featured in the upcoming Vatican colloquium on "the complementarity of man and woman" — the word "complementarity" — is a "trap": "It’s a word and concept long rejected by those who care about the equality of women and men in our world." As she notes, instead of emphasizing the humanity that men and women share and the fact that men and women can hold similar positions in life, the word "complementarity" is inevitably used to imply that men and women have different roles to play, different places to occupy, different tasks to assume in their work lives.
In the complementarian scheme of traditional religious thinkers, those different roles, places, and tasks just always happen to turn out to be subservient for women and dominant for men. And this scheme of thinking also denies the capacity of men to be maternal or nurturing.
Looking at the title of this conference also reinforces my view that Pope Francis – wonderful man that he is – still needs a course in "Woman 101." And maybe "Families 101" as well. His participation in this conference is just the latest sign that he has not moved into the 21st century when it comes to either gender roles or marriage.