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Vatican – do not oversexualize theology of the body August 15, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, foolishness, General Catholic, North Deanery, scandals, Society.
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The comments below could be taken to be a measured voice of concern over certain popularized presentations of John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body,’ that complex, almost impenetrable set of audiences the late Pontiff gave in the early 80s.  In seeking to ‘break down and simplify’ that very complex theology, many popular presenters (Chris West?) may be overstressing the sexual aspect and missing other aspects:

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family is cautioning Catholics against making an oversexualized interpretation of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body–a series of catechetical addresses delivered at Wednesday general audiences between 1979 and 1984.

Calling the series of audiences a “very, very important doctrinal corpus,” Bishop Jean Laffitte told the Catholic News Agency that the series is properly entitled the “Catechesis on Human Love.” Asked to identify “problems in the manner that Blessed Pope John Paul’s teachings on this issue have been popularized, particularly in the English-speaking world,” Bishop Laffitte said:

…………The problem is that if you focus only on sexuality, you cannot develop beyond that level, that such beauty is a gift, something given to mankind by the Creator but within a much broader context. Attraction to the beauty of human sexuality and the human body is normal because it is true and real. What can become a problem, however, would be to regard human sexuality in a kind of mystical way. Pope John Paul II embraced no form of mystic sexuality. What the Blessed Pontiff did in fact say is that sexuality has a mystical perspective and dimension …

There is a danger of vulgarizing here a crucial truth of our Faith that needs rather to be contemplated. It requires a silence. Sometimes in reading Blessed John Paul II’s Catecheses, you read only half of a page and then have to stop … you cannot continue … because it provokes within you a kind of loving meditation of what God has made. You enter into the mystery …[The good bishop here is being delicate.  Those audiences are very hard to follow at times.  There is great potential for misinterpretation]

There is always a great temptation to appeal to what people want and like, and what people want and like in the context of the present culture is sex, and lots of it.  So there is a powerful incentive to ‘give the people what they want’ – a sort of sexualized view of Catholicism.  There is a great deal of money to be made proclaiming a sort of ‘sexualized Catholicism’ as good and holy – the fulfilment of the Will of God.  I’m not saying anyone would consciously and callously choose to try to make money on such an ‘interpretation’ of ToB – but sometimes it’s easy to confuse motives.  And those audiences were so complex on so many levels, they can be said, to those without a PhD in moral theology, to ‘mean’ things that were perhaps never the intent of Blessed JPII.  And thus, the problem.

There is no question that a number of folks have cashed in on ToB, especially in this country (interestingly, not so much anywhere else).  Outside the US, popular presentations on ToB are essentially unknown.  I’m not saying there’s no merit in ToB as presented in this country.  I’m just saying – be very careful with it.

Fr. Angelo Geiger has his analysis of Bishop Jean Laffitte’s (like the pirate!) here.

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