Theology of the Body
From the New York Times:
There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?
And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.
As my daughters get closer and closer to the age of temptation and exploitation- I am ready now to stand up to the dominant culture of casual sex- I don’t know when it was that Dads abandoned their daughters to the so-called sexual revolution- but I’m the Dad now and the girls-as-sex-objects mainstream culture is the Enemy- I’m not abandoning my girls -not now, not ever.
I will be posting more such helpful videos which I am using in my high school religion classes- we must get the word out through the teen ranks. Our young people are being tossed to the wolves into a mass media culture that celebrates porn/womanizers/pimps as comic figures/cougars and other soul-numbing influences. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen the damage done from the Playboy to Penthouse to Hustler to Anything Goes Internet Porn downward spiral. I am looking to start a movement of Dads to begin protesting outside the ubiquitous strip clubs- to claim some public space where real men educate the public about the real dignity of women. If we don’t want our daughters to grow up to be perceived as mere sex objects, then we need to evangelize the Culture.
Christopher West came in for some criticism recently, much of it deserved, for his appearance on Nightline. In one sense, I sympathize with the critics. I have heard West speak, and found the simplification (bordering on sensationalization) of certain aspects of Theology of the Body somewhat off-putting. In a perfect world, people would read the writings of John Paull II and others to acquire a sophisticated, nuanced grasp of the subject matter. Nevertheless, that is not the world in which we live. That being the case I think, on balance, West’s work is valuable, difficult, and necessary.
And so I was somewhat surprised to see Dr. Schindler take the recent brouhaha as an opportunity to rather harshly criticize all of West’s work. The tension between academics and popularizers is nothing new (even writers as brilliant as C.S. Lewis and Chesterton had and have their academic detractors); but one would hope for a more restrained and sympathetic treatment given the difficulty of presenting the Catholic understanding of sexuality in the modern United States. I think the following defenses by Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Michael Waldstein help provide a better context for understanding West and his work:
One of the richest gifts we have received by the graces of the Holy Spirit as we embark into the third Christian millennium is what Pope John Paul II coined the “theology of the body.” Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body and Apostolic Exhortation on the Family articulated how the use of contraception is against the sacrament of marriage and more fundamentally contra-human nature. This reiterates what Pope Paul VI expressed in Humanae Vitae in the 1960s in the wake of the sexual revolution that was followed by shock and dismay that the Catholic Church had no intention of embracing the forward-moving sexual “liberation.”
The issue of contraception is one of the most difficult to argue with non-Catholic Christians and those of other faiths, or even no faith at all. However, it seems that it is an issue that we’re called to debate with other Catholics unsure of the Church’s teaching. In reading Peter Kreeft, I have found a way of talking about this issue – for Catholics – that is both helpful and very insightful. I have seen it change the mind of three people in my life. Therefore, I feel compelled by my conscience to share it, so that it may help any poor sinner that may need it.
“I think it’s okay as long as nobody gets hurt.”
That has become the rallying cry of our times, the gloss over all deeds, the excuse for practically any sin. It is the banner of the sexual revolution, the fallback position of those confronted by the “narrow-minded” religious in society. After all, who does it really hurt if teenagers have pre-marital sex, as long as they play it safe? Who does it hurt if two consenting adults decide to have a one-night stand? Who does it hurt if two men or two women decide to sleep together? More importantly, how could one possibly claim anyone is harmed if someone masturbates?
My inspiration for starting this post and continue the topic through several other posts is the “Day without a Gay” protest, which is supposed to inspire homosexuals and those in support of homosexual marriage to take the day off and perhaps commit to volunteer work (to take a little bit of the sting out of the strike). Whenever issues like this come up (as they do at least annually here at the University of Wyoming with the Matthew Shepard Symposium), I find myself reflecting on human sexuality, the importance it plays in our lives, and the great detriment its misuse has caused, both to the nation and to myself personally.