Saturday, June 9, 2012

Apologia for Theology of the Body

Yet another . . .


Given its misrepresentation in nearly every facet of our oversexed society, it is imperative that Catholics have a firm grasp of the basic teachings of the Church regarding human sexuality.  Unfortunately, many assume that sexuality, according to the Church, can be summarized in a single word: “No!”  In truth, though, the Church believes human sexuality to be a beautiful gift from God through which humans are permitted to express the reality of having been formed in God’s image and likeness.

Catholic teaching on sexuality is rooted in our understanding of the Holy Trinity.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit love one another with an incredible intensity.  As the Scriptures say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  There is nothing squishy about this love.  Rather, their love constitutes an eternal relationship of self-gift, wherein they pour themselves out for the sake of the others.  The manner in which they love manifests itself to the world is Christ’s gift of himself for mankind in his death on the Cross.  Human sexuality becomes the physical means by which men and women exhibit the same qualities of love in their own lives, and thereby participate in the very mystery of God’s creative love.

The love Christ demonstrates on the Cross is characterized by four distinct but related elements.  First, his love is free.  As he relates in the Gospels, “No one takes my life from me.  I lay it down freely” (John 10:18).  So too must sexuality be an expression of freedom in which both partners willingly offer themselves for the sake of the other.  Similarly, Christ’s love on the cross is total and complete.  He reserves no part of himself for himself.  He gives everything even unto death.  So too must a couple be willing to reserve nothing to themselves in their sexual relationship.  They give their very bodies to the other for the sake of the other.  They hold nothing back, even offering with trust their own fertility and the possibility of the sacrifice accompanying a pregnancy.  Moreover, Christ’s love is faithful.  He will not go back on his promise.  He will not renege on his gift.  As the scriptures say, “Even if father and mother forsake you, I will not abandon you” (Psalm 27:10).  His gift for us remains, even when we are unfaithful to him.  In sexual union couples promise the same.  Their bodies declare that they will love one another even to the point of death -- even when one of the partners no longer deserves such love.  Finally, Christ’s love from the Cross is fruitful.  It gives life.  It opens to us the possibility of eternal life.  Human sexuality must do the same.  It gives life to the partners, as opposed to taking from them.  This life-giving quality is expressed most especially when the conjugal union results in the conception of a child.  

Given these qualities, it becomes clear that only one appropriate context for such love exists.  In marriage, couples promise each other in front of friend, family, and God Almighty, that their union will be permanent and exclusive so that each may give him or herself to the other freely, faithfully, fruitfully, and totally.  It is also clear, from what is described above why such things as pornography, masturbation, and artificial forms of contraception, constitute a serious sin.  They become acts of selfishness wherein, rather than giving, a person takes from the other.  They separate the essential qualities of union of partners from fruitfulness.  They make the means by which humans are most like God into an animalistic ritual.

What I have written above is only the briefest of summaries of the Catholic tradition regarding human sexuality.  The topic is covered much more thoroughly and eloquently in the exposition of the Church’s teaching by Pope John Paul II.  This exposition is popularly known as The Theology of the Body.  At Blessed Sacrament we introduce this material to students in eighth grade.  Regrettably, most parents do not have the context by which to reinforce this teaching at home.  It is my prayer that each of you will make a sincere effort to learn more thoroughly God’s astonishingly beautiful vision for human sexuality.  


  1. I am really enjoying reading all of these!

  2. Christopher West as well as others have a video series for adults that explains in more detail. Very good series



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