Weigel on J.P.II's Theology of the Body

Below are some notes to the lecture that George Weigel gave last Wed. (Feb 23rd, 2005) on the Catholic understanding of sexuality specifically as expressed by John Paul II:

The Catholic Sexual Ethic is often perceived as prudish or obsessive. But the Church has never taught that sex is tainted with sin.
“No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end.” – John Paul II
Denigration of sexual love has been practiced; the 60’s presented a challenge to sexual ethic. Who are the beneficiaries of the sexual revolution? Not women, as claimed, but men who can fulfill urges without consequences, thanks to abortion license, contraception, commitment-free encounters.
The consequences: High divorce rates, STDs, AIDS crisis – all are difficult to reconcile with sexual revolution claims of “freedom”.
“Human sexuality is greater than you think.” – John Paul II
In Catholicism there is literally a vocation of sexual love - Rules of church to be used as guideposts to happiness. In the late 50’s JP II produced Love and Responsibility in which he taught
- Never use another person for our own Purposes: moral basis o f authentic human freedom.
- When our freedoms coincide we can mutually benefit.
- Radical gift of self to other – permanence and commitment are required to allow for this.
- If the body is to speak the truth of love attraction must be attached to loving relationship.
- Chastity is the virtue that allows me to love another
- Freedom, not prohibition, is the framework of RC sexual ethic.
Adam & Eve [From series of General Audiences given by Holy Father]
- Our bodies are intrinsic to who we are – not just the machine we inhabit
- Identity of one is enhance by being given
- Fertility – self-giving love/intimacy like God’s giving in creation.
- Shame is produced by original sin of treating the other as an object
- Lust = corruption of self-giving into self-assertion
The challenge is not in psychological category of Self-Control, but moral category of Self-Mastery. The Sermon on the Mount calls us not even to lust in our hearts.

Marriage is the most ancient sacrament – reveals that God created the world in an act of love. It is also a signal act of redemption (i.e. Christ/Church). Conjugal life becomes liturgical, sacred. Is this all impossibly high-minded? No – the aim for ecstasy (in the Greek sense it means “to stand outside of” oneself). Plus, look at alternative: animal quality of so-called liberated sex.

Sexuality contributes to our ability to become saints we are called to be by our baptism (i.e. life with God). Within this positive framework J.P. II looks at the controversial issues: What is forbidden? What transgresses dignity?
- Premarital sex interferes with integrity & dignity
- Self-pleasuring or abuse is sexual solipsism
- Pornography reduces others to objects for gratification – no one can learn virtue from this
- Rape is intrinsically evil act which cannot ever be justified, most profound assault on dignity imaginable
- Contraception – not permitted, but reject the idea of fertility at all costs: build families prudently (family planning is a moral responsibility) So, natural rhythms of body vs. mechanical/chemical (be ministers of the design); process of sexual celebration/abstinence, ecstasy/asceticism
- Divorce – Indissolubility of marriage is based on icon of sacrament. IF icon is dissolved then is God’s love dissoluble? Annulment in cases where it can be shown that sufficient knowledge was not at hand at the time of the marriage. (Cardinal Ratzinger suggests Canonical indissolubility might be addressed by experienced pastors)
- Homosexuality violates icon of reciprocity and is incapable of creating life. Homosexual orientation is not sinful though homosexual behaviour is; this form of attraction is a trial and a burden. Called to live law of self giving inscribed in human heart – this will be a challenge in our society. Cardinal O’Connor of New York visiting with patients and changing bedpans weekly at AIDS hospice expresses the heart of Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality.

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