Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's all about sex.

Erotica might be a better word.
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When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I was once talking with my friends about 'self-abuse' - mainly because I didn't know what it was and Father always asked in confession - "was it complete self-abuse?" I said yes - but as Bob told Larry and me - it really wasn't. I don't want to go into any details with this whole thing, but according to Bob you could play around all you wanted, and if you didn't - you know - it was only a venial sin, and that is what Father was trying to determine.
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Well I didn't know that because I hadn't - never mind. Anyway - the point is that we learned to split hairs regarding sin - did I go too far? Was it just a venial sin? Is it permitted? (Personally, I don't think anyone except a saint would ever be able to stop just before... Perhaps the worst part of it all is the fact we were not properly taught that deliberate venial sin was no laughing matter.) That said - I've never been a big fan of racking my brain over what's okay and just a venial sin, especially in an attempt to defend oneself from mortal sin like that - indeliberate nocturnal episodes excepted. If you were playing around, you were consenting to being impure - it was so beyond just being an occasion of sin. (And yes, the big M is a mortal sin - still.)
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I thought of our teenage discussions in regard to the debate over various aspects of Christopher West's interpretation of JPII's Theology of the Body, especially as regards what is permissible in marital foreplay. (Twenty Foreplay - I once liked that song - from Janet Jackson - not Smith.) The other Janet - Smith, in her defense of West, evidently believes desperate times permit desperate measures, and praises West for meeting contemporary youth at the level they are at:
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"He has worked very hard to understand where those living in the modern culture are coming from, and he's tried to really reach out to them, which a lot of us would be very uncomfortable doing," Smith said. "And I think he has found a way to do it.
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"Some people find some of his examples vulgar and crude, but at the end of the day, I think many more people are going to develop a greater reverence for sexuality and for the opposite sex and for marriage than they had at the beginning."
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"He is a guy that pushes the envelope a bit, and you've got to be prepared for some hits when you do that," she said. "But overall if one sees what he's doing, it is really magnificent." - Source
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*So are the frescoes in Pompeii.
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I couldn't help but wonder if there had been such sexualized evangelization by the early Christians, when the likes of St. Cecilia was axed in the neck and St. Agatha got her unwanted double mastectomy. Ancient Rome was a highly sexualized culture, and Paul had much to say about it in his letter to the Romans. I also wonder if the missionaries of all ages played to the sexual mores of the places they risked their lives in to preach the Gospel, oftentimes in highly sexualized pagan cultures, wherein fertility rites influenced public and private behavior. I'm not a prude, but I think it is very important to examine a highly popularized version of JPII's theology, especially when it raises the concerns of good people.
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One of Christopher West's more benign critics is David Schindler, although West's supporters give the impression of 'how dare he speak ill' whenever they respond to Schindler's concerns:
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Schindler asserts; "The problems are not merely matters of taste; on the contrary, they affect the content of theology. The problem is that the theology of the body gets reduced to a theology of sex, and that is a serious problem.
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"John Paul II's theology of the body must be seen within his theological anthropology as a whole, which is an entire vision of reality centered in love and expressed in the communion of persons and inclusive of the body. It is this anthropological whole that underpins his defense of Humanae Vitae [the Church's 1968 prohibition of contraception]
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"I decided to make a statement because of the great numbers of people who have experienced uneasiness regarding the work of West," he said. "They need to know that this uneasiness has an objective foundation in that work itself. It is not just a matter of their having an unconscious 'Puritanism' or prudishness, but often has to do with what are healthy human and Catholic instincts."- Source
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I said as much in an earlier post. On the other hand, many of Schindler's detractors respond as Smith does and suggest West has found a way to bridge the gap between theology and sexuality for his audience of young Catholics, "who otherwise would not hear or possibly not even be interested in the teachings on the theology of the body." While that may be true, I think it is also safe to say this particular audience has for the most part lacked basic catechesis in faith and morals as well - hence the responsibility to be even more careful and prudent with one's personal interpretation of JPII's thought.
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*Photo: Erotic fresco from Pompeii. Such frescoes were found in brothels, bathhouses, and private bedrooms of the ancient Romans.

8 comments:

  1. " While that may be true, I think it is also safe to say this particular audience has for the most part lacked basic catechesis in faith and morals as well - hence the responsibility to be even more careful and prudent with one's personal interpretation of JPII's thought."

    Amen to "particular audience has ... lacked basic catechesis in faith and morals ... hence more careful and prudent ... interpretation"

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  2. Carol1:03 PM

    What's wrong with being a prude? Weren't the saints we admire the most *prudes*? I dearly hope so. I've never encountered that word in Catholic teaching or in Sacred Scripture --Freud invented it, perhaps. I think I became a prude the day a catalog from Frederick's of Hollywood arrived --Frederick is no prude...he's pretty much a sadist! Anyway, that was after reading some sex "manuals" early in my first marriage, never dreaming at the time that it was soft porn geared to sell books.

    With or without decent catechesis to lay a good foundation first, the young don't need soft porn (or worse -- a wink toward sin) under the Church's mantle. Most assuredly JP II did not intend a number of things West is saying.

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  3. I agree with one thing: you are not a prude(!)

    Not something that Chritopher West can criticize you for.

    But you have a point. This is a difficult subject and we should not fall into the view of the world.

    There might be two camps. The Christopther West camp, and the Alice von Hildebrand camp. I really relish what she has to say.

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  5. I reject Theology of the Body, period. It's not a sacrament. It was JPII's hobby essentially. You can be a good Catholic while merrily ignoring it.

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  6. Good one, Belinda! Your catechesis seems just fine to me.

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