Friday, August 06, 2010

Theology of the Body: Rewriting Mystical and Moral Theology for the Third Millennium.

More pop-culture than academic...
I'm not a scholar or a theologian, but even I see problems in the popular interpretations of John Paul II's Wednesday Audience catechesis on the theology of the body.  Since I am not a member of the 'academy' I understand my opinions have little import much less consequence.  Not a problem for me - it is simply another one of the benefits of being 'little'...
That said, Fr. Angelo Mary of Mary Vitrix blog has posted an accurate critique based upon statements coming out of the recent Theology of the Body conference ("God is a stalker"), while providing a bit of perspective upon the 'doctrine' as promulgated by Fr. Thomas Loya.  Some of my readers will be familiar with his name since I published portions of his handout/address at last weekends Courage Conference.  Dr. Janet Smith also spoke at the event, but I have no documentation as to what she said.  Both promote TOB and seem to oppose criticisms of Christopher West's enthusiastic interpretations of JPII's work.
I had some minor reservations regarding Fr. Loya's talk - or at least what was published in the handout.  My issues stem from what I see as a danger from what can and probably will be extrapolated from his conversation by compassionate spiritual directors as regard same-sex couples/partners in disinterested friendships, a concept seemingly in the process of development by among others, John Heard of Dreadnought.  I've alluded to these things in the past.
There is of course no problem with same sex friendship in the case of same sex attracted persons - so long as chastity is observed and the homosexual lifestyle is not promoted.  Loya does not appear to be advocating anything beyond those parameters - but seeing how easy it is to adapt popular interpretations of  TOB to just about any sexual appetite, so as the end result is 'spousal' - I sense the foundation for a development of a more precious "gay spirituality" in the works.  Fr. Loya seems to guarantee that could never happen based upon his premise that a same-sex attracted person really only thinks he is a homosexual.  His concept is more involved than that of course, and maybe I'll discuss the point later.  For now, suffice it to say - based upon experience - I see the TOB notion for homosexuals evolving very close to the bad advice a Trappist monk, who once taught at Duquesne, gave to a 'student' who was struggling with SSA and in a relationship with another man:  "You must see X in the transfiguring light of Christ - see Christ in his limbs, in his... love the Christ in him..."  - enough said. Although it seems to me the Trappist Fr. X may have anticipated some of the trends within TOB catechesis long before these people even graduated from high school.
I digress however, and perhaps I'm reading too much into what Fr. Loya said in his handout.  Read Fr. Angelo Mary's post however - I find it to be rather informative - not simply for those of us in the blogosphere who have learned to wary, but for the members of the academy at large.  Anyway, I especially appreciate Fr. Angelo's concluding remarks in his post:
The Theology of the Body Institute is engaged in mystagogery disguised as orthodoxy and sentimental enthusiasm disguised as orthopraxy. According to Katherine Blanchard, the Theology of the Body Institute’s director of development, the disagreement between the Institute and its critics
is really on a philosophical level, and we’re focusing on the practical application of the theology. We’ll let the academics work out the details and respect their conclusions. This is such an original message that there are always better ways to learn and teach about it. That’s what we’re here to do.
This is an obfuscation. This radically new approach to chastity formation, which suggests, as it does, that one may and should play fast and loose with the occasion of sin is based on doctrinal sleight of hand. I am not sure which came first: playing fast and loose or the sleight of hand. My guess is that difficulties with concupiscence and conscience has lead some to use the Holy Father’s writings in a rationalistic way, in ways he never intended. Perhaps the “Spirit” of the Theology of the Body needs a good exorcism. - Theology of the Body and the Mystical, Magical Train

Barbara Nicolosi enters the discussion here.  Very good commentary.

Nicolosi also links to Open wide the doors to Christ blog, which occasioned Barbara's excellent response in support of Dawn Eden's thesis.


  1. Read his early stuff and saw him in person and thought it was all good. But when I saw the cover of one of his new books, my spider-sense said this isn't right:

    I agree with Dawn Eden and Alice VonH wholeheartedly in their criticisms.

  2. 'Since I am not a member of the 'academy' I understand my opinions have little import much less consequence.'

    You paint a darned fine picture tho boy!!!!

    Sorry, I sound like your mother, just don't put yourself down. These acadamies are just made up by men's minds. Ideas and cash equal a building.

    I just don't think it's all going to stop being a struggle quite as simply and easily as some of their statements imply. I've seen too many latest detergent adverts maybe (now washes even whiter, whiter than the whitest white etc and they don't, it all ends up greyish woteva).

    Anyway, I've probably missed the point again, but just treat me as the Major, in Fawlty towers, wot?

    Swansea is in Wales. I think it might be South though, and I am needing to be more North, in order to catch the boat to Dublin. Do you want me to look for anyone while I'm there, In Dublin, I mean?

  3. I second ck and "get it", Terry. And write with clear, concise and easily understood concepts that help "dissect" these matters.
    I'll hop on over to Fr.A's and read the article.
    He is doing a great service, for us, as well. I enjoy reading his blog.
    Thanks for the "heads up"!

  4. ..."but seeing how easy it is to adapt popular interpretations of TOB to just about any sexual appetite, so as the end result is 'spousal' ..."

    Seriously? By Christopher West?

  5. Sorry Angela - but I always go back to his a-hole position as foreplay permitted in marriage.

  6. Terry, this is a great assessment. I was fortunate to have worked at a Catholic book store some years ago, and I obtained a copy of Theology of the Body back in 1998--I believe it's a first edition. There is absolutely nothing about this work that even remotely suggests that sex belongs anywhere BUT sacramental marriage.

    I believe that the sudden explosion of these so-called experts on the Theology of the Body are doing so in an attempt to pave the way toward changing Catholic teaching.
    Keeping our eyes on this all as it continues to unfold is very necessary.

  7. ..."position as foreplay permitted in marriage."

    I've read his stuff and missed that. Oh dear.

  8. Angela, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand discusses this alarming aspect of the "teaching" in her article:

  9. Angela - I hate writing about the whole matter - but I believe West discussed that particular point in a question/answer period at a workshop or something.

    My main complaint is how these teachings take on a life of their own and open the door to license and gross impurity - unchastity finds it's way even into the marital bond.

  10. Terry: The problem with marital chastity is my big gripe here; including all kinds of "perversion", which I will not enumerate, in C. West's "version".
    These other comments about God being a "predator", etc. are just bosh.
    God does, indeed, pursue us, a lover pursues the bride...but He is anything but predatory...He loves us so absolutely, unconditionally, freely...He gives us all kinds of signs of His Love; hardly is He is a predator.
    Pox on this house for that crap!
    Not to give more TMI, but I do know what predation is...and God certainly is far, far from that category!


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