Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

January 12, 2010

Let's Talk About its Historical Context

This past week, Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste, wrote an article for Headline Bistro in which she defends John Paul II's Theology of the Body as something that is not "new" or "radical," but rather exactly what the pontiff said himself -- a meditation on Humane Vitae and 2000 years of the deposit of faith. In my opinion, this is a really critical insight by Miss Eden, one that no doubt other theologians share:

Truth be told, there is something “new” about John Paul II’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, but it is not the newness of radicalism, revolution, drama, or daring. To borrow the words of G.K. Chesterton, the theology of the body is new because it is part of a Catholic faith whose “very antiquity preserves an attitude of novelty.” Its newness is that of ancient truths shining ever bright in the face of a world that is “passing away” (1 John 2:17). And it is very much needed in this age—because we have forgotten the wisdom of our fathers.

As Eden reminds us, if our view of human sexuality weren't there from the beginning, then it is merely something that was recently "discovered," and is therefore up for question as legitimate a claim of faith. Perhaps this is one of JPII's hidden gifts to us -- while we go back to Genesis to find the roots of our sexuality, we can tap into a more recent 2000 year-old meditation in Christ's Church on the use of the gift of sexual intercourse.

Eden's article got me thinking on the importance of examining the TOB not only in light of documents and catechesis on human sexuality prior to JPII's audiences, but the context in which he was writing it. JPII wrote it between 1979 and 1984, when some of the repercussions of the sexual revolution were really beginning to rear their ugly heads. But what kind of meditation do we need now in 2010? We are a few generations past this historical context, and are in need of an address about our sexuality that pertains to a hyper-sexualization of nearly every human activity in culture and daily life as well as an idealizing of human sexuality within the Church itself (or how some of the readers of the TOB are leading us to believe). My fear is that young Catholics are going to be again left disappointed in the theological but also practical use of their sexuality both before and within marriage. I don't really have the answer, other than to say that we could use some young theologians, alongside the "wisdom of our fathers" to seek the Truth today.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

absolutely love this. you are so articulate, so wise. write more about this!! would love to read.

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