St. Augustine and the Theology of the Body

In doing some research in order to answer a question of a commenter I found this article by Monsignor Cormac Burke, whose book on marriage I highly recommend.  It is an article on St. Augustine and his views concerning marriage and sexuality.  St. Augustine is identified by many–but not by Christopher West, to my knowledge–as the bogeyman of Catholic puritanism because of his negative views of sexuality based on his over-emphasis of original sin.  Monsignor Burke shows that this interpretation of great western doctor is not accurate.  This article is also helpful aid to the understanding of TOB in context.  The Church has always emphasized the inherent goodness of human sexuality.

Here is a quote from St. Augustine:

Let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the un­breakable bond. . . . Let these nuptial blessings be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution.

Here is part of Monsignor Burke’s conclusion:

It may well be that earlier in the twentieth century Christians needed to shake off a certain Puritanism in sexual matters, although it should be said that this was a particularly Protestant problem. In any case, it is scarcely the problem fac­ing us today.

In this context, it is interesting to recall how Augustine had first to defend marriage and sexuality against the Manichean tendency to treat them with contempt or ha­tred, and later had to continue to defend them against the Pelagian tendency to treat them as if there were nothing deli­cate or problematic about them.

Insofar as Puritanism or Jansenism contained some semi-Manichean elements, we have moved away from them. Augustine’s firmly held, middle-of-the-road position can warn us of the dangers coming from a neo-Pelagianism, with its false suggestion that nothing is wrong with sex, that there is nothing needing control in sex.

4 thoughts on “St. Augustine and the Theology of the Body

  1. Father, I actually read a very similar conclusion from Gregory Popcak’s book “Holy Sex”. He devotes three sections to Jansenism Hedonism and what he considers to be “Holy Sex”. It’s a good read, although its very specific (not recommended for pre-cana!)

  2. Ah yes I very much like Covenanted Happiness and recommend it often! Have you read Fr. Paul Quay’s The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality? It’s also very good.

    Thank you for all you do Fr.!

  3. Pingback: Compendium of TOB Posts « Mary Victrix

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