Mystics, Martyrs and Rhetoricians

Soap BoxOr the Theology of the Soapbox

What follows in another one of my long expositions on the Theology of the Body.  I have to give a loud content warning at the outset.  There is some frank talk here about sexuality, or rather, my complaints that there is too much frank talk about such matters.  I would have asked Dawn Eden to publish this one, but she has very courageously retired from blogging.  I have to commend her on her decision; however, it is not without regret on my part.

I again want to let those I disagree with know that my intentions are honorable and I do not question their integrity or commitment to the faith.  I can take my lumps if I deserve them.

In a recent apologia for Christopher West, Father Thomas Loya makes grand assertions:

Christopher West is a bit of a mystic—in the best sense of the word. His work, which seems strange to some, is actually that of a pioneer. And like all pioneers, West is taking a lot of arrows for his courage. In the face of much resistance, West is courageous enough to invite all of us to do just what John Paul II invited us to do: to think and talk in spousal categories. Continue reading

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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.