Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Theology of the Body and the Cross

St. John Paul himself said that the primary purpose of his lectures on the Theology of the Body was to illuminate Humanae Vitae, Paul VI's encyclical on the immorality of contraception.

And what does JP2 see as the key by which married couples are to live out the ethics of Humanae Vitae?

The cross.

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae stresses several times that responsible parenthood is connected with a continual effort and commitment, and that it is put into effect at the cost of a precise self-denial (cf. HV 21). 

In other words, (at the most superficial level) if you don't want babies, don't have sex - even just this week.  Self-denial in married life is about much more than that, but that's a starter.

The most glaring problem with the misinterpretation of the Theology of the Body as peddled by Christopher West and others is the removal of the cross from its central role in the life of any Christian.  Discipline, mortification, self-denial and suffering - these are all aspects of the cross - and all aspects of love.  Even marriage itself can be a kind of cross, for fidelity to and love for one's spouse is never easy, and only by bearing the burden of death-to-self can one's marriage thrive, or even survive.  When the wife is nagging and the brats are bawling, when the bills need paying and the roof needs patching, when the grass is greener and the neighbor girl sweeter - that's when only by shouldering the cross can love even hope to hang on.

But this is not something you'll hear at a pop concert / feeling fest where sexually frustrated virgins and housewives go to be titillated by allusions to nudism and hints of sex magic.  In other words, the cross doesn't sell - which is why the pop Catholics don't mention it.

As to how struggling with Church teaching on sex was part of my own "journey of faith" ... well, I deal with that at some point below.

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