This is absurd! The author's argument is that "the generation of new life is based on coitus therefore civilization has its wellspring and entire origination in sexual congress." Compare the argument that "because the sustenance of life is based on eating, drinking and breathing therefore civilization has its wellspring and entire origination in such activities".
Mr West's use of logic indicates that he wishes it to be based on irrationality and nonsense!
What was this "Christian sexual ethic"?
Why did anyone set themselves the task of ridding anyone of it?
Why is it now the priority task of the present Century?
This is all just hyperbole!
This sounds fine, but I am doubtful that it will turn out to be so.
But Mr West's certainly is so.Since our creation as male and female is the "fundamental fact of human existence" [Feb 13, 1980], the theology of the body affords "the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life" [Oct 29, 80].
"Reducing a theology of the body to a consideration of sexuality falsifies the topic from the beginning. Of course, an adequate theological phenomenology of the body as the primordial mystery/symbol of human freedom and bondage must include every aspect of sexuality. But it must also embrace all the other ways in which human embodiedness both enables and limits human freedom through disposition of material possessions, through relationships to the environment, through artistic creativity, and through suffering - both sinful and sanctifying. The popeís title provides the first example of the way in which a grander - or to use his word "vast" - conceptual framework serves to camouflage a distressingly narrow view of things."
[Luke Timothy Johnson: "A Disembodied 'Theology of the Body'" Commonweal, January 26, 2001]
This is heterodox.
The fundamental fact of human existence is more plausibly something along the lines that we are created as rational beings able to become God's friends.
Jesus specifically tells us that in the Future Life there will be no such thing as marriage, so sex and gender and romance and marriage simply cannot be a core aspect of saved humanity.
This is no more than a childish misuse of language. Any study is a mental activity. The body is not in itself a mental activity. Therefore it is not a study. Therefore the body is not a theology.
Note the tell-tale "somehow". This paragraph is in fact a glorified non-sequetor. It is wrong to argue from the fact that:
to the conclusion that:
- in the Incarnation God made HimSelf manifest
If this was so, why did The Divine Logos bother to become Man, if the human body itself (quite apart from the mind or soul or spirit note) already manifests "this eternal mystery of love"?
- the human body itself does a similar job quite apart from the incarnation.
Oh dear! This is plainly heretical. The author is saying that sex and gender and in fact the physical act of sexual congress (see quotes below for corroberation of this) is some kind of pseudo or natural sacrament of the most intimate life of God. In which case we have to start to talk about the Father in a sense having sexual relations with the Son and in doing so procreating Holy Spirit.Yeuck! I for one find this language offensive and apt only to debase any notion of what God is and what substantial Love is all about.
Mr West expands on his theme elsewhere:The body is sacramental, revelatory of the mystery of creation and the mystery of the Creator. According to the Holy Father, the human body - through the reality of sexual difference and our call to sexual union - possesses a "language" inscribed by God that proclaims His own eternal mystery and makes that mystery present, visible, experiential in our world. What is this mystery hidden in God from all eternity? Itís the mystery of Godís plan to unite all things in Christ .... itís Godís Trinitarian Love and Life, and his amazing plan for us to share in this Love and Life through Christ as members of the Church.I am quite happy to say that eros and agape and philadelphia are all minor variations of the same basic reality: Love, pure and simple, and that the human experience of erotic love and joy and ecstasy is a minor reflection of the indefinitely more powerful and exuberant happiness and joy and glory and blessedness that is characteristic of the Inner Life of the Holy Trinity. This is quite different from saying that gender or anatomy or physiology or "bodily sexual difference" has got anything whatsoever to do with it.
.... our sexuality reveals something of the mystery of Godís inner life and His plan to grant us a share in the divine nature.
.... just in case we need clarification .... John Paul sees sexual union as an icon of the inner-life and love of the Trinity. He even goes so far as to say that this "Trinitarian concept of the 'image of God' .... constitutes, perhaps, the deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man".
[A reply to Luke Timothy Johnson's Commonweal article]
Many pre-Christian religions featured "divine trinities". These were always of "Father - Mother - Child", such as "Osiris - Isis - Horus". They were a projection of the human experience of sexual and reproductive love onto the as yet unknown ground of being. They were well intentioned and some served a positive, though limited, purpose. They were wholesome in proclaiming the message that love was at the heart of reality. They were misleading and harmful in proclaiming the message that sex was at the heart of reality. In more recent years the Unification Church has taken up the same theme with its notion of "give-and-take" based on the ancient far-eastern imagery of "yin-yang".
Judaism and Christianity have always stood full-square against this view. For both the Torah and the Gospel, men and women are basically the same and all wholesome relationships, marital or otherwise, are to be based on equality and friendship not on gender and sexuality and "complementarity". Christianity took this teaching further. Along with Plato [Phaedrus, Laws], Jesus (and the Apostle Paul, following Him) taught that the better way to holiness and union with God avoided romanto-erotic love, which tends to distract its devotees from what really matters.
Sex is an important means to various ends: primarily procreation, but sex is not the basis or heart or foundation of anything. Sex and romance and eroticism are simply not this important! They can be enjoyable and fun and life-affirming and can help to bond people together, but so can other things: as I hope that my reader knows from his or her own personal experience. Sex and romance and eroticism are simply not so special as Mr West (following pope JP-II) would have us believe.
Mr West is seeking to insinuate pagan views of sex and romanto-erotic love into Catholicism in order to bolster a bankrupt sexual ethic.
Unfortunately, he is not alone in this endeavour. The new Prefect of the Holy Office of the Inquisition recently (26th Feb 2006) preached at the installation of the new rector of Rome's Pontifical North American College in the following terms:
"It is important for our people to hear us priests preach and teach about the fundamental character of God's love imprinted upon humanity in the original act of creation: 'God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.'"
What St Paul means by this verse is obscure. The phrase "one flesh" does not necessarily refer to sexual congress, it might well refer to the joining of two families or clans by the marriage alliance. Clearly, the union of Christ with the Church is closer - though analogous - to the union of spouses, because the Church is not just said to be the Bride of Christ (though she is rightly so described) but also His own Mystical Body.
This is a simple reversal of a valid argument into an invalid one. God regularly uses all kinds of familiar and powerful images of common-place experience to communicate spiritual truths to us. He knows that we best understand and relate to those things with which we are most familiar. Hence He uses the image of Israel as His (oft erring) wife. The fact that God uses a fact of human existence to express some spiritual truth in no way even suggests that this aspect of human experience exits primarily in order to serve the purpose of manifesting this truth!So: the fact that Jesus says that God the Father is a gardener and the Church is a grape-vine cannot be taken to mean that God "wanted His great 'grape plan' to be so plain to us, so obvious to us that he impressed an image of it in our very gardens by making grape vines and calling us to get drunk on the wine that they produce".
Or, perhaps, a heretical deviation from the Apostolic Tradition!John Paul concludes that we image God not only as individuals, "but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning" [Nov 14, 1979].
As Mr West declaims elsewhere:John Paul II imparts a secret wisdom, hidden in God from all eternity and destined for our glorification before time began. He imparts it in words not taught by men, but taught by the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not understand the Popeís message. It is folly to him because his mind is not enlightened by the Spirit.Frankly, this sounds like the worst kind of gnosticism!
Is this supposed to mean that such an imaging of God is impossible in a single-sex convent: that only pairs of men and women are capable of "personal communion" that reflects and testifies to the Trinitarian Communion of Father Son and Holy Spirit? .......And, the Pope adds, "On all of this, right from 'the beginning', there descended the blessing of fertility" [Nov 14, 1979].
..... It would seem so!The original vocation to be "fruitful and multiply" [Gen 1:28], then, is nothing but a call to live in the image in which we're made: to love as God loves.
Now that was interesting. I hadn't read this sentence before writing my last paragraph. This shows that Mr West is himself quite conscious of the way in which any reasonable person will take his words: just as I did!
Indeed, but this statement simply undermines the general tenor of the author's argument, indicating that it is self-contradictory and therefore false.
And Our Blessed Lord and God, Jesus Christ says that "there is no greater love than that a man lays down his life for his friends". I know which makes more sense to me and I also know which authority I trust more and - what a surprise - these two criteria come up with the same conclusion.
Mr West expands on his theme elsewhere:"Love one another as I have loved you" [Jn 15:12]. This is the summary of the Gospel. This is the very meaning of life. And, according to John Paul, this call to love as God loves is revealed to us "from the beginning" through what John Paul calls "the nuptial meaning of the body". Hence, John Paul can say that if we live according to the nuptial meaning of the body, we fulfill the very meaning of our being and existence [Jan 16, 1980].It seems to me that Mr West - following John Paul II - is seeking to replace philadelphia and agape (the two characteristic flavours of Christian love) with eros: but not I think to justify any kind of "eroticism", no: only to then claim that eros is in fact identical with agape.
[A reply to Luke Timothy Johnson's Commonweal article]
From one point of view; where all forms of love are affirmed and little store is put on dissecting and distinguishing them, this would be harmless: but then again, from this point of view no such programme would ever be conceivable.
From the other perspective; where love is pulled apart into bits and some are regarded as safe and good while others are at best dangerous, this is deeply damaging. Mr West's programme is simply an attempt to constrain the scope of action of love: to force it back into narrow confines that are easily controlled and manipulated. Eros is first flattered as being the central fact of reality; but once he has been entranced by this calculating lie, he finds that all his life is sucked away by the seductive kiss that promises glory but results only in twighlight existence of servitude to a cold an unfeeling master.
Solitude has nothing to do with sex or romantic love. This is clear from the Genesis passage quoted. What Adam couldn't find was a "helper fit for him" not "someone to have sex with" or "to be united with". What Adam wanted was a friend!
Now Mr West insinuates that the kind of "help" that Adam was looking for was "sexual"! He seems to imply that Adam considered bestiality, but none of the animals were "fit for him" in this regard.
Now Mr West insinuates that the definition of "person" is: a being "called to love with his body"! This is absurd.
Yes, but not because Eve was female, notice. Eve was another human being such as Adam, created in the image of God; sharing his nature and outlook and needs, as a rational embodied spirit. Person is not nature.
Does "love" mean any more to Mr West than "to have sexual congress with"? I am beginning to wonder. Is he really suggesting that it was the fact that Eve had a vagina that gave Adam the idea that he could love her? ....
.... Perhaps he is! I for one can't penetrate this bit of obscurity. Perhaps it is all euphemism, I really can't tell. The pope's text seems to mean that no celibate can ever hope to "fulfil the very meaning of his being and existence". That would be utterly heretical.
This is scandalous and heretical to the first degree. Jesus did not love the generality of His Apostles in a sexual manner, yet the author now insinuates that:
As a gay Catholic, I am very tempted to use similar arguments (that would be much more plausible) to bolster my own theological case. However, I simply refuse to do so because I am sure that any such arguments rely on the basic idea (which even Mr West has formally rejected) that God is "sexual".
- the very meaning of life is for us to love one another as Jesus loved His Apostles
- and that this is the same as living "according to the truth of our sexuality"
- and that Jesus loved us by "giving his body for us"
- and that God created sexual desire as the power to love as He loves!
"I recall my sister mentioning that somewhere in the writings or videos of Christopher West, the claim is made that Jesus had an erection on the cross, which is somehow supposed to signify something relating to the Church as His Bride. Although I have not myself sought personal confirmation of this claim, the very thought physically repulsed me. It sounded like at this point, the TOB crosses from paganism nearly to Satanism, and it caused me to wonder how in the world any orthodox Catholic could take any of this seriously?"
[A female correspondant (November 2005)]
".... if we are called to a spousal love with Jesus, even as males, isn't that kinda GAY? How can I become the spouse of Jesus without joining a convent? Although I wouldn't mind wearing one of those really huge cornets of the daughters of charity!" [A male correspondant (November 2005)]
I have abbreviated this section hugely, as it said little - and nothing of any great importance.
".... no real sense of human love as actually experienced emerges in these reflections. The topic of human love in all its dimensions has been wonderfully explored in the worldís literature, but none of its grandeur or giddiness appears in these talks .... John Paul II thinks of himself as doing 'phenomenology', but seems never to look at actual human experience. Instead, he dwells on the nuances of words in biblical narratives and declarations, while fantasizing an ethereal and all-encompassing mode of mutual self-donation between man and woman that lacks any of the messy, clumsy, awkward, charming, casual, and, yes, silly aspects of love in the flesh. Carnality, it is good to remember, is at least as much a matter of humor as of solemnity. In the popeís formulations, human sexuality is observed by telescope from a distant planet. Solemn pronouncements are made on the basis of textual exegesisrather than living experience. The effect is something like that of a sunset painted by the unsighted....
I would welcome from the pope some appreciation for the goodness of sexual pleasure - any bodily pleasure, come to think of it! Pleasure is, after all, Godís gift also. A sadly neglected text is 1 Timothy 6:17, where God supplies us all things richly for our enjoyment. Sexual passion, in papal teaching, appears mainly as an obstacle to authentic love. Many of us have experienced sexual passion as both humbling and liberating, a way in which our bodies know quicker and better than our minds, choose better and faster than our reluctant wills, even get us to where God apparently wants us in a way our minds never could.
Along the same lines, papal teaching might find a good word to say about the sweetness of sexual love - also, I think, Godís gift. Amid all the talk of self-donation and mutuality, we should also remember, 'plus, it feels good'. Come to think of it, why not devote some meditation to the astonishing triumph of sexual fidelity in marriage? Faithfulness, when it is genuine, is the result of a delicate and attentive creativity between partners, and not simply the automatic product of 'self-control'. In short, a more adequate theology of the body would at least acknowledge the positive ways in which the body gifts us by 'controlling' us.....
The pope does not examine these and many other aspects of the body and of "human love in the divine plan". Instead, the theology of the body is reduced to sexuality, and sexuality to "the transmission of life". The descent to biologism is unavoidable. What is needed is a more generous appreciation of the way sexual energy pervades our interpersonal relations and creativity - including the life of prayer! - and a fuller understanding of covenanted love as life - giving and sustaining in multiple modes of parenting, community building, and world enhancement."
[Luke Timothy Johnson: "A Disembodied 'Theology of the Body'" Commonweal, January 26, 2001]
Yes He did! I wonder what our author will make of this.
Perhaps, but none of this has anything to do with sex or gender or "the marital act" or procreation or complementarity.
The word "hence" at the start of this paragraph should indicate a syllogism, however I am at a loss to discover it in this gushing pious drivel. There seems to be an indication that our meeting with God in the resurrection body will have some erotic aspect, but I can hardly believe that this is what either our author or the pope that he quotes really means.
This is pretty much fine. It is pretty much incompatible with what has gone before, where the bodily eroticism - which is exactly what celibates eschew - has been trumped as the "capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and - by means of this gift - fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence".
This is insulting of all those married couples who - for whatever reason - are unable or unwilling to consummate their marriage physically. Just because every act of sexual congress should be an expression of the love and commitment of the spouses (as should every other aspect of their shared life) it should not be said that romanto-erotic love can only be fulfilled by sexual intercourse. It seems to me that to say this is to demean romanto-erotic love!
What does this all tell us of the sexless marriage of the Blessed Mother of God and St Joseph? Was their marriage in no way fulfilled? The proposition is absurd and contrary to all piety.
Not to me it don't! This lens is a distorting lens made of smoked glass.
This is to equate "love" with "sex", which is one of the basic errors typical of contemporary Catholicism.
Why is this characteristic specifically of sexual morality rather than morality in general. The morality of slavery or usury or warfare or taxation or health-care or education or whatever is just as important, if not more so. Moreover, what does it mean to say that "God's love is fruitful"? Moreover, why does "fruitfulness" in marriage have to be equated with "procreation"? Plato teaches that all love must bear fruit, if it is love at all: but that the best fruit is that of personal maturity, wisdom, insight, knowledge and understanding. This teaching is echoed in the teaching of the Encyclical "Casti Connubii". Indeed, from a more basic perspective; God's love is so utterly different from ours, that it is difficult to see how human love can ever "truly image" the Divine Love. The best it can be is a very limited participation in the Divine Love-of-Self that is at the core of the Trinitarian Joy. The author is attempting to elevate those characteristics with which he wishes sexual activity to conform to the level of the Divinity. He can only do this by a dishonest slight of hand, for he knows full well that God is not sexual and also that the Divine Love is utterly beyond the purest and most ardent of all human loves. His purpose in this ill-omened attempt is manifest. Once he has made it seem that this false "divine eros" is the true form of human sexual desire and expression, then he can use the same set of characteristics as a "check box" to evaluate any human sexuality or activity.
What a surprise, just as I predicted! This is all specious and dishonest.
So there you have it.
Sex exists in order to support marriage which itself exists in order to teach us about God.
Mr West expands on his theme elsewhere:Insert contraception into the language of the body and it changes everything. Nuptial union is meant to proclaim the mystery of the Trinity Ė that "God is a life-giving communion of love". However, an intentionally sterilized act of intercourse proclaims the opposite: "God is not a life-giving communion of love". Contraception changes the "language of the body" into a specific denial of God's Creative Love, making the spouses "false prophets".
Thanks for that! I'm much less confused now, and so is my same-sex partner of over ten years, David.
Yes, and for the first thirty-odd years of my life I was confused. I tried to play the role that the culture that I live in made quite clear was right. Thank God, eventually I realized that this was wicked; and that it I should begin to live according to the truth of my sexuality!