Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TOB, ever ancient, ever new

I prepared this post for our TOB study group's blog, but it's going to do double duty because you deserve the info!

Just this morning I was reading a magazine put out by an association of the universities run by a certain very distinguished Catholic Order. The issue dealt with young adults and their experiences and convictions in the realm of sexuality, and even included an article on how to engage young adult Catholics in a Catholic university setting in a conversation about contraception. Sadly, the presentation of the Church's teaching was limited to the 1968 document Humanae Vitae and, after a nod to its relevance, developing a conversation about how it needs to be updated. In another article, an interview with an author who did an extensive study of the "hook-up" culture in the university today, quoted that expert as dismissing "the usual suspects (Humane Vitae, Theology of the Body) of moral theology." Never mind that Theology of the Body is only now beginning to enter into the Church's consciousness, or that it, like the Christian ideal generally, according to Chesterton, "has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."
Neither the university professor nor the author seems to have any real sense of what Theology of the Body is. The professor didn't even acknowledge it, while the author pegged it as "moral theology." I wonder if either of those two eminences has ever honestly taken the text in hand and allowed the Theology of the Body to speak to them directly. They would find out that it is not a rule book (consisting of one word: "Don't!"), or a text of moral theology, but a vision of the human person, male and female, and what it means to be the image of God.

Two new books may be just the thing--if not for the above-mentioned persons, for people who honestly want a fuller understanding of what the Church teaches about the human person. Both are addressed to the serious reader, not the casual inquirer.
Theology of the Body in Context: Genesis and Growth, by William May, is a summary presentation, ideal for getting a sense of the whole before you actually plunge into John Paul II's tome. The website allows you to read a few sample pages.

And yesterday we got our sneak peak copy of a book so new it's not even on the website yet. So you can't order it. Yet.
In "The Human Person According to John Paul II," Father J. Brian Bransfield starts with culture and the three revolutions at the center of the "Perfect Storm" of the 20th Century: The Industrial Revolution, the Sexual Revolution (with its effects on women, living together, divorce and the phenomenon of fatherlessness), and the Technological Revolution. These revolutions have all had a profound effect on how we understand what it means to be human, and on the key relationships in human life. From this cultural background, Bransfield brings in John Paul's teachings on the person and the Theology of the Body as "life according to the Spirit." How's that for a different take on what some academics blithely dismiss as torpid moral theology?

Author Fr. J. Brian Bransfield will be one of the speakers at this summer's Theology of the Body Conference, along with this TOB group's very own Sister Helena Burns and Father Thomas Loya. 

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