Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TOB Tuesday: The question of marriage

Today the US Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in the first of two "same-sex marriage" cases. Not only is this, as Justice  Kennedy remarked, "uncharted waters," it is an area in which many people are pulled in two different directions: one by the head, and one by the heart. The nature of marriage seems an irrelevant and abstract question.

My Catholic education gave me a sense of direction, but when I was in school (back in ancient history), issues related to marriage and sexuality seemed pretty straightforward. Speaking for myself, I have to say that I did not get a very strong background in where the Church's teachings were coming from; I could only tell you (in a very rudimentary way) what those teachings were.

Then Pope John Paul II was elected.

He dedicated almost five years of his papacy to correcting that lack, giving Catholics the "big picture." He started "in the beginning" with Adam and Eve. He spoke almost every Wednesday morning about "original nakedness"; "being naked without shame" and other things that Popes had never thought to express in public. He spoke of the true meaning of eroticism (as an energy meant to draw us to beauty--and to God); why there is no marriage in heaven; what is the real problem with birth control; what Jesus meant in calling some to celibacy for the Kingdom. He remarked that being "created in the image of God, male and female" tells us something about the Trinity. He delved into five books of the Bible in particular: Genesis, Song of Songs, Tobit, Matthew, Ephesians, making this a rich, biblical understanding of human relationships.

Pope John Paul called this a "theology of the body."

If you have ever had to explain the Church's stance on same-sex unions, the contraception mandate, divorce and other painful realities; if you have been mystified or even scandalized by those teachings, and hesitated to share them with your children or defend them in public, Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body will surprise you with the real beauty, the divine beauty, that is the foundation of every one of those controversial teachings that the media so often refer to as "rules."

I am coordinating an online overview of that Theology of the Body on May 4, 11 and 18. I invite you to visit the bookstore website (www.visit.pauline.org/chicago) to learn more about the program, and to register for it. Even if you cannot join us in real time on those three Saturdays, your registration gives you access to the online video at your convenience. Because the program will be archived as Internet video, this is ideal for groups to use, no matter when they meet: a projector and speakers will allow a roomful of people to share one registration. (The content will keep you talking for days.)

Please ask your local parish to put information in the bulletin as well (at the bottom of this post I have a sample bulletin announcement). On the bookstore site, you will also find a trailer to share on social media. We have a Facebook page and a Google+ community (Theology of the Body), which I invite you to like or join.

Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtaDjkZMstA
Website: www.visit.pauline.org/chicago
Register: www.ustream.tv/channel/TOB-TV


Please post the following announcement in your email, newsletters, web site and social media, beginning in April (continuing through May 18).
Thank you!

Online Catholic Updating Series on the Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul's meditations on the Bible and the mystery of marriage.
Internet webcast May 4, 11, 18; archived video accessible with registration (www.ustream.tv/channel/TOB-TV)
Information: www.visit.pauline.org/chicago or call 312.854.9656


Anonymous said...

Will you discuss the question that TOB is based on proof texting? I'm bothered about that possibility.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Re: proof texting, I assume you mean TOB is an attempt to establish a scriptural foundation for the 1968 document "Humanae Vitae."
It is clear that Pope John Paul intended to give the Church just such a gift. But did he do so after the fact, relying simply on the appeal to proof-texts as his only basis?
If you read "Love and Responsibility" first (published in 1960) you see that Karol Wojtyla had been doing studies in the area of marriage and sexuality for many, many years. That is why he was part of Paul VI's commission on the birth control question: he was an acknowledged authority on human sexuality before there even was such an area of study. Both the documents of Vatican II and "Humanae Vitae" itself reflect some of Wojtyla's characteristic phrases with regard to marriage.
TOB was actually written before he became Pope; it is the "biblical" companion volume to his more philosophical Love and Responsibility. (Since he could not publish the work in book form on being elected, he adapted the content to deliver it in person, by word of mouth).
He did not make this stuff up in the quiet of his office; couples who had been college students during his time as a campus minister were sharing their stories and experiences with him--for decades. The real authors of Theology of the Body are those Polish couples who bared their souls to their pastor and friend. TOB is the distillation of those families' lives, put in conjunction with the Scriptures through the heart of Karol Wojtyla.
Simply reading the Theology of the Body would be enough, I think, to override the accusation of proof-texting. The content and correlations are simply too deep. Proof-texting is necessarily superficial and disconnected; there is no inner logic or harmony among proof-texts as there is in a genuine sapiential reading of Scripture (which is what Marquette scripture professor William Kurz, SJ, calls TOB).
I hope you will join us for the program!