The Theology of the Body, a series of 129 talks by Pope John Paul II, compiled in a book and widely distributed, was the topic discussed at a recent academic symposium held in Seoul. The Catholic University Pastoral Research Center has studied the talks and the results of the study were shared on how to apply them in pastoral work.
The bishop who gave the foundational talk stressed the importance of the talks for our troubled times. Speaking unambiguously about such a controversial subject, the Pope was intent on clarifying a subject that has confused and troubled many people. If we want to return to health we have to go back to the Scriptures, the Pope said, to learn what the husband and wife relationship was meant to be. A correct understanding of our sexuality, in its origin, will lead to a mature, well-integrated personality.
Because the traditional understanding of the body and sexuality has broken down, the Pope is giving the Church and everyone interested in the subject an integral and positive look at sexuality that will be a gift that will remain in the thinking of many. It is not, said the bishop, a theology of the body as much as an understanding and a proclaiming of the Gospel--the good news--of the body.
A religious sister who works with the Teen star sex education program said that the theology of the body finds a place in their teaching on sexuality. Seeing sexuality as a whole, how it affects emotions, examining mucus secretions, and keeping records, the participants in the program are beginning to appreciate the spiritual meaning of the body when it is observed through the theological lens provided by the talks of Pope John Paul. All this makes for a very natural discussion for both the boys and the girls to see the meaning of their bodies vis-a-vis marriage.
One of the presenters referred to the Pope's statement that the married couple should not try to control or possess their partner. Another mentioned the prevalence of sex treated as a commodity, the sexual suggestiveness of some advertising, sexual deviations, divorces, abortions, unwed mothers, medical manipulations of life, and so on. We have forgotten that God made man and woman as sexual beings so they could relate in a personal way in a marriage union.
Both Catholic papers covered the symposium. The Pope's Theology of the Body is a late comer in Korea but we will soon see it in pastoral and diocesan programs as we become more familiar with the talks as they become more readily available in Korean.