Monday, October 28, 2013

Theology of the Body

A  Catholic Times article reports on the first Korean international academic meetings on the the "Theology of the Body," the name given to Pope John Paul's reflections and vision of the human person, with particular attention focused on the proper relationship of body and soul. They were delivered in 129 Wednesday audiences, between the years 1979 and 1984, and are of great interest for scholarly discussions of marriage, celibacy and sex--topics which have not always been treated correctly. One of the journalists of the paper expresses her ideas on what she picked up from the academic meeting.

There have always been biased views on the subject of the human body. The Church, a strong advocate for a right understanding of the human body, has over the years also enabled a distorted thinking of the body, which has been evident, she reminds us, in the teachings of the past.

The body, for example, was denigrated by the way the Church expressed the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil. Of course, this can be understood correctly and has been so understood over the years, but there is also the possibility of pushing the idea to a point where the body is seen in opposition to the spirit, a dualism which can distort the teaching.  She also mentions that there were priests who would say that women were the way the devil would tempt us, and there were times in the past when women were told not to receive communion during their monthly periods. This is not the teaching in modern history, but shows how this would engender fear in women.

Another side of this negative understanding of the body is the worship of the body, its outer appearance considered our greatest asset, extolling youth and the beauty of  the body, which today is ever present because of the electronic media. The likely consequences are the disorders of sex, the increase of divorce, and the destruction of families--all deriving from a misunderstanding of sex and its gift to humankind.

Pope John Paul II wanted us to get back to the teachings from Genesis on what marriage is. This requires a change in how we see sex. A change from seeing the soul in opposition to the body and recovering the sacramental reality of the body.

The academic meeting on the "Theology of the Body" will renew the pastoral thinking about the subject of marriage and sexuality within the Korean Church, and will make possible, she says, a new look at marriage and its meaning. Many of the old ways of viewing marriage will be revisited, discussed and improved upon, and will no doubt enter the teaching in the seminary programs of the future.

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