Monday, December 12, 2011

Whose Theology of the Body?

A few weeks ago in the Criterion there was an article about a 'Theology of the Body' workshop for college students. I am a huge fan of the 'Theology of the Body', but it is important to remember that the 'Theology of the Body' is a very specific set of teachings and reflections by the late Pope John Paul II. The 'Theology of the Body' is a collection of 129 talks given by JP II over the course of several years on very specific themes dealing with the interplay of spirituality and sexuality.

The 'Theology of the Body' continues to grow in demand and notoriety, and 'Theology of the Body' speakers are highly sought after for youth groups, high schools, college groups, Theology on Tap meetings and so on. The problem that I've noticed throughout the past few years is that sometimes someone brands themselves as a 'Theology of the Body' speaker when in fact they proceed to simply offer up their version of a chastity/sex talk.

An example of this is the speaker that the Criterion interviewed. About her recent 'Theology of the Body' talk, the Criterion noted that "Rather than discuss the specifics of Blessed John Paul II's teachings, she shared stories about her own experiences in high school and college." I found that to be pretty telling.

I remember one time hearing a famous presenter on the Theology of the Body (who, overall, was faithful to the themes of the 'Theology of the Body') who talked about how guys should, when they are tempted sexually, extend their arms out in the form of the cross. That is a great idea, but it isn't anywhere in the 'Theology of the Body.'

I have no problem with chastity/sexuality talks, and in fact I think they ought to happen often for young people, but we just can't be calling them 'Theology of the Body' talks. Sometimes speakers will attempt to add an aura of authority to their talk so they trace their ideas back to John Paul II when in fact what the speaker talks about isn't really mentioned in the 'Theology of the Body.'

I think we also do a disservice to our Catholic faithful if we say the 'Theology of the Body' can be understood in an hour or two. The book form of all of the talks put together is 500+ pages and every page is VERY deep. I think those who pretend to help someone grasp it all in an hour give the impression to those who've never explored it in greater detail that they now have the gist of the Theology of the Body when in reality it is something that would bear fruitful reading, or at least reading a faithful summary.

If someone told you that they've summarized the 'Theology of the Body' in a talk, then I hope you at some point go back to a more in-depth analysis of the talks, or, if you're feeling really adventurous, the speeches themselves.

Click here for a good summary

Click here to order a copy of a book that I have all of the couples that I prepare for marriage read through that brings in several themes from the 'Theology of the Body'

is a website that coordinates lots of resources for the 'Theology of the Body'