Sex, Sin & Salvation–Maciel & the Theology of the Body
John Allen reported the breaking news about Maciel on May 18. His “The Word from Rome” for this week, dated May 12, talks about a major conference on “Loving Human Love: The Heritage of John Paul II on Marriage and the Family.” It ws sponsored by the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, and focused on the anthropological presuppositions of JPII’s ”theology of the body.”
I find the coincidence ironic–but not ultimately surprising. From all accounts, JPII steadfastly refused to believe, or even to listen to, those who expresessed worries about Maciel. He couldn’t conceive, I believe, that someone who had done so much good was also capable of this type of behavior.
I think the theology of the body is ultimately a wrongheaded way to defend Catholic sexual teaching, because it proposes a romantic and idealized notion of sex and male-female relationships. It doesn’t give you the space to see, and recognize, the ways in which things can go wrong in human sexuality. And, if you are finally forced to recognize that things have gone wrong, it’s easy to read the perpetrators out of the realm of humanity entirely.
I think a modified Augustinianism is far preferable: sex is good, but it is a place in which human beings–human desires–can go awry, in a number of ways that inflict harm, sometimes great harm, on other human beings. Going awry isn’t good, and some ways of going awry are very bad indeed, but they don’t diminish the humanity of the perpetrators.
I find Augustine’s approach to sex (modified to take into account his “issues”) ultimately realistic, and even ultimatley more merciful than the superficially more beautiful “theology of the body.”