"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sex and the City of God

For anybody interested in gaining a brief, painless, and reliable overview of the Catholic understanding of sex and marriage, philosopher Phil Blosser's talk (linked in my title) is one of the best out there. Read it all.

You know, there's a lot of good, unsung evangelical work being done by Catholic lay people who believe and are excited by what the Church teaches about these topics. The clergy, however, seem to be divided largely into those who don't know about that and those who, though they know, either don't care or don't agree. None of that is a reaction to the work's quality, which on the whole is quite high, like Blosser's. I could come up with sociological explanations, but they would be almost beside the point. The real reason, I believe, is that most clergy feel futile about this range of topics.

Most are celibates who are often told, by lay dissenters, that their celibacy disqualifies them from comment. And it is true that, to the extent they are faithful to their vows, they cannot speak from direct, ongoing experience. But many vocations these days are coming from men who have had the necessary experience. And in any event, modelling the truth about sex and marriage does not require such experience. The truth is that sex and marriage, rightly undrstood and engaged in, are forms of the Christian vocation. They signify, and help bring about by signifying, that personal intercommunion of love made possible only by complete, mutual self-gift. Priests and religious who live their vocations well both understand that and model it, which is essential as a witness for the married. In the years during and after Vatican II, many abandoned such vocations or re-interpreted them so radically as to obscure that witness. And in my experience since, only a minority of priests witness to it with enough enthusiasm and conviction to be credible. The cohort of priests my age and older seem, in particular, to be dominated by men without the necessary enthusiasm and conviction. The younger priests tend to be different and better, but they are still a minority and mostly lack assignments that carry authority beyond that of the priesthood itself.

Still, things are slowly improving as those in the Church, lay and clerical, who remember what they consider "the bad old days" are replaced by those who remember only John Paul the Great. His theology of the body will only take off in the decades ahead.
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