Benedict XVI on Marriage and the Family

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Marriage and the family are not in fact a chance sociological construction, the product of particular historical and financial situations. On the other hand, the question of the right relationship between the man and the woman is rooted in the essential core of the human being and it is only by starting from here that its response can be found. In other words, it cannot be separated from the ancient but ever new human question: Who am I? What is a human being? And this question, in turn, cannot be separated from the question about God: Does God exist? Who is God? What is His face truly like? The Bible’s answer to these two questions unties them, and makes one a consequence of the other: the human being is created in the image of God, and God Himself is love. It is therefore the vocation to love that makes the human person an authentic image of God: Man and woman come to resemble God to the extent that they become loving people.

– Benedict XVI

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Theology of the Body Thursday #32: When Consent Is Not Enough

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A recent issue of New York Magazine explored the sex lives of college students. One article that caught my eye was titled “Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.”

There are protests on college campuses about rape. Politicians and people in school administration talk about rules and regulations in regards to rape. But what if what happens to you just doesn’t seem like rape? What if you don’t want to label your experience “rape”? What if it was just, as this author says, “shitty sex”?

She spends the article talking about power-imbalances and while all that is true, I’d like to point to an even more simple solution.

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The sexual revolution inspired and encouraged women to emulate the worst in men. Think about it. Putting aside all that “men have needs” baloney, what do we really think of a man who has an extremely active sex life? Who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves her? Who doesn’t bother getting to know the person with whom he’s intimate? We think he’s a real POS, right? We might laugh, but in our heart of hearts, we know what he is doing is not right.

(If you don’t, you really should rethink your priorities. Physical pleasure never, ever, ever takes priority over the worth of other human beings.)

Years ago, we saw women not being allowed to live to their full potential in the workplace and we saw women not getting a voice in their own lives, so, as part of the solution, we stripped sex of all of its meaning. We took it out of marriage and we separated it from reproduction. Now, we don’t know what the rules are. We have an idea that maybe the rules should be whatever the individual wants, but desires are so fickle and feelings are fleeting. We really, really threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

So now my generation fumbles in the dark, unsure of what is right and what is wrong.

He just made a comment that made me feel uncomfortable, what should I do?

She just said “no,” but her body language is telling me something completely different, what should I do?

We’ve been dating for two months, shouldn’t we have had sex by now? What should I do?

Sex feels great in the moment, but once my partner leaves me, I feel like shit. Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?

What should I do?

What you should do is wait until that person is dedicated to you for life. Playing with sex is like playing with fire. It’s fun until someone gets burned. Even if you are somehow immune to the burn, you should withhold out of respect for others.

Really, it’s that freaking simple. Keep it in your pants, my friends.

I really have a feeling that once the dust settles and some future generation resets the rules of sex and marriage, the rules will look a lot like the old ones with, hopefully, some of the flaws ironed out.

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Note: Sorry I disappeared for over a month. My other work has been driving me insane.

Love is Our Mission: A Book Review for The World Meeting of Families

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This small, admittedly stinky (really the paper and the glue smell horrible), book is a soothing balm for the heart and a great preparation for the World Meetings of Families coming later this month.

If you haven’t heard, every 3 years a meeting is held to discuss the family. It’s kinda like a World Youth Day for Catholic families. This year the World Meeting of Families is being held in Philadelphia and Pope Francis is going to be making an appearance the last 2 days of the conference. This meeting will discuss not only the controversial issues like birth control, gay marriage and divorce, but more mundane issues like the daily challenges of living out our faith and how can parishes better serve families.

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Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive
is the theme for this year’s meeting and the title for this book. The book is, frankly, amazing. In a measly 115 pages, it thoroughly explains the Church’s views of sex, marriage, and the family in a very accessible way. It gives the necessary foundation and then courageously jumps into the murky, “hard teachings” in a way that is distinctly pastoral. Each of the 10 chapters end with 4 questions that are a nice blend of review and personal reflection. In all, this book would make a great study for your parish.

I wish it didn’t cost $10 and that it didn’t stink so much. Seriously, don’t put this book up to your nose. As bad as the odor and price is, the book is made of good materials and appears very sturdy, so it should stand up to many readings and many studies. I would still recommend purchasing a paperback of the book because I can guarantee that you will be using a highlighter and taking notes in the book. It’s just not the same studying hard from an e-book.

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Everyone needs to read this book. I guess another complaint would be that the title and marketing for this book makes it seem very event specific. I would like to see this republished as a kind of Compendium of Catholic Sexual Ethics. The material in this book is as timeless as Church teaching itself. Reading this over the past week has given me great peace and comfort in a world that seems to have gone mad. Notice, none of my complaints have anything to do with the content of the book. Because the content is pretty much flawless. And that’s all I have to say.

A Review of Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective

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The other weekend I attended a Middle Eastern Festival at a local Orthodox Christian Church. Of course, being the religion nerd I am, I went to the shopping stalls ran by the church. I found a couple Our Lady of Perpetual Help medals that’ll look good on my rosaries. I got a St. Barbara icon because, heck, St. Barbara is my confirmation saint and she’s so rare, when you find anything with her on it, you buy it. I picked up this book and the author mentioned the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae on the first page I turned to. I had to buy this book then, even though it was 20 bucks for a 130 page thesis.

Other than the price, this book did not disappoint. It’s utterly fascinating to see all of the ways in which the Orthodox and the Catholic understandings of marriage compare and contrast. I found some excellent quotes about the importance of the Eucharist in marriage that I will be sharing later.

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Here’s a sample of what I found in the book.

He did not dispute Humanae Vitae, he made a good point for why Orthodox Christians should not ignore a papal document simply because it comes from the Pope. He did, however, make it abundantly clear that the Orthodox Church does not have a ban against birth control. He brings up an excellent series of questions about Catholic teachings on birth control. While the questions were very good, they did make me wonder if he actually read the encyclical. Many of his questions are addressed in the encyclical. Maybe they just weren’t answered to his satisfaction.

It is very much a heady, doctoral thesis style book. Although I don’t think it’s above your average reader’s head, it certainly isn’t light bedtime reading. Regardless of your denomination, I think it could give any mainline Christian a new appreciation of marriage and the primacy of our Lord in the Sacrament. It can also answer some of your more controversial questions about Orthodox Christianity like married priests and gay marriage.

Don’t pay $20 for it, though. See if you have a religious nerd friend you can share the price and the book with. I don’t have book buyers remorse, however. At least my purchase helped support the local church.