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Theology of the Body

This expression is associated originally and still primarily with ideas developed by Pope John Paul II in a large series of addresses later expanded and gathered with other writings. The source of these goes back to his time as a student and later as a teacher when he was influenced by both traditional mystical writers such St John of the Cross and by recent phenomenological approaches to anthropology, that is to say philosophical theories (including those of Edith Stein –canonized by him in 1998 as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) that focus on the experience human persons have of one another as bearers of meaning and value. John Paul II extended this to say that God can be found through a recognition what he has put into the animated being of others. One important and influential application of these ideas is in relation to sexual ethics using the idea of embodied sexual natures to argue for complementarity and the openness of sexual intimacy to the production of new life, thereby cooperating with God’s ongoing creative activity.

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    There is much excitement today, especially among the young, about John Paul II's \"theology of the body.\" Theology of the Body from Eden to Today There is much excitement today, especially...

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    PRUDENCE ALLEN, RSM Man-Woman Complementarity: The Catholic Inspiration EVERY TIME MAN-WOMAN relations moved out of balance in west- ern thought or practice, someone- -a philosopher and/or a theolo- gian responding to a deep source of Catholic inspiration, sought ways to bring the balance back. What do I mean by "out of balance”? When one of two fundamental principles of gender relation equal dignity and significant difference is missing from the respective identities of man and woman, the balance of a complementarity disappears into either a polarity or unisex theory. Table 1 provides a simple summ nmary of these principles and theories with an asterisk indicating the best option of integral gender complementarity. Table 1. Structure of Theories of Gender Identity EQUAL DIGNITY OF MAN AND WOMAN THEORY Gender unity or unisex Traditional gender polarity yes no man per se superior to woman SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENTIATION OF MAN AND WOMAN no yes LOGOS 9:3 SUMMER 2006 88 Table 1. Structure of Theories of Gender Identity (continued) SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENTIATION OF MAN AND WOMAN yes THEORY Reverse gender polarity Fractional gender complementarity EQUAL DIGNITY OF MAN AND WOMAN no LOGOS woman per se superior to man yes *Integral gender yes complementarity Gender neutrality neutral yes complementary as parts yes complementary as wholes neutral This article is divided into two parts. First, a general summary of the drama of basic theories of gender relation up through post-Enlight- enment philosophy will be given. Second, a more detailed analysis of modern and contemporary Catholic inspirations for man-woman integral complementarity will be provided. For those readers who want evidence to support these summarized claims, endnotes re- ferring to primary and secondary sources are provided. Also dates provided for each philosopher will allow the reader to follow the chronology of the dramatic philosophical developments in the his- tory of man-woman relational identities. Historical Overview of Theories of Gender Identity The unisex position, first articulated by Plato (428–355 B.C.), re- jected significant differentiation while defending the basic equality of man and woman. The polarity position, first articulated by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), rejected fundamental equality while defending the natural superiority of man over woman. Neoplatonic and Aristote- lian positions continued to promote these imbalances respectively until Augustine (354-430), Hildegard of Bingen (1033-1109), and MAN-WOMAN COMPLEMENTARITY Thomas Aquinas (1224–74) attempted, in different ways, to artic- ulate new Christian theological and philosophical foundations for the fundamental equality and significant differentiation of man and woman.¹ While their works did not contain consistent foundations for gender complementarity, they nonetheless moved public dis- course toward a more balanced man-woman complementarity. After the triumphal entry of Aristotelian texts into western Eu- rope in the thirteenth century, the gender polarity position gained new momentum especially in medical, ethical, political, and satiri- cal texts. Eventually, a new kind of Catholic inspiration to defend gender complementarity emerged within Renaissance humanism in the works of Christine de Pizan (1344–1430), Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64), Albrecht von Eyb (1420–75), Isotta Nogarola (1418-66), and Laura Cereta (1469-99).2 Here, Italian, French, and German Catholic authors sought to provide multiple founda- tions for the complementarity of women and men in marriage and in broader society. Soon, however, arguments in support of reverse gender polar- ity- a new for of imbalance began to appear in a few authors, such as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1536) and Lucrezia Marinelli (1571–1653).³ They defended the position that there are significant differences between the sexes but that woman is natu- rally superior to man. In the same time period, other movements supported new foun- dations for unisex arguments. The infusion of translations of Plato's dialogues into Latin contained a metaphysical argument based on a sexless soul reincarnated into different kinds of bodies. Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), founder of the Florintine Platonic Academy, also supported some fractional complementarity, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) also had a gender-neutral approach. While gender neutrality basically ignored sex and gender differenc- es, unisex theories made direct arguments that differences between men and women were not significant. Another gender-neutral position was provided by René Des- 89 90 LOGOS cartes' (1590-1650) metaphysical argument that the nonextended, sexless mind was entirely distinct from the extended material body, and that a human being was to be more identified with the mind alone, the “I am a thinking thing,” than with the body or with the union of mind and body. The Cartesian approach positively provid- ed a basis from which equal access to education and suffrage for women and men was directly supported by such authors as François Poullain de la Barre (1647—1723), Mary Astell (1688-1731), and the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-94).ª Cartesian dualism also spawned, especially among Protestants, an Enlightenment form of fractional complementarity, claiming that male and female are significantly different, but each provides only a fraction of one whole person. Woman was thought to provide half of the mind's operations (i.e., intuition, sensation, or particular judgments) and man the other half (i.e., reason or universal judg- ments). These two fractional epistemological operations, if added together, produced only one mind. When the specifics of the engen- dered contributions were identified, these fractional relations often contained stereotypes of a hidden traditional polarity, with the man as superior to the female. Examples of fractional complementar- ity with a hidden polarity can be found in the philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Ar- thur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), Frederick Hegel (1770-1831), and Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55).5 The problem here is that Cartesian dualism separated the mind from the body, so that these Protestant writers had lost a solid metaphysical and ontological foundation based on the integral unity of a human person. Although John Stuart Mill (1806–73) and Harriet Taylor (1807-58) tried to defend complementarity, they also slid into the fractional version because of the lack of an ontological foundation for an adequate (hylomorphic) philosophical anthropology. Any Catholic foundation for an integral gender complementarity was rejected further by atheistic post-Enlightenment philosophers. MAN-WOMAN COMPLEMENTARITY Karl Marx (1818–83) fostered a unisex approach to man-woman relations. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) promoted a traditional po- larity approach. The philosophies of Jean Paul Sartre (1905–80) and Simone de Beauvoir (1908–85) drew from both of these sources to defend an atheistic existentialism that, following sex polarity, de- valued woman in relation to man. Anti-religious secular humanism instead gravitated toward a unisex approach. Finally, postmodern radical feminism vacillated between a reverse gender polarity that exalted woman's nature over man's and a deconstruction of gender differentiation altogether. 6 How would the Catholic inspiration for an integral gender com- plementarity overcome the extreme distortions of post-Enlight- enment theories of man-woman relations? With the imbalance in man-woman relations becoming increasingly extreme in Enlighten- ment and post-Enlightenment philosophies, the Catholic inspira- tion for a new approach to integral gender complementarity came from surprising new sources. Contemporary Catholic Theories of Gender Complementarity Two students of Edmund Husserl, the founder of the phenome- nological movement, laid new foundations for an ontological and experiential complementarity of man and woman: Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889–1977) and St. Edith Stein (1891-1942). Stein's conversion to Catholicism from Judaism in 1922 followed von Hil- debrand's conversion from Evangelical Lutheranism in 1914. Yet, as early as 1914 Stein and von Hildebrand had both been members of the Philosophical Society, composed of students studying under Husserl and Scheler in Göttingen.7 By 1930 Stein wrote about her collaboration with von Hildebrand in giving lectures at a confer- ence in Salzburg, Austria. In 1923 von Hildebrand gave a public lecture in Ulm, Germany, which was expanded and published in 1929 as Die Ehe (On Mar- riage). In this text he argued that "it would be incredibly superficial 91

  • The Dignity of the Sexed Body: Asymmetry, Equality, and Real Reproductive Justice

    Panel discussion featuring Erika Bachiochi (Ethics and Public Policy Center), Abigail Favale (George Fox University), and Leah Libresco Sargeant. Session chair Marah McLeod (Notre Dame Law School). From the 2021 Notre Dame Fall Conference, "I Have Called You By Name: Human Dignity in a Secular World". Full speaker lineup: https://ethicscenter.nd.edu/programs/fall-conference/2021-i-have-called-you-by-name/

  • Glory of the Logos in the Flesh: Saint John Paul's Theology of the Body

    In Glory of the Logos in the Flesh, Michael Waldstein helps readers of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body enter this masterwork with clearer understanding. Part One, designed for entry-level readers, is a map of John Paul's text, a summary of each paragraph with an explanation of the order of the argument. Part Two reflects on the breadth of reason (logos) in Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Physics, and the Gospel of John, in contrast to the narrowing of reason in Luther, Bacon, and Descartes. Part Three shows how this breadth of reason is at work in John Paul's dialogue with Thomas Aquinas, John of the Cross, Kant, and Scheler.

  • What is the Theology of the Eucharistic Body of Christ?

    Today, Dr. Hahn explains the Theology of the Body of Christ. Thanks for watching and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the notification bell! Learn more about Dr. Hahn's new book here: https://bit.ly/39ZAvtL

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    Why Theology of the Body is for Everybody

    If you've heard about St. John Paul II’s teaching on Theology of the Body, chances are you’ve heard it presented as a teaching the pope gave on sex and married love. And it is that! But it is so much more. When we just think Theology of the Body is about sex and marriage it’s easy to “put it over in the corner” and think that it’s just for married people. In truth, the Theology of the Body is for everybody because it is a reflection on the very meaning of existence! It is a course in humanity 101. Click the link to join our Patron Community. Your monthly gift helps us continue to put out the message of Theology of the Body to the world. Thank you! https://tobinstitute.krtra.com/t/iwWmB9OY1Ea4 Attend a course at the Theology of the Body Institute: https://tobinstitute.org/programs/tobi-schedule/

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    What's the Point of Theology of the Body?

    Today, Dr. Hahn talks about the central theme of Theology of the Body by Pope St. John Paul II. Thanks for watching, and don't forget to subscribe to our channel and hit the notification bell! Learn more about Dr. Hahn's new book here: https://bit.ly/39ZAvtL

  • Modernity and the Teaching of Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor

    David L. Schindler's lecture comes from Part II of the conference "The Body as Anticipatory Sign: Commemorating the Anniversaries of Humanae Vitae & Veritatis Splendor" entitled "Forgetfulness and the Essentially Human: The Provocations of Humanae vitae and Veritatis splendor." Hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family in Washington D.C. At least formally, Paul VI’s Humanae vitae merely reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching. Yet its publication in late July of 1968 unleashed a torrent of criticism, perhaps unprecedented in its violence. These events laid bare the profound estrangement of that teaching from modern, liberal culture; it also provoked a fundamental ecclesial crisis. Misunderstanding and resistance to the teaching as a “discrete” norm of traditional sexual ethics could be anticipated. Less predictable perhaps were the fractures that emerged in wider and more obviously foundational areas of doctrine, such as fundamental moral philosophy and theology, philosophical and theological anthropology, and even (eventually) sacramental theology and ecclesiology. Granted that the forces in play were larger than the debate over Paul VI’s encyclical, the encyclical nevertheless appeared to unleash them. Why would such a seemingly minor part of Christian moral doctrine have such architectonic implications? Twenty-five years later, Saint John Paul II attempted to remediate these fragmenting tendencies in his own landmark encyclical, Veritatis splendor. John Paul’s purpose was to unearth bedrock of Catholic thought obscured at least in part by the tsunami following Humanae vitae. He addressed crucial issues in fundamental moral thought, such as the relationship between freedom and truth, conscience and objectivity, moral thought and faith, the body and natural law, and nature and human action. While criticism of Veritatis splendor was neither as sustained nor as violent as the attack on Humanae vitae, the passage of time has witnessed attempts to at least profoundly qualify some of its central teachings. The coinciding of these two major anniversaries affords a timely opportunity to engage in a deep and sustained reflection both on the shared ethical and anthropological teachings and missions of these seminal encyclicals and on the reasons why they have met such difficulty in our modern social and ecclesial environment. https://www.johnpaulii.edu/ November 16, 2018