Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bishop Laffitte, secretary of Pontifical Council for the Family, warns against 'vulgarizing' JP2's teachings on human love

Catholic News Agency today published an interview with Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in which he warns against interpretations of the theology of the body in the English-speaking world that "focus only on sexuality," emphasize "mysticism," and imply a need for "gnosis."

Here are the links to the full interview and an article summarizing it:

"Interview with Bishop Jean Laffitte on Theology of Human Love"

"Bishop Jean Laffitte warns against overemphasizing sexual aspects of Theology of Human Love"

Father Angelo Mary Geiger F.I. observes that the bishop "makes a simple and very important point. The whole way the 'Catechesis on Human Love' has been cast in English speaking countries has swung the emphasis to body talk." Read Father Geiger's full commentary on his blog Mary Victrix.

One of the bishop's points appears to validate the conclusion of my master's thesis, "Towards a 'Culture of Chastity': Bringing Theology of the Body Catechesis into the Hermeneutic of Continuity."

The bishop says:

Personally, I am against any notion that we should reduce all difficult thought, or any difficult articulation of ideas, assuming in advance that people are unintelligent.

Perhaps at times we may encounter people who are not cultivated, who may not enjoy the habit of dealing with philosophical and anthropological topics on a regular basis.

However, a person of good faith always is able to be sensitive to mystery, because a person lives and experiences without necessarily knowing how to describe it. ...

It is essential to present these teachings with reverence, with meditation, with silence. We’re dealing here with an endeavor in genuine education, not merely a strict transmission of knowledge.

In my thesis's conclusion, I had commented upon the need to convey John Paul's teachings on sexuality in a manner more befitting their theological depth:

In a 2000 address to catechists and religion teachers, Cardinal Ratzinger warned of “the temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers.” This, he said, “is not God’s way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (see Mark 4:31-32).”...

He goes on to say,

"New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—this is not what new evangelization promises. . ."

West’s presentation has become, as Schindler says, “a problem for the Church,” as a result, I believe, of the “temptation to impatience” of which the Holy Father speaks. The hope of “attracting the large masses” led parishes and dioceses to seek his “new and more refined methods” of evangelization, without submitting his writings and talks to sufficient theological scrutiny. As a result, the primary instruction that millions of teenage and adult Catholics are receiving on Church teachings on sexuality is theologically compromised. In this light, it would be wise for those charged with overseeing the instruction of the faithful to reflect upon an old proverb, quoted by the Holy Father in that same address to catechists: “Success is not one of the names of God.”

If you are interested in reading more on the topic, the June/July issue of Inside the Vatican contains a new article of mine, "Pope Benedict XVI's Theology of the Body," as part of a special section of articles on the theology of the body. The other contributors to the section are Fr. Gregory Gresko OSB, Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger F.I., Fr. Thomas Petri O.P., and Fr. McLean Cummings. The magazine may be ordered online from

In addition, my master's thesis is still available as a free download from Catholic News Agency. Click the link at the bottom of CNA's news article on the thesis to download it.

If you have benefited from my master's thesis and would like to support my studies towards a theology licentiate and doctorate, I am very grateful for your donation, as my school does not offer scholarships to lay students. Click here to donate.