Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UPDATED: Theology of the bawdy
Things the Holy Father never taught me

Reading over-the-top attempts by well-intentioned Catholics to use Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body to prove the Church isn't "down on sex"—which go well beyond what the Holy Father actually said—I am tempted to compile them onto a new blog.

It would be called "TMI About TOB."

If I ever do, it will feature Father Thomas J. Loya's Catholic Exchange article in which he calls the blood and water that flowed from Our Lord's side "Christ’s spiritual seminal fluid."

UPDATE: As often, Jeff Miller has gotten to this topic before me.

UPDATE #2, 11/23/08: Reading the latest book by Christopher West, Heaven's Song last night, I discovered the "spiritual seminal fluid" metaphor in a quotation from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who is in turn quoting St. Augustine. The quotation originally appeared in Through the Year with Fulton J. Sheen, a posthumously published collection of selections from the archbishop's homilies; you can see it on Page 60 in the Google Books version of the volume.

If the original Augustine quote is what Archbishop Sheen said it is (and there is no reason to doubt him), the metaphor did originate with one of the Church Fathers. However, there remains the question of whether Augustine, or Sheen for that matter, would have wanted it to be used out of context in an article by a priest writing explicitly about postcoital matters. It is particularly difficult to imagine Sheen or Augustine writing an article with the headline, "Why Men Fall Asleep After Intercourse." I would argue that the Church is the better for their judgment and discretion, and those who share it.

The appropriate context for Augustine's quotation would include an emphasis on the suffering central to Jesus' self-sacrifice, a sacrifice that we are called to bear in our own body. I ran the Augustine quotation by Steve Kellmeyer and he observed that the saint explicitly pointed out the connection of suffering—"Not a marriage bed of pleasure, but of pain"—that is missing from Father Loya's article as well as West's commentary.