“Oh, he’s on about SEX, again?”

Word is that Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical of his pontificate will be released this Friday, and that it deals with the topic of love, in various forms, and the topic of sex. You know it will be the sex part the world will pay attention to.

…(in it the) Pope issues a warning in the document, entitled Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), that eros risks being “degraded to mere sex” if it is not balanced with spiritual or divine love founded on the teachings of Jesus.

Oh, boy, am I ready to read this one! I’ve been praying that the church would finally start teaching sex from this perspective for some time, now, and have written frequently – both here and elsewhere – that disconnecting Love from the idea of God has empowered evil mightily.

I can hear the secularist reaction, now. “Oh, is he writing about SEX again? Why won’t the church stop telling everyone that sex is bad; sex is GOOD and sex is NO BIG DEAL and the matter is “settled.”

Well…the church doesn’t tell us that sex is bad. Quite the contrary. Sex IS good – great, in fact. But it IS a big deal, because it is SACRED…and it’s hardly “settled.”

For too long, particularly when the nuns were overwhelmed in the schools, trying to teach teeming classrooms of 40-50 boomers, every day (yes, that many students per class – and somehow we all learned!) the message of human sexuality was condensed down to “don’t unless you’re married,” and explained as “it’s bad. It’s shameful.”

“Shameful” became understood to mean “dirty” and things went downhill from there. But since we in the church seem to have come to the end of rampant deconstructionism, perhaps it is finally time to re-construct those sentiments a bit more broadly. Perhaps “shameful” should not be construed as “unfresh” but as “trivializing what is Holy.” Seen in that context, suddenly we find that compost heap onto which human sexuality and debate has been tossed is – when stirred up – rich and fertile.

For too many – far too many – sex has been sold as a by-product of our humanity, a tension-reliever, a party favor. The instinct to chastity, rather than being applauded as self-empowering and self-respecting, has been roundly mocked and condemned as “repressive and uptight” by the too-cool generation which has defined down so many of our high ideals. The resulting decades of rampant promiscuity have served up nothing good, healthful or enlightening, but much that is demoralizing, diseased and destructive.

The act of lovemaking contains within it the power of Creation, itself. It is, therefore, great and grave, not a mere bodily function or entertainment. The Creation of lovemaking is new life, and the new love that accompanies that New Creature (between mother/child/father/aunt/grandparent) is a love that has never before existed – it is ever ancient, ever new. This Love is the Eternal, the Regeneration, as it were, of God.

If Love is God, and God is Love, then God touches every aspect of Creation, including the sexual aspect, and all Creation is itself, Love. Which is God.

Stomp on the act of Creation and you stomp on God. Stomp on the New Creature – who brings Love – and you stomp on God, again. And again.

This is what the church has been trying to say, one way or another, for millenia. Particularly since Pope Paul XI’s encyclical Humane Vitae, the “too smart, too cool” people, those who have come to believe that everything that came before their generation is irrelevant (and who never wanted to hear the word “no”) have been resolutely keeping their hands over their ears and singing, “Lalala, I can’t hear you!”

But Humane Vitae was prophetic. Paul understood that the “little issue” of embraced contraception would become a much bigger, much greater issue, which would affect the whole world and its values. And since that writing, we see that for too many in the world, a baby is less a blessing than a burden, and the no-accountability Orgasm, that unending myth, has been embraced as a god – one that seems to feed on the awful destruction of aborted babies (Love destroyed) and AIDS.

Funny…in Catholicism, we have a God who feeds us with his own Body, in the Eucharist – who at His very Incarnation suggested as much when he was born to lie in a manger, a foodbin. In the secular world, their god of Orgasm feeds on them.

John Paul II made great headway in dissolving the whole “the church hates sex and is trying to keep us from having it” narrative, but his writing is so dense, so impenetrable for some, that it will take decades to really unwrap and decipher all he said. This Benedict, on the other hand, is as-prolific-if-not-moreso than John Paul, and he writes in an accessible style that is clear and direct.

And he is about to condense several thousand years of teaching, debate, philosophy and insight into something we can understand and which the world desperately needs to not only hear but digest: GOD IS LOVE. LOVE IS GOD.

And when the Love that is God, the God who is Love is stomped on…only the Evil is filled with glee.

Whispers in the Loggia has Benedict ad libbing some of this encyclical:

In this sense and with many sentiments, I follow in the footprints of Pope John Paul II next Wednesday, 25 January, the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to pray with our Orthodox and Protestant brothers: to pray with thanks for all the Lord has given us; to pray because the Lord guides us along the path to unity.

On the same day, January 25, will finally be published my first encyclical whose title is already well-known, “Deus caritas est,” God is love.

It’s not an immediately ecumenical theme, but in the grand sceheme of things it provides a backdrop to it, because God’s love is our love, and the state of Christian life is the state of peace in the world. In this encyclical, I’d like to show this concept of love in its different dimensions. In today’s terminology, love appears far, very far, away from that which a Christian thinks when speaking of true Christian charity but, for my part, I’d like to demonstrate that it expresses itself its one unique movement with different dimensions.

There is eros; this gift of love between man and woman which comes from the same font of the Creator’s goodness, and with it the possibility of a love which gives itself in favor of another, that eros transforms itself in agape only by the measure by which two people who really love each other become, finally, no longer about more for themselves, their own joy and their own happiness, but above all become about the good of the other person. And this eros transforms itself in love in a path of purification, of greater depth. It opens itself then into the family, which then opens itself toward the larger family of society, toward the family of the Church, toward the family of the world.

Oh…if this is a trailer, I can’t wait to see the movie! :-)

UPDATE: A slight delay, it seems as they polish the translation to Benedict’s satisfaction. Good idea.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://none Darrell

    There’s a movie that won’t be coming soon to a theater near you…

  • anniebird

    hooray, hooray! I have tried to wade through JPII’s teachings on sexuality and find them too dense (or perhaps find myself too dense…) I can hardly wait to correct my very poor introduction to the church’s teaching on sexuality – to verify and examine the spiritual tug that pulls us towards chastity and reverence.

  • Ellen

    I’m looking forward to this. I’ll admit to being one of those who thought that Paul VI was wrong in Humanae Vitae, but as I get older I see just how prescient he was.

  • Mary

    Totally great essay, and I couldn’t agree with you more. An aside regarding the nuns who were teaching 40-50 students: I’m 63 years old and attended St. Helena’s school in the Bronx for Kindergarten and first grade. My first grade class had SEVENTY students in one room! We actually shared the bolted-to-the-floor desks with attached chairs. Since I didn’t know any better, and since I was so enthralled with learning to read real books, I didn’t notice that I was ‘disadvantaged’. :-)

  • http://ohhowilovejesus.com Jeanette

    As a Baptist I have a question for our Catholic brothers and sisters about birth control. In the Catholic Church is birth control totally taboo or can it be used in marriage? The reason I ask is I had to be sterilized per doctor’s orders as I wouldn’t have lived through another pregnancy. I anguished over this and talked to my pastor who advised me it was OK in that situation since I still had small children. Abortion is definitely out, but I wonder what the church’s stand is on birth control in unusual circumstances.

  • http://ohhowilovejesus.com Jeanette

    If memory serves me it seems I’ve read somewhere that the life of the child takes precedence over that of the mother, so maybe I answered my own question. :oops:

  • http://theheimburgers.com juheimbu

    Is it really true that Love is God? Paul says that God is love, but I question whether the convers is true.
    John says that God is a spirit (4:24, I think). Is love a spirit? What about all of God’s other attributes? It seems to me that by saying that love is God, you exclude those other attributes that ARE a part of our God.
    When you pray, do you pray in the name of love, or do you pray in the name of Jesus, the only name under heaven by which we must be saved, or in the name of the Father, or of the Holy Spirit?

    I feel like I’m asking a ticky-tacky theological question, but it seems to me essential. I don’t worship Love. That would be foolish…

    And I don’t mean to detract from your main point. I agree with your thrust (pardon the pun) there. :)


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