Leah Libresco writes…

Leah Libresco writes… May 22, 2012

Do you have any recommendations for readings on the Church’s teaching on sexuality? I’ve been picking it up by osmosis via blogs (and the book I read on the Church’s early teachings on sexuality was really interesting, but not very enlightening). Am I just supposed to start with Theology of the Body?

I don’t think it’s intrinsically unreasonable to tell a person (or a class of people) that sex is out of the picture for them. No one is guaranteed or entitled to a sexual relationship, and there are plenty of other impediments that can mean you can’t have sex with someone you love. (Having to break up with the Catholic boyfriend I loved is a case in point). So, in theory, I don’t object, but I don’t understand why having the beloved be of the same gender means you wind up on the impediments list. That’s what I’d like to read a defense/explication of.

(For them that ain’t familiar with her, Leah is my favorite atheist. She blogs here.)

I am, funnily enough, not a particularly good resource for this question, just as I am not a good resource for questions about the papacy. Why? Because neither Catholic sexual teaching nor the papacy ever posed a big intellectual difficulty for me. The papacy always seemed to be pretty obvious from Scripture (ie. it doesn’t take a genius to see that Peter is clearly regarded as the head of the apostolic band and that the Roman Church was pretty obivously seen as the most significant See in the early church due to its connection to the Petrine office). Likewise, however *difficult* the Church’s sexual teaching may prove to be for us concupiscent humans with our weakened wills and disordered appetites, it’s always been obvious to me that, yeah, the conception of sex handed down from Jesus and the apostles is that it is to be between one man and one women in the sacrament of marriage. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous to imagine that the New Testament has anything else in mind. So anything–masturbation, fornication, homosex, polygamy, contracpetion–and anything whereby you encourage unchastity in thought (committing adultery in your heart) is out of bounds. That’s the basic picture and it has always made complete sense to me once I understood what the Church taught (for my take on the contraception bit, which also gives the Church’s *positive* teaching on what sex is for, and not merely what the Church opposes, go here).

Because of this, I have not particularly studied up on the Church’s sexual morality. It made sense, it was not all that difficult to live out for us. End of story.

But, of course, that doesn’t help Leah too much. So I will add a couple of things. I don’t know how helpful the Theology of the Body will be. John Paul is not the most accessible writer in the world, but you might give him a shot. As I discuss here, there is (very typical for the Catholic world) controversy about Christopher West’s take on John Paul’s TOB which you may or may not find helpful. Patrick Coffin has written a book called Sex au Naturel which may be of use. (I haven’t read it, but Patrick is a sensible guy). Your mileage may vary.

Without getting into the question of how a homosexual is supposed to practically live out this teaching (since I am not subject to the temptation and therefore am reluctant to give free advice here), the teaching is, itself, rather sensible. It begins with the basic datum of revelation which says, “God, not you, is at the center of things.” This is as true for heterosexuals as it is for homosexuals, by the way. Lots of people feel strong sexual attractions in all sorts of ways that the Christian revelation denies them the right to fulfil. The reason it does so is that sex is, at the end of the day, sacramental. That Catholics have sometimes spoken of sex as “dirty” is a tragedy, but not determinative of anything. Sex is the creation of God. But because this is so the Church’s take on sex comes back, it seems to me, to the question of how the Tradition understands the relationship of natural and supernatual revelation. The same God who creates nature also reveals himself supernaturally and typically will elevate and perfect nature to participate in his supernatural life. So while nature will point in a general direction (as, for instance, sex points to union and fruitfulness and to the complmentarity of love), it does not do so with complete clarity. We are fallen, so our mere appetites don’t necessarily make clear what sex or eating are for. Merely because we feel strongly and “the heart wants what it wants” (in the immortal words of Woody Allen) does not thereby baptize it as good. For some people, the heart wants to eat paper clips, rocks and dirt. There are no Lady Gaga songs celebrating them as “born this way”. Because merely manifesting an appetite for something that nature does not intend the body is, in these cases, not called “natural” but recognized as “disordered” (which is exactly the term the Church uses, not only for homosexual appetites but for any appetite that is, well, out of order).

The natural–and supernatural–purpose of sexuality is, according to the Guy who invented it, union between man and woman in love and fruitfulness. A civilization which embraces a view of sexuality that makes war on these twin purposes is a civilization that is making war on fundamental reality–and therefore a civilization that is doomed to fail since reality refuses to be argued with.

I realize this confonts homosexuals–and an awful lot of other people–with a trial, precisely because it says that “you are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Cor 6:20). So, by the way, did the apostles (“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry” they said, after hearing Jesus’ shocking and difficult teaching on marriage (Matthew 19:1). But though it is difficult, I can’t honestly say it is wrong or inconsistent. In fact, sex is not an absolute right. God has something to say about the right ordering of sex that we ignore at our peril because failure to heed him leads to harm to the human person and, multiplied across millions of relationships, to harm to human civilization as we are now experiencing.

Dunno how much use that is, Leah. Oh, one last thing though, a priest reader writes this:

A woman in Canada named Melinda Selmys has written a book recently called Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Look at Homosexuality and Catholicism, which is a profound and beautiful exploration of these issues – perhaps some of your readers might look in her direction for further (Catholic!) insight from one who has been there/done that.

Haven’t read it myself, but the priest who recomends it has his head screwed on straight so it’s probably worth a read.

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  • Fr. Bryan

    First of all, I am so thankful that Leah is even interested in reading up on the subject. I don’t know of anything that really addresses her specific question, but I recently read “The Human Person,” by Fr. Brian Bransfield and thought it was an excellent summary of the Theology of the Body. The section on virtue was especially helpful.

  • Eric

    I’ve reas Sexuak Authenticity and it is excellent, though I can’t say it specifically covers what Leah is looking for. It isn’t really an apologetics book. Nor is it really a conversion story in any typical sense. It is a wonderful exploration of the various difficulties and mutual misunderstandings that surround issues of sexuality.

  • Faith

    How about the Thrill of the Chaste? I think that book really does an excellent job of chronicling the shifting viewpoint of someone who has completely bought into the modern take on sexuality, finds it wanting and slowly begins to move to a deep understanding of what sexuality is supposed to be all about.

  • Timbot2000

    Given Leah’s extreme intelligence, learning, and love of heavy philosophy, I would actually encourage her to weightier materials. I would recommend The Nature of Love by Dietrich von Hildebrand.

    • JC

      Yes, I would agree that she ought to read von Hildrebrand. Possibly also “Love and Responsibility” and maybe even Fulton Sheen’s (somewhat easier) “Three to Get Married.”

    • Paul

      Definitely Dietrich von Hildebrand. His is a very thoughtful work that is well-suited to someone with philosophic leanings. The Nature of Love is also very accessible on its own merits without the need for a lot of Catholic context (unlike the Theology of the Body).

  • Anne

    May I respectfully suggest books by Katrina Zeno. She writes about ToB and the ‘feminine genius’, but I especially suggest this book: When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way. It is written for Catholic women, but I think men and non Catholics could benefit. You can learn more about Ms Zeno here: http://wttm.org/

  • Although the Catholic teaching on sexuality is rich and nuanced, it’s possible to understand this problem purely by an appeal to reason and nature. It’s quite obvious that the male body (whether you consider it designed or evolved) makes no sense apart from the female body, and vice versa. An alien intelligence seeing only the male or female of the species would wonder, “What the heck is THAT for?” The picture only comes into focus when the two are taken together.

    This is why only people of the opposite sex can actually have intercourse. Anything else is just a parody of what God/nature intended. It is subverting the body for purposes for which it was quite clearly not intended, which is an offense against reason.

    I haven’t read a ton of Leah’s writing, but I believe she has gnostic inclinations, which means she does not see embodiment as integral to being. (Please correct me if I’m wrong there,.) The gnostic believes that the will (or reason, or intellect, or what-have-you) should be able to transcend the design and limits of the body. It’s hard to square that perspective with an understanding of the integral nature of body and mind (or, for the believer, body and soul).

    We believe that the body matters: that even in its current condition, warped and distorted by the fall, it has eternal relevance, and will be perfected and glorified at the end. If you understand that, then it’s easier to understand why we can’t use our bodies in ways that are at odds with their intended purposes. This, naturally, extends to drugs, over-eating, alcohol, self-mutilation, and other disordered uses of the body, but because there is an Other involved in same-sex relations, these are more challenging to deal with. When love blossoms and is returned by another, and is also accompanied by desire, it’s harder to tell someone that their appetite is disordered. After all, that person has already been affirmed in their desire by another, and now, in fact, they are affirmed in this desire by a large sector of society. It’s harder to see the inherent wrongness of this use of the body, which isn’t the case when the object of desire is merely an object like food or alcohol. Like Mark, I don’t pretend to have an answer to that problem, although civilization did quite fine for millennial with the understanding that it was not something to be celebrated and normalized. (Even the Greeks didn’t pretend that it could replace the normal order or male-female relations.) There is no simple solution, but believing that every appetite must be satisfied certainly shouldn’t be the default position .

    • leahlibresco

      I haven’t read a ton of Leah’s writing, but I believe she has gnostic inclinations, which means she does not see embodiment as integral to being. (Please correct me if I’m wrong there,.) The gnostic believes that the will (or reason, or intellect, or what-have-you) should be able to transcend the design and limits of the body. It’s hard to square that perspective with an understanding of the integral nature of body and mind (or, for the believer, body and soul).

      Close enough. I used to be pretty suspicious of enthusiasm for sex generally since it seems like a lower pleasure (insofar as it’s physical) than higher pleasures like mathematics or fighting about metaphysics. I recently had a change of heart/philosophy that requires I give up my gnosticism, so I’m a little at sea.

  • Men, Women and the Mystery of Love, by Dr. Edward Sri, is an outstanding overview, in layman’s terms.

  • There have been many good recommendations here, but I suggest that Mark put Leah in contact with Dawn Eden. All my book reading was helpful, but talking this through with a knowledgeable person has been the most helpful in my experience. YMMV.


  • Bro AJK

    “The Courage to be Chaste” by Benedict Groeschel

  • HBanan

    I have read a few of the modern “Catholic s-xuality” books by JPII, Christopher West, and Dawn Eden, and I’ve not seen much discussion of homos-xuality. Such books may be out there, but they need to be written by gay Catholics, I think. JPII and Christopher West are mostly writing for married straight couples, assuming that good Catholics know they aren’t supposed to have s-x until marriage, and Dawn Eden is writing mostly for college-age, single, straight women. These books might help you understand the general teachings of the Church on sexuality, but they are not apologetic works on SSA and what to do about it. They just aren’t.

    I think the way a lot of Christians are taught to understand their sexuality adds to the burden on SSA Christians. We are taught that s-x is a wonderful gift and special treat, so lovely and wonderful that it must be reserved for marriage, as it would be a shame to waste it on the wrong person. Our teenage hormones may be off the charts, but if we could just hold out til our twenties or thirties for that special spouse, the marital act will be so much better. It will be the greatest! So all the Opposite S-x Attracted Christians are encouraged to be chaste via dreams of a S-xy Marriage Carrot and the SSA teens are just assigned lifelong celibacy. No wonder it feels like a rip-off. The SSA teens are told to be chaste without being offered a romantic dream. The truth that for most of Church history, emphasis was not on a romantic dream, but on Christ, is lost. Perhaps if more speakers and writers could tout the benefits of chastity and abstinence in themselves, and not as simply preparation for proper s-x, this discrepancy in experience might be lessened. A lot of OSA Catholic teens get the impression that, once they have successfully waited for marriage, anything goes. Contraception is outlawed by the Church? Hey, I waited this long, I should get to do what I want now. No porn? But it is great fun and my wife watches with me! The idea that chastity is required in marriage (not just fidelity, but genuine chastity toward oneself and one’s spouse) as well as in the single life is just not taught, for the most part. I do like Dawn Eden’s take on chastity, which of course is the Church’s traditional teaching as she speaks of it less as preparation for marriage and more as part of a lifelong commitment to Christ, in whatever walk of life we find ourselves. Her book doesn’t really address gay Christians, as I recall, but could be helpful to anyone trying to live chastely.

  • Because I came to realize that if contraceptive sex is acceptable, any sexual act becomes acceptable (as the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe wrote many years before my realization), my own path of study of human sexuality started with Janet E. Smith’s Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later. It is a philosophical defense of Humanae Vitae. I figure that if you can understand and accept why contraceptive sex is wrong, then you’ve figured out a large piece of the puzzle. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it is significant.

  • kmk

    Thank you so much for this post, Mark, and the thoughtful comments and suggestions. It is good to keep pondering this and it is helpful for me as I organize my (always scattered!) thoughts about how to present this to others.

  • Liz

    Hi Leah! Try checking out the work of Eve Tushnet and Steve Gershom, two Catholics with same-sex attraction who uphold Church teachings on sexuality. Eve blogs at eve-tushnet.blogspot.com and Steve at http://www.stevegershom.com. Hope this helps!

  • Ignatius

    For a short (122 pages only) but really deep and thoughtful take on the whole subject, I would emphatically recommend “The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality” by Paul Quay SJ (Ignatius Press).

  • Anna

    Andy Comisky of Desert Stream Ministries, would be a good resource. He’s a recent convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism, but has also lived the homosexual life. He’s now married, so he doesn’t, obviously, buy that all people with SSA must stay that way, but he’s experienced enough in both ministry and personal life to know that not everyone can change attraction with a bit of therapy. Anyway, he has the perspective to know both the active homosexual outlook and what can change hearts and minds to do a 180.

  • Anna

    Why does the filter think this part is spam? I’ll give it another try…
    Christopher West’s “The Good News about Sex and Marriage” is a good, quick read for those who want at least the beginnings of Church teaching on a number of sexual topics (as well as the authority of the Church to teach in the first place). But Leah seems well-read enough to be a bit beyond needing the absolute basics, so maybe she wants to take on the work of reading the original talks, since that would shed light on Catholic teaching in general. That’s the great thing about ToB: it’s not limited to sexuality since the whole basis is the facts of the Trinity and the Incarnation, so it makes all the apparently unrelated pieces of Catholicism show up as really going back to that foundation.

  • Anna

    Also, while it doesn’t specifically address homosexuality, Wojtyla’s “Love and Responsibility” is pretty readable (though the first part is a bit of work). Since all the Church’s teachings on sexuality come from what the human person is for and therefore what sex is for (i.e. the positive formulation, not just random prohibitions), that might help.
    Sorry for the triple post; trying to escape spamfilter-land…

    • Maiki

      It does mention homosexuality, but in a cursory fashion, I think it is a page in the first section.

      • Maiki

        That said, Love and Responsibility is ok. It is a good introduction to personalistic philosophy.

  • Pappy

    I have read Patrick Coffins “Sex Au Naturel” and can recommend that book.
    Another book , while a little of the topic, but a useful little booklet in the area
    is Alice Von Hildenbrand’s “The Privlege of Being a Woman”.

  • Rade Hagedorn

    The problem that people have with comparing homosexual activity with other disordered appetites is that they don’t see the clear connection to harm. For example, eating dirt is clearly harmful, pedophilia is clearly harmful, and cutting oneself is clearly harmful. Even with pornography it is easy to understand an argument that objectifying people can (and perhaps even inevitably) lead to harm. However that connection is never made for homosexual acts and that is what is the foundation of people’s lack of acceptance.

  • Telemachus

    “I don’t think it’s intrinsically unreasonable to tell a person (or a class of people) that sex is out of the picture for them. No one is guaranteed or entitled to a sexual relationship, and there are plenty of other impediments that can mean you can’t have sex with someone you love.”

    Leah Libresco may be more Catholic in her thought than a lot of “Catholics.” She’s at least open to thinking about these issues instead of taking the knee-jerk “everyone needs sexual gratification to be healthy” line of thought.

    God bless,

  • Faramir

    Mark, I’m surprised no one’s pointed this out yet, but you misread Leah’s second paragraph. She wrote, “I *don’t* think it’s intrinsically unreasonable to tell a person (or a class of people) that sex is out of the picture for them.” [emphasis added], which renders the second half of your post moot.

    • Thanks. I was just going to point that out, too. And Leah’s list of impediments makes much more sense and is more charitable than Mark’s list of sexual outlawry. I think Leah’s asking what many people ask, and aren’t answered sufficiently by natural law or anatomy (despite the Tinker Toy “this obviously plugs in here” argument, which all parents know has never stopped anybody from attempting to plug this into all kinds of not-so-obvious thats): What specifically puts same-sex relationships on the lifelong no-sex list? That’s where the Church’s best answer comes from the theology of marriage and family, but I think it’s understandable that there are many, even within the Church, who struggle with that theology. We are far more comfortable consigning to the arena of unknowable mystery doctrines that seem distant from our daily lives, like the nature of the Trinity. It’s much more difficult—not for everyone, but for many—to live with mysteries that touch on whom one loves and wishes to build a life with. For those of you, like Mark, who do not have difficulty with the Church’s teachings on sexuality, God bless you. Prayer for and charity toward others whose understanding is still, ahem, *evolving* would be most beneficial.

      • And when my children stuck things in places where they weren’t supposed to go, I told them to stop. Answering a non-believer’s question with a theistic answer (particularly a complicated one like the Church’s theology of marriage and family) is using the wrong tool for the job, just like using Biblical arguments against homosexuality is a non-starter. Believers and non-believers alike can start from natural law arguments, and work on the theology later.

    • Mark Shea

      Actually, I quietly corrected it this morning after she wrote me. The word “don’t” was missing from the original text.

  • j. blum

    What Faramir said. Spring is lovely in Ithilien.

  • Jason Schalow

    Mark, I would think that Humanae Vitae would be a good place to start–it is about *more* than just contraception. It presents a good, clear view of the Church’s present day understanding of human sexuality and is, you could say, ‘from the horses mouth’, being an actual magisterial document. Then she could begin a good dialog with those teachings and look at secondary sources to see how others view them.

  • Jason Schalow

    Also some (sort-of) short thoughts about Leah’s question “I don’t understand why having the beloved be of the same gender means you wind up on the impediments list”:

    I think the big sea change is to see sex in terms of marriage and not the other way around. The basic logic is, I think: Every human person has human parents (one male, one female); Marriage is the permanent bond between (potential) parents that tries guarantee the rights of human persons to know, love and be loved by their biological parents; Human sexuality is the sign, action and fulfillment of that covenenant which both strengthens the bonds between parents and makes them parents in the first place.

    Of course, it doesn’t always work that smoothly or easily but that is the intended schema. Given that schema it should be clear why same-sex physical relationships don’t have a logical place in it (nor does any other out-of-wedlock sexual relationship).

    • I miss the thumbs up button from Mark’s old site when I see comments like this one. Excellent.

    • leahlibresco

      But there are other kinds of love (friendship, for example) that don’t function as “the sign, action and fulfillment of that covenant.” Why don’t same-sex romances end up in the ‘not a fulfillment of that covenant’ category instead of the ‘warped sign’ category?

      • Jason Schalow

        Leah, It depends on what you mean by ‘same-sex romances’–the problem is not with people loving each other, it is with the physical act itself. The Church believes that the physical act of intercourse is, by natural design, intended to be both 1) an act of unity by the participants and 2) an act that is intrinsically ordered to new human life. Both of these elements are required for the act to be ‘authentic’ in the sense that it fulfills its natural design. Note that this understanding of the act of intercourse is coterminous with the Church’s understanding of marriage–also an act of unity which is ordered to new human life. They are, in fact, so closely tied that the Church sees one (intercourse) as the concrete enactment of the other (marriage). Thus any intercourse that fails to express its true nature either by being inhibited in its openness to life or in expressing the true permanent unity of the participants is in this sense defective. These two things are aspects of the same reality and can’t be divorced from each other…in other words, there is no *real* sex outside of marriage, ontologically speaking.

        • leahlibresco

          But is real sex is open to life, it seems like gay sex is a different kind of erotic romance (like the tango) rather than a warped echo of real sex.

  • thomas tucker

    David Morrison’s book about Catholicism and same sex attraction is also good (can’t remember the name offhand) and written from his personal journey.
    btw, Mark, as I was listending to the radio this morning, I was struck by how the DJ’s over-sexualized virtually EVERYTHING that came up for discussion. I tried several different stations and they were all the same way. It sounded so infantile, and so obsessive, and it once again made me realize that people who think the Church is obsessed with sex think that way becaue they themselves are obsessed with sex. Our whole society is, and it’s almost as hard to realize it as it is for a fish to realize that it’s swimming in water. We truly are saturated with it, and have therby lost other ways of thinking and feeling that don’t depend on the eroticization and objectification of most every relationship.

  • Some speculative comments.

    Essentially the question is one about Catholic gender theory: is there a relationship between physical s-x and social gender, and does either one actually matter? Does it, should it matter in truth what gender my beloved is? Does it matter what his or her s-xual organs are? And, can I in truth determine my gender on some basis other than my s-xual organs? The sort of short, foundational answer to all of this is the belief that God “created them man and woman” and indeed created human beings to have both bodies and souls — s-xual difference is the work of the creator and not some incidental development along the evolutionary way. There is something (someone) who precedes us; we are not our own creators; we are born with particular attributes and identities that aren’t properly up for debate. I’m not a theologian or a philosopher, and I don’t know if there is solid literature on this question of gender (as distinct from questions of s-xual intercourse); although I’ve heard good things about Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman. I would sort of expect that there isn’t, per se, just because historically the concept of gender has only been called into question recently. But the threads are there: look at the emphasis on Mary as The Woman, and Jesus as The Man. There is something about being a man or a woman that is important and inherent and intended by God, although of course humans have that tendency to misunderstand, accidentally or willfully. Furthermore, gender (Eve/Mary the Woman, Adam/Jesus the Man) has played a central part in both the fall and the salvation of humanity, men and women playing distinct but essential parts; and all of this suggests that whether I am a man or a woman plays *some role* in my own salvation and the conduct of my life. (Note that I’m not saying what that role should be but it seems obvious within the context that at the very least, s-xual activity would be included.)

    Obviously this explanation is very dependent on a Christian understanding of the human person; that’s just how I roll. 😉 Sorry Leah. In all humility, I would be interested to know if there is “Catholic gender theory” out there is is written from an ‘orthodox’ perspective striving to be in keeping with Catholic teaching, rather than trying to ‘challenge’ it or whatnot. Like I said, I’m sure the threads are there, I’m sure that Catholic philosophy and theology which has thought so much about the human person and the human situation has something to say on the meaning of gender, but I only just barely know enough to pose the question and not enough to answer it.

    (Sorry for the censorship, the comment form thinks I’m “a bit spammy” today.)

  • Seamus

    I’d suggest William E. May’s “Sex, Marriage, and Chastity: Reflections of a Catholic Layman, Spouse, and Parent,” or the book with Dr. May co-authored with Ronald Lawler and Joseph Boyle: Catholic Sexual Ethics: A Summary, Explanation, & Defense.”

    A commenter above suggested Eve Tushnet. I’m not sure that would be such a good choice. If I read her correctly, she doesn’t really understand the reasons why the Church holds same-sex genital acts to be immoral, but she trusts that the Church knows what its talking about when it teaches on such matters, and therefore she conforms her mind to that of the Church. That’s an admirable docility of spirit (and almost unheard of in our day and age), but it’s unlikely to be persuasive to someone who doesn’t already accept the Church as mother and teacher.

  • Ted Seeber

    Not a single combobox respondent has suggested the Catechism of the Catholic Church yet? This should *always* be the first place to go for Authentic Catholicism!!!!! On ANY subject!

  • John Zulauf

    >>> It begins with the basic datum of revelation which says, “God, not you, is at the center of things.”

    You’ve said some amazing thing in your life, but that is one of your best. So many challenges in life, thought, and heart are best addressed starting with that central reference point.


  • Here’s the thought which has been a real key for me in understanding (and helping others understand) the Church’s teaching on the human person and thus her teaching on sexuality:

    One of the deepest, most real, most profound realities of human existence is that each one of us was _loved into being_. Your existence, my existence is brought forth from the powerful unitive and generative force of Love – in both the cosmic and literal senses of the phrase. Meditation on this truth has been a great help to me – especially taking it into the present tense: God my Father is generating my consciousness even now, generating my being in this very moment.

  • Rachel K

    I think the thing that ended up winning me over from “I’m here, I’m queer, get over it” to an orthodox understanding of Church teaching on sex was the writing of Scott Hahn. As far as I know, Hahn never addresses homos*xuality specifically (which is probably why he won me over–if he’d mentioned homosexuality, he would have gotten my back up). He does, however, address s*x, marriage and the sacraments, and his treatment of the subject showed me why marriage has to be between a man and a woman. The one that specifically won me over was “Swear to God” because it goes into the most detail on why a sacrament has to use the physical elements detailed in the Bible (in this case, that marriage is between a man and a woman because the Wedding at Cana was a heteros*xual wedding), but “First Comes Love” also gets into the theology of marriage.

    (Using *s because this keeps getting marked as spam…)

  • julian

    Leah’s blog is probably one of my favorite places on the internet these days. She is a pretty generous thinker and reading her helped develop some of my own thinking. Her guest appearances on the Shea site serve to improve an already solid blog, (I mean that as a compliment to you both).

    A quick suggestion or thought on reading the Church’s take on s*xuality; you might have to make a couple of precursory stops in the discussion on the way to getting to your particular objection. My own experience is that prior to becoming Catholic, the Church’s teaching on s*xuality was the last big mental/ emotional hurdle that I had to overcome, (my personal hang up was contraception). I got snagged on that one for about half a year or so. When I started reading up on it however, what I found is that all of the Church’s teaching on s*xuality first and foremost directed the conversation to the core issue of what is the human person. And the answer always illuminated the fact that the person is more than, not less than what we often assume. In other words, the Church’s answers always re-iterated that God loves and values all aspects of humanity, (including our s*xuality) far more than we do. John Paul II’s thought did a great deal to unfold this idea of a Christological Humanism, (Christ re-presenting mankind to himself or the meaning of the person being most fully realized in Christ). If those ideas are taken seriously and pondered then the idea that the meaning of both our humanity and our particular s*xuality is sacramental, well… you really have no shortage of material to think about. It’s huge, I mean, almost every big idea and/ or epic story points to this. So for me, I went looking for an answer on contraception and I was given the bigger question of the human person to consider.
    That said, you could almost start anywhere. Personally, I actually found the Catechism to be a very good and direct place to start. This is after all where the Church will summarize its teaching and provide tons of references to the original documents if you want to go deeper. In particular, the section on masculinity and femininity and the following reflections on chastity. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P84.HTM
    John Paul II was immensely helpful to me. His entire series of Wednesday audiences, (in which he delivered his talks on what came to be known as the “Theology of the Body” are here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm
    Also JPII’s “Love and Responsibility” is good, (starts right off with a discussion of “The Person”). The full book is worth reading, but is dense. You can google it and get the main portions of it for free.
    I do agree also that Dietrich von Hildebrand’s “ The Nature of Love” is an excellent recommendation as well. http://www.amazon.com/The-Nature-Love-Dietrich-Hildebrand/dp/1587315602/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337700358&sr=8-1-fkmr0

  • evetushnet

    Picking up some recommendations from this thread myself, so thanks! I thought Christopher C. Roberts’s recent “Creation and Covenant: The Meaning of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage” was excellent. You can see Roberts give a precis or preview of his argument here:
    The David Morrison book mentioned above is “Beyond Gay” & is IMO more personal testimony than theological work.
    Ron Belgau and Justin Lee had a debate on Christianity and homosexuality which I have neither read nor watched yet, but which may be of interest to those who have fought their way to the bottom of this thread: