Good Reads on Christian Marriage

With the recent news regarding the decline in belief in the Church’s teachings on Christian Marriage (i.e., sex), I thought some might appreciate a compendium of good reads on the topic of Christian Marriage: encyclicals, books, articles, etc.

From the Popes:
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII
Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) — Pope John Paul II

The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II (* a general audience, which makes up the teachings contained in the theology of the Body, is not on the same level of teaching as a Papal encyclical or Conciliar document)

From the Bishops:
Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality – Pontifical Council for the Family
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage – Pontifical Council for the Family
Love & Life in the Divine Plan — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cohabitation Before Marriage — the Bishops of Kansas
Pennsylvania Bishops Document on Cohabitation — the Bishops of Pennsylvania
PDF on Fornication & other Sexual Matters — Archdiocese of Washington
Pastoral Letter on Cohabitation & Marriage in the Church — Archbishop Sheehan, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
The Vocation of Marriage in God’s Plan — Archbishop Stafford

From Priests, theologians, etc.:
Cana is Forever — Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Three to Get Married — Msgr. Fulton Sheen
Clean Love in Courtship – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik
Chastity: A Guide for Teens & Young Adults – Fr. Gerald Kelly, SJ
Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage – Fr. Donald Miller, CSSR
When Is Company Keeping Lawful & Prudent? – (“Company Keeping” = courtship/dating)
Little Book of Instructions for Christian Mothers – Fr. Pius Franciscus, OM Cap.
“Casti Connubii 60 Years Later” – John Kippley

Books not currently available (to my knowledge) online: (Get ‘em from your library or cool Catholic friend)
The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand
The Sins of Parents by Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) (you can catch a decent size preview on Google Books here)
Called to Love by Carl Anderson & Fr. José Grenados (I briefly reviewed it here)

This is (and will be) constantly updated. Feel free to recommend something I may have missed.


Surprising Statistics

Unfortunately it’s not surprising, but it is disappointing… according to the latest statistics from CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) only a mere %14 of Catholics think pre-marital sex is wrong, and even among Catholics who regularly attend Mass (i.e., at least once a week) only %30 said pre-marital sex is wrong. Msgr. Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington noting the statistics said, “we have a lot of work to do”… YA THINK!?! Archbishop Chaput also said last week that this generation has failed in catechesis… in handing on the faith to the next generation and as a result young people today have lost a “moral vocabulary”:

“Our culture is doing catechesis every day. It works like water dripping on a stone, eroding people’s moral and religious sensibilities, and leaving a hole where their convictions used to be.”

“Christians in my country and yours – and throughout the West, generally – have done a terrible job of transmitting our faith to our own children and to the culture at large.
Instead of changing the culture around us, we Christians have allowed ourselves to be changed by the culture. We’ve compromised too cheaply. We’ve hungered after assimilating and fitting in. And in the process, we’ve been bleached out and absorbed by the culture we were sent to make holy.
We need to confess that, and we need to fix it.”

“The central issue is whether we ourselves really do believe. Catechesis is not a profession. It’s a dimension of discipleship. If we’re Christians, we’re each of us called to be teachers and missionaries.”
“If we’re embarrassed about Church teachings, or if we disagree with them, or if we’ve decided that they’re just too hard to live by, or too hard to explain, then we’ve already defeated ourselves.”
“We need to really believe what we claim to believe,” he stressed. “We need to stop calling ourselves ‘Catholic’ if we don’t stand with the Church in her teachings – all of them.”

In response to the crisis, the Archdiocesan website put up a PDF of relevant passages from the Sacred Scripture condemning pre-marital sex. You can find it here.

While it is clear that the Bible condemns pre-marital sex (“fornication”), and the Church has always taught that sex before marriage is wrong; it’s also clear that either people don’t understand this, or very few care anymore. This baffles me. Even aside from the religious aspect of things, look at the situation rationally: what has promiscuity brought us? … STDs, children who don’t know their fathers or who must grow up in a ‘broken home’, and all the mental consequences of casual hookups (depression, etc.), etc. Not one good thing has come from embracing promiscuity.

I have to also admit, given the popularity of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, especially with Christopher West and others supporting and teaching it all over the country… I am surprised at the numbers… but as the good Archbishop Chaput said, “the central issue is whether we really believe”.

 

What does the Catholic Church teach regarding Christian Marriage?
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII

Sex-Ed, in Kindergarten?!?

This is just disgusting:

MONTANA PARENTS WEIGH IN ON PROPOSED KINDERGARTEN SEX-ED

According to the 62-page draft proposal, beginning in kindergarten, school nurses will teach students proper terms such as “nipple, breast, penis, scrotum and uterus.” Once they are promoted to first grade, children will learn that sexual relations could happen between two men or two women. By the time students are 10 years old, instruction will include the various ways people can have intercourse, be it vaginally, orally or through “anal penetration,” according to the proposal.

Melanie Reynolds, a district health officer, defended the proposed curriculum, saying early education and intervention was needed to prevent HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases. She cited a report that said 40 percent of reported Chlamydia cases in county were people between the ages of 14 and 18, the Helena Independent Record reported.

Angela Helland-Hansen told the board that she was surprised to see that staff from Planned Parenthood were included in the committee that developed the document.

Why are we allowing Planned Parenthood to help with this when they stand to profit from these people who will be their future clients?” the Record reported.

They think telling 10 year olds how to have sex will help lower the rate of STDs and teenage pregnancy?!? Seeing that Planned [Barren]hood helped develop the curriculum it should be quite obvious that they are not concerned about childhood development or education, but only concerned about how to make money in the future (more children having sex + more younger children having sex = more STDs + more teenage pregnancies = boatloads of money + funds + grants for Planned [Barren]hood). If this passes, the public ought to be ashamed for having been duped!

I’m not opposed to teaching children age-appropriate anatomy, etc…. working with children now, and being more concerned about child abuse– children knowing the proper names for their body parts is a good thing. Do they need to know what all those parts can be used for? Certainly not when they’re 5… and not even when they are 10! If you don’t want 10 year olds having sex, don’t teach them how to do it… that’s a no-brainer.

Furthermore, shoving a liberal sexual education curriculum down the throats of 6 and 7 year olds by teaching them about homosexuality is just plain wrong (…speaking of HIV and other STDs). I can be lambasted with “intolerant” and “hate speech” accusations all day long, but the truth of the matter is that ‘tolerance’ does not exist. Everyone is intolerant of something… at the moment, those who want me to be “more tolerant” are the ones engaging in “intolerance”. My opinions, arguments, thoughts, and feelings, don’t matter and are considered “wrong” so I should change in order to be “tolerant”.

But why am I the one that has to change? Can they prove me to be in the “wrong”? (No) Arguments about “tolerance” are a waste of time. The real argument is truth. What’s true? What’s right? What’s just?

The more the the world embraces liberalism, the further the world falls away from Truth, Righteousness, and Justice.

Truth matters.

Book Review: Called to Love

Overall: This is a GREAT book, well worth the read. I highly recommend it.

Carl Anderson and Father José Granados have done an amazing job interpreting and explaining Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented in Called to Love, a mature and all-encompassing understanding of the “Theology of the Body” that underscores the true subject of Pope John Paul II’s catechesis: the vocation of every Christian person to love. In this reviewer’s opinion, the authors here have one up on Christopher West– Mr. West presents a kind of introduction to the “Theology of the Body” that gets your feet wet. Here is the rest of the story. Carl Anderson and Fr. Granados have presented the main attraction: how the vocation to love transforms and informs our understanding of human sexuality and human love.

My favorite aspect of Called to Love is that the authors incorporate not only Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday Audiences which comprise the “Theology of the Body” but Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados also reference Pope John Paul II’s poetry, his plays, and his other major work on love (the real point of the “Theology of the Body”): Love & Responsibility. Mr. Anderson and Fr. Granados see that the “Theology of the Body” is not just the Wednesday Audiences of catechesis, but that this vision extends throughout the whole of Pope John Paul II’s theology; it permeated everything he wrote. The “Theology of the Body” is the manner of understanding human sexuality and love in the light of Divine Love. Called to Love is then able to present a fuller view of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” based on the nature and meaning of love.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

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Is the Theology of the Body scandalous?

Christopher West, among other lay Catholic speakers, has definitely popularized Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. But if you caught his stint ABC’s Nightline, or the small fury in the blogosphere over an article that quotes Dr. Alice von Hildebrand saying West’s approach is “dangerous”; you might be wondering where’s the balance? Are we too prudish, or is the Theology of the Body scandalous?

I’ll be honest. I like Christopher West. I think he’s a good guy trying hard to do a difficult job. But, I also agree with many of the criticisms leveled against him. In that vein, I think he should take the criticism seriously, learn from it, and move on adjusting his presentations as necessary.

Pope John Paul II’s catechesis on the “Theology of the Body”(TOB) is revolutionary. Indeed, I remember reading his Love & Responsibility and thinking, “a celibate guy wrote this? Seriously?” and then immediately understood the scope of Pope John Paul II’s phenomenology (i.e., I have a lot to learn). It’s not that TOB added anything new to the Church’s teaching on sexuality or the human person; but the understanding and explanation is unfolded carefully and meaningfully in TOB.

Sex is a touchy subject. It has to be handled faithfully and sensitively– which tends to make most people turn off their listening ears. Christopher West’s presentation of the Theology of the Body is lively; he tries to wake up his audience to help them see that the Catholic Church really does know what she’s talking about in regards to who we are as human persons– and especially as regards our sexuality. He says some outlandish things (to grab the attention of the audience) but usually goes on to explain and nuance the odd sayings in the light of Church teaching.

For mature Christians, I think there is some wiggle room for discussion. For example, while The Theology of the Body Institute recently made it clear that Mr. West does not endorse oral sex; his book The Good News About Sex & Marriage does give the go-ahead. I think his conclusions are based on sketchy evidence, at best; and on that point I think Mr. West is off base. While the Church is not going to draw up a list of bedroom dos and donts for married couples, I don’t think the Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur in Mr. West’s books can make up the beginning of one. Theology of the Body is not about learning how far we can go, or how much we can get away with– that’s the wrong way to look at things. Theology of the Body is about who we are as persons and the ultimate purpose of the gift of sexuality lived out in human life–whether through the sacrament of marriage OR (and I think this is too often forgotten) through celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.

Tony Blair… did he convert or get stuck in the cafeteria?

Blair questions papal gay policy

The latest in the BBC news has Tony Blair questioning the Church’s stance (not merely Pope Benedict XVI, don’t let them fool you into such slippery thinking) on homosexuality. (FYI, here is what the Holy Father said in context)

It really irks me how people try to save face by playing down Church teachings, or worse, brushing them off as antiquated ideas that are due for an update. Especially a covert. For heaven’s sake, don’t convert if you don’t believe! Don’t say “Amen” if you don’t mean it. Or, as James puts it, “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no”. You don’t get to pick and choose what to believe by what is convenient for you, or what you happen to feel like abiding by. It’s either true or it isn’t.

Mr. Blair sets up this false dividing line between “the Church” (i.e. the Church leaders, he means) and “the Church” (i.e., some liberal all-embracing idea for the laity… there IS a mystical sense of the Church, but I highly doubt Mr. Blair knows or refers to this). The Church [leaders] say one thing, but the Church [laity] believe another, according to Mr. Blair. Well, here’s a NEWSFLASH: The Catholic Church has not ever been, nor will she ever be, a democracy. So that leaves Mr. Blair with two options: suck it up and embrace the wisdom of the Church after some serious study in which he discovers the true rationale for the Church’s teaching(s), or continue to make himself look foolish by complaining about something he can’t change.

Africa, AIDS, and the Pope

Nearly every news article, story, and blurb about Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Africa has some snide comment about the Church’s stance on artificial birth control and how Pope Benedict XVI says that condoms won’t solve the AIDS crisis in Africa. Writers and uninformed speakers alike paint the Pope as a man who cares more about religious dogma than people’s lives, as though, by his affirmation of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality Pope Benedict XVI is condemning Africans (and other inhabitants of countries struggling with AIDS) to death by AIDS.

NOT SO! I yell. Not so at all. If people would simply open their eyes and see “the big picture” it would all make sense. What is the (main) way the disease is being spread? Sexual contact. Casual sexual encounters, and sexual encouters by force (which, if it’s by force, don’t count on the rapist to take the time to put on a condom…). Handing out condoms like candy only encourages those casual sexual encounters. Are condoms 100% foolproof against spreading HIV/AIDS? Heck no. Look at all the condoms they’ve already been handing out in Africa. There’s still a huge AIDS problem. The only way to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS through sexual encounters is to eliminate those casual sexual encounters. Abstinence. Self-control. We live in such an indulgent society that it’s hard for us to imagine saying no. It’s hard for us to imagine having to deny ourselves a pleasure simply because it will be better for us in the long run.

Let us at a real example from history: the Philippines and Thailand. When the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in the Philippines the Church’s policy was implemented (i.e., don’t have sex with an infected person)… there is now a minuscule rate of AIDS in the Philippines. In Thailand, the Church’s policy was ignored and condoms were promoted. The death rate from AIDS is climbing and child prostitution is rampant. Mere coincidence? Highly doubtful.

So what should Africans do? Listen to the Catholic Church! Listen to the Pope! Don’t have sex with an infected person. Bam, zero chance of getting HIV if you’re not putting yourself at risk. Using a condom while having sex with an infected person only increasing your chance of contracting HIV each time. Promoting condoms is promoting an increased spread of AIDS. Promoting abstinence is promoting a grinding halt. Which makes sense to you?