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Vatican official: Do not oversexualize John Paul’s theology of the body

Catholic World News - August 12, 2011

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family is cautioning Catholics against making an oversexualized interpretation of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body--a series of catechetical addresses delivered at Wednesday general audiences between 1979 and 1984.

Calling the series of audiences a “very, very important doctrinal corpus,” Bishop Jean Laffitte told the Catholic News Agency that the series is properly entitled the “Catechesis on Human Love.” Asked to identify “problems in the manner that Blessed Pope John Paul's teachings on this issue have been popularized, particularly in the English-speaking world,” Bishop Laffitte said:

The question you ask on this topic refers to the possibility that Pope John Paul II's Catecheses and their wonderful deepening of human love could be misunderstood or wrongly interpreted by some individuals unilaterally stressing “my way” or another way …

The problem is that if you focus only on sexuality, you cannot develop beyond that level, that such beauty is a gift, something given to mankind by the Creator but within a much broader context. Attraction to the beauty of human sexuality and the human body is normal because it is true and real. What can become a problem, however, would be to regard human sexuality in a kind of mystical way. Pope John Paul II embraced no form of mystic sexuality. What the Blessed Pontiff did in fact say is that sexuality has a mystical perspective and dimension …

There is a danger of vulgarizing here a crucial truth of our Faith that needs rather to be contemplated. It requires a silence. Sometimes in reading Blessed John Paul II’s Catecheses, you read only half of a page and then have to stop … you cannot continue … because it provokes within you a kind of loving meditation of what God has made. You enter into the mystery …

The problem involves not the formulation, but rather the respect for the mystery with which we are dealing. 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.

“Pope Benedict XVI is in total continuity with Pope John Paul II's teachings,” Bishop Laffitte added. “In Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he is very audacious when he speaks of a ‘divine eros,’ which is the design that God has for human love.”

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