Catholic family advocate highlights 'theology of the body'

  • September 17, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Catholic  Organization For Life and Family wants families to discover the sexual liberation buried in long-neglected Catholic teaching.

In its annual message to families, COLF uses the "theology of the body" as a way of talking about sexuality. COLF's goal is to disentangle thinking about sex from  sexual politics, commercialization, media images and pornography.

"Our very body testifies to our call  to love," says the eight-page document Towards True Sexual Liberation. "Our body is built to enter into relationship and communion with others, and astonishingly, to give life."

Based on a series of 129 Wednesday audiences Pope John Paul II devoted to love and sexuality from 1979 to 1984, the theology of the body is the opposite of fear and shame some Catholics have learned to associate with sex, said COLF director Michèle Boulva.

 "The church has never taught that," said Boulva in an e-mail to The Catholic Register from her Ottawa office. "In the past some individuals in the church might not have transmitted the true teachings of the church on human love and sexuality (and the same is true today), but the fact is that Christianity has always defended the dignity of the body and of the conjugal act. As a matter of fact, the sacrament of marriage is considered as a vocation of sanctity."

But church teaching around sex needs a new emphasis now, according to Boulva.

"The theology of the body is really the answer to the malaise that people are  starting to feel in society about the hypersexualization of society," she said.

COLF, a think tank funded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, sponsored its first conference on the theology of the body in Edmonton in June. A second, French-language conference featuring theologian Yves Semen is planned for Oct. 8-9 in Quebec City.

 The theology of the body is a growing body of writing and academic study associated with conservative Catholic author George Weigel and the Franciscan University of  Steubenville in the United States. It is really a further development of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, said Boulva. By looking at sex through the theology of the body Catholics will discover the deeper meaning of Humanae Vitae.

"It was received as simply a no to contraception —  that's it, bang" said Boulva. "It was of course much, much more. It was really a prophetic document on the meaning of human love. It was very prophetic."

So prophetic that many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, are only just catching up to the 1968 document today, she said.

"It's really worrying feminists, rightly, that there is a loss of respect for women," said Boulva. "Motherhood and fatherhood have been devalued. So there's a dignity problem somehow. People are not respected in their bodies or their whole beings."

The annual message to families  is distributed through COLF's web site ( to parishes, schools and Catholic institutions. Last year COLF distributed 50,000 copies of its message entitled "Families, Where Are The Saints of The Third Millennium?" COLF's 2005 message, "Peace: A Family Recipe" has so far reached 111,000 copies in distribution.

"We're talking to anybody who wants to hear this message," said Boulva. "Are we going to change the mind of anybody? I don't know. This is really for anybody who is wondering, where are we going? Many people feel that enough is enough with all this hypersexualization."

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