Friday, January 30, 2009
Notes from May 2006
I was really disappointed with the article in America about the "V-monologues" (you know what I mean, but this is a generally family-friendly blog). The author, professor of law and of theology at Notre Dame, wanted to make a case for accepting the play as an opportunity for women's voices to be heard, for women's issues to be brought to the fore, and for a dialogue between the play's admittedly unbalanced presentation and the perspectives Christian faith brings to the same issues.
There is nothing wrong with that.
What I take issue with, and wish most ardently to protest, is the way the author repeatedly mischaracterized the Theology of the Body and those who have found it intensely life-giving and woman-affirming. I seriously wonder if the author has ever spent any time with the actual texts of John Paul II. She was so condescending of the naive souls who accept its "rosy" view, and who conform to "Humane Vitae." Evidently, the author seems to think that TOB is nothing but a justification of the 1968 encyclical, and not a complete and hearty presentation of the human person in relationship. To identify TOB as a mere confirmation of Humanae Vitae is like mistaking a book-length study of human health with a prescription! Frankly, it seems to me that Catholic scholars of a certain generation have never gotten over Humanae Vitae. Anything that touches on sexuality seems to push their Humanae Vitae buttons and raise the alarm so loud that nothing new can get in.
That's not all.
The author assumed that parties who are in line with the thought of the Theology of the Body also make a strict identification of "culture of death" with "secular society" and "culture of life" with the Church itself! I have never heard anyone at all operate from this assumption (I may just be living in a bubble). Is the author creating a Catholic straw man so that her argument in favor of a V-Monologue Dialogue is highlighted as the only reasonable position for a Catholic with a brain? Sadly, I suspect so.
But the saddest thing is finding the mischaracterizing of TOB in America. Oddly, I think this is a result of changing the editorial practice in which two sides of an issue faced off. We would have been better served if someone well versed in the Theology of the Body had written a partner article. Because, unbeknownst to the author of the article, she was making a very good case for the core message of the Theology of the Body. According to JP2, the problem with, for example, pornography is not that it depicts the naked body as a whole, but that it depicts only body parts, separating them from the person who inhabits the whole body. And what does the V-Monologues do? Puts the entire focus on one body part. The original concern may well have been to highlight women's experiences and needs and sufferings, but by reducing women to one body part, it lost the person herself. So on the university campus, instead of reproducing the original work, why couldn't student groups be challenged with a full and honest presentation of the Theology of the Body (which, contrary to the America article's author, is not focused only on motherhood--if it was, why am I so intensely interested in it?). Then the groups could come together to create and original--and Christian--work of theater art.