Monday, December 17, 2012

"Just" a body?

My friend Father Sibley (pastor of the Ragin' Cajun Catholics at the University of Louisiana (Lafayette) posted this insight from then-Cardinal Ratzinger on Facebook. It clearly speaks to the confusion in society today--how many times I have heard women dismiss their femininity as being "just biology" and "not who I am."

Whenever biology is subtracted from humanity, humanity itself is negated. Thus, the question of the legitimacy of maleness as such and of femaleness as such has high stakes: Nothing less than the reality of the creature. Since the biological determinateness of humanity is least possible to hide in motherhood, an emancipation that negates bios is a particular aggression against the woman. It is the denial of her right to be a woman. Conversely, the preservation of creation is just so far bound up in a special way with the question of woman. And the Woman in whom “biology” is “theology”—that is, motherhood of God—is in a special way the point where paths diverge.”
– Joseph Ratzinger in Mary: The Church At The Source

Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming Soon!

Just found out that a new translation of Wojtyla's 1960 book "Love and Responsibilty" is on the way! No cover image or pithy quotes to share with you (yet), but I'm pretty thrilled with the news!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Great Stuff Happening in Austin

Over the summer I shared an airport shuttle ride with a woman from the a special kind of pro-life center. The John Paul II Life Center is a kind of all-round women's health center, focusing not only on helping women through and beyond crisis pregnancies with a full range of obstetric care, but also treating infertility (with NaPro TECHNOLOGY, which is completely consistent with the Catholic Church's values). Women from adolescence to menopause come for routine gyn screenings. You know, women's health the way it is meant to be.

But wait, there's more! The center offers NFP training, birthing classes, even an infertility support group.

If you're in the Austin area, you probably already know about the fundraiser on December 5; if not, you might want to support what is hopefully only the first full-service center of its kind.

What's the problem with birth control?

SOLT Father Samuel Medley has a whole series of videos on "Love and Responsibility" (Karol Wojtyla's 1960 prequel to TOB), so while our Chicago group is regrouping, you can still stay informed!
Contraception and the Clash with Authentic Christian Culture
from LoveAndResponsibility.Org.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Another online class--this one in German!

A priest in Austria responded to my Twitter announcement about Father Medley's class (streaming from London every Saturday) with the news that he is offering a study of "Love and Responsibility" via YouTube (in German, of course). Sure wish I could follow along, but all I know of German is something my Dad (after his Army experience in the Black Forest) used to say: "Mach schnell!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A new TOB video class online!

SOLT priest Father Samuel Medley has started a new online video study of Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility" every Saturday. It's 7:30-9:00 pm LONDON time, which puts it at a very comfortable spot here on the other side of the pond: 1:30-3:00 Central Time.

I don't yet know if he will be archiving the sessions; maybe if we ask nicely... The first session was today (Sept. 15).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Melinda Gates, TOB and a Voice from Africa

By the bounty of Twitter, I was led to this post featuring an open letter to Melinda Gates by a Nigerian woman in the biomedical field. You may have heard that Gates plans to pump $4.6 billion in birth control into Africa to "liberate" the women of that continent. "I see this $4.6 billion [in birth control] buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death."

Now working in England, Obianuju Ekeocha (age 32) points out that the African women she knows and among whom she grew up, do not look on childbearing in the same way that the billionaire American does. "Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI's 'Humanae Vitae.' " There is a natural, societal appreciation for the language of the body (that the cosmopolitan North had to learn from Pope John Paul II).

There is a healthy acknowledgment, too, that their villages do not have the medical infrastructure that widespread access to contraceptive chemicals and devices presume: "...Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to 911 or an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies."

Then there's the environmental impact: " $4.6 billion worth of drugs, IUDs and condoms get used, they will need safe disposal. Can someone please show us how and where will that be? On our farm lands where we get all our food? In our streams and rivers from whence comes our drinking water?"

Ekeocha doesn't just tell Gates (and the rest of the wealthy western world) where she has failed to think things through; she suggests ways that the allocated billions could respond to the needs of African women and children, beginning with prenatal and pediatric care, and continuing through food and education programs and support for women-run microbusiness and for already functioning organizations that deal with issues of domestic violence, sex trafficking and forced marriage.

Ekeocha's letter (and a follow-up email to the blogger who posted it) shed real light on the issues behind one very confused Catholic woman's efforts to use her incredible wealth on behalf of others.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What difference does the difference make?

Jane and Jim
The US bishops have a comprehensive website up now that can help you understand and express the Church's convictions about marriage.
"Marriage: Unique for a Reason" is its provocative title. and it's worth your time.

Chicago Cathedral doing TOB book study

The Young Adult group at Holy Name Cathedral is hosting a book club for young adults in their 20s and 30s (single and married). The book for September is Called to Love by Carl Anderson and Jose Granados, with the optional addition of Karol Wojtyla's "The Jeweler's Shop." From the Cathedral bulletin: "Christianity has long been regarded as viewing the body as a threat to a person's spiritual nature and of denying its sexual dimension. In 1979, Pope John Paul II departed from this traditional dichotomy and offered an integrated vision of the human body and soul.... he explained the divine meaning of human sexuality and why the body provides answers to fundamental questions about our lives... Called to Love brings to life the tremendous gift John Paul II bestowed on humanity and gives readers a new understanding of the Christian way of love and how to embrace it fully in their lives."

50 Shades of TOB

One young adult responds to the current best seller, critiquing it from a Theology of the Body perspective:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pornography and Purity of Heart

While I was visiting my family in south Louisiana, I managed to make it to the chapel of Our Lady of Wisdom in Lafayette for my friend Fr. Sibley's mass and TOB homily. He gave a broad TOB introduction before focusing on the sin of "unchastity" mentioned in the Gospel. (If the people of Lafayette realized what a fantastic preacher Fr. Sibley is, he'd have to celebrate Mass in the Cajun Dome to accomodate the crowds!)

Listen to Fr Sibley's homily on porn addiction for yourself, and then share the link far and wide so that it reaches people in most need.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Infertility: the greatest challenge for TOB?

A few weeks ago in our Chicago bookstore, I approached a woman to see if she was finding what she needed. She held up the booklet she had been flipping through. It was for Catholics facing infertility. I checked our computer system, and there were only two other titles in the database--neither of them in stock. That's because one of those books hadn't been published yet.

It's available now for that young couple, and for many other heartbroken Catholics. This is a spiritual resource for couples, with stories of other couples'  struggles and experiences (including attempts at in vitro fertilization and other artificial methods of "skirting" but not healing infertility), suggestions for praying together (this is a couples' resource, not simply a book for women), and information about the science behind NaPro-TECHNOLOGY, an approach to infertility that is consistent with the Theology of the Body and Church teachings on human life and the integrity of the couple's intimate life. 

This is an important book, not just because of the hope it can offer suffering couples, but because NaPro is an example of great news that nobody knows. How many Catholic couples end up alienating themselves from the Church because they turned in desperation to assisted reproduction techniques? Nobody told them that NaPro has as much success as the more aggressive approaches, but without the compromises (or side effects). So get this news out there, especially in younger circles! (This Pinterest link may help.)

For your Facebook page, here's a link right to the Pauline webstore:,ProductName

Friday, August 17, 2012

TOB-inspired marriage prep coming soon

Coming soon(ish)! Well, available a year from now. A marriage prep program that the Archdiocese of Boston has been working on for about six years, and field testing for three. Even in the testing phase, "Transformed in Love: Building Your Catholic Marriage" demonstrated the power of the Good News to draw people to a greater good than they ever guessed was available.

Engaged couples (500 of them over the course of three years) willingly spent a total of 12 hours and 45 minutes in the sessions, which included presentations, couple witness, activity, prayer and (one of the favorite aspects of the program) a "teaching Mass" in which the Liturgy was explained as it unfolded. Maybe that is because the program itself helps engaged couples to situate their future life within the Church's sacramental life. Not that it starts there: no, the first five topics are basically about "natural marriage." After all, sacramental marriage is not an extra layer of holiness added to an established romantic relationship. Sacramental marriage IS natural marriage itself, raised to a new participation in the mystery of Jesus.

Upon entering the program, 26% of the participants said they were active in the practice of their faith; upon exiting, 66% said they are more inclined to be active in their faith.
Upon entering, 26% said they could explain marriage as a sacrament; upon exiting 69% said they could.
Even with the most challenging teaching of them all, couples were impressed with what the Church teaches (most had never even heard those teachings) and why: Upon entering, 38% said they do know about Natural Family Planning and why the Church supports it, 38% intended to use it; upon exiting, the percentage of those who were "considering or definitely using NFP" was 70%, and in some cases, as high as 86%.
"You totally changed my view points of the Catholic Church and I plan on ramping up my faith now. I am so excited now to be married in the Church.... And I plan on bringing this faith into life now and I want to pursue it for me and my fiancé and my future kids."
One participant
A solid sacramental preparation program like "Transformed in Love" can't do everything--not when 70% of the engaged couples are already living together and contracepting. But it can help them understand how different a Catholic marriage can be when faith transforms the spouse's very vision of each other and their relationship.
While the program is being published (by Pauline Books--can you see me do the happy dance?), there are still openings for field testing outside of the Boston area. Contact the Boston Marriage and Family Office if your parish or diocese would like to participate.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Giving Guys a Voice

Most of the links I post here tend toward the feminine side of the TOB equation. Here, for a change, is a link for the guys. Catholic "Hack" and convert podcaster Joe McClane speaks of his fight against porn addiction (starting at age 8) and other signs of these TOB-needy times.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comprehensive new resource for NFP

Natural Family Planning is an approach to responsible parenting that fully respects the sacramental meaning and integrity of marriage and the "spousal language of the body." It is completely acceptable according to Catholic principles, is known to strengthen marriages and when properly learned and practiced it allows couples an amazing amount of "control" (with all due respect to God) in spacing out births. It can also help couples recognize serious female health issues long before symptoms might otherwise be noticed. But it is hardly known even among practicing Catholics.

To respond to that situation, a team of women have created the "I Use NFP" website, a comprehensive resource for all things NFP, starting with a helpful description that highlights just how counter-intuitive NFP can be:
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a lifestyle choice people make for a multitude of reasons. Some people come to it for religious reasons, some people come to it so they can be a better steward to the earth, and some people come to it as a last resort in their infertility journey. Regardless of why a couple chooses natural family planning the goal is that they learn the innate goodness of a woman’s body and her natural fertility.

Though the site is expressly created by women, for women, men's voices are not entirely silenced. Be sure to get James' story on what he learned about his wife from tracking her fertility charts (a "job" many NFP husbands assume): " I never expected NFP would help me understand what is really going on with my wife."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TOB-related: Good reads

A Lutheran minister discovers "Humanae Vitae" and is surprised by how prophetic it was--and how the TV lineup confirms Paul VI's predictions ("Bachelorette," anyone?). Be sure to read the comments, which can be as interesting and informative as the post.

 Here's an analysis of "the tension between religious liberty and gay rights". Is the redefinition of marriage inevitable? Not light reading, to be sure, but a helpful parsing of the issues.

The Theology of the Body Institute's latest newsletter also provides some good reads, like the discovery of Church teachings on the body by a young couple for whom contraception was simply a given. When Rebecca realized the effects the pill was having on her health and looked for other options, NFP came up. "Who knew that the church taught responsible parenthood?! We didn't know that we didn't have to have as many babies as physically possible! We could space pregnancies and financial reasons could be legitimate reasons to avoid a pregnancy?! We were in shock, good shock, all the way around...When we removed the pill from our marriage we experienced a healing that we never expected or dared hope for." Read how NFP helped Rebecca and her husband face an unexpected hurdle in their married life.

And here (also from the Theology of the Body Institute) is Dr Peter Colosi's presentation of the Theology of the Body as a commentary on the 1968 Humanae Vitae.

 This afternoon I learned (hat tip to the Maximus Group) that this is "National NFP Awareness Week" for Catholics:  this year’s theme is “Faithfully Yours.” NFP awareness week always coincides with the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (July 25).

Over at Aggie Catholics, there's all the facts about porn use in America, in the world, by men, by women. And at HuffPost, one woman's list of things she wished she had known about porn before she got into it (plus links to all the data behind those things she wished she knew).

And for healing of porn and other sex-related forms of addiction through a method based on brain science and THEOLOGY OF THE BODY, "Reclaim" offers private, anonymous, online help.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

No Controversy? Women of the World respond to Melinda Gates' plan

An excellent response from women around the world to (Catholic!) billionaire Melinda Gates' plan to provide birth control to women in poor countries. "We need better schools. We need better hospitals. We need better roads."

By medicating women and treating their healthy fertility as a problem, she is ignoring the role of men! Sadly, Gates believes she is applying Catholic social teachings (which she clearly has not been fully tutored in) to the needs of the desperately poor. (If only Gates could learn the Theology of the Body!)

"Help us to build a culture of respect for women."

The Catholic Church and Same-Sex Attraction

It's easy enough to understand where people might get the impression that the Catholic Church is stuck hopelessly in the taboos and prejudices of the past, and simply "hates" people who are attracted to the same sex. In fact, it is becoming routine  for a Catholic to be written off as a "hater" for simply affirming human realities such as the unique nature of the relationship between a man and a woman in terms of bringing new life into the world.

Still, the real confusion of people who strongly identify as Catholic and yet also strongly same-sex attracted needs to be taken seriously. I've had a long standing admiration for the ministry of Courage, which helps people with same-sex attraction find the support they need in appreciating the beauty of the Church's authentic teaching--and not just appreciating it in a theoretical way, but in taking the steps necessary in living lives that are not obsessed with the avoidance of sin, but focused on joyfully following Jesus. Some members of this movement know that the help they find in living chastely is what keeps them alive despite some self-destructive compusions.

Here is an interview with the former Marine who is now the spiritual director of Courage; he puts Church teaching on same-sex attraction in context with the (equally rejected) Church teachings on living together and on birth control--all ways in which the fundamental beauty of the call to mirror the Trinity in creation is compromised. All important areas for evangelization and conversion.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Confessions of a 26-year-old Virgin

And it looks like she has a genuinely TOB understanding of marriage, too:

"...Chastity shifts a person's focus from self to others, from what a potential husband could do for me to what he and I could do together — what we, as a unit, could contribute to the world. It is less about whether sex with him will be awkward at first and more about whether it would be a good thing for our future kids to grow up and turn into one of us.
"For us [Catholics], sex serves two purposes: procreation and unity. We don't believe we're supposed to decide to unite because sex is pleasurable, but to create a pleasurable sexual relationship with the person to whom we are permanently united."

Read the rest here!

Saturday, June 30, 2012


There are more TOB-friendly resources available online all the time!

"Leaven" is a non-profit organization for the practical living of the Theology of the Body. Their website features a multiplicity of approaches in making it possible and practical for people to know and adopt a TOB "spirituality" in their married lives, from testimonies to financial aid (for example, to cover a sterilization reversal or to cover fertility care, post-abortion counseling or even Christmas presents for the kids). I am personally blown away that there is such a resource for people who are drawn to the ideals of TOB, but face some very real hurdles. The mission of "The Leaven for Humanae Vitae" gets a permanent place on my special prayer list.

Here's a young-adult site that offers support for living a pure life that is consistent with the values of the Theology of the Body! Includes testimonials, videos and punchy graphics, all spot-on for the young adult audience.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sistine Chapel reflection

Here's a lovely TOB presentation from the Knights of Columbus magazine (Columbia, Nov. 2011), drawing from the frescoes of what Bl. John Paul II called the "Shrine of Theology of the Body," the Sistine Chapel.

Michaelangelo's frescoes, Pope John Paul said, express “in a certain way the hope of a world transfigured, the world inaugurated by the risen Christ.... [W]e stand before the glory of Christ’s humanity. … As the only Mediator between God and men, from the Sistine Chapel Christ expresses in himself the whole mystery of the visibility of the Invisible.”*

* These words are Theology of the Body in a nutshell!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

World Meeting of Families

Philadelphia will be welcoming Pope Benedict in 2015 for the next World Meeting of Families, a kind of TOB World Youth Day.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TOB e-books

The book that
started it all:
TOB in real life!
For young people:
And without TOB?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TOB and the Bible

A few years ago I had a wonderful conversation with Father William Kurz, SJ  of Marquette University. He had just finished a monograph on the Scriptural Foundations of Theology of the Body, and today I found it online. (Lucky me, he had sent me an advance copy shortly after our conversation, so I have been able to draw on his insights for quite some time!) Download it now [with a right click and "save link as...]

Father Kurz is a Scripture scholar, and offers a pretty accessible summary of Pope John Paul's insights. Where some Bible experts have looked at Theology of the Body and shrugged at its approach to Scripture, Kurz (who can do historical criticism with the best of them--indeed, he teaches it) recognizes that the Pope was doing something that didn't fit in the academic categories. Clearly, John Paul was not offering an exegesis, or an analysis of the various manuscript traditions, or a cultural-anthropological study. Instead, Kurz says, the Theology of the Body fits into the best of the biblical traditions: it is a "wisdom" reading of the Scriptures, such as you find in books like Sirach and Ecclesiastes. This kind of reading takes the divine message as a whole, rather than piece by piece, and sees the unity of God's word as it offers a message for our own times that would not have been needed in former ages (just as we find it hard to read the Bible with the lens of someone from the 3rd or 9th or 13th centuries).

This paper can be helpful especially for biblically-grounded readers to get an overall sense of what the Theology of the Body is, and how its teachings draw from Scripture, applying it to our own culture's concerns, questions and dilemmas.

Pope John Paul's document on the family (TOB-related)

More from the folks at TeenSTAR:

Teen STAR News, Winter 2011-12, 5  
How can we promote now the message of Familiaris Consortio?

Angela de Malherbe, first President of CEPP (TeenSTAR France) presented this paper at the November 2011 Plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family:

The message of Familiaris Consortio [FC] is ever more urgent. The almost two million young people at the WYD in Madrid showed the thirst they have for spiritual values and responsible living. Modern culture as transmitted by the media does not respond to their basic needs as human persons. FC concerns the gift of love and life. It is a spiritual message and a practical message. In FC N° 13 we read excerpts from JP II 's speech to members of the CLER (a French organization which promotes marriage and NFP) on November 3, 1979. Conjugal love, he reminded them, is a communion of two persons, man and woman, it represents the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ and the Alliance between God and Humanity. He strongly insisted that conjugal love includes the totality of all the aspects of the person: the body and the instincts, the strength of emotions, sentiments and affectivity, the aspirations of the intellect (the spirit) and the will. This is in keeping with the profound unity of the person – which enables the spouses, beyond the fact of becoming one flesh, to become one heart and one spirit.

Conjugal love demands a permanent, faithful and unbreakable commitment in a definitive reciprocal giving of man and woman one to the other, and it is open to the transmission of life as described in HV N° 9. In FC N° 33, JP II insists on the importance of knowing and accepting one's body, and its biological rhythms. We must do all we can, he said, to make this knowledge available to all married couples, and above all to young people, by means of a precise and serious education, given by couples, doctors and experts. The gender ideology and the anti-life mentality show us that JP II's teaching urges us today to re-integrate procreation within human sexuality, so that conjugal love no longer separates union and procreation. It has been proven that young people become responsible when they accept these realities.

A practical, scientifically sound teaching of NFP which protects the transmission of life, and deepens conjugal love is a major task for us. This seems to be done more concretely in the developing countries (i.e. Mexico, South American countries, Africa) and in the US, where many bishops and priests have affirmed that it is a «preachable subject», and where the brochure for preparation for marriage «Married Love & the Gift of Life» insists that engaged couples should learn NFP before they are married, explaining clearly the enormous difference between contraception and the natural regulation of human fertility.

This message must be given in homilies and study groups, but even more urgently to young adolescents who are enthusiastic to hear it. Girls become real women when they become familiar with their fertility which is the basis of womanhood. This is the real empowerment of women as it should be proclaimed in the New Christian Feminism of our time. Women are protected from the harmful effects of contraception, and the anti-life mentality. Couples become the owners of their fundamental right to choose the time of conception of their children, without outside coercion from medical or government authorities. 

The TeenSTAR program, which is now taught in over 40 countries on the five continents, has been recognized by Catholic Bishops and professional educators as an efficient training for young people, helping them to learn the beauty of their sexuality. (Research and statistics confirming this have been published by specialists including Professor Pilar Vigil, gynecologist and endocrinologist in the American Journal of Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology: 2006, 19:173-179, 18(1):212) TeenSTAR is also acclaimed as being an efficient antidote to AIDS, by many people who work in Africa for example, and by Professor Edward Green, medical anthropologist, who heads the department of research on AIDS at Harvard University. 

TeenSTAR: Why is it so controversial?

TeenSTAR Program Challenges Sex Ed Approach
by Amanda Pawloski

NEW YORK, February 17 (C-FAM) The latest round of budget battles in Washington, D.C. concerning foreign aid underscore a decades-long battle involving what values should be imparted to youth regarding sex. An International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) declaration on sexual rights issued last year is highly touted at international events and demonstrates how many liberal organizations view young people’s sexuality. The declaration amounts something like a manifesto of pleasure, and particularly asserts youth are bearers of “sexual rights.” The focus on youth at the UN has been to liberate them from their parents in the name of sexual rights.

Yet, Dr. Hanna Klaus’ Teen STAR (Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility) program is challenging that assumption. Klaus is an OB/GYN doctor and religious sister with the Medical Mission Sisters. Her abstinence education course has become an international phenomenon, receiving positive feedback from its participants. One Ethiopian mother stated, “my daughter taught me about menstruation.” 

Teen STAR does not fit into either the abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education category, since they offer information on how to control fertility through one’s natural cycle, otherwise known as natural family planning. “We do not control people by withholding information, we teach anybody and it is up to them to use their free will,” says Klaus.

In December 2006 Klaus began receiving funds for her program from the US Agency for International Development for HIV prevention. “Abstinence prevents everything, you essentially kill two birds with one stone,” said Klaus. “People will still exert their will no matter what you do.”
However, critics also abound, and a complaint was filed against Teen STAR in October 2007 by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Homosexual activists, posing as Scandinavian interns, initiated the original complaint. The Center for Reproductive Rights describes Teen STAR as “a discriminatory, gender-biased and medically inaccurate extra-curricula sex education program.” The case has since been resolved in favor of Teen STAR.

The attack on Teen STAR’s funding was part of a larger campaign from the Center for Reproductive Rights to de-fund all abstinence education programs supported by USAID and PEPFAR because they do not promote condoms or inform about abortion. When the Obama administration cut funding to all abstinence-only programs, Teen STAR also lost grant money.

The program is designed to inform teens about natural fertility cycles while encouraging them to wait for marriage. Teen STAR has been working to improve tracking outcomes to provide accurate long-term data on its success rates. Klaus notes that the short-term tracking has always demonstrated a reduction in sexual activity.

Most people put contraception and abstinence on the same line, but there is a huge difference in controlling behavior through respect versus isolating fertility,” says Klaus. “Contraceptive programs have very limited effectiveness in that regard.”

In conjunction with their program Teen STAR hosts parent meetings where the instructors explain what will be taught to the children. The program is careful to be sensitive to what parents have already chosen for themselves regarding family planning.

Monday, May 14, 2012


This Wednesday evening in Oak Park (that's in Chicagoland, for those of you outside the metro area), Dr Hanna Klaus will be at St Giles Prish to present the TeenSTAR curriculum.

Dr. Klaus is a Medical Missionary Sister as well as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist  who has piloted this program “which uses learning one's fertility pattern to teach responsible decision-making and communication skills in the area of sexual behavior and enhances teens' self-understanding and self-esteem”.   

The discussion will start at 7 p.m. at McDonough Hall (2nd Floor), 1101 N. Columbian, at St. Giles Parish, Oak Park, IL.

The TeenSTAR program is a developmental curriculum for students grades 7-9, and can be adapted for older students and settings.  TeenSTAR emphasizes the physical, emotional, spiritual, emotional and social aspects of sexuality training.  Parents, teachers, physicians and other health professionals, interested adults as well as young adults are welcome to review this program utilized throughout the world. 

RSVP kmasters [] if you plan to attend.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cardinal Dolan on "the Law of the Gift"

Cardinal Dolan's commencement address for this year's graduating class his alma mater (Catholic University) had one phrase as its refrain: "the Law of the Gift." This just happens to be the "refrain" of Pope John Paul's "Theology of the Body," too, so as I read the Cardinal's talk, I kept looking: I knew TOB would be there in more than an oblique reference.

Sure enough! Here is it, nestled in a bit of context (but be sure to read the whole thing, from the link above!):

...I’m hardly claiming that Catholics have sole “bragging rights” on fostering, protecting, and obeying this Law of the Gift. The exaltation of selfless, sacrificial love and service is at the marrow of every religion, and, as a matter of fact,on the ground floor of most purely humanistic values.
However, even our critics admit that a particularly pointed contribution that religion, that the Church, that faith makes to any enduring culture, society, or nation is that it has a honed talent to foster, protect, and obey the Law of the Gift.
Without the Law of the Gift we have no Marines, fewer effective pediatric oncologists, and no Clara Almazos or Shabaz Bhattis. Religion, faith, the Church promote a culture built on the Law of the Gift....
Now, one final thing: You all had a head-start in learning the Law of the Gift and the importance of faith to sustain it.
For, see, the Law of the Gift is most poetically exemplified in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, intimate union of a man and woman in marriage, which then leads to the procreation of new life in babies, so that husband and wife, now father and mother, spend their lives sacrificially loving and giving to those children. That union — that sacred rhythm of man/woman/husband/wife/baby/mother/father — is so essential to the order of the common good that its very definition is ingrained into our interior dictionary, that its protection and flourishing is the aim of enlightened culture.
That we are at our best when we give ourselves away in love to another — the Law of the Gift — is I’m afraid, “counter-cultural” today, in an era that prefers getting to giving, and entitlement to responsibility; in a society that considers every drive, desire, or urge as a right, and where convenience and privacy can trump even the right to life itself; and in a mindset where freedom is reduced to the liberty to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever, however, with whomever we want, rather than the duty to do what we ought . . .well, the Law of the Gift can be as ignored as a yellow traffic light in New York City.

Same-sex unions in the Byzantine era?

If "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," what is the doom of those who rewrite history?

This week,  among progressively inclined Christians, there have been many knowing winks and nods surrounding the iconographic evidence, and indeed a ceremonial itself, that prove that the Church's current teaching on marriage is inconsistent with her own history. Most of the time, the basis for these headlines and talking-points is a book published some years ago by Yale historian John Boswell.

Boswell's highly interpretive work refers to a practice that goes by the Greek name "adelphopoiesis" (literally"brother-making" or "kinship-making"). Clearly we Westerners don't have much experience or memory of a ritual like that;  an ancient image of two men being "joined" by Christ sure looks like matrimony to us. Obviously, then, we might conclude, the Church should return to its earlier, more tolerant practice.

Unfortunately for those who would like to point to adelphopoiesis as a prototype for the direction of marriage in our day, however, is that we are obliged to understand adelphopoiesis on its own terms, not those of our sex-obsessed culture.  Here are two very interesting approaches:

Finally, here is early debunking review of Boswell's oft-cited book by the late John Richard Neuhaus.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Seminar on Women, Sexuality and the Church this Thursday

Webinar May 3 (1-5 pm Eastern Time); all the hot-button issues:
  • Non-Marital Sex and Abortion
  • Marriage and Contraception
  • Reproductive Technologies
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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Couple who made "The Vow"

It's a staple of sappy movies, as well as of psychological dramas: the beautiful heroine (or handsome hero) with amnesia.
The May issue of the Costco warehouse store magazine includes a short write-up about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, the real-life couple behind the movie "The Vow."

In case you missed the trailers (or the fairly decent reviews), the "inspired by a true story" movie portrays the challenges the Carpenters faced after a serious car accident left Krickett with no memory of ever having met her husband, much less of making vows in his regard.

As the couple note, it was a disappointment that the movie downplayed the pivotal role the Carpenters' Christian faith had in renewing their married life, but the book version doesn't hold back. The Carpenters are grateful that the movie, fictional as it is, is drawing readers to the fuller story--and (anecdotally), helping other couples "remember" their vows.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? What Theology of the Body threads do you find in the Carpenters' real-life living of their vow?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Valerie Pokorny (San Antonio) had the opportunity to make the case on CNN that "Contraception denigrates me as a woman": "...I thought the whole moral obligation to fulfill a husband’s sexual needs was a thing of the past... but alas, it’s been repackaged for a new secular generation. Women are still evaluated heavily on the basis of their uninhibited sexual availability, which contraception ensures precisely by severing women from their fertility. (When a woman uses “contraception” for medical reasons other than preventing a pregnancy it's not technically contraception, and the Catholic Church doesn't necessarily prohibit these uses.)..." Read on!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Healthcare and "the" mandate: Testimony from an "unconservative" Catholic

Leave it to the Dutchman to offer a unique perspective on the issues of the day. I wish I had been more faithful to my Google Reader a few months ago, when this post first appeared; alas, it was impossible, as I was studiously avoiding anything that didn't relate to the Lenten presentations I was writing at the time. Now, even though it is less newsworthy, his post is still timely:
In 2008 I was at a Christmas party given my one of my ultra-Catholic friends. These are the kind of people who sing Christmas carols in Latin, say Rosaries for the unborn, and hold prayer vigils outside of Planned Parenthood clinics. These are people who do not use contraception, home-school their kids, and would never wear anything so revealing as a sleeveless dress. This was right after Obama was elected, but before he was inaugurated and, naturally, there was a good deal of speculation about what he would do. Healthcare was obviously on the table and I would say that two-thirds of the people there favored socialized medicine. That’s right; more than half the people in that room, people as culturally conservative as it is possible to be, favored a Single-Payer System – but with one proviso: you had to keep abortion out of it. The next day, I wrote President-elect Obama a letter with this simple message: you can sell a single-payer system to conservative Americans if you keep abortion out of it. (I also sent this same letter to David Axelrod, whom I actually know and have done business with.)
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anonymous Father's Day

What if you didn't really know who to say "Happy Father's Day" to? And there were no laws to allow you to find out who your "other half" was? When conception is separated from the marital embrace, the children "are not alright," no matter what the movies say. "From The Center for Bioethics and Culture, producers of Lines That Divide (2009) and the award-winning Eggsploitation (2010), Anonymous Father’s Day explores the stories of women and men who are the children of sperm donors." Here, donor-conceived adults (including some of the very first "successes") speak of their experience. (You can find related stories on the blog.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Follow enough links, and you come (sometimes) to some excellent resources! Today was one of those days, when I found myself reading the blog of a TOB enthusiast who has a masterful collection of TOB and life-issue related links. Introducing Chelsea.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Former IVF doctor: Why I quit making test-tube babies

Dr Anthony Caruso was President-Elect of the Chicago Association of Reproductive Endocrinologists. He had 15 years of experience doing in-vitro fertilization procedures. And then he quit. A Vatican document helped him understand his profession in a completely different light.
Read his story here, along with his advice for couples struggling with infertility, and comments on the related issues of sex selection, twin "reduction," cloning and embryonic research.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TOB can be fun!

Check this infomercial for a TOB-related product that you can unhesitatingly recommend to young adults and teens.

Conflicting Opinions and Ongoing Struggles over NFP

An article I linked to a few days ago (about better "branding" for NFP) inspired some, well, inspired responses on several blogs. Among the remarks, I have to agree that even though I linked to the article (which highlights something I think important: that NFP not be presented in a dowdy way), I was not comfortable with its portrayal of NFP or the snide way it quoted Jennifer Fulwiler, identifying her first as the mother of five and then adding "who uses NFP."

Darwin weighs in, noting that NFP is hard, but rewarding, "a difficult and commitment heavy process, [in which] success and satisfaction depend on actually learning to embrace the process itself, not just the goals."

Emily Stimpson, author of The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right also commented on the article's implication that NFP is an easy, breezy, natural "birth control" that just happens to be okay for Catholics:
"Like passing up turtle brownies, NFP requires self-control, temperance, and prudence. Only, it requires a heck of a lot more of each—more self-control, more temperance, more prudence, plus a ready knowledge of how to make chastity within marriage work. (I may be single, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that. Besides, I live in Steubenville, and my girlfriends talk about NFP as much as my sister’s friends talk about “Jersey Shore.” So…a lot.) Regardless, temperance, prudence, and chastity aren’t virtues most people possess in spades anymore. Our culture, where instant gratification and over-indulgence are the norm, has seen to that." Read the rest here; it's worth it!

Here's Jennifer Fulwiler (on the National Catholic Register blog, not her own); she had clarified her own position earlier, and includes links to other responses, including the "why are we having this conversation" post on feminist site Jezebel.

And on yet another blog, this post from some months back generated so many comments it should be required reading in all NFP teacher-formation programs, as well as seminary programs. It shows the anguish of many couples who struggle with NFP, but remain heroic in their efforts to live their sacrament of marriage in full communion with the Church, and others whose struggles are not always successful, but whose efforts deserve so much recognition and support.

TOB related insights

I am coming to recognize that for too many Catholics "Theology of the Body" means anything having to do with Catholics and sex, and "Natural Family Planning" (NFP) is understood as the "official" family planning method of the Catholic Church or of the Theology of the Body. In my naivete (and my ardent desire to help Catholics who are struggling with or poorly informed about the issues), I have been contributing to the confusion by posting NFP-friendly news items and articles about human sexuality that are consistent with the vision of the human person that Pope John Paul offered in the context of his master-work, the Theology of the Body.
From now on, I will now be curating this blog somewhat differently, especially during this hiatus of our TOB classes.
In future posts, I will indicate in the title or in an opening sentence how the post or article or link is related to the Theology of the Body, the main concern of this blog. If it presents Pope John Paul's teachings in a direct manner, it will be marked as "TOB"; if it supports the Pope's vision of the human person and pivotal human relationships (like that of marriage), it will be marked "TOB-related"; it if is refers to the science or psychology of family planning and related issues, I will attempt to simply express that in the title. However, my "labels" for the post may continue to read TOB, Theology of the Body, NFP, etc. because these are the terms people will most likely use on search engines, and people who are looking for those terms are probably going to be interested in the content of the post even if the label is inaccurate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Young Catholic women help "rebrand" authentic Church teachings

The conventional wisdom says that the Catholic Church's teachings in the area of birth control alienates women. But many appreciative young women say it's not the teachings (which can be extremely attractive): it's the packaging. It's so lame. Read more here. And admire the women who "came out of the (NFP) closet" for this article. That they open themselves to ridicule and scorn can be gathered by a glance at the comments that follow the post.

"just living together"

It is sad that so many hearts are broken in reinventing a wheel that so many cultures already got pretty right thousands of years ago. Even the NY Times is letting writers admit in public what the statistics people already know: living together is a really bad way to start a marriage you want to last. Sr Helena always includes this tidbit in her presentations on Theology of the Body, because for young people today it is so counterintuitive. Among other things, though, it says a lot about the way men and women enter into apartment-sharing: for the woman, it is a kind of incremental approach to marriage, and the very agreement to live together is an implicit commitment. But according to books like Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (not recommended in all respects, but a helpful resource nonetheless), commitment on a man's part is never something implicit. That is probably why couples who are already engaged to each other when they start living together have a better chance of a lasting marriage than those who just drift into a shared living arrangement.
Living together without the very real benefit of marriage is only one issue in the panorama of human relationships that await the Gospel of the Theology of the Body.
Holy Name Cathedral here in Chicago has been offering a kind of "Theology of the Body" page in the weekly bulletin. This page doesn't only offer bare-bones repetition of Church teachings in the hot-button areas of marriage, birth control and so on, but a look behind the headlines: a deeper context for the teachings of the Church, and at the same time, a look at society's assumptions and the often-ignored effects of things like chemical contraceptives on a couple's relationship itself. Here is a recent article which the Holy Name bulletin reprinted from Dr. Janet Smith.

Listen up!

Here's an interview of TOB popularizer, Christopher West, done by Bishop Michael Sheridan (Colorado Springs. Plug it into your mp3 player and listen to it on your commute! The bishop also refers to West's latest book, which in some ways is a short-form, updated version of his understanding of the Theology of the Body and its connection to the New Evangelization, At the Heart of the Gospel

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The neglected Catholic teachings on same-sex attraction

Written by a woman who for years identified herself as lesbian, this is a very helpful article from Our Sunday Visitor on issues involving same-sex attraction, and the little-known teachings of the Catholic Church in this regard. "Cures"? The Church doesn't require any attempt to re-orient the person with same-sex attraction. Ostracism? Suspicion? These are unworthy of Christians (besides, how many persons with SSA are living pure and holy lives, unknown to all but God?). And yet the Church insists that calling homosexuals and others who identify along the GLBT spectrum to live chaste lives is completely consistent with respect for them as persons loved by God.
Read more here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Manufacturing Multiples

"The core problem with the fertility industry: the removal of the procreation of human life from the context of the marital embrace" (Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University).
Read more about the multiplication of multiples (and the destruction of the undesirable) here.
Got questions or concerns? Struggling with infertility? This book might be a place to start: The Infertility Companion for Catholics: Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples

The fertility market

"It is ironic that many of these buyers [of human ova, or eggs] probably seek hormone-free meat and eggs for their dinner table yet have no compunction about treating a woman like an industrial farm chicken and pumping her full of hormones to make her produce more eggs." Read more here.

More trailers here.

Monasticism and Marriage

From a Romanian Orthodox writer: "Marriage and monasticism matter because people matter, because love matters..." This is also the heart of the Theology of the Body, which Pope John Paul subtitled "Human Love in the Divine Plan." 
In Orthodoxy, monasticism has a "stronger" image than it does in the West, where active religious life has historically been more visible. But in East and West, the people in the pews have been tempted to see celibacy in an idealized light that seems to put marriage on the shadow side. 
Read more here: Fr. Peter-Michael Preble: Monasticism and Marriage

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HHS Mandate (how firm a foundation?)

Over at "Truthiness will set you free" some inconvenient truths for the White House. Courtesy of .gov's own Department of Health and Human Services. Seems that in trumpeting the famous "98%" of women who have "ever" used contraception, the selfsame Department decided to go with the Gutmacher Institute rather than its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Plus other inconvenient realities.
Best to be informed about the facts, since the mandate seems to be only the nose of the camel poking under the tentcloths of civic life...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicagoland: Free all-day TOB seminar!

Come to Corpus Christi Church in Carol Stream, IL (Joliet diocese) on Saturday,
March 24, 9am-3pm for an all-day overview of BJP2G's revolutionary, mind-blowing, life-changing, epoch-shaking take on what it means to BE a body, not HAVE a body. Sr Helena Burns is the presenter.

Be sure to register with Mark Herwaldt (630-483-4226)for a headcount (and $5 box lunch if your body needs one).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Issues and Answers

I seem to remember that being the name of one of those Sunday morning political analysis programs way we have more issues than answers, especially in areas related to Theology of the Body.
The Washington Catholic Information Center is helping correct that situation with its series of videos from a women's panel on the HHS Mandate. Here is the full-length version; you can get snippets on their YouTube channel:

Friday, January 27, 2012

TOB Summer Camp for Teens!

An immersion experience for high school juniors-seniors and new grads: TOB teaching integrated with teen spirituality (and loads of fun):

For more info:

Friday, January 20, 2012

SSA-From the Inside

The Aggie Catholics blog offers a link to a moving testimony from a homeschooling wife and mom (of five) who faces a daily struggle with same-sex attraction while fully and happily embracing Catholic Church teaching.
Worth your time.