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 [@ameritech.net] 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
  • Male Priesthood
Got questions? Get answers--and a rich sense of perspective!
Presentations by the contributors to "Women, Sex and the Church"
Register now!