Main website: www.thebodyissacred.org
Lines of research as follows:
What has been the thrust of modern Catholic scholarship regarding the morality of sex?
FINDING. Catholic scholarship, while trying to correct mistaken notions of the past, is focused on establishing correct Christian norms for sexual behaviour in our own times.
What are the roots for the distrust of sex present in traditional Catholic teaching?
FINDING. The roots of Catholic distrust of sex lie in Hellenistic and Gnostic ideas accepted by Church Fathers and nurtured by medieval theologians.
- Greek belief that women are physically inferior in procreation.
- Greek dualism, also affecting the distinction between man and woman.
- The Greek myth of Pandora’s Box, which interpreted sex as a punishment inflicted by the gods.
- Jewish myths about the female demon Lilith.
- The Gnostic instruction of Poimandres (also known as Poemandres) in the Corpus Hermeticum, which presents sex as a tool of the devil.
- Opposition of spirit and flesh in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.
- The Manichean doctrine of sex having been created by the goddess of evil.
- ST AUGUSTINE‘S belief that sexual desire is sinful!
What misconceptions did the traditional Catholic distrust of sex lead to?
FINDING. The distrust of sex affected the whole of people’s lives. We expand on some areas here.
- Excessive church control in people’s personal lives.
- Menstruation was considered to make a woman ritually unclean.
- At childbirth women were ‘purified’ before they could enter a church.
- Masturbation was reckoned to be a ‘mortal sin’.
- Sexual fantasies were indiscriminately condemned as sinful.
- Medieval belief that devils had intercourse with women,, leading to witch hunts.
What are the implications of the Church’s teaching on ‘natural law’?
FINDING. The teaching authority continues to support a mistaken philosophical notion of ‘Natural Law’ that has serious consequences for certain areas of morality. We have highlighted the following problems with the traditional notion of ‘Natural Law’:
- It does not hold up to scrutiny.
- It may not be used to forbid the responsible use of contraceptives. A peer-reviewed academic report on the ethics of contraception is available here
- It may not be used to condemn sexual relations between gay partners.
- It was at the root of the belief that women are physically inferior to men.
Is sex never sinful?
FINDING. Sex in itself is not sinful, but circumstances may make it so. In particular, sex becomes sinful when it involves violence against another person: against his or her human rights, honour, or mental and physical wellbeing.
How does the correct Christian view of sex change our life?
FINDING. A positive appreciation of the gift of sex affects many aspects of our life. We elaborate on a few.
- It rids us of unwarranted feelings of guilt.
- It helps us appreciate that love is a much bigger reality than sex.
- It sanctions the enjoyment of sex between Christian partners.
What about nudity?
FINDING. The traditional attitude approaches nudity with apprehension. The right Christian appreciation of the body should liberate us from any false feelings of shame.
- Fear of nudity has affected Christian belief and practice in the past.
- This is also clear from representation of the body in Christian art.
- Not all looking at naked images should be equated with ‘pornography’.
- There is nothing wrong with naturism/nudism in itself.
How do we Christians know that our bodies are truly ‘sacred’?
FINDING. Our bodies, both male and female, were created by God in image. Moreover, Jesus Christ shared our body fully, including our sexual drives and our genitals. There is nothing sinful in the human body or its parts.
We welcome any contributions to our lines of inquiry, whether in the form of observations, critiques, submission of new material or the suggestion of other topics for research.
- “Christian Autonomy and the Church” by John Wijngaards, Theological Conference, Newman College, Birmingham 24 June 2000.
- AMRUTHA. What the Pope’s man found out about the Law of Nature by John Wijngaards, Author House, 2011. An adult novel which, in a humorous but thorough manner, explores the concept of “Natural Law”.