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Theology of the Body

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“John Paul II and the ‘Theology of the Body’ –
A Study in Modernism”

By Randy Engel

As Blondel and de Lubac discovered “authentic Christianity” 2000 years after the fact, so Karol Józef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) discovered “authentic Christian sexuality” for the Church 2000 years later.(1)

Introduction to Series

The “Theology of the Body” is the invention of Karol Józef Wojtyla, known to history as Pope John Paul II. (2)
The major themes of Wojtyla’s new philosophy and theology on the bodily dimension of human love, sex, sexuality, marriage and celibacy gestated and took concrete form over a long period of time beginning even before his ordination to the priesthood in 1946 and continuing to his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop and later Archbishop/Cardinal of Kraków, Poland (1958 -1978).
On September 5, 1979, less than one year into his pontificate, John Paul II delivered the first of one hundred and twenty-nine talks based on the revised texts of his earlier completed book on the Theology of the Body, to the Wednesday General Audience. Six talks based on the Song of Songs were prepared but not delivered as they were deemed too delicate for youthful listeners. The pope’s last catechesis on Theology of the Body was delivered five years later, on Wednesday, November 28, 1984.
As a catechetical work, the Theology of the Body is anthropocentric, that is, man-centered, and personalist in keeping with the central theme of the Second Vatican Council, and the phenomenological and personalist philosophy of Wojtyla.
From a Catholic perspective, the very term “theology of the body” is problematic.
Theology [Greek from theós, meaning God and logos meaning discourse], in all its form, centers upon God, on God’s attributes, on things divine, revealed truths and matters of faith, and not man, per se.
Regarding the human body, man is one. He is composed of both a rationale, spiritual soul and a material body, which gives man his personal corporeal identity. The immortal intellectual soul, infused into the body at the moment of conception, is the first informing and substantial principle which makes the body alive. The body without a soul is inert, a corpse.
How then can there be such a thing as a “Theology of the Body”?
A difficult question, but only one of many such questions that the author (Wojtyla) and his supporters have endeavored to answer in defense of the “new” and “revolutionary” “development” in Catholic sexual catechetics called the “Theology of the Body.”
That the Theology of the Body makes for difficult reading and even more difficult understanding is readily admitted by both proponents and opponents of Wojtyla’s work.
Indeed a world-wide cottage industry has come into existence having as its sole objective the explanation and popularization of the new theology among Catholic and non-Catholic laymen, clergy and religious. It has yet to dawn upon advocates of the cult of John Paul II, that perhaps the difficulty in discerning Wojtyla’s writings on the Theology of the Body stems from the fact they are not Catholic, or perhaps it is fairer and more accurate to say that where his writings are original they are not Catholic, and where they are Catholic they are not original.
Given the unusual complexities and multifaceted nature of the Theology of the Body (TOB) controversy, this writer has chosen a question and answer format to facilitate a clearer understanding of the critical issues involved in the subject matter.

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