Sunday, March 27, 2011

Holy porn

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/110326
John Paul II the rock star; Priest's 'Theology of the Body' -- or 'holy' pornography?

By Matt C. Abbott

Regarding the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, I'm torn. Perhaps I shouldn't be, but I am. Many Catholics are excited about it — almost "rock star"-like excited. Alas, I'm not.

Don't get me wrong, I do think John Paul did a lot of good during his pontificate. He was a man of deep faith and prayer, a strong opponent of communism, a champion of the preborn, a gifted writer, and had a certain charisma, even in the last several years of his life. I even like to pray his luminous mysteries of the rosary.

That said, John Paul's legacy is, in my view, problematic enough to make me wonder, why is he being beatified so soon? What's the rush? (Perhaps I should be asking: Does he deserve to be beatified period?) The cynical part of me believes the Vatican decided to speed things up because it needs a PR break from the ongoing clergy abuse scandal.

At any rate, readers may want to check out "A Statement of Reservations Concerning the Impending Beatification of Pope John Paul II," recently posted on the website of The Remnant. The statement has been signed by a number of traditional Catholics, including a priest-theologian who was ordained by the late pontiff. No, I haven't signed it, but it does make some cogent points. Click here to read it.


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The most discussed and debated theological work of John Paul seems to be Theology of the Body. Certain interpretations of TOB have caused a good deal of controversy in recent years.

One popular speaker on TOB is Father Thomas Loya, an Eastern rite Catholic priest. Last summer I attended Father Loya's presentation of TOB at Holy Name Cathedral. I spoke with him briefly, and he seems like a nice man. However, I was not at all edified by his approach to the subject.

My concerns with Father Loya's TOB presentation are best articulated by Father Angelo Mary Geiger, who said in an e-mail:


'Here are the posts in which I have at least mentioned [Father Loya] and in some cases made his work the topic of my comments. Father Loya seems to be the most eager of the representatives of the Westian [Christopher West's] approach of TOB to take the movement to its logical conclusions, namely, to the affirmation of sex as mysticism and religious transformation as sexual sanctification, that is, sexual healing in the form of shamelessness. The liturgical, ritual and contemplative overtones are, to my mind, frightening.

'Father Loya's website is eye-opening. His banner image is soft-core pornography with S&M overtones. Also take a look at this image. On the actual site, one only sees it for a moment, that is, subliminally. The image looks like it came from hell. In any case, Father Loya seems to have no problem with pornography, as long as it is 'holy.' It reminds of something I heard Anne Rice say about her 'holy pornography.' She used exactly those words, though I suspect Father Loya would explain away his images as something other than pornography.

'I first privately posed the following questions to Father Loya, and then have done so on my blog. He has not responded. I have also directed them to Christopher West and have received no answer:


'Would it ever be appropriate for the conjugal act to be performed in the presence of an audience for the purpose of fostering a Catholic and integrated view of marriage and sexuality? Let us hypothetically establish that this would be arranged among close friends, all of whom are well-versed in TOB and intend only to exalt God's intentions for marriage and sexuality. If this would not be appropriate, please tell me why.

'Would nudism ever be appropriate among those who have advanced in the Theology of the Body, say, at a Mass in order better express the unity of the languages of the body and the liturgy? If not, would this only be because of the danger of participation by someone not properly prepared or, perhaps, because of the possibility of misunderstanding? Or, on the other hand, would this violate some fundamental moral principle or otherwise be contrary to Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxy? If so, why?


'I am not being facetious or disrespectful in asking these questions. I mean them sincerely, and do not, on the basis of the reasoning coming out of the Westian camp, understand why they would answer these questions in the negative.

'The idea of sex as mysticism has a perennial attraction, but it is pagan and occultist in origin. The tendency of both West and Father Loya is to alternatively appeal to the need for an effective apologetic to the hyper-sexualized and puritanical on the one hand and then move onto a hard sell of sexual mysticism for advanced souls on the other. Dragging John Paul II into all this makes it all the more insidious.'

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