In 1979, Pope John Paul II began dedicating many of his Wednesday Audiences to the “theology of the body.” In the following three decades, the theology of the body has become a growing field of popular and academic study.
In its contribution to this developing discussion, the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts released this week the latest issue of its journal, Second Spring: an International Journal of Faith and Culture—dedicated to exploring the theology of the body from several perspectives.
“Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body injected new life into the arteries of Catholic thought,” said Stratford Caldecott, editor of Second Spring. “It is of course not the case that the Church had not spoken on marriage and sexuality before that point, but the pressures of modern society and the advance of contraceptive technology made it increasingly urgent to address the issues around sexuality in a new language and with a new frankness.”
In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical, Humanae Vitae, ruling against the use of contraceptives. Much confusion surrounded the release of this encyclical, but John Paul II’s teachings set this ruling in a context of Catholic understanding that began to make it more easily intelligible.
“But even Pope John Paul II, great communicator that he was, sometimes needed to be explained to people, and over the next twenty years the struggle to convey his vision to a wide audience met with mixed success,” said Mr. Caldecott. “There is even a tendency at times to over-popularize the teaching, in such a way that its full implications are evaded and its true depth does not become apparent.”
Mr. Caldecott argues that the theology of the body cannot be understood in isolation.
“It is as much a way of life as it is a theology,” added Mr. Caldecott. “The Church’s teaching on sexuality goes to the heart of our nature as human persons and our supernatural calling: it is possible to see its full beauty and live it only in the presence of Christ.”
Mr. Caldecott concluded that “it would be easy to show how the prophecies of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical have come true in the decades since 1968, and demonstrate that a life in contradiction to these teachings becomes unsatisfying and destructive. It is harder to show that the teachings result in happiness and sanctity when lived. I hope this latest issue of Second Spring will offer readers a greater understanding of the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, and the confidence and courage to live their lives in accordance with these teachings.”
Readers may subscribe to Second Spring by visiting Thomas More College’s web site at www.ThomasMoreCollege.edu/Publications.
Edited by Stratford Caldecott, Second Spring is issued twice each year and is substantive, thought-provoking, topical, and orthodox. It is written for students, professional academics, and ordinary readers, who may be struggling to find beacons of truth in the current anti-religious atmosphere, across a wide range of subjects.