Sex, Gender and the Sacred

The road to the sacred runs through the carnal. Not only the Bible but Life itself reveals that sexuality is more spiritual than biological. The erotic is God's poetry of love calling us out of ourselves to awareness of beauty and to an expansive creativity and giving of ourselves. We go to God through one another, via loving, not apart from one another. --Paschal.

Monday, May 01, 2006

God's Poetry of Love: A theology and Politics of Sexuality and Marriage.

subtitle: The Theology and Politics of Sexuality:
Copyright, Paschal Baute, 9/10/97, 31st draft

Hope has two lovely daughters: anger at the way things are
and the courage to change them.

As a marital therapist working with many Protestant and Catholic couples for 25 years, and as psychologist and lay theologian, I connect many sexual and relationship difficulties to the inadequacy of the teaching on marriage and sexuality provided couples by their churches. In this paper I propose we have not yet developed a biblical spirituality of sexuality nor an Incarnational theology of marriage. I presume to propose a reframing. Sam Keen presents the predicament well:

What has happened to me? How am I to understand this sensuality and grace that pervades my body? As I reflect I begin to realize that neither the Christian nor the secular culture in which I have been jointly nurtured, have given me adequate ways to interpret such experience except in negative terms. Neither has taught me to discern the sacred in the murmurings of my body and the voices of my senses. Not only has Christian theology failed to help me appreciate the carnality of grace, but my secular ideology has failed to provide me ways to understand the graces of carnality. Before I can understand what I have experienced, I must see where Christian theology and secular ideology have both failed me.
(Sam Keen, To A Dancing God, paraphrased.)

The core question is: by what strange alchemy has the liberating gospel of Jesus who unconditionally accepted wounded humanity become translated into a contemporary sexual ethic that is restrictive, uninspiring and guilt forming? In this paper I strive to answer this, more often using the Catholic context as a larger frame for the Christian view.

Other questions that must be addressed are: How is it that Christian sexuality has been seen as opposed to spirituality? Is the purpose of sex biological or spiritual? What are the effects of Catholic teaching on sexual ethics? What are some remedies? What is the divine ethic for married love? Could sexuality be an archtype or metaphor for this mystery we call God? Pondering these issues in the perspective of our Protestant/Catholic traditions can illumine some of our dilemmas in sexual matters today. Eric Fuchs Sexual Desire and Love, a thorough theological study, is the inspiration for the first part of this paper.

We are speaking of a) a biblical spirituality of sexuality; b) an incarnational theology of marriage; and c) a Catholic context. Each of these is an aspect of the whole of Christian mystical spirituality, of which a), b), and c) are the enfleshment. By mystical, I mean the reality and experience of ourselves (individually, communally, insititutionally, earthly--as well as body, mind and soul) as being in immediate touch with God at the very center of ourselves, our whole selves, fully experienced.

My goal is to empower people to view themselves and their sexuality differently, positively as a gift. I am not attempting here to write a theology of love or marriage, but to suggest counter-points and new directions. I have divided the subject into these topics: the early Christian view, rational control over the body was the ideal, effects of a natural law ethic, sexuality is not primarily biological, a eight fold design, effects of Catholic teaching, linchpin of the Catholic system, and God's poetry of love. I begin with an historical perspective.


The Hellenistic and Roman worlds at the beginning of the Christian era lived in the greatest sexual confusion. Understanding this milieu can help us grasp that the moral requirements of Christianity as they developed were accepted as true liberation for the victims of this anarchy and for those of sensitive consciences. Against Gnostic and Stoic influences which, from the chastity of Jesus, disdained marriage, the Fathers of the church allowed marriage as a God's plan for ordinary folk, but approved sexual desire only for procreation. Christian love between partners should be spiritual. (Clement, Strom. III, xi, 71)

It is clear that for the Fathers or early writers of the church in the first four centuries, the loss of self in the sexual act was felt to be a humiliation. A secret complicity between sexuality and sin was denounced. Sexuality was interpreted as discomposure, irrationality and revolt. The great thinker Augustine--the most influential theologian until Thomas Aquinas-- writes: I have decided that there is nothing I should avoid so much as marriage. I know nothing which brings the manly mind down from the height more than a woman's caresses and that joining of bodies without which one cannot have a wife. (Soliloquia I, x, 17.) Augustine speaks as a man who can only keep himself pure by avoiding women. He sees women as evil simply because they are women.

Sexuality was so tainted with the influence of sin that the question of how to avoid sex became a main interest. As Jerome said, The activities of marriage itself, if they are not modest and do not take place under the eyes of God as it were, so that the only intention is children, are filth and lust. (Comm. in Gal. III, v, 21.) Sexuality began to be considered as a consequence of original sin. After the conversion of Constantine and the Age of Martyrs ceased, the main way to be heroic for Christ was to renounce marriage and sexuality to remain a virgin or become a monk.

Virginity was eulogized. Had there been no original sin, sexuality would have been pure love, free from all desire whatsoever. Virginity makes one divine, or as John Chrysostom said, it makes mortals like unto angels. Or, in the words of Ambrose, A virgin marries God. Gregory of Nyssa said that purity alone is sufficient for receiving the presence and entrance of God. Yet for humans to aspire to be as angels is a rebuke against God, who created us as human. A theme constantly found in theological writing--for much of Christian history--is that marriage turns one away from God. (many quotations in Fuchs op. cit., Seabury, New York, 1989).

Thus the two fundamental thrusts in patristic teaching that mark Christian practice and thought for many centuries were the exaltation of virginity and a condescending acceptance of marriage, justified only by procreation. Integral to these views was a pervasive labeling of sexual desire as impure and ungodly: seducing us from rationality and that which is holy.

The spiritual life, for many Fathers and theologians, actually meant the non-flesh or non-physical life. This is false because it is not human. It reflects the Platonic or Gnostic mistake that humans are only SOULS, trapped in bodies. THE WHOLE HUMAN (body, mind, soul, individual, communal, institutional, with earth) lives the spiritual life. The spiritual life is the full and complete human life--including sexuality and love--seen in its luminosity, as the indwelling Spirit births forth each human life as the expression of Christ in the world (Massimini, 1993).

The difficulty in thinking positively of sexuality was accentuated by the juridical status of marriage under Roman law which established the procreation of children as the only goal of marriage. Therefore both the political and the moral context of the times made thinking of sexuality in terms of affection and love, or as a gift from God, quite difficult for Christians.

In addition, a deep pessimism marked the mentality of the first centuries of the Christian era, particularly concerning human nature and the future. Early Christians found a lofty and elaborate ethical system in the Stoics with whom they shared the same criticism of current sexual customs. The Stoic concept of natural law allowed them to define an objective moral standard, even while inheriting from Stoicism its distrust of the imagination and of passion, both of which upset the equilibrium of the sage and would-be saints. Jerome quotes Seneca respectfully: ...too much love for one's spouse is adultery...the wise man should love with his head, not with his heart...Nothing is more impure than to love one's wife like a mistress. Similar sayings, quoted with complete approval can be found in the writings of most church Fathers and Mothers, titles given to those who were prolific writers in the Patristic age. (Eric Fuchs, op cit., p. 102ff)

A New Testament professor believes that the sexual views of early Jewish Christians were strongly influenced by Old Testament laws on purity and uncleanness (Countryman, Dirt, Greed & Sex, 1990). For Israel , purity gave access to the temple and the temple to God. (p.79). Although sex is not a primary concern in New Testament writings, yet both Catholic and Protestant traditions made sex a primary concern. A private kind of morality that stresses sexual purity (sometimes hedging that purity about with prohibitions on dancing, dating, kissing, and so forth) has been widespread in Western Christianity. (p. 142). From the second century onward there were Christian sects that held salvation to be contingent on sexual continence, or that the material world was wholly evil and sex was to be rejected on that account (Marcionites and some Gnostics). In Countryman's opinion, the church in its accommodation with Constantine's empire, inherited the role of the early rabbis and the Pharisees.

Theology from the fourth century on was mostly the work of monks for whom women symbolize what they renounced. Women constantly threaten their special devotion to God. Celibate monks whose experience with women was through sins in their youth (like Augustine and Jerome) or through maternal love (like John Chrysostom) were hardly equipped to recognize women as the other whose otherness signifies the very otherness of God. For such as these, the otherness of woman signaled instead the otherness of the devil. Woman was seen pervasively as the temptress.

Given this beginning it is not at all surprising that Catholic ethics is based upon a hierarchical vision of man. Man was conceived as of two realities, body and soul. The soul was spiritual and immortal and the body was material and mortal. To this first hierarchy was added a second, related to man's destiny: as a natural being, man was called upon to go from a natural life to a supernatural one. Catholicism practiced a split level morality: one for the people in the church who must be taught basic morality (Ten Commandments and rules of the church), and an ethic following counsels of perfection for the elite of the church: clergy, religious, monks. These renounced sexuality and lived as virgins or celibates. The second ethic was to serve as the lighthouse, the ideal to the first, a sign for all of progression towards the highest of values.

For Augustine and the Fathers, all sexual acts have the nature of sin, because they are inherently lustful. The view that original sin was actually transmitted by sexual intercourse was accepted by Thomas Aquinas and remains today a powerful force within conventional Western Christianity today. Even Eckhart, for all his creation-centered approach, held that there is not physical or fleshly pleasure without some spiritual harm. Bernard of Siena stated that husbands and wives were guilty of mortal sin if they did not abstain from sexual intercourse before receiving Holy Communion. This teaching was typical of that of the Middle Ages. Only in the Thirteenth century, after the theological work of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, could Christian marriage be regarded as a channel of grace. The Council of Trent in 1565 declared marriage to be a sacrament, to make a total of seven.

As a result, Catholic teaching has almost never succeeded in ascribing positive value to sexuality, i.e. associating it with love or seeing it as a positive experience of our humanity, leading to an acceptance of the mystery of otherness and of God's immense Love. Paul VI's encyclical, Casti Conubii, does equate unity in love as an equal goal with procreation, but since the Catholic natural law view of marriage strongly prohibiting contraception is vigorously upheld in the same document, this takes away with the left hand what the Pope seems to give with the right. Faithful Catholic couples today are still constrained to fear an unwanted child every time they express their physical love to each other regardless of the number of children they have. Creativity and spontaneity in sexual love are aborted by a natural law ethics not based on scripture.

Sexuality was surrounded with many images of danger to the spiritual life. The saint became the one who renounced all sexual life. Only those males who renounced sexuality could be priests. Many Catholics believe that to have celibate priests and nuns is essential to Catholic identity. Catholic ethics today remains mainly faithful to the patristic tradition: sexuality still, by and large, belongs to the order of impurity. Therefore marriage must have less value for the Kingdom than celibacy. Priesthood is reserved to celibate men as only they can be free to serve God totally as did Jesus who was celibate according to tradition.

Catholic authority bases its sexual ethics upon its understanding of its concept of natural law, as if it were universally understood, as if morality can be the subject of a science which all men of good will should recognize as valid. But current sciences (the social and human sciences in particular) and other ethical traditions are denied the possibility of joining in, dialoging and confirming this rationality.

Thus the Church has a special knowledge of reality, which, without owing anything to scientific research, discovers objective real nature on its own. But this view produces an insurmountable dilemma: either it is real science which is thus capable of answering the demands of scientific research and being in dialogue with other sciences and faith systems, or if it is not a science but a philosophical or theological interpretation, it must admit that any pronouncement it makes is biased and partial. This dilemma is simply denied by Catholic authority.

The most serious consequence of this is that the critical task of a theology of sexuality or of marriage becomes impossible. We are left with an absolutized ethic that rejects dialogue and spurns rational, scholarly challenge from its own members: whether professional theologians, bishops, pastoral clergy, religious or laity. God can speak only through Rome, as the outstanding moral theologian, Dr. Charles Curran, supported by all his peers and the faculty at Catholic University, learned. Although twice elected president of the Catholic Theological Society and recipient of the prestigious John Courtney Murray award, he was fired from his tenured post at Catholic University for writing and teaching that challenged traditional views of sexual morality. Expertise counts for nothing without the bow to the proper icons, and must be discredited, as other Catholic theologians have discovered.

Catholic ethics of sexuality by refusing critical discussion and currently controlled by Rome, cannot maintain the concept of natural law except by depriving it of all rational coherence, and therefore of wide acceptance. The official expectation is that natural law teaching must be accepted on faith as simply required belief for the loyal Catholic. Natural law teaching requires either unquestioning or naive faith in Catholic authority.

Catholic natural law ethic promotes a precarious fiction: the presumed existence of a morality capable of being received by everyone everywhere, with no extenuating factors or contingencies. The Church speaks and its words ought to be suitable for everyone, everywhere! Only the Pope decides what can be discussed, and he does this unilaterally. The Catholic way to God, rather than the mystery we call God, has become absolutized. I propose that this is an unconscious transfer of the worship due the object of our Faith to our belief system itself.

Why natural law cannot be birthed forth and enfleshed in many different ways, according to various times, traditions and cultures is never addressed. The use of the concept of natural law as a universal absolute, masks, under a fictitious objectivity, the claim of a particular Eurocentric culture to impose itself on all others. The Vatican is not teaching true natural law in this matter. It is teaching is own narrow indoctrination, and further allowing no discourse.

Relying upon such principles by faith prevents Catholic morality from criticizing its own assumptions. It ends up as a moral postulating of absolutes lacking a scriptural basis and true spiritual depth. In this matter the church has become a totalitarian system because it refuses to be judged by an external criterion such as scripture, refuses dialogue and regards any questioning or rational challenge as disloyal. The Church requires the worship due to God to be given to itself. By asking for the church what should be given only to God, we are being asked, I suggest, to commit idolatry, to give to the church that which is due to God alone.

The uncritical use of the concept of natural law has resulted in valuing the biological function to the detriment of the symbolic or transcendent function of sexuality. Catholic Popes up to the present have held that the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children: ...those who frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. (Pius XI-italics added). Can one begin to imagine the fear, shame, confusion, and guilt, in their relationship with God and in their most intimate life that the imposition of such teaching has caused untold numbers of couples, for countless years? I suggest that this is extraordinary psychological coercion and actually amounts to a form of religious oppression: keeping people from God.

More recent church teaching tries to equate the goal of unity in love with that of procreation, but since the Catholic natural law ethic still insists that every marital act must be open to biological life, it cannot succeed in seeing real holiness in sexuality per se. What is still effectively devalued is the absolutely central role of bonding in creative sexual love: the inherent transcendent nature of sexuality. Spontaneity or freedom in the love-dance of the human couple is hardly possible under present Catholic teaching.

While Catholic ethics proposes to be an Incarnational theology, it rejects the possibility of sexuality as being an introduction into mystery of our humanness and our relatedness and further signifying the otherness of God. The Vatican appears willing to disregard the truth about human sexuality and marriage in order to maintain its position. We must begin to wonder about the political motives in this rejection. If sexuality can also signify and evoke the love of God, if the essential mystical nature of sexuality is its transcendence, how can one still presume to hold that ecclesiastical celibacy is superior?

Perhaps a more important question is can one allow the values of sexual morality to be still defined solely by celibates, if their situation is no longer morally superior? If virginity or celibacy is not really superior, how is this a sufficient basis for their de jure special authority? If we think at all about the situation today, we can begin to discover that the moral discourse by ecclesiastics on sex, perhaps even more than any other subject, conceals a discourse on power and privilege.

Now it can be clear why the perfect Catholic man has needed to be sexless, and for the sake of maintaining the system must continue to be sexless. One pastoral consequence is a gross inequity in the models for sanctity. Less than two percent of the canonized saints have been married, and fewer still were declared to be sanctified through their married life! We can begin to understand the present impasse in refusing to allow married or women priests is directly related to this tradition exalting virginity and devaluing marriage.

Every religious teacher should remember that Peter received the responsibility of feeding his brothers (John 21:15) only after the painful experience of his own renegade betrayal. In the past the Church has too often forgotten the silence of Christ, tracing in the sand with his finger while the Scribes and Pharisees fulminated against the adulterous woman. The Gospel is not found in denouncing those who break the law, but in the simple words of Jesus to the woman: Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more (John 8:1). But just as often, the official church has been unable to conceive outrage at systemic abuse and oppression because it was allied with the status quo which was threatened by individual rights.

Any moral teaching that is not rooted in this kind of compassion, in a sharing of common vulnerability and humanity, can only be the mask of a hidden desire for power. One who preaches the gospel must stand inside the message, under the same judgment, never behind the message. Truth without compassion is not gospel truth. Further still, truth that is not open to dialogue and challenge cannot be gospel truth.

It can be seen that in Catholic teaching, a dualistic and gnostic pessimism assigns sexuality to the side of evil, sin or imperfection. In contrast, evangelical tradition--supported by the authority of Jesus--affirms that sexuality, a good creation by God, is part of humanity willed by the creator from the beginning. Let us examine this.

Sexuality is given to man as a means of his humanization or socialization. In Jesus' quotes from Genesis he moves from nature (male/female) to culture (man/woman). Thus sexuality becomes human when it signifies this transition: recognition of the other (man or woman) in the impulse of sexual desire. The goal of sexuality is this unity--And the two become one flesh. This is confirmation that sexuality concerns first of all the realm of relationship and is not primarily biological.

Men and women become one not primarily to procreate but to encounter one another in the unique manner where, through sexuality, something of the ultimate mystery of life, as God calls it to be, is revealed. Western Catholic morality is not scriptural when it insists that procreation is the ultimate goal of sexuality. When Jesus speaks of sexuality (Matt 19: 4 and Mark 10:6), he says not one word about its procreative function.

For Jesus, sexuality is the token or the sign of the highest possible human vocation, that of being in relationship with God: Let no man put asunder what God has [made separate, to be] joined together. Thus sexuality is called upon to signify in the entire life of the human couple the immensely creative and superabundant love of God.

Jesus removed marriage from the natural or legalistic realm to submit it to prophetic challenge, with definite stakes for the sake of The Kingdom. Either it is recognized as the place of the promise and the grace of God, or it becomes the expression of a refusal to participate in the creative love of God (Fuchs, p. 187ff ).

The failure of loving service to one another in conjugal life is a failure of God's creative handwork in human beings. God's Love is expressed in creation and in the Covenant with His People. This is the reason the sexual relationship serves well as a parable of God's relationship between Christ and the Church in the New Testament. God makes
Himself vulnerable in the act of loving and revealing and surrendering Himself to us, just as lovers do with each other.

In contrast with Catholic use of natural law as the reference point, Protestant ethics looks for ethical models in the Bible. This focus leads to affirming the beauty, dignity and profound goodness of sexuality inhering in the conjugal bond as an order willed by God. Sexuality is viewed as more spiritual than biological.

Biblical tradition translates the Otherness of God into ethical terms by affirming that it signifies the priority of the couple over the individual. The long range objective of sexuality is not primarily procreation, but the couple. In Genesis 1, man is created as a couple, as part of a male/female relationship. In Genesis 2, Adam is really inscribed into the fundamental goodness of God's creation only when he receives Eve. What is in the beginning as Jesus says, is the couple.

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It can now be understood as the presence within of the desire for the other, an openness and an incompleteness, as a sign that man can be fulfilled only through encounter with the Other, through love of a particular other being. It is a yearning for completeness to be found by joining with another and Another. Human relationship with God becomes discernible through the analogy of the relationship of a man with a woman. Therefore sexuality becomes an archetype for God, the great symbolic story of human desire in which we can find God's person and the ways of the Spirit.

If then the love of man and woman is a sign of the love of God, the ethical task is to define how this sign can be concretely translated into the undertaking of the human couple today. The question is how do couples mediate grace to one another, or in more biblical terms, how do they sanctify each other in marriage? Incredibly this is hardly explained today in the theologies of marriage. We do not yet understand the awe-ful, awesome truth that we have the power through acts of love really to create one another. Love is the power to act-each-other-into-well-being. We either set free the power of God's love in the world or we deprive each other of the very basis of personhood and community. Our actions have awesome power to create or to destroy. We learn this only through the shared journey (Harrison, 1989 ).

Fuchs proposes that the couple carries a triple promise of being the place for projects of fidelity, freedom, and conjugality. I differ with his choice of freedom as the second project and prefer the project of compassion as more intrinsic, more biblical and leading to a deeper freedom. Then I propose five additional projects as demanded by our times: 4) that of intimacy as the sharing of one's inner life; 5) that of procreative fruitfulness, or procreativeness, but define it as the begetting of love before life; 6) apprenticeship in unconditional love: 7) marriage as Incarnational priesthood, and 8) through these projects achieved, an identification with Jesus and all the outsiders, the alienated and lost, least and least. Notice in the discussion how the challenge to respond to the otherness of the partner animates each specific design. I place these in the order of what seems to be their natural sequence.

The first project of conjugality, or the intimate binding of husband and wife, signifies that they not only live together but commit themselves publicly to one another. In response, the social group they belong to acknowledges them as a couple and commits itself to them.

This public bonding signifies the social dimension of love, as the commandment of Jesus shows (a new commandment I give you that you love one another...) that love is not just a feeling but a required service and responsibility. The minister at the wedding does not ask: Do you love each other?, but Will you love each other...for better or worse...? Making vows before a community and a minister signifies that both social and divine support are necessary for the progression of the couple in married love.

The closest neighbor Jesus commands us to love will always be our spouse. Yet such is our human frailty, our readiness to find fault, our idealization of ourselves and some inevitable disillusionment in romantic love that no one can accomplish this, I suggest, without grace and without regular recourse to prayer. This life-long task has never been viewed as heroic, but today, I suggest, in the world in which we live, it is ordinarily heroic in it's challenge to escape our pervasive egocentricity.

The second project of fidelity, based upon affirming the love of God as Creator, is not basically a faithfulness to a past commitment, nor faithfulness to personal growth, but faithfulness to the ongoing mutual co-creation of the conjugal couple. In this project, partners commit themselves to trust each other and to be challenged, changed, and transformed by one another as their life-long project.

We fulfill our deepest selves by being informed by the Otherness of our partner. We experience a further incompleteness both singly and as a couple that can be filled ultimately only by surrender to this mystery we call God. Both proximately and ultimately, sexual desire opens us to the mystery of Otherness. (Fuchs, p. 192ff)

The third project of intimacy is the emotional closeness that results from the shared life, faithful to the growth of themselves as a couple. Intimacy is one of the core interpersonal competencies required for coping with the development tasks in family life. Components of intimacy have been described by Catholic couples who rated their marital happiness as above average. These are: acceptance, respect and admiration, understanding, friendship and companionship, ease in communication, sharing, caring and concern, wanting to please, striving for mutual goals, interdependence, pride, trust, belonging together, similarity of thought, feeling and reaction, indebtedness, gladness and peace, expansiveness, reciprocity, and a sense that sexual relationships expressed and aided their total relationship. (Baute, 1968)

This project of intimacy has become so important that when it is not achieved by midlife, Christian women are ready to divorce their husbands because they do not feel valued as a partner and companion, but taken for granted. Women are typically better at emotional sharing than men. This becomes a classical impasse for many couples by their late thirties or early forties. Men must often learn a new language if the marriage is to be renewed. Can a male celibate mentality anticipate this midlife developmental need and speak to it when they themselves are blind to its urgency?

The fourth project of compassion flows from conjugality, fidelity and intimacy. To know the other from the inside is to experience compassion. Compassion is experienced as the result of listening, trusting, and growth in intimacy. Each is allowed to approach as one is, without expectations. The other is not reduced to an object to be possessed, manipulated or changed. On one hand, compassion results in appeasing deep insecurities and on the other hand, it makes possible the release of the rich potential within the other, because each experiences being loved as one is, warts and all, in their entire otherness. Being loved this way may be the greatest human gift, besides good health, that we can receive.

Compassion, like liberating mutual trust, means the enduring acceptance of the other as he really is. To endure here means allowing time to gradually reveal the authenticity of the deep desire for union that dwells within us, a mutual inhering or interpenetration of spirit that is a profound love and trust revealed in the heart of daily living. The result of compassion is an increased intuition of one another and a deep unity of the couple, which in turn becomes a witness and hearth for others.

The freedom Jesus lived was not a freedom from but a freedom for, a way of being that always strived to liberate the other from his alienation, whether this was self or other caused. Liberty for the conjugal relationship is first of all an appeasement of doubts and fears but at the same time a profound acceptance of the other. Each permits the other to live in her own authenticity, and to express her own richness in daily life. This is a refusal to treat the other as an object, but a fundamental trust and patient listening that means letting go of self-centeredness. This freedom signifies recognizing the other in the dynamic sense of that which one is called to be in the ongoing development of unique talents.

Jesus' compassion resulted practically in the liberation of others. Compassion lived results in mutual liberation and a liberating witness of compassion for the world. Such compassion is a healing and empowering grace that arises out of empathic understanding of our wounded humanity modeled by Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, suggests there is spiritual life only when it is received as a gift. When we acknowledge this precedence of the Word of God, this makes our life both mystery and gift. Then our partner stops being a threat to our autonomy and becomes a sign of the otherness to which we are called. As we increasingly discern our life in this mutuality we accept the mystery of otherness as the deep meaning of the conjugal project.

The fifth project is the learning of unconditional love. The gamble of love the couple takes is to allow everything that happens to signify this giftedness, to allow love to organize all of existence as a symbol. Each activity becomes a type of communion, and all loving and living, including pain and disappointment, becomes a celebration of God's love, or the challenge to transcend all difficulty by the grace of the Risen Christ. Valuing one's partner's satisfaction and welfare as much as one's own becomes an apprenticeship in a new mutual life as the place where the Spirit of unconditional love gradually emerges and prevails.

To accept this discovery of the sacred mystery of married life and to live in the celebration of mystery and giftedness is to live counter-culturally, to reject the dominant ideology of Western society that turns everything and everyone into objects.

Flowing from the projects of fidelity, intimacy, compassion and conjugality is the sixth project of procreativeness, or better, fruitfulness of love and life in the image of the Creator. The couple produces and brings into being a new and original community of love. The procreation (or co-creation) of love precedes and is the matrix for the biological procreation of life. Love precedes new life. Divine Creative Love begets human life. Human life not sustained by love cannot endure but becomes destructive. The unfolding of each and every originality is a condition for the fruitfulness and riches of our common social life.

When each couple brings a new and unique love into the world, the world is changed, but not primarily by the biological fruits of this love. Out of this love, they create new life, spiritually, socially and perhaps even biologically. The natural law placing of biological life as the primary or more lately as the co-equal goal of marriage can now be seen as an overdetermined physicalist or materialist view of marriage. New life comes only from the new love. What the marital acts need to be open to is not always biological life (Catholic natural law, under pain of mortal sin because an intrinsic evil otherwise) but continuing growth in creative love.

Many marriages today fail for reasons that have nothing to do with biological life, procreation or sexuality, but everything to do with lack of commitment to continuing growth in creative love, that is, lack of fidelity to the ongoing mutual co-creation of their life as a couple. Christian churches do not expound fidelity to the ongoing mutual co-creation of the relationship as an ideal of marriage.

Mutual giving in love is the foundation for the birth of new spiritual life. With each couple something new is added to the cosmos and to the Kingdom. The project of fruitfulness is a co-creation of love and life in partnership with the creative grace of God. The goal of marriage is fruitfulness not fertility. This is the trust and responsibility of each couple given by God at creation without mediation of humans. Marriage, I suggest, is not designed to be supervised or adjudicated by celibate ecclesiastical authority. In fact, for the first thousand years of Christianity it was considered purely a secular matter with no interest from the church.

Marriage did not become a sacrament when the Council of Trent declared it so, nor when Albert and Thomas Aquinas realized marriage contained grace, nor when Jesus turned water into wine to grace the wedding feast at Cana in his first recorded miracle. Marriage is the great sacrament of nature, or of natural law, given us at the creation of the world. It has taken us this long to realize its power to transform us, to create or destroy us. Marriage is, I propose, Incarnational priesthood, with the power to evoke within us the shepherding of all being.

Marital commitment is the paradigm of the biblical covenant modeling God's enduring love for us in a far more extensive sense than St. Paul realized. We can now understand marriage as a process. Committed marriage evokes a transformation of love, with increasing self-giving. Therefore marriage is the sacrament which prefigures the self-emptying of the Incarnation in human gift. Marriage is the prototype or original pattern of Christian formation and discipleship, as it develops through every-increasing self-giving and a deepening of passionate love.

I suggest as the seventh project that marriage itself is the original Incarnational priesthood, designed as such from the beginning of the world. It is the first sacrament, given us at Creation, the one that antecedes all others, further sanctified in the Covenant Jesus keeps with us. In marriage spouses are the ministers, lifelong, since the wedding ceremony is just the public beginning of the celebration of love, and in a Christian marriage, Incarnate love. Marriage therefore, is meant to teach us self-giving love, to call us out of ourselves, to assist us in our journey to become shepherds of all being. Marriage is not merely secular reality even before Christ, but the earthly sign of God's self-giving to us, inviting us to every deeper sharing, compassion, and love and peace and justice.

Marriage represents the mystery of the Incarnation long before the birth of Jesus. Each partner is Word made Flesh to each other: sacrament to each other, gifts with outward form and inward grace. Loving self-gift evokes further loving self-gift in the other, yearning for the Perfect Love that exists between the Father and the Son, so total and overflowing that Love Itself is born as an outcome. This mutual self-giving is so complete that it becomes a Third, the Spirit. The mystery of the Trinity is real to the Christian couple because in grace they are living that mystery of self-giving (Baute, 1989).

Because of this calling to the shepherding of all creation, the eighth project is solidarity with the less privileged of our society. This also involves accepting the marginalization that will come from living counter-culturally. In the expansiveness of the self-giving and the awareness of one's own woundedness, and in the progression of the life of grace, there develops an openness and identification with the wounded of the world, the marginal, the last, lost, and the least. The full expression of married love, lived in Christ, will eventuate in personal commitment to peace and justice issues.

As marriage is meant to lead us deeper into the mystery of God's unconditional love, this project leads us into the passionate caring for others' welfare and the courage to change their circumstances. The passionate life, lived in Christ, can awaken a constructive anger that is willing to confront oppressive structures even at personal cost. This can also be expressed in many quiet, peaceful ways such as hospice care for the dying. So the expression of solidarity depends upon the temperament and gifts of the person but will always involve some care for one's community, for others.

One of the passions of Jesus life was his identification with the poor and alienated of the world. As Christian love grows between the couple, it reaches an expansiveness that must be extended to all others, particularly those who suffer. Although the early years of marriage were usually wrapped in children and family , the object of the couple's love soon extends to a much larger family and neighborhood. Solidarity with the poor and the marginal of the world is the sign and sacrament of the mature couple. Fulfillment of the Incarnational priesthood is that ministry becomes service to all, particularly the most needy.

Growth in these eight projects of conjugality, fidelity, intimacy, compassion, apprenticeship in unconditional love, procreativeness, Incarnational priesthood, and identification with the marginal of the world results in a deepening sense of the giftedness of everything, as well humility, justice and courage, and a cosmic connectedness. The more we respond lovingly and authentically to the mystery of the other person, the deeper we are led into divine mystery. The ultimate grace of the couple is to both express and give witness to the unconditional love of the divine indwelling of all creation. These projects leading to mutual sanctification are hardly explored in theology. One writer says that a survey of those who teach graduate level courses in marriage within the roman catholic tradition know of no in-depth text explaining mutual sanctification. (TePas, 1992). These eight projects are offered as a beginning discussion.

A major task in the Church is to reverse the tendency in theology and spirituality to be suspicious of erotic love and human passion. Yet, for the Catholic church to re-examine its teaching on the spirituality of sexuality would be to challenge its entire hierarchical structure. But until it can, it is more invested in preserving the status quo and its prerogatives than in being led by the gospel and open to the Spirit.

When Catholic hierarchy declares that most perfect witness to Jesus must be sexless (virgins or celibate), and that only these, if male, are capable of full ministry of Word and Eucharist, this is not only not scriptural, but has enormous social and political consequences. In demanding loyalty for fallible teaching and punishing those who disagree, in using loyalty as a litmus test for the episcopacy, doctrine has become absolutized. To disagree with non-infallible teaching makes one disloyal and suspect, as the most revered and respected Catholic theologians have discovered. The ultimate temptation for the believer is to absolutize their way to God. In discussing these consequences, some icons are challenged.

1. Since only the married have the grace of marriage, they alone have true access to the fullest and deepest meaning of marriage. Celibates, who LACK THIS GRACE, are deeply mistaken and imperious when they speak for this grace or about this grace without ever seriously consulting the people who have it.

2. Only by truly listening to the inner reality, the felt experience of another can we begin to understand that person's separate reality. (Despite years of learning reading, writing, and maybe speaking, most have not had a single hour's training in listening,) Only with such empathic listening, can we have compassion, reciprocal friendship and true partnership. But this kind of listening is hard work. It requires the listener to be vulnerable: open to being moved to a different view and thereby changed. True listening is an act of love.

Catholic hierarchy cannot understand married sexuality because they have not yet been willing to listen to the experience of Catholic couples. They do not think such listening is necessary or useful. To be so closed is to prefer illusion to reality, all the more blind because resisting rational discussion. In these matters the blind are leading the blind from the top down. Catholic bishops follow their chief shepherd like good sheep. They refuse to believe that the Spirit can speak through the People of God in matters that most intimately concern the People of God and for which they have the grace of state. Hierarchy refuses to be vulnerable, to see ministry as SERVICE, as listening to experience divergent from their own, as being willing to learn. Yet they continue to judge and make rules for the most intimate life of these others. Those who did this in Jesus own time, were called Pharisees.

3. Only the true beauty, dignity, and creative playfulness of the symbolic and sacramental nature (the divine poetry) of sexual love, never valued by celibate clerics, (who have overstressed its demonic power) can inspire married couples today in their projects of fidelity, intimacy, compassion, conjugality, procreativeness, and Incarnational priesthood in a society that is chaotic, seductive, addictive, and non-supportive of Christian living.

4. Biblical sexuality is right brain functioning: metaphor, imagination, passion, story and poetry. Celibate teaching of sexuality is left brain functioning: linear logic, factual, rational analysis, rules, and consequences. Which view is more likely to inspire us? Which have we been given a chance to hear? Why can't we entertain both views? To insist that Catholic people express their sexuality with only a left brain ethic is not only to discount immediately about half of the population but further to demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of sexuality per se. This is like insisting that all Catholic people must use only their left hand (in their marital beds) and think only left-handedly elsewhere because hierarchy is left-handed. Better to laugh rather than weep since all good sex is right brain sex--metaphorical and symbolic--even for the left brain dominant. The bible says so in the stories and poetry it employs.

5. A true incarnational theology, by contrast with a natural law ethic that surrounds sexuality with prohibitions and guilt, requires acceptance of the goodness and wonder of our physical bodies, a joyful, awesome, tender joy in them, and of our ability to respond sensually and sexually to another. Fr. Sebastian Moore, in a moving prayer-poem speaks of the accuracy of the flesh as the place of knowledge: Having known deeply and quietly the goodness of the flesh, I cannot follow the safe self-crucified men who say 'God alone'.

6. Does anyone find it strange that a group of men who have vowed to never express their sexuality under pain of sin should consider it their God-given right and duty to legislate the married sexuality of those whose have been given the grace of marriage to experience the transcendent fullness of sexuality to enrich their marriage? Is it possible that this teaching will be seen as unbiblical, unchristian, self-serving, and unjust as the teaching for 1850 years that the bible upheld the justification of slavery?

7. A faith inspired natural law view of marriage stressing biology (dating to the Stoics) has prevented spiritual and psychological understanding of the symbolic role of human love and sexual desire in God's giftedness. Catholic hierarchy confuses the will of God with the mandated quest of a sperm seeking to fertilize an egg, under pain of mortal sin--or going to hell!--a view with no scriptural basis! What an astonishing corruption of a truly biblical and Incarnational sexuality! In the opinion of this psychotherapist who has worked with Protestant and Catholic couples for 25 years, neither a fully adequate theology of marriage that speaks to the contemporary human condition, nor the spirituality of sexuality as a gift from God, has ever been developed.

8. Discourse about sex, love, and marriage reserved only to those who are celibate clerics certainly controls the discourse. The moral discourse by ecclesiastics on sex, perhaps even more than any other subject, conceals a discourse on power and privilege. A theology of marriage done by a celibate is an oxymoron: a contradiction in terms! Yet Catholic laity accept it with little public protest! The question is how functional is a faith system in which members simply ignore without protest some teaching or preaching to select only what suits them, and further, do not account for themselves on the same key personal issue that oppresses all their brothers and sisters in the world.

9. Those Catholics who marry are regarded as, in fact, second class citizens who are not capable of or trusted in decisions about their own state in life, nor the business of the church beyond local parishes, and even there are restricted. No juridical means exist at any level for laity to be heard. Neither laity nor priest have any voting rights, or any legal way to influence hierarchy. They are without any political power de jure and therefore without moral power within the system. Examine this more closely and you will discover that the ultimate outcome of the Catholic teaching on sexuality is to emasculate the laity! Anyone who does IT cannot have authority or power in the Church.

10. Because celibate theologians and bishops cannot understand the transcendent nature of human sexuality, they have no alternative to offer to public school sex education being taught at the same level as Automobile Transmission Education. Neither hierarchy nor public schools tragically have any clue that they should be teaching The Transcendent Fullness of Human Sexuality, with themes such as the eight projects suggested earlier.

11. The teaching of all Christian churches have surrounded lust or eros with shame and guilt. Yet the development of lustiness and sexual desire is a vital part of growing up healthy and adult functioning. Whenever this natural development is shamed and repressed in children and adolescents, adults cannot have healthy marriages or healthy adult relationships. Many have had their sexuality severely warped by Christian teaching. Therapists know that their sexually dysfunctional clients often must be taught to use fantasy and even to masturbate in order to have satisfactory sex in marriage. Adolescent masturbation (in the Catholic church, a mortal sin) is not only healthy and desirable but even necessary for healthy adult sexuality. Several questions are: How harmful and far-reaching has been the guilt and shame with which the Christian churches have surrounded the expression of sexuality? (Ask a psychotherapist!) Has this ecclesiastical forbiddenness (Catholic and Protestant) concerning sex not only aggravated the revolt against religious teaching but also served to promote sexual rebellion of all kinds?

12. When sexuality is an imperfection, condoned mainly for procreation in marriage, and to be denied or repressed for the sake of the Kingdom, this can give SEXUALITY tremendous power, overwhelming attraction and preoccupying focus. Furthermore, as Freud said, the penalty for repression is repetition. The question must be raised: how much has two thousand years of teaching by the Church of sexuality as unholy and to be repressed contributed to the secular preoccupation with sexuality and even to such perverseness as pornography?

13. When sexuality is relegated to the dark side of human nature, and men are required to repress and sublimate their sexuality in order to become priests without training in the dangers and long term effects of such repression, it is bound to emerge at times irrationally and explosively. Whatever is denied or forbidden is bound to become most attractive. The closed system itself is partially responsible for their vulnerability, for the effect of this on many others, and many losses to the church.

14. The shocking vulnerability we see in the current sexual abuses by Catholic clergy has one root in the quashing of critical discussion of a theology of sexuality for 25 years. When we make a non-biblical, non-Incarnational division between human love and divine love (as current Catholic teaching does), there is no way we can have an adequate theology of celibacy. In current Catholic teaching all passion is seen as imperfection. This is a disastrous mistake and a misreading of the bible.

15. Catholic hierarchy has contributed to making sex a huge problem for Catholic couples in modern life. In my professional practice, I have seen many kinds of sexual conflict and guilt, marital stress, sin-consciousness, sexual repression or preoccupation, conflicted pregnancies, marital unhappiness, and even divorce to be some of the direct consequences of this non-biblical, non-incarnational teaching about sexuality and marriage. Psychotherapists know that if you scratch a Catholic, you will find guilt, the more devout the more guilt.

Indirect and more subtle consequences of this teaching, in my opinion, are many: codependence upon a privileged clerical caste, systemic oppression or abuse of children, women and adults by a celibate clerical mentality. overpopulation, support for the superiority of men to women--world-wide machismo, making women into sex-objects, spouse-abuse, abuse of freedom in the Catholic third world countries, untold numbers of Catholics who have become nominal adherents or given up all religious practice, overpopulation, But perhaps the worst abuse from this assumption of superiority as the basis for claiming the prerogatives of power may be the dis-empowering of laity from full participation in ministry for the Kingdom of God as presiders, teachers and preachers.

16. The major negative achievement of Christendom, greatly supported by Catholic intransigence in the matter of the natural law ethics of sexuality, is the fact of having made sex into an obsession. Catholic moral theology has a very detailed list of sexual sins but very little on social, political or ecological sins. What is most significant in this context is that Jesus never focussed on sex, nor made any big deal about it. I suggest further that the sexual preoccupation of celibate theologians and hierarchs has prevented development of a desperately needed social and ecological ethic that can truly be heard in our modern world.

For several centuries, until recently, there was little development of Catholic social or political theology. The Industrial Revolution had over two hundred years of child labor, fourteen hour work days, and firing of anyone who spoke up, before the church recognized the rights of the working person to organize and to strike. Now the gains made in the Second Vatican Council are being reversed by the current regime in Rome that is convinced that the American Church in particular is degenerate and that the Second Vatican Council was misguided. The fact that so few in modern society listen to what the Church has to say must be laid partly at the feet of the Official Church. The fault lies, I suggest, just as much with the official messengers and the medium of the message as with the obstinacy and sinfulness of society.

17. We cannot have an adequate theology of sexuality or of love or of marriage because the official church has not been willing to listen to the behavioral sciences to learn what is healthy sexual functioning in adolescents or in adults, what is healthy sexual functioning in marriage, and how sexuality leads us into relationships, first and necessarily through fantasy and sexual desire and self-stimulation. Therefore this drawing us out of ourselves into our first experience with passion is more spiritual than biological. Ecclesiastics of all denominations start a priori, before the fact, with God says... and are ready to fill us with shame and guilt. That so few listen is not the perverseness of human nature so much as the people know the Emperor is without clothes and all his consorts are full of...pretending too.

18. A truly incarnational theology cannot avoid, prohibit or do away with some human things to arrive at the mystery of God. Rather it is in and through human loving that the love of God is made present and active in the life of the people. Realizing this Presence among us, this inspiriting, is both liberating and empowering. An adequate Incarnational theology of marriage and an understanding of the spirituality of sexuality would empower laity for ministry quicker than anything else.


One sign of the ultimate scope of the Catholic view of sexuality is that the priest who resigns to marry is allowed to have no church status whatever no matter how many years of loyal and obedient service he has rendered. Until recently he must even vacate the geographical locality where he served. They are not permitted to serve at the altar even as an ordinary layperson is. They have become non-persons, juridically. Requests for laicization in order to marry are still routinely refused. The Vatican forbids any use whatsoever of these priests, although a few bishops ignore the warning and use them quietly in educational roles. Most curious is that Lutheran clergy and Episcopal priests already married are acceptable to be re-ordained as Catholic priests.

This practice is maintained in a pastoral context of worldwide shortage of priests. An estimated two thousand parishes in the U.S.A. alone lack priests. Bishops continue to close churches across the country for lack of priests. In particular the military (all branches) is currently short almost one thousand Catholic chaplains. The hierarchy would rather deprive people of access to the Word and the Eucharist than change its practice, even though it is admitted to be only a changeable rule or discipline and even though it is at least implicitly contrary to Canon Law: The supreme law of the church is the salvation of souls.(c. 1752)

At the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 1991, celibacy was taken off the agenda by the Pope, yet a vote upholding celibacy was taken before the synod concluded, unanimously passed by all bishops present. Such a vote with no discussion permitted adds up to, in the power politics of the assembly, no more than a vote of fealty, the required allegiance given to a feudal lord. Given the pastoral situation throughout the Catholic world, with an estimated 40+% of the parishes without priests, that vote was astonishing. Even more amazing, it received no known criticism in the Catholic press. Upholding the current rule (that could be changed by a simple fiat) is more important to the hierarchy than the command of Jesus to the Church to preach the Gospel, which is its most basic pastoral mission.

Requests from American bishops for the suspension of priests convicted of child abuse have been until recently refused by the Vatican. Does it appear that the status quo must be maintained at whatever human cost? Can we begin to understand the obstinacy of Catholic teaching on sexuality? The Catholic view of sexuality as a hindrance to holiness and ungodly is, I suggest, the linchpin of the entire hierarchical system. Change this and the entire pyramid collapses. The Holy Spirit may begin to speak directly to the People of God, unbidden and uncontrollably, wherever She will. We might become a Pentecostal church, where the Spirit flows freely instead of supposedly only from the top down with constant oversight required.
We might have to turn the pyramid upside down, with the hierarchy existing for the sake of the laity. This paradigm shift is now recognized as essential for the success of business management. Employees are now regarded as partners.

We must break with a one-dimensional view of sex which restricts our sexual consciousness to the genital area, or to our guilty dark side, or to a faith inspired view of natural law. The essential goodness and splendor of the erotic, the mystery and glory of the body in all its aspects must be recovered. Our bodies, not just our minds, are our bridges to the meaning of life and love, and to the Ultimate. The road to the sacred runs through the carnal. Not only the Bible but Life itself reveals that sexuality is more spiritual than biological. The erotic is God's poetry of love calling us out of ourselves to awareness of beauty and to an expansive creativity and giving of ourselves.

We must return to a biblical understanding of the unity of passion and spirituality, of sex and spirit. In the Old Testament, the source of evil was not in passion, but in hardness of heart, callousness and insensitivity. The New Testament pathway to God is through the human. We must be leery of any theology that strives to make human love and divine love of two different orders. There can be no growth in spirituality without the necessary basis of human loving and sincere affection.

To begin to rejoice in the wonder and the joy of sexuality is to experience something of the love that moves the sun and the cosmos. Such delight in all of creation and in people is, I propose, one of the marks of sanctity. To be a saint, is to become, in a sense, more intensely ordinary, more deeply human, more passionate, more responsive to beauty, to pain, to nature, to injustice, to everything one touches, more filled with the giftedness of every day, every moment, every creature. Such loving cannot be achieved without the giving and receiving of human affection and human love.

The wonder-filled aspect of this kind of loving is that all things begin to speak of grace, of the mystery of God: every person, every day, every encounter, the smallest of creatures, and every relationship. We can even begin to realize that coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous. The more we love, the more we are able to love. In such persons, love that is both tender and passionate oozes from every pore.

When we strive to live like this we can begin to discover a sensual passion as deep and mysterious as the sea, as strong and still as the mountain, as insistent and changing as the wind, as warming and frightening as fire, and as soothing and cleansing as water. We discover through a loving relationship that beautiful and radiant face that God alone gave each of us long ago. The power through loving we have to create, or destroy, others is simply awesome.

If the glory of God is the human being, woman and man, fully alive, and in a co-creative partnership, then whatever limits or diminishes that aliveness/ partnership is, in fact, inimical to divine glory. Any teaching that does not recognize that aliveness / partnership, nurture and empower it, cannot be from God, from that Holy Fire that wants to be enkindled.

In poetry and in love, and in sexual desire, what is important is not what is said, but what is signified. Metaphor, analogy, parable and poetry are valid sources of theology, as Jesus and the Bible show us. Yet few Christians of any persuasion have ever heard a sermon preached on the one of the most beautiful, most poetic, and most erotic of all books of the Bible: the Song of Songs:

How beautiful you are, my love, how beautiful you are!
Your eyes behind the veil, are doves;
your hair is like a flock of goats
frisking down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorne ewes
as they come up from the washing
--each one has its twin, not one unpaired with another.
Your lips are a scarlet thread
and your words enchanting.
Your cheeks, behind your veil, are halves of pomegranate.
Your neck is the tower of David built as a fortress, hung around with a thousand bucklers, each the shield of a hero.
Your two breasts are two fawns,
twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies...
You are wholly beautiful, my love,
and without a blemish. (4:1-7, Jerusalem bible)

Do you wonder why no homilies, Catholic or Protestant, are ever preached on this text or on the divine poetry of love and sexual desire? Could it be, perish the thought, that no one is really living it, that is, discerning the sacred in the murmurings of our bodies and the voices of our senses? Or that no one has been encouraged to live it? Or maybe that in church-stuff alone we should find this mystery we call God? Or could it be that if sex remains dirty and sinful, we have more guilt, and then we have more urgent need for the priest and for the official church?

For what we are beginning to wake up to today, as if from a long drugged sleep, is that we have for millennia structured our social institutions and our systems of values precisely in ways that serve to block, distort and pervert our enormous human yearning for loving connections...[it mus be noted] that our most famous story of human origins, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, has absolutely nothing good to say about sex, love, or pleasure, that it presents the human quest for higher consciousness as a curse rather than a blessing, and that it does not even touch on the awe and wonder we humans experience when we behold or touch someone we love. (Eisler, Sacred Pleasure. 1995)

At this point we can scarcely imagine what such a life and such a value system would be. Except that we can now grasp that it would be very different from that which now guides us.

What if the Catholic hierarchy truly grasped that their main function was to serve and empower the laity? With laity in true partnership with clergy, with laity empowered to carry witness to the Kingdom in every corner of the world, preaching, teaching, and presiding in exercise of their full Baptismal rights, a church truly living the gospel with radical discipleship? Hierarchy might see their ministry as service and trust the charisma of the laity to participate fully in all ecclesiastical affairs as partners and co-creators--yes, a more pentecostal and charismatic church. Yves Congar, one of the pre-Vatican II theologians whose writing inspired the council, said long ago that if the hierarchy ever turned the laity loose, we would witness a second Spring of the Church that could pale the first Pentecost.

Perhaps the Age of the Laity has already begun except hierarchy don't really know it yet.

If a writer is so cautious that he never writes anything that cannot be criticized, he will never write anything that can be read. If you want to help other people
you have got to make up your mind to write things that some men will condemn. --Thomas Merton, The True Solitude (Selections)

END +++

Note: in preparation is Guidelines and Norms for an ethic of sexuality and spirituality for adolescents today, which 1) recognizes that while the ideals of abstinence or safe sex may work for some, this is not sufficient for many; 2) that young people are sexually active very early today, often from 12-14 on; 3) which would not assume from the start that teens are normally responsible in these choices; 4) would treat sex as fun, friendly, tender, wet, warm, and wild, as well as the introduction into Mystery that will surround the rest of their lives; 5) assumes that we adults of today are keepers of the cultural curriculum, and that it is we who are failing to create the wholesome experimental spaces teens need to make mistakes, learn safely, and begin to see that the erotic is an introduction into the Holy Fire of this mystery we call God. (Kegan, Robert, In Over Our Heads, Harvard, 1996)

Baute, Paschal. Intimacy in the conjugal relationship: a descriptive analysis of the felt experience. Dissertation Abstracts, XXIX, 1, 1968. (Univ. of Penn.)
Baute, Paschal. Marriage, society, celibacy and the future of the church: connections. unpublished paper, 23 pp. 1989.
Countryman, L. William. Dirt, Greed and Sex. Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1990.
Eisler, Riane, Sacred Pleasure. Harper, 1995.
Fuchs, Eric. Sexual Desire and Love. New York: Seabury, 1989.
Harrison, Beverly Wildung. The Power of Anger in the Work of Love: Protestant Ethics for Women and Other Strangers, Union Seminary Quarterly Review 36 (1980-81): p. 47.

Kegan, Robert, In Over Our Heads, Harvard, 1996

Massimini, Anthony. Personal communication, 1993.
TePas, Katherine M. Spiritual Friendship in Aelred of Rievaulx and Mutual Sanctification in Marriage, Cistercian Studies, 27:1 p. 63-76

Wadell, Paul. Friendship and the Moral Life. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.

Wells, Carol G. Right-Brain Sex. New York:
Prentice Hall, 1989.

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Lexington, KY 40509-952