By Robert F. Conkling
BALTIMORE, Maryland, OCT. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The teachings of John Paul II’s theology of the body offer a healing vision of human sexuality that the dominant culture simply can’t match, says Catholic thinker and author George Weigel.
Weigel said this during the opening keynote address at the Catholic Medical Association’s 77th Annual Education Conference on the applications of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body to the practice of medicine.
Some 306 physicians and 18 medical students gathered Oct. 9-12 in Baltimore, Maryland, to reflect on “Theology of the Body: Modern Challenges to Health, Conscience, and Human Dignity.”
The annual conference, held under the patronage of wife, mother and Catholic physician St. Gianna Beretta Molla, opened with a Mass presided over by Cardinal William Keeler, the retired archbishop of Baltimore. Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who currently leads the see of Baltimore, presided over the closing Mass.
Weigel, author of Pope John Paul II’s biography “Witness to Hope,” said the 21st century is characterized by the question of being or nothingness: “We are witnessing a new Gnosticism, where the belief exists that the material world, including the human body, is utterly malleable, and changeable.”
He said that this new Gnosticism affirms that “anything that can be changed should be changed,” and that this trend is especially noticeable in the realm of human sexuality.
When nothing in the realm of human sexuality is taken as a given, this leads to a “dictatorship of relativism,” the author said, quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s address to the conclave that led to his election as Benedict XVI.
Whenever “my truth and your truth collide,” stated Weigel, these irreconcilable truths are being resolved through the coercive power of the state.
He contrasted this view of “sexuality turned contact sport” to the teaching of John Paul II in his theology of the body, which the late Pope was already working on during the conclaves that eventually resulted in his election to the papacy.
The Christian response to this new Gnosticism is found in the “theology of the body,” stated Weigel, as it offers an expanded insight into the biblical story found in the Book of Genesis.
He explained that John Paul II looked back to the beginning when God brought into being the first man, then the first woman. John Paul II discovered that before original sin, there was the original solitude of the first man (Adam), the original unity of the man with the woman (Eve), and both with God, and the original nakedness without shame.
Together they discovered God’s love through a free gift of self, and openness to the gift of fertility, the author explained. John Paul II considers that the original unity of Adam with Eve — and both with God — was ruptured when Adam and Eve used each other rather than freely giving themselves to each other.
The giving of themselves in holy marriage, fully open to each other’s body, is an icon of the love of God, Weigel affirmed.
According to the author, this new teaching that is now available to the entire Catholic Church, from the original writings of John Paul II to publications by other authors, offers the dominant culture that sees sex as sport, a healing vision unmatched by anything the culture itself has to offer.
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