The H stands for honesty. The sum total of the Church’s teaching on all moral issues can be summed up by the honesty principle.
Since our bodies speak a language, we can either tell a truth or tell a lie with the language of our bodies. If we are honest with the language of our bodies, we will be holy, happy and make it to Heaven. But if we are dis-honest with the language of our bodies we will cause hurt. Dis-honesty and hurt will bring us to… well… you know… that other H word.
So,if you want to convince someone why the church is against something, it is very simple. Just look for how the action creates dishonesty in the language of the body. Then search for how this will hurt. For world affairs or topics you wish more information about, submit your questions to Fr. Tom for his insight and relation to theology of the body.
Q: The theology of the body puts so much emphasis on the meaning of gender. But what about priests who are homosexual? I know some homosexual priests and they seem to be very good priests. What does the theology of the body have to say for Them?
A: I have to respond to this question on two levels because it is actually a bi-level question: same sex attraction and priesthood itself. My message to priests is the same as it is to any male (or female) who claims same sex attraction: Be fair to yourself by being honest: You are not “homosexual.” It is never compassionate or sensit33ive to size someone up, label them and dismiss them. There are no “homosexuals.” There are only persons, who through no fault of their own, believe they have a sexual attraction to the same gender. (Note how I qualify certain words in this statement.)
The word “homosexual” is itself bogus because the word “sexual” means two complimentary genders. If there are not two complimentary genders involved it is actually not “sexual” even though we may erroneously insist that it is sexual. Furthermore, our bodies were purposefully created by God as gendered. And as the theology of the body teaches, our bodies “speak a language.” Our bodies “say” that we are designed to unite in a complimentary way with the complimentary gender. Remember also that our bodies express our whole person. We are embodied spirits which means that if our bodies are meant for the complimentary genders so too are our minds and our whole self. Just because we might feel or think differently does not change this fact which is stamped in the very undeniable and unchanging language of our gendered bodies. In the case of men in particular, an attraction to the same gender is definitely an “attraction” but it is not “sexual.” It cannot be sexual because the complimentary gender is not present. The attraction has to do with a developmental need that is intrinsic to body congruent sexual identity in males. Males need male energy, bonding, etc. from other males. Males, especially when they are young and developing need to receive a critical message of acceptance by the male world. Otherwise they will retreat from the male world, yet their intrinsic maleness, stamped in their male body, will still yearn for this male connection. This gets translated into a “sexual attraction.”
A priest who believes he has a same sex attraction can in fact do many of his priestly duties very well as a priest. In addition to this if he remains chaste in spite of what he believes is his same sex attraction I suspect that such a priest will be in Heaven before any of us. But the Church has always maintained that the male candidate with a body congruent sexual identity is the preferred candidate for priesthood. This is because of the theology of the body: Priesthood is not just about performing duties. Like everything in the Church, priesthood is primarily based upon sign, sacrament and symbol. The male priest, precisely in his full and authentic maleness, makes present certain aspects of God. Furthermore his maleness makes present the spousal relationship of Christ the Bridegroom to his Bride the Church (and by extension the whole created order.)
Maleness colors priestly ministry in a particular way that intrinsic to the very essence of priesthood. Maleness actually finds its very definition in Priesthood. I believe it is truly compassionate to invite any priest who claims to have same sex attraction to look more comprehensively, compassionately and honestly at himself and his attraction. The fine qualities that this priest may have are not due to any supposed state of being “gay.” The body-congruent sexual identity of males develops along a continuum and it is a precarious journey fraught with many risks. Every male, especially a priest, should allow himself to honestly continue this journey no matter what age they are so that they can discover the blessed and authentic manhood that is stamped in the language of their male body.
Q: My husband and I are having marital problems. How can the theology of the body help us?
A: I have good news for you! You actually do not have marriage problems because there is no such thing as a “marriage” problem. There are only problems in the theology of the body, in knowing “why” we are man and woman and therefore “how” to be man and woman and finally how to be that for each other. Once we know this we come to understand our deepest legitimate needs as man and woman and conversely we come to know our deepest fears as man and woman. Difficulties happen in relationships between men and women because the two of them are connecting at the level of each other’s greatest fears and not helping to meet each other’s deepest legitimate needs. This has nothing to do with anything indigenous to marriage. It is simply a matter of a man and woman truly understanding themselves and one another precisely as man and woman.
Q: Fr. Tom I heard you say that the theology of the body is the answer to all of Life’s Questions? What do you mean by such a bold statement? Were you serious?
A: I am dead serious. The theology of the body is the delivery system for the Sacramental worldview which is the only honest and correct way of seeing reality. This means that we see things as they truly are, as they “tell” who they are through the way that they are constructed or in other words, through the “language” of their bodies and our experience of a particular thing. This comes to its high point in the human person.
If we see things as they truly are the next step is to then interface with those things in a way that is “honest” to what it is, whether it is science, art, philosophy, the environment, the economy, marriage, religion, a sport, a person, etc. When we are honest to what something is we get the best results. If we are not honest to what something is we end up with poor results which can even be disastrous or tragic.
Furthermore the theology of the body delivers to us what I call the “DNA” of the created order which is the “Spousal Mystery.” Pope John Paul II called the Spousal meaning of our bodies the “fundamental element of human existence!” The Spousal Mystery is seen in all aspects of nature. As humans unless we live “spousally” we cannot be happy. Living spousally means making a sincere gift of ourselves to a person or to a community. This fact is stamped in the language of our gendered bodies. Precisely because our bodies are gendered they speak the language of “gift.” In the language of our bodies lies the secret to happiness in life. This is why the theology of the body is indeed the answer to all of life’s questions.