I was saddened by the mixed messages in Mark Lowery's essay “Christian Sex or Sexy Christianity?” (Nov. 25-Dec. 1).
Mr. Lowery praises the truth of Christopher West's facts in his work to bring Pope John Paul II's teachings about marriage and sexuality to the general public. Lowery agrees with West when Lowery states that “to have a full experience of integral sexuality, infused with Trinitarian bliss” is a “trajectory” we should all be on and attempting to present to our children. He criticizes West, however, when he alleges that West puts sex before grace in the “hierarchy of Christian truths.” The article then proceeds to imply that the “capacity to fully experience” this integrated sexuality “may be beyond reach” for the many people who have been injured in the area of sexuality. How sad that Mr. Lowery himself does not seem to trust in the primary role of the grace so generously given by the Divine Physician.
If Mr. Lowery wants to censor someone for proclaiming the truth about marriage and sexuality because it may cause injured people further pain, then he needs to begin by censoring the Holy Father.
When I studied Familiaris Consortio it was painful to realize how little I experienced of the beauty of marriage and sexuality. But this led my husband and me ultimately to have hope. In time, the Lord brought healing to me, which has graced all areas of my marriage. What were the primary provisions given to me (and consequently my husband) that brought about this healing? Excellent Christian counseling, the abundant grace of the confessional, a holy priest as confessor and the gifted work of Christopher West.
My husband and I thank God every day for the gift of John Paul II and his teachings as well as calling forth people such as West to proclaim the Holy Father's anointed message to our world.
As for the allegation that West puts sex before grace: I never heard that from West. Perhaps those who are uncomfortable with frank discussion about the goodness and beauty of our sexuality as created and intended by [God the] Father should trust in God's grace to heal the wounds that are present in all of us, as a result of living in a world which so loudly and frequently tells only lies about sex and marriage.
The Best in West
Regarding “Christian Sex or Sexy Christianity” (Nov. 25-Dec. 1):
It has been my great pleasure to learn about Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. I have listened to cassette tapes and videos of Christopher West's talks on the subject.
In addition, it was my pleasure to attend a Rachel's Vineyard leader's conference at which Christopher West spoke. I have even purchased a copy of The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, which includes all of the Pope's 129 general-audience teachings that relate to the theology of the body.
What a wonderful and beautiful teaching our Holy Father has put forth! I am so very grateful to Mr. West for spreading this awesome work, which might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
From my studies, the theology of the body is a lot to take in. It has been so helpful to me to have Mr. West put it all into terms that even I can understand.
I can understand why Mr. Lowery would be taken aback by Mr. West saying, “Heaven is the ultimate climax.” I have a feeling that Mr. Lowery took this quote out of context. I have the sense that Mr. West was just trying to convey the idea that Trinitarian love is total self-giving and total unity; total fulfillment and total joy: the life that we hope to share one day in heaven.
Heaven is so beyond our limited understanding that we sometimes use human expressions to describe it; hence, what could be construed as an irreverent remark were the words that describe human love as expressed in self-giving and unity, fulfillment and joy. We do this kind of thing all the time. I use a shamrock to talk about the Trinity as three persons and one God with my students. Never once has any of them thought that I was trying to teach them that God is a shamrock!
In all of my studies of the theology of the body, I never once thought that Christopher West implied that sexuality is the foundation of Christianity. Quite clearly, I recall Mr. West saying that sexuality, as God intended sexuality to be, makes the invisible visible.
That is: Sexuality reveals the truth about Trinitarian love; not that it is the foundation of nor is Trinitarian love.
It takes Trinitarian love, God's grace, to live the theology of the body as Mr. Lowery so rightly points out. And though we may fall short of living the way God intended, I am grateful both to the Holy Father and Mr. West for teaching the whole truth rather than leaving out bits and pieces because it is “beyond reach.” I want to be a saint one day, but there is a really good chance that I may not achieve perfection in this life.
Nevertheless, every day I try. And when I fall, I pick myself up every day (sometimes every minute of every day!) and beg to be transformed. I strive for perfection even if it is beyond reach.
Carthage, North Carolina
The Cross and Common Sense
Regarding “Columbine High Bans Mother's Memorial” (Nov. 25-Dec. 1):
It seems to me that John White-head, lead attorney with the Rutherford Institute, is the only leader mentioned in the article who shows his common sense. The wall of tiles, he reminds everyone, is merely a “forum” for expressions. Marilyn Salzman, however, speaking for the Jefferson County School District, equates the permanency of the tiles with endorsement by the school district.
Returning to Whitehead's comments, the district may exercise its authority to censor expressions deemed violent or obscene.
A member of the Jefferson County School Board, Jon DeStefano, prefaces his opinion with, “I'm a devout, practicing Catholic.” (Read: “Listen to me; I'm in touch with God.”) DeStefano, in fact, probably embarrasses other “devout, practicing Catholics,” who appeal to common sense.
DeStefano says he doesn't want the school to become a “living memorial to April 20, 1999.” Does that mean, for example, that the trophy down the hall, memorializing the 1975 state football championship, the gold plaque, honoring Suzie Miller as the 1987 Athlete of the Year and, in fact, the entire trophy cases recording past events do not render the school a “living memorial”?
We, as a nation, tend to be paranoid about [such] issues: A cross can exist just about anywhere in the private sector without noticeable complaint. But God help us if the cross aspires to go public — especially on a school tile!
WALTER F. STICHART
Time to Un-mix Our Messages?
Congratulations on printing the forthright letter from Charles Marrelli (“Catholic Leadership”) in your Nov. 4–10 issue. He writes, “If the American bishops, as a body, were to excommunicate all Catholics who brazenly claim to be pro-abortion, they would counter years of mixed messages.” Is that not the logical next step to what the bishops wrote in 1998 when they warned, “No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life” (in their document “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics”)?
Many pro-lifers were heartened when “Living the Gospel of Life” was published — we thought the Holy Spirit had suddenly invigorated the bishops' conference with an infusion of courage. Wow, things are looking up! Be not afraid! But then, the mixed messages again and the letdown: A blurry bishops' document on “faithful citizenship” a year later with the life message buried in verbal snow, photographs of princes of the Church dining with pro-abortion politicians, confusion from Catholic News Service and millions of Catholics voting for the pro-abortion candidates.
Now we learn that the bishops' leadership is urging more pro-life prayer. The great apostle Paul said it some time back, “Pray always.” Of course. But there does come a point, as Mother Teresa demonstrated, when after many hours of prayer one does have to go out in the street and boldly confront reality with action.
Change or Be Changed
Regarding the opinion column “We Give Thanks for America; We Pray God Saves It” by Father M.M. De Cruce (Nov. 18–24):
Today, Christians risk cooperating in a false pluralism. Secular society will allow believers to have whatever moral conviction they please, as long as they keep them on the private preserves of their consciences, in their homes and churches, and out of the public arena.
Democracy is not a substitute for morality, nor a panacea for immorality. Its value stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes.
Only tireless promotion of the truth about the human person can infuse democracy with the right values.
This is what Jesus meant when he asked us to be leaven in society. American Christians have long sought to assimilate into our present cultural life.
But, in assimilating, we have too often been digested. We have been changed by our culture too much, and we have changed it not enough. If we are leaven, we must bring to our culture the whole Gospel, which is a Gospel of life and joy. That is our vocation as believers.
There is no better place to start than promoting the beauty and sanctity of human life. Those who would claim to promote the cause of life through violence or the threat of violence contradict this Gospel at its core.
It depends on us. Let us do our part, and pray that God in his infinite mercy may truly bless America — not only during this Christmas season — but also in all seasons and years to come.
JEFFREY T. KARL
Morristown, New Jersey
- December 9-15, 2001