What are we supposed to "do" with the "theology of the body"?
A leading Catholic laywoman outlines the right approach--and the wrong approach
From the preface to this important new book by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, words of comfort and advice from a noted Catholic ethicist:
I have read with care this book by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, and have admired, once again, qualities found in her other works: a depth of thought and clarity joined to simple style; a full understanding of substance joined to beauty of exposition.
To assist the reader, I will briefly note the central themes.
Many pages of this book demonstrate the truth that intimacy reveals the mystery of the person. Intimacy is not what civil law calls "privacy" and canon law calls "non-sacramental internal forum." It is something deeper. Nowhere in the Christian tradition can I find more profound pages about the intimacy of the person than those written by St. Teresa of Avila in the Interior Castle, as she describes the Seventh Mansion....
Sexuality is particularly linked to the concept of personal intimacy. It is a central theme of the book. These are pages to be read attentively. The essential link between sexuality and intimacy is modesty.
Modesty is clearly explained in the book. offer a few reflections. Modesty is the non-revelation of the person to eyes that would degrade her, as an object to be used. Tragically, the person herself may consent to be degraded. This, it seems to me, is the deep meaning of Jesus’ words concerning adultery in the heart [Mt. 6:27-28]. The eyes of conjugal love can "see the person" without degrading her. Conjugal love is chaste, while unchaste love is a contradiction in terms.
Dr. von Hildebrand’s book offers a true analysis of intimacy and modesty in current Western culture. The author rightly dedicates some pages to pornography, the total violation of personal intimacy, because it reduces a person to a toy, degrades her to the level of an object.
How did we arrive at this indecent exposure of the person? What are the causes? There has been a three-way separation.
The first, and by far the most grave, is the separation of the person and her sexuality. The second is the alienation of eros from love. The third is a fracture of the two ends of sexuality, procreation and the unifying of loving persons. This fracture may take two contrary paths: sterile erotic pleasure versus artificial procreation without unifying of loving effect.
Dr. von Hildebrand does not limit herself to diagnosis. She offers many suggestions also for therapy. I will limit myself to drawing attention to one of these: it is not Christian compassion to accept the error in which a person may have fallen. This has been a constant in the ethical tradition of the Church, expressed in St. Augustine’s famous affirmation: "interficere errorem, amare errantem." Hate the sin, love the sinner.
I wish every success to this book, for the reader will reap spiritual benefits from it.
-Carlo Cardinal Caffarra Archbishop of Bologna
"What Dr. von Hildebrand has to say on the topic of sexual relations is, first, radical -- in the correct and traditional sense of that word: it goes to the root of the matter. Her scrutiny here is rooted unabashedly in the creationsl vision disclosed to us in Sacred Scripture, and in the unremitting teaching of the Church. And, second, it is salvific -- again in the ancient sense of that word: it "rescues" this most fundamental of all human relations from its ruin at the hands of contemporaneity. An incalculably important work."
-Thomas Howard, author