Theology of the Body in Relationships

Leah Perrault and Brett Salkeld, authors of How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating, launched the Theology on Tap season with a September 20, 2010 presentation on "Theology of the Body in Relationships" based on the teachings of Pope John Paul II.

Leah and Brett began by addressing the ethics of divorce.  In Matthew 19, we learn that God joins a man and a woman together in marriage and this holy union should not be broken.  While Moses permitted divorce due to the hardness of people's hearts, God did not intend for the blessing of marriage to end in divorce.

Next, Leah and Brett discussed four "original experiences" that matter.  The first is Original Solitude, that is, the wonderful experience of being alone with God.  The second is Original Unity, a gift that is illustrated by Adam's sharing of humanity with Eve, and felt by all couples who are in love, or people who love God.  The third is Original Nakedness, in which a couple brings nothing but themselves to an intimate expression of their love.  Finally, there is Original Shame, which is a burden born by all people, but these feelings can be overcome by forgiveness and redemption.

Leah and Brett also described the meandering path that a couple follows from meeting for the first time to marriage.  While the path has its ups and downs, overall greater intimacy is linearly related to greater time committment.  Rushing towards a high level of intimacy without making a high level of time commitment is problematic, just as spending a lot of time with one's partner without increasing the level of intimacy is also problematic.  While the ultimate expression of full sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage, it is up to each couple to find appropriate and comfortable ways to express intimacy before marriage in ways that are honest and respectful of their level of commitment.

Finally, Leah and Brett reminded us that Theology of the Body goes beyond sexual ethics and includes issues of death and dying.  Even in death there is life.  Ensuring dignity in all of life's processes requires everyone to make careful ethical considerations.

—by a Theology on Tap volunteer