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New Focus in Catholic sexual morality

academic sources

On our website, www.womenpriests.org, we have published some documents containing sexual guidelines to help Catholics. We decided to provide such advice because many Catholics are confused and ask us for such advice.

In this document we offer a select list of further readings that give the theological and academic grounds for the views we present.

Spurred on by the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theologians have achieved a three-fold shift of focus (though much of it is overlapping):

  1. The shift from ontological constructs of gender, marriage and sexuality to the experiential discovery of gender, marriage and sexuality.
  2. The shift from ‘Augustinian’ dualism to celebrating the marvellous gift of body, gender and sex.
  3. The shift from law-centered sexual ethics to person-centered sexual ethics

1. The shift from ontological constructs of gender, marriage and sexuality to the experiential discovery of gender, marriage and sexuality.

The traditional view defined the ‘nature’ of maleness and femaleness, of what constitutes marriage and sex. It often rests on antiquated and disproved philosophical constructs. Scripture texts were interpreted in the light of such constructs rather than on the ‘intended scope’ of the texts themselves.

The focus lies now on what we learn about gender and marriage from the sciences (evolution, biology, psychology, sociology, etc.) and from the Christian experience of being ‘man’ or ‘woman’, and of deep, loving, Christian relationships. The Scriptural message is interpreted within the intended meaning and limitating context of each passage.

selected bibliography only:

General

  • Charles Curran & Richard McCormick (eds.), Dialogue about Catholic Sexual Teaching, Paulist Press, New York 1993.
  • Jack Dominian and Hugh Montefiori, God, Sex and Love, SCM, London 1987.
  • Vincent Genovesi, In Pursuit of Love: Catholic Morality and Human Sexuality, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1987.
  • Philip Keane, Sexual Morality: a Catholic Perspective, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1977.
  • Kevin T. Kelly, New Directions in Moral Theology, Geoffrey Chapman, London 1992.
  • Kevin T. Kelly, New Directions in Sexual Ethics, Geoffrey Chapman, London 1998.
  • Anthony Kosnik and others, Human Sexuality. New Directions in Catholic Thought, Search Press, London 1977.
  • Jean-Marie Pohier, “Recherches sur les Fondements de la Morale Sexuelle Chrétiennne”, Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques 54 (1970) pp. 3-23, 2-1-226.

The experiential dimension

  • Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1966.
  • Ellen Leonard, “Experience as a source for theology”, Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America (1988) pp. 44-61.
  • Susan L. Secker, “Human experience and women’s experience: resources for Christian ethics”, Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics 1991, pp. 133-150.

The sexuality of women

  • Anne E. Carr, Liberating Conscience: Feminist Explorations in Catholic Moral Theology, SCM, London 1996.
  • Chester Gillis, “Feminist Theology, Roman Catholicism and Alienation”, Horizons (1993) pp. 280-300.
  • Elaine Graham, Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood and Theology, Mowbray, London 1995.
  • Susan Frank Parsons, Feminism and Christian Ethics, Cambridge University Press 1996.
  • Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Towards a Feminist Theology, SCM, London 1983.
  • Alison Webster, Found Wanting: Women, Christianity and Sexuality, Cassell London 1995.

Homosexuality

  • Timothy Bradshaw (ed.), The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1997.
  • Jeannine Gramick & Robert Nugent (eds.), Voices of Hope: A Collection of Positive Catholic Voices on Gay and Lesbian Issues, Center for Homophobia Education, New York 1995.
  • John McNeill, Freedom Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else, Beacon Press, Boston 1995.
  • Elizabeth Stuart, Just Good Friends: Towards a Lesbian and Gay Theology of Relationships, Mowbray, London 1995.
  • Gareth Moore OP, A Question of Truth - Christianity and Homosexuality, Continuum 2003. "Somebody may yet discover a cogent proof for the immorality of homosexuality, but if the application of fine minds has not discovered one after all this time, we are entitled to think that there is no such argument to be found . . . The church at the moment produces no good arguments to assent to. Regrettably in this area, the church teaches badly."
  • Professor Daniel C. Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage. Published in The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, April 2006.
  • Simon LeVay, Gay, straight, and the reason why: the science of sexual orientation, 2011.

Read here quotes from recommended Catholic Books

2. The shift from ‘Augustinian’ dualism to celebrating the marvelous gift of body, gender and sex

St. Augustine (and others) injected negative ideas about the physical body, sex and intercourse into the mainstream of Catholic (and Christian) tradition. Sex was seen as intrinsically suspect, originating from evil and leading to evil, only tolerated as ‘a necessary evil’ in procreation.

The focus is now on the body, with all its sexuality, as inherently good. Sex plays an essential and enjoyable part in intimate human relationships.

selected bibliography only:

‘Augustinian’ sexual dualism

  • Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Faber & Faber, London 1988.
  • John J. Hugo, St. Augustine on Nature, Sex and Marriage, Scepter, Chicago 1969.
  • Kim Power, Veiled Desire - Augustine on Women, Continuum, New York 1996.

Sex and a reappraisal of ‘bodiness’

  • James Keenan, “Christian perspectives on the human body”, Theological Studies 53 (1994) pp. 330-346.
  • Gareth Moore, The Body in Context: Sex and Catholicism, SCM, London 1992.
  • Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel, I Am My Body: New Ways of Embodiment, SCM, London 1992.
  • James B. Nelson, Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology, SPCK, London 1978.

The Christian enjoyment of sex

  • Andrew Greeley, Sexual Intimacy, Thomas More Press, Chicago 1973.
  • Andrew Greeley, Love and Play, Thomas More Press, Chicago 1975.

3. The shift from law-centered sexual ethics to person-centered sexual ethics

Traditionally sexual morals were interpreted in terms of rules and regulations, of laws laid down by God in nature and in revelation.

The new focus sees such external norms and ideals as tempered by the conditions and conscience of each individual.

selected bibliography only:

Sex in marriage - the use of contraceptives

  • Charles E. Curran (ed.), Contraception: Authority and Dissent, Herder and Herder, New York 1969.
  • Charles E. Curran, Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology, Fides, Notre Dame 1970.
  • Robert Hoyt (ed), The Birth Control Debate, National Catholic Reporter, Kansas 1968.
  • John Noonen, Contraception: a History of its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1965.

Intimacy and sexual ethics

  • Jack Dominian, Sexual Integrity: the Answer to AIDS, Darton, Longman & Todd, London 1987.
  • Elaine Storkey, The Search for Intimacy, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1995.

Sex, the person and personal self-fulfilment

  • Peter Bertocci, Sex, Love and Person, Sheed & Ward, Kansas 1969.
  • Eugene Kennedy, What a Modern Catholic Believes about Sex, Thomas More Press, Chicago 1971.
  • Michael Valente, Sex, The Radical View of a Catholic Theologian, Bruce, New York 1971.

The primacy of conscience

  • Joseph Fuchs, “The Absoluteness of Moral Terms”, Gregorianum 52 (1971) pp. 415-458
  • Joseph C. Wynn (ed), Sexual Ethics and Christian Responsibility, Association Press, New York 1970.

John Wijngaards

 


AMRUTHA. novel by John Wijngaards
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New Focus in Catholic Sexual Morality - academic sources Origin
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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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