Sexuality as “body language”

Today we see that the sexual ethics of the Church (…) favored crimes of sexual abuse in the Church, “says the introduction to the main text of the Fourth Synodal Forum.” By teaching about sexuality (…), the Church, but also the Church as an institution (…) is guilty. “The faithful have been disciplined and cared for by strict moral laws.”

A change in teaching is required

For this reason, the synodal assembly sees itself obliged to “guarantee a change in the teaching and practice of the Church in dealing with mankind”. Specifically, an end to the primary negative evaluation of artificial contraceptives, masturbation, homosexuality, premarital sex, etc. is called for. How is the change justified?

The key to the Church’s new conception of sexual morality is the understanding of sex as a “material language” (p.7.1). Sexual acts can be interpreted as a language of communication between two partners, making intentional attitudes such as benevolence, deference, and loyalty to one another sensually tangible.

Sexuality is more than just communication

This is not limited to genital sex acts, because “sex knows many languages ​​of body communication” (B3.1): appearance, gestures, touch – all physical expressions of relationships constitute the rules of body language, which – like any language – must be formed and formed by Humans. “The responsible formation (…) of his sexuality is the task of every human being.” (B 1.5) Good so far.

But this formative mandate of gender finds explosive meaning in the Council texts. It follows from this that a universally valid moral evaluation of individual sexual acts is not possible. On the contrary, all sexual acts are generally suitable to become true expressions of mutual love between the two partners, provided that “self-determination and responsible sexual activity as well as loyalty, continuity, uniqueness and responsibility to one another in relationships” (voting 5) are taken into account. The sexual act only acquires its meaning through the intent of the business and the context of the partnership. “Sex can convey subtle awareness and empathy in interpersonal relationships in body language; but it can also be misused as a means of selfish possessiveness and violent submission.” (B/3/2)

love precedence

Thus, sexual acts cannot generally be morally evaluated. “The primacy of love is the central normative evaluation criterion for shaping (…) human sexuality.” (B 3.3.5.) From this follows a logical coherence: “The concrete formation of the sexual dimension (…) is not the mission of the Church” (text of the plot“ Didactic statements on conjugal love”).

In this way, the collectivist path attempts to justify why negative evaluations of contraception, masturbation, homosexuality, premarital sex, etc. are generally rejected. The traditional teaching of the Church, especially the “theology of the body,” interprets sexuality as “the language of the body,” but it comes to very different conclusions.

human body

The starting point is the Christian image of man, which understands man as a physical and psychological unit. Against all Platonic experiences, the Church has always asserted that man not only “owns” his body from the outside, but “is” his body as well. Thus, conscious bodily actions are an expression of the person acting; Its meaning cannot be formed arbitrarily, it is based on the peculiarity of the human corporeality. The fact that subordination and willingness to serve, for example, become visible through physical gestures such as bending or bending the knees (not through self-straightening) is not an accidental tradition, but is based on the unity of the body and soul of the human being. On the contrary, power cannot be expressed through physical prostration. The details of this natural significance of bodily actions can vary between cultures, but its basic meaning cannot be easily resolved without underestimating the meaning of the body.

physical surrender

The sexual union between a man and a woman also carries a natural significance. The conjugal act is the physical giving of one partner or the acceptance of the other as a gift. In a sexual confrontation, partners speak with their body: “I give myself to you, I completely accept you.” The sexual act carries this meaning as an intrinsic signature; It is given bodily. Here the person speaks “as a body”. Of course, this body language can also be perverted; The sexual act can be forced without it being performed internally. But this clearly offends the meaning of the verb. Reversal also occurs when the physical union is made voluntarily, but without the intention of giving oneself to the other as a whole person – as in the case of premarital intercourse.

Then the body speaks the phrase “I give myself completely to you,” but in intention the devotion remains limited and tied to time; Distorted natural body language. Same thing with birth control pills. The Church does not oppose contraception because of the artificiality of the preparations used, nor because of the intention to avoid bearing children (which may be morally necessary). Rather, contraception means denying what the body is speaking in the act of sexual association. In the case of contraceptives, the body does not speak “I give you myself” – provided that the condom prevents the complete surrender of the body or the pill prevents the other person from receiving it as a gift.
Even masturbation and homosexuality compromise body language; In the case of masturbation, no peer can receive the gift, and in the case of homosexual acts, the partner cannot receive the physical gift in its actual meaning. The natural meaning of physical surrender in a sexual act can only be achieved between a man and a woman, after the promise of permanent fidelity; Only here is the word self-giving in its true sense.

body language

If one rejects the natural significance of sex, it is only logical to understand all sexual practices as equivalent “words” to body language, even if the body does not speak “I give myself to you” (masturbation) or if self-giving physically is not possible due to a lack of integration of the sexes (homosexuality) or if it is intentionally refused (contraception). Thus, the Synod text states that “in its normative essence, the method” natural family planning “does not differ from the so-called artificial methods”, because “the selection of the so-called periods of women’s sterility was made in the same way. The intention to avoid having children” (B 4/4 / ). Yes, the purpose of the directive may be the same; But in the case of contraception, the person does not say with his body “I give you myself”, while in choosing times of sterility the body language is respected. Against the background of the natural significance of the sexual act, the difference between artificial contraception and “natural family planning” can be immediately understood.

wrong theory

The new concept required of sexual morality is not new. As early as 1993, Pope John Paul II summed it up succinctly as a false theory in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. As rational beings, humans are not only free to determine the meaning of their behavior for themselves. This “determining meaning” would of course respect (…) the basic commandment to love God and neighbor (VS 47). In doing so, John Paul II anticipated—and rejected—the argument for the synodal path. Such an understanding, the pope continued, “treats the human body in the end as a raw material, devoid of any moral meaning or value, so long as freedom has not entered it into its project. Therefore human nature and the body appear as materially necessary to the acts of freedom’s choice, but as requirements or conditions external to the individual, the self and human action” (VS 48). The “Splendor of Truth” opposes this waste of the bodily component of sexuality from the perspective of the Church: “Through the light of reason (…) man discovers in his body the anticipatory signs, the expression and the promise of self-giving in accordance with the wise plan of the Creator” (VS 48). According to the text of the Synodal Assembly, Past sexual teachings of the Church encouraged abuse. It remains unclear why greater insignificance of sex in the future should lead to a more responsible treatment of this gift of God. Isn’t it time to take a closer look at the theology of the body? Also in the Church in Germany?

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