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Sexing the Church

Gender, Power, and Ethics in Contemporary Catholicism

Aline H. Kalbian

Publication Year: 2005

"A wonderful book that gives us a fresh angle of vision on modern Roman Catholic teaching about sex, marriage, gender relationships, and reproduction. After reading Sexing the Church, few will doubt the extent to which Catholic teaching about the law of nature owes no small debt to history and culture." -- Richard B. Miller, Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions

"...Catholic attitudes about women in the priesthood... display [a] contradiction between egalitarian and subordinationist views.... Women are denied access to the 'eucharistic' priesthood because allowing them in would upset the redemptive order. Why is it, then, that imagery from the created order (women as mothers, brides, virgins) is often used to describe the redemptive 'mystery' that connects Christ with the Church? Why is the Church 'sexed' female?... This sexing of the Church is more than just an example of how gender and order work in Catholic morality; it also reveals tensions in the complex patterns of Catholic reasoning about marriage, reproduction, and church authority. In a surprising way, it challenges the order enforced by the Catholic ethics of marriage and reproduction." -- from Chapter One

The regulation of human sexuality in contemporary Catholicism, a topic that monopolizes public conversation about the Catholic Church, is also a central concern of Catholic theological discussions of religious ethics. Aline H. Kalbian traces the history of the connection between moral theology and sexual ethics as it applies to the concern for order in official teachings on marriage, reproduction, and sex. She explores order as it is reflected in the theology of marriage, the 20th-century challenge to that order in the debates on contraception and assisted reproduction, and the way attitudes about gender in Catholicism connect theological and moral order with ecclesiastical order.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

It was my good fortune as I was writing this book to have the unwavering support of friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, I still have to pinch myself sometimes at this abundance. I am grateful to them all. John Kelsay, my colleague, friend, and chairman in the Department of Religion at Florida State University has been my greatest champion ...

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pp. 1-20

Sex is a contentious topic in Catholicism. Mark Jordan notes that in the contemporary American imagination, Christianity is often thought to be nothing more than a “code of sexual conduct” (Jordan 2002, 5). In other words, most Americans know little about the details of doctrines such as the trinity, the resurrection, or the incarnation, but ...

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pp. 21-54

Sex for procreation is good; sexual passions are unruly; marriage is a sacrament. The values embedded in these three statements are not just expressions of Catholic sexual ethics; they reflect the core of Catholic theological beliefs about nature, creation, grace, and sin. Consequently, to better answer the question How does the concept of order clarify ...

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pp. 55-93

Marriage and family planning were among the most watched issues at the general meeting of the Second Vatican Council.1 On October 29, 1964, Cardinal Leo Suenens2 of Malines-Brussels and Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of Antioch addressed the general session of the council on these issues. Suenens, directing his remarks to the newly formed ...

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pp. 94-133

From our exploration of the normative Catholic teachings on marriage and reproduction, we can conclude the following: the Catholic tradition holds procreation as a good but not an absolute one. It is circumscribed by the relationship between (married) male and female and by the nature of the act that leads to procreation (sexual intercourse ...

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pp. 134-142

While the focus of this study of Catholic documents and teachings is language and moral argument, it would be misleading to think about these documents without reflecting on the powerful institution that stands behind them. Catholic sexual ethics integrate theological beliefs about God’s created order with the belief that the Church has the ...


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pp. 143-156


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pp. 157-162


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pp. 163-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111388
E-ISBN-10: 0253111382
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253345301

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005