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Paula Jean Miller, F. S. E. The Body: Science, Theology, and Humanae Vitae Creating ethical paradoxes out of commonly held unexamined assumptions is a hallmark of the pontificate of John Paul II. At the same time "body worship" dominates contemporary culture, Pope John Paul II writes a theology of die body. As science catapults civilization "back to the future" by proposing that human sexuality return to the most primitive forms of asexual and non-relational methods ofreproduction, John Paul formulates an "adequate anthropology " which integrates the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions ofthe person into fully human sexual relationships . Such claims about scientific advancement in counterpoint to theological development require further explanation. Redemptor hominis, die encyclical written by Pope John Paul in 1979 as a "kind ofprogrammatic statement ofthe inspiration which will guide his pontificate,"1 challenges Christians to "x-ray" scientific and technological achievements diat promise a panacea of soluI wish to thank TheologyToday for graciously permitting me to publish this revised article in Logos, prior to the publication of the original transcript which will appear in Theology Today, January, 2001. LOGOS 3:3 SUMMER 2000 THE BODY: SCIENCE, THEOLOGY, AND HUMANAE VITAE tions to human problems and sufferings. He prompts us to reflect upon basic ethical criteria: "ifwe can do it, does tiiat mean we should do it?" Will this scientific "advance" make us more human? Will humanity progress or regress in true humanness?2 In light of these criteria, an examination of currently proposed methods for human procreation (reduced by science to reproduction) provides significant insight, particularly in regard to the role ofthe human body in personal relationships. The advent ofcloning now makes it possible for human persons to imitate the reproductive method of amoebas, the lowest form of life.While asexual replication achieves science's goal ofreproduction of the species, it provides no opportunity for human interrelationship , not even at die level of simple body contact. In vitro fertilization provides us with another way to bring forth life, very similar to that observed witiiin die world of fish, where male sperm fertilize eggs already separated from die female body, again witiiout need for relational contact. As we continue up the life chain into the realm of die insect, the honeybee and her one-time-only drone consort exemplify a way of reproducing that has become radier familiar within twentietii-century life. While body contact becomes part of fertilization , the immediate deadi ofthe male vividly symbolizes die discontinuity ofrelationship integral to this form ofmating. The animal kingdom likewise presents us with models for scientifically "advanced" generation ofdie human species. Some members ofthis genus have estrocycles tiiat compel diem to "unite" through repetitive , redundant acts urged only by instinct; otiiers, like die old world monkeys, are seemingly"free,"because ofmenstrual cycles, to mate whenever they want, yet diey hardly present us with a paradigm for human love. Grasping the limitations of these scientifically engineered alternatives for human love relationships, John Paul focuses on the true goal ofhuman sexuality: the union ofman and woman, body and spirit. His tiieology ofthe body becomes the basis for afully human, sexual-personal relationship. ??? ic6 LOGOS Pope John Paul's view ofdie human body, and particularly ofthe important role the body has within die sacrament of marriage, rejects die body-soul dualism which plagued ancient philosophy and has reemerged in modern times. This way ofthinking separates our bodies from our true selves, and proposes tiiat we can do whatever we want witii our bodies and it won't really affect who we are. Pope John Paul's thought encompasses both traditional and contemporary approaches in andiropology, and dien transcends diem, proposing a new vision of man and woman, which is based in the sacramentality ofdie human body. Anyone quickly counting one tiirough seven has discovered that die"body"is not one ofthe sacraments currently listed . But die Holy Fatiier teaches tiiat die body is die very oldest sacrament, instituted by God at the dawn of creation: he calls it the "primordial sacrament."A sacrament has been simply defined in past catechisms as "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." Or, in the more ancient language of the Church, which Pope John...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-791X
Print ISSN
1091-6687
Pages
pp. 154-165
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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