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What is John Paul II’s Theology of the Body?

Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues is a journalist for The Catholic Weekly. She also writes at marilynrodrigues.com. Email her at [email protected]
Paula Olearnik of Poland embraces then-Pope John Paul II during a celebration with young people in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 2004. Photo: CNS, Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo

Talks addressed the times and the truth of human love

As the sexual revolution began sweeping across the developed world, in 1960 Karol Wojtyla, a Catholic priest and university professor, (now St Pope John Paul II) published Love and Responsibility to present the Catholic Church’s teaching on love and sexuality in the modern context.

It arose from a series of lectures he gave at the Catholic University of Lublin in 1958-59, synthesising the Church’s doctrine, his own experience and pastoral wisdom he had gained in the area of sexual morality.

He further developed the themes in his Theology of the Body, which consists of 129 general Wednesday audiences delivered by him during the first five years of his pontificate in St Peter’s Square and the Paul VI Audience Hall in Rome between September 5, 1979, and November 28, 1984.

In them, the former pope sought to establish a Christian anthropology in which the human person reveals God, which includes discussion of the sexual complementarity of women and men, on marriage, celibacy and virginity.

“[Man] is called precisely to that supreme value that is love. He is called as a person in the truth of his humanity, therefore also in the truth of his masculinity or femininity, in the truth of his body. He is called in that truth which has been his heritage from the beginning, the heritage of his heart, which is deeper than the sinfulness inherited, deeper than lust…
The words of Christ, set in the whole reality of creation and redemption, reactivate that deeper heritage and give it real power in human life.” TOB October 29, 1980

While the saint also expanded on his themes in many other writings, these two works have had popular appeal and are most drawn upon in youth evangelisation and marriage preparation ministry.

Today, it’s discussions around gender identity and sexual orientation or fluidity rather than traditional sexual morality which dominate western culture.

Christopher West, founder of the Theology of the Body Institute, one of the leading exponents of the saint’s Theology of the Body believes he was ahead of his time and speaks to today’s young people today.

“Pope John Paul II unfolded for us in his Theology of the Body talks a vision of human embodiment, particularly as it concerns our creation as male and female,” he said in a recent video.

“Why did God make us this way? God knows we are in desperate need for a compelling answer to that question today.”

Made for More in Sydney!

At the invitation of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation Dr Christopher West, the world’s most well-known teacher of the Saint John Paul II’s theology, will travel to Sydney in January before visiting Melbourne in a two-city tour.

The founder and president of the US-based Theology of the Body Institute will present the highly acclaimed Made for More event, along with musician Mike Mangione and Theology of the Body Institute’s Jason Clark.

The Made for More events in Sydney will be held at two locations on Friday, 20 January and Saturday 21 January 2023.

Watch the trailer and get your tickets at www.sydneycatholic.org/TOB/

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