Natural family planning, theology of the body – the Church’s ‘best-kept secrets’

In the picture: Michelangelo's The Creation of Eve, from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, c. 1510.

Denver, Colo., Feb 11, 2015 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If you ask Archbishop Aquila, theology of the body and natural family planning – both practical resources on human sexuality – may be the Church’s best-kept secrets.

 “The truth is, the Church has many positive things to say about the gift of our sexuality,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said Feb. 8 at a dinner for teachers of natural family planning.

'Theology of the Body' is the corpus of 129 General Audience addresses delivered by St. John Paul II from 1979 to 1984, regarding the human person and human sexuality.

 The heart of these teachings is the sacramental view of reality on human sexuality, Archbishop Aquila said, meaning that human bodies have a language that reveals something about the mystery of God’s inner life.

 Archbishop Aquila believes the importance of Theology of the Body and the positive impact of natural family planning are foundational pillars to understand how Christ redeemed human sexuality after the fall of Adam and Eve.

 “What makes Theology of the Body unique is that it brings true joy to relationships, marriages and friendships,” the archbishop noted, saying that without Theology of the Body, natural family planning can become “a kind of Catholic contraception, something which is really a contradiction in terms.”

 “If you desire to experience and impart the joy and beauty of natural family planning, then you must understand the Theology of the Body,” Archbishop Aquila stated, saying that both of these resources are “one of the best-kept secrets of the Catholic Church.”

 Looking at the past 40 years, the archbishop pointed to the abuse of power, loss of respect, and the belief that man has unlimited dominion over his own body as some of the causes for today’s societal sexual meltdown.

“We have seen an increase in infidelity, a surge in divorce, more dysfunctional families, a decrease in children’s psychological well-being and a boom in single-parent households,” Archbishop Aquila noted, pointing to the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s as the culprit in the rejection of Christian sexual values.

 Great numbers of people find themselves dissatisfied with the culture of meaningless sex and objectification, he noted, saying that a manifestation of this can be seen in the upcoming film ‘50 Shades of Gray.’

 “We were created and called into being to love and be loved, not to be used, not to be an object for someone else’s fantasy,” the archbishop noted.

 Although the modern-day understanding of sexuality points to self-gratification, rather than self-giving, Archbishop Aquila called for a return to the mutual love and respect that men and women should have for each other.

 “When a couple’s relationship is characterized by a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful, then they are able to experience the joy God intended for them and so reflect God’s love to the world,” he said, emphasizing the importance of both natural family planning and Theology of the Body for couples and their understanding of sexuality. 

However, when a couple uses contraception, they contradict this message of total self-giving, he stated.

 “They say rather, ‘I give you part of myself, but I also deliberately withhold part of myself,’” Archbishop Aquila noted, believing that this is why the use of contraception is deceptive.

 “As loudly and as persistently as our disbelieving culture proclaims its view of sex and happiness, a simple look around reveals the sad truth: too many people are left alone in the dark, searching for and failing to find love.”

 While the secular approach to sexuality promotes objectification of the person, the archbishop believes that the Church views sexuality as the ultimate exchange of love in self-gift.

“We need to proclaim even louder and more persistently: God has the best, richest, and fullest plan for the happiness of married couples,” he went on to say. 

“Love is a Person, and He has written a wonderful design for human love into each of our bodies and hearts.”

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