Matt C. Abbott
March 26, 2011
Priest's 'Theology of the Body' -- or 'holy' pornography?
By Matt C. Abbott

In my observation, the most discussed and debated theological work of the late John Paul II has been Theology of the Body. In fact, certain interpretations of TOB have caused a good deal of controversy in recent years.

One popular speaker on TOB is Father Thomas Loya, an Eastern rite Catholic priest. Last summer I attended Father Loya's presentation of TOB at Holy Name Cathedral. I spoke with him briefly, and he seems like a nice man. However, I was not at all edified by his approach to the subject.

My concerns with Father Loya's TOB presentation are best articulated by Father Angelo Mary Geiger, who said in an e-mail:
    'Here are the posts in which I have at least mentioned [Father Loya] and in some cases made his work the topic of my comments. Father Loya seems to be the most eager of the representatives of the Westian [Christopher West's] approach of TOB to take the movement to its logical conclusions, namely, to the affirmation of sex as mysticism and religious transformation as sexual sanctification, that is, sexual healing in the form of shamelessness. The liturgical, ritual and contemplative overtones are, to my mind, frightening.

    'Father Loya's website is eye-opening. His banner image is soft-core pornography with S&M overtones ... In any case, Father Loya seems to have no problem with pornography, as long as it is 'holy.' It reminds of something I heard Anne Rice say about her 'holy pornography.' She used exactly those words, though I suspect Father Loya would explain away his images as something other than pornography.

    'I first privately posed the following questions to Father Loya, and then have done so on my blog. He has not responded. I have also directed them to Christopher West and have received no answer:

      'Would it ever be appropriate for the conjugal act to be performed in the presence of an audience for the purpose of fostering a Catholic and integrated view of marriage and sexuality? Let us hypothetically establish that this would be arranged among close friends, all of whom are well-versed in TOB and intend only to exalt God's intentions for marriage and sexuality. If this would not be appropriate, please tell me why.

      'Would nudism ever be appropriate among those who have advanced in the Theology of the Body, say, at a Mass in order better express the unity of the languages of the body and the liturgy? If not, would this only be because of the danger of participation by someone not properly prepared or, perhaps, because of the possibility of misunderstanding? Or, on the other hand, would this violate some fundamental moral principle or otherwise be contrary to Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxy? If so, why?

    'I am not being facetious or disrespectful in asking these questions. I mean them sincerely, and do not, on the basis of the reasoning coming out of the Westian camp, understand why they would answer these questions in the negative.

    'The idea of sex as mysticism has a perennial attraction, but it is pagan and occultist in origin. The tendency of both West and Father Loya is to alternatively appeal to the need for an effective apologetic to the hyper-sexualized and puritanical on the one hand and then move onto a hard sell of sexual mysticism for advanced souls on the other. Dragging John Paul II into all this makes it all the more insidious.'
© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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