chapter  Chapter Ten
8 Pages

Sexuality: Personal, Communal, Responsible

WithLisa Sowle Cahill

The essays in this volume are unusual and commendable in that they offer a nuanced treatment of sexuality that both celebrates its power and warns of its destructiveness; that both deconstructs traditional Christian strictures on sex, and retrieves values like commitment and parenthood needed to channel sex in positive directions. The contributors testify to the intrinsic ambivalence of sexuality. It is private and public, good and bad, psycho-spiritual and intensely physical. While a modern view of sex is likely to define it as private, good, and spiritual, it is not entirely a provocative overstatement to say that Christian tradition judged sex a public danger, more often evil than virtuous, and more a sign of the corruption of the body than of the transcendence of the soul. Such a generalisation calls for nuance, of course. While the influential sex theorist, Augustine, saw sex primarily as an unruly physical passion needing to be rigorously disciplined through the institution of marriage and the justifying purpose of procreation, it is also true that authors from Saint Paul to Thomas Aquinas saw sex as something that unites spouses in a relation of reciprocity coloured by love, leading their relationship toward children, a social as well as personal gift.