Faith of Our Holy Fathers:
Putting the Theology of the Body in Historical Perspective
by Dawn Eden
Some well-meaning people seem to make a habit of knocking my grandfather and my great-grandfather.
Oh, they don’t mean to do it. They only mean to tell me how wonderful my dad is. But somehow, in their zeal to boost him, they end up damning his forebears with faint praise. It’s as if they have to put the others down in order to make him look good.
“Your father,” they say, “did such a better job of parenting than any other fathers in your family ever did.”
“Oh,” they add, “your grandfather and great-grandfather tried hard. But they were limited by the antiquated mentality of the world in which they lived. Your father, on the other hand, is enlightened with a special charism. Compared to earlier generations, his paternal wisdom and insight were radically advanced.”
All right, people don’t really speak that way of my dad. Some well-meaning Catholic apologists do, however, speak that way of my late Holy Father, John Paul II, in comparison with his predecessors. They praise his pronouncements on marriage and sexuality by insinuating that, prior to the Second Vatican Council, no pope possessed such an advanced level of insight into the mystery of the human person. John Paul II’s theology of the body is important to such apologists precisely because it is “new,” “dramatic,” “daring,” and “revolutionary,” in contrast with a preconciliar Church that was “juridical,” “negative,” or even “silent” about sexual matters.Such generalizations are false on their face..