Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed the theology of the body (TOB) as perennial truths revealed by God through ancient biblical texts, but he also noted that this pedagogy of the body “takes on particular importance for contemporary man, whose science in the fields of bio-physiology and bio-medicine is very advanced” (TOB 59:3).[i] While he acknowledged the value of modern science for certain kinds of truth, he cautioned that such science does not develop “the consciousness of the body as a sign of the person” because “it is based on the disjunction between what is bodily and what is spiritual in man,” which leaves the body “deprived of the meaning and dignity that stem from the fact that this body is proper to the person” (TOB 59:3). In “a civilization that remains under the pressure of a materialistic and utilitarian way of thinking and evaluating” (TOB 23:5), this depersonalized notion of the body encourages people to treat the body as an object to be manipulated and used for their own subjective gratification.
In 2019, the Congregation for Catholic Education (CCE) promulgated Male and Female He Created Them, which identifies this same disjunction between the body and the spirit as the fundamental tenet of the gender theory linked with the so-called sexual revolution.[ii] Over the course of the twentieth century, this gender theory became an “ideology of gender” that absolutizes and weaponizes pseudoscientific concepts to establish a sharp dichotomy between the conscious individual (gender) and the body (sex) and to dictate social outcomes that serve the agenda of the sexual revolution (CCE, no. 6). On the surface, it looks like a very modern example of bad philosophy and dubious science. But from the perspective of TOB, gender ideology is an attempt to establish a cultural framework that glorifies the most degrading components of the concupiscence and lust that have plagued humanity since the advent of sin.
The gender ideology of the sexual revolution corresponds directly to the concerns about contemporary culture that led St. John Paul II to proclaim TOB, and it remains one of the most important reference points for the application of TOB in the modern world. This installment of the series summarizes the main components of this gender ideology that deviate from the meaning of human sexuality found in TOB. Additionally, this installment examines the issue of homosexuality as a prominent example of how this gender ideology clashes with TOB at the level of sexual morality.
[i] John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006), cited parenthetically in text as TOB.
[ii] Congregation for Catholic Education, Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (Vatican City, 2019), nos. 8, 20. Cited parenthetically in text as CCE