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412 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived


The many ways in which one can depart from God’s call to chastity and

marital fidelity are more than evident in American culture. The exploi-

tation of sexuality for commercial gain is manifested in countless ads

and other means of engaging our attention through television and allied

media. The cult of the body, not just for health reasons but for hedonistic

attraction, is a prime example of the effect of an exaggerated focus on

sex and sexuality.

What is needed is a healing vision of sexuality, the body, and the

human person. Pope John Paul II offers us this perspective in his theol-

ogy of the body. He begins with the idea that God willed each human

being for his or her own sake. This means that none of us is merely a

part of something else, or a means of gaining some result. God created

us as free and unique human persons. We are not things to be used, but

persons to be respected.

God created human beings to love one another. Since God is a com-

munion of persons, it makes sense that we, being made in his image,

would reach out to love others, forming our own communion of per-

sons. Marital love witnesses the total self-giving of man and woman. The

miracle is that in the act of self-giving, each spouse gains a greater sense

of self while enriching the other spouse.

The Nuptial Meaning of the Body

We experience our selfhood through our bodies. We are embodied as

man and woman. Genesis teaches that it is not good for man to be alone.

We are rescued from our solitude by a complementary existence as man

and woman. Pope John Paul II calls the capacity of the male body and

the female body to serve mutual self-giving the nuptial meaning of

the body.

Sin, particularly lust, obscures the nuptial meaning of the body and

its capacity to witness the divine image. In this case, the woman’s body

ceases to reveal her as a person to be loved, but rather as an object to be

used. Conversely, a man’s body would not disclose him as a person to be

loved, but rather as an instrument to be exploited. Sin erodes spousal love.