Fr. Maurizio Faggioni, OFM, a professor at the top pontifical institute for moral theology, the Pontifical Academy “Alphonsianum,” said in a recent interview with Catholic News Agency that the teachings of the Church suggest “far more prudence” in approaching some of the issues raised by Christopher West in his presentation of the Theology of the Body.
Faggioni, a Franciscan who teaches at the Alphonsianum, an academy named upon the father of modern Moral theology, St. Alphonsus of Liguori, is one of the most consulted moral theologians and is an advisor to several Vatican dicasteries.
In a conversation with CNA, Fr. Faggioni explained that some of the issues discussed publicly by West, such as the appropriateness of anal sex or other forms of sexual “foreplay” in married relationships, have to be dealt with using great care, since “the risk is of displacing the attention from marital love and the anthropologic meaning of lovely gestures to merely the genital aspects.”
“Sexuality,” Fr. Faggioni said, launching into his analysis of West's presentation of the Theology of the Body, “is the language of love and this language is authentic only when it is respectful of the meaning of human love.”
According to the moral theologian, “the traditional moral theology certainly does not prohibit intimacy among spouses, but it never regards them as a substitute for the marital embrace and accepts intimacy only as a path toward a complete sexual union.”
Moreover, Fr. Faggioni said that “it is simply not true that the traditional Catholic moral supports the use of acts that Thomas Aquinas call contra naturam -against nature- (such as anal sex) as something ordinary.”
“Catholic moral theology calls us to be very discrete in discussing these issues, and encourages being particularly respectful to the sensibilities of persons and couples,” the Italian Franciscan explained.
“Regarding this type of intercourse or others, no one can pretend to accept from another person something that offends that person’s sensibility on sexual issues or that does not respect the structure and natural complementarity of the bodies of man and woman.”
The moral theologian warned that “today’s youth, in a special manner, have to be protected from unnecessary exposure to sexual-genital issues that can lead to a morbid curiosity.”
“This is not prudishness, but the wisdom of the Church that has time and again demonstrated the importance of discretion and prudence when it comes to sexual issues,” he added.
“When we make these types of assertions in an indiscriminate manner, we are actually getting into the beds of married couples, and that is something the moral teaching of the Church does not encourage at all.”
Regarding the practice of blessing the genitals before a sexual relationship, Fr. Faggioni expressed “real perplexity.” “Without doubt, all the body in each one of its parts is God’s creation and deserves honor. We precisely respect our private parts by surrounding them with greater respect and modesty.”
“In itself,” he continued, “nothing forbids thanking God for the sexual body of oneself or the spouse, but from the perspective of Christian anthropology, it is not right to emphasize the genitals as if our sexuality could be reduced to them.
“Love is made with all the body, with the entire person’s humanity, not only with the genitals.”
Fr. Faggioni also explained that Pope John Paul never intended to specifically address the sexual Puritanism of the United States. “Pope John Paul wanted to distance himself equally from the moral relativism that trivializes sex, as much as from the Puritanism that considers sex as taboo,” he explained.
The late Pope, the moral theologian also said “exalted the beauty of the body and sexuality, but also taught that the body cannot be used as an instrument, as if it would not be the bearer of a meaning and values that man and woman are called to embrace and live with gratefulness and fidelity,” he said on ending.