Engaging speakers. Inspiring talks. Vital topics

Speakers are from every field and they will relate their talk in some way to St. John Paul II’s approach. They will, therefore, present the Theology of the Body as a unified whole approaching our theme from many perspectives: theological, philosophical, anthropological, ethical, political, scientific, spiritual and psychological.

They come from different countries, they range from scholars to popular presenters to clinicians, and the talks will be substantial but also presented in such a way that they are accessible to a wide variety of attendees. All the talks will be given in English.

The Place of Theology of the Body in the History of Church Teaching

Catholic teaching on Marriage and human sexuality is founded in Scripture, from the Book of Genesis through to the Sermon on the Mount, and Catholic thinkers from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and up to St. John Paul II have deeply pondered and unfolded the inner meaning and goodness of that teaching. This talk will trace that fascinating history showing the deep continuity running throughout as well as the unique contribution of John Paul II which makes that teaching more accessible to people of our day.

The Place of Theology of the Body in the History of Church Teaching

Catholic teaching on Marriage and human sexuality is founded in Scripture, from the Book of Genesis through to the Sermon on the Mount, and Catholic thinkers from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and up to St. John Paul II have deeply pondered and unfolded the inner meaning and goodness of that teaching. This talk will trace that fascinating history showing the deep continuity running throughout as well as the unique contribution of John Paul II which makes that teaching more accessible to people of our day.

The Transforming Power of Fertility Appreciation

Over the past 50 years, significant innovations have been made in women’s health care. Within the realm of reproductive science, much of the effort has focused on improving contraceptive technologies and expanding their availability. Parallel to these advances, natural methods for monitoring fertility have been standardized and refined based on ongoing research. This has led to more accurate tracking of a woman’s cycle and the times of fertility and infertility. Although these methods are commonly referred to as natural family planning (NFP), the term fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) highlights the versatility of these methods, as they can be used by women for health monitoring, by couples whether they desire to avoid or achieve pregnancy, and in some cases by specially trained physicians, including family physicians, to address underlying reproductive health problems. Despite these advances, there is limited information about FABMs being taught in medical school and residency and the majority of health professionals are trained to approach fertility as a disease state. Physicians and patients should be informed of all effective family planning options, including the evidence for effectiveness and the overall impact on women’s health, so women and couples may make truly informed choices consistent with their values.

The Transforming Power of Fertility Appreciation

Over the past 50 years, significant innovations have been made in women’s health care. Within the realm of reproductive science, much of the effort has focused on improving contraceptive technologies and expanding their availability. Parallel to these advances, natural methods for monitoring fertility have been standardized and refined based on ongoing research. This has led to more accurate tracking of a woman’s cycle and the times of fertility and infertility. Although these methods are commonly referred to as natural family planning (NFP), the term fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) highlights the versatility of these methods, as they can be used by women for health monitoring, by couples whether they desire to avoid or achieve pregnancy, and in some cases by specially trained physicians, including family physicians, to address underlying reproductive health problems. Despite these advances, there is limited information about FABMs being taught in medical school and residency and the majority of health professionals are trained to approach fertility as a disease state. Physicians and patients should be informed of all effective family planning options, including the evidence for effectiveness and the overall impact on women’s health, so women and couples may make truly informed choices consistent with their values.

The End-of-Life-Discussion Considered in the Light of the Theology of the Body

In the conference three points will be dealt with. The first item concerns a short survey of the discussion on euthanasia, medically-assisted suicide and the termination of life without a request of the person involved. This discussion started with the question of whether ending of life would be acceptable only at the request of the patient in the terminal phase of an incurable disease and gradually went on to creating legal possibilities for ending the life of severely handicapped newborns and the intention of the former government to draft a new law for rendering possible assistance in suicide for people who are healthy, but consider their life ‘completed’ for reasons like solitude, the loss of dear persons and advanced age. This survey shows the truth of the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

The second item concerns the fundamental question of whether man has the right to dispose of his body, even to the radical extent of disposing of life and death. This question will be discussed from the point of view of the Theology of the Body.

Thirdly, palliative care and other measures will be presented as ways to help fellow human beings, struggling with incurable diseases and/or loneliness, to (re)discover the value of their lives, both spiritually and physically.

The End-of-Life-Discussion Considered in the Light of the Theology of the Body

In the conference three points will be dealt with. The first item concerns a short survey of the discussion on euthanasia, medically-assisted suicide and the termination of life without a request of the person involved. This discussion started with the question of whether ending of life would be acceptable only at the request of the patient in the terminal phase of an incurable disease and gradually went on to creating legal possibilities for ending the life of severely handicapped newborns and the intention of the former government to draft a new law for rendering possible assistance in suicide for people who are healthy, but consider their life ‘completed’ for reasons like solitude, the loss of dear persons and advanced age. This survey shows the truth of the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

The second item concerns the fundamental question of whether man has the right to dispose of his body, even to the radical extent of disposing of life and death. This question will be discussed from the point of view of the Theology of the Body.

Thirdly, palliative care and other measures will be presented as ways to help fellow human beings, struggling with incurable diseases and/or loneliness, to (re)discover the value of their lives, both spiritually and physically.

A Lesson from Africa: Living Out the Theology of the Body and Building a Culture of Life

Every day we are challenged to acknowledge and understand the myriad threats to the sanctity of life. Because of a perverse idea of freedom and a false concept of progress, life-destroying actions are nowadays seen as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be embraced and protected as actual rights. This has given rise to a surprising contradiction: the so-called human rights advocates place now the right to contraception and abortion next to the rights to life, health and education. In reality, the fertility police seek to impose policies which go against life and which lead unmistakably to loneliness, depression, pain and plummeting birth rates. Westerners have come to consider fertility and pregnancy as a threat to one’s personal development. As John Paul II clearly pointed out in the Conclusion of the Theology of the Body (in the General Audience #133 of November 28, 1984), In contemporary civilization as a whole – especially in Western civilization – there exists, in fact, a hidden and at the same time rather explicit tendency to measure [...] progress with the measure of “things,” that is, of material goods.

Africa is often held up as indisputable proof that overpopulation causes poverty or, alternatively, that overpopulation is caused by poverty. But that claim is false, people are the solution to poverty, as the demographic winter in the West is beginning to reveal. What the Western world deliberately takes out of the picture is the extraordinary way in which Africans celebrate Life - which is and always ought to be about wonder and joy. Africans still allow God to dwell at the centre of their lives precisely by choosing to live as real and functioning contributors to the Culture of Life and as authentic witnesses to the Theology of the Body.

In Africa, people understand that contraception is a lie and that it robs one’s fruitfulness, freedom and friendship with one’s spouse and with God. They truly believe that God gave them the Law of Life as their inheritance and that is why they take God’s command Be fruitful and multiply seriously. They, therefore, have an extremely valuable lesson to offer to the Western world and this lesson is about “rereading the language of the body in the truth” (to use St. John Paul II’s own phrase). This rereading is an indispensable condition for acting in the truth and for measuring progress by the measure of ethics (and not only of technology!).

A Lesson from Africa: Living Out the Theology of the Body and Building a Culture of Life

Every day we are challenged to acknowledge and understand the myriad threats to the sanctity of life. Because of a perverse idea of freedom and a false concept of progress, life-destroying actions are nowadays seen as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be embraced and protected as actual rights. This has given rise to a surprising contradiction: the so-called human rights advocates place now the right to contraception and abortion next to the rights to life, health and education. In reality, the fertility police seek to impose policies which go against life and which lead unmistakably to loneliness, depression, pain and plummeting birth rates. Westerners have come to consider fertility and pregnancy as a threat to one’s personal development. As John Paul II clearly pointed out in the Conclusion of the Theology of the Body (in the General Audience #133 of November 28, 1984), In contemporary civilization as a whole – especially in Western civilization – there exists, in fact, a hidden and at the same time rather explicit tendency to measure [...] progress with the measure of “things,” that is, of material goods.

Africa is often held up as indisputable proof that overpopulation causes poverty or, alternatively, that overpopulation is caused by poverty. But that claim is false, people are the solution to poverty, as the demographic winter in the West is beginning to reveal. What the Western world deliberately takes out of the picture is the extraordinary way in which Africans celebrate Life - which is and always ought to be about wonder and joy. Africans still allow God to dwell at the centre of their lives precisely by choosing to live as real and functioning contributors to the Culture of Life and as authentic witnesses to the Theology of the Body.

In Africa, people understand that contraception is a lie and that it robs one’s fruitfulness, freedom and friendship with one’s spouse and with God. They truly believe that God gave them the Law of Life as their inheritance and that is why they take God’s command Be fruitful and multiply seriously. They, therefore, have an extremely valuable lesson to offer to the Western world and this lesson is about “rereading the language of the body in the truth” (to use St. John Paul II’s own phrase). This rereading is an indispensable condition for acting in the truth and for measuring progress by the measure of ethics (and not only of technology!).

Does Gender Matter for Marriage? The Centrality of Masculinity and Femininity to Marriage as Mutual Self-Gift in the Theology of the Body

At the heart of John Paul II’s meditations on the spousal meaning of the body is the idea that spousal union, as a unique kind of union between persons, requires the complementarity of masculinity and femininity. The very structure of human sexuality indicates that only a masculine and a feminine person are able to live sexuality according to its inherent and exclusive meaning as “a particular power to express the love in which the human person becomes a gift”. Far from being a construct of human society, gender has a meaning built into it, which can be explored to illuminate the Church’s teaching that same sex marriage is not only impermissible, but in itself impossible.

Does Gender Matter for Marriage? The Centrality of Masculinity and Femininity to Marriage as Mutual Self-Gift in the Theology of the Body

At the heart of John Paul II’s meditations on the spousal meaning of the body is the idea that spousal union, as a unique kind of union between persons, requires the complementarity of masculinity and femininity. The very structure of human sexuality indicates that only a masculine and a feminine person are able to live sexuality according to its inherent and exclusive meaning as “a particular power to express the love in which the human person becomes a gift”. Far from being a construct of human society, gender has a meaning built into it, which can be explored to illuminate the Church’s teaching that same sex marriage is not only impermissible, but in itself impossible.

The Sacredness of Human Sexuality

In my time as a student-chaplain, many students asked questions about the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality. In my experience, the best way to help them understand these unique and valuable insights was through the way of the concept of sacredness. Developed by Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), in his book Das Heilige (Breslau, 1917), this idea helps to see the whole of sexuality and procreation as something outside the secular order. Without this dimension, body, emotion, and spirit engaged in sexuality remain flat, without awe, purely biological and utilitarian, although, strangely enough, transgression of boundaries in this field is experienced as incomparably damaging. With insight in its dimension of sacredness, sexuality regains its religious, divine, untouchable dimension, and the need for firm borders and protection (taboo) does make sense again.

The Sacredness of Human Sexuality

In my time as a student-chaplain, many students asked questions about the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality. In my experience, the best way to help them understand these unique and valuable insights was through the way of the concept of sacredness. Developed by Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), in his book Das Heilige (Breslau, 1917), this idea helps to see the whole of sexuality and procreation as something outside the secular order. Without this dimension, body, emotion, and spirit engaged in sexuality remain flat, without awe, purely biological and utilitarian, although, strangely enough, transgression of boundaries in this field is experienced as incomparably damaging. With insight in its dimension of sacredness, sexuality regains its religious, divine, untouchable dimension, and the need for firm borders and protection (taboo) does make sense again.

The Political Implications of Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body is not just private spirituality, it extends also to the way we live together, and to the rules and norms of our culture. Pope Benedict speaks of an “ecology of man”. Theology of the Body is certainly “ecological” for the human person. What does this mean for public policy and for the Christian commitment for a free and just society?

The Political Implications of Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body is not just private spirituality, it extends also to the way we live together, and to the rules and norms of our culture. Pope Benedict speaks of an “ecology of man”. Theology of the Body is certainly “ecological” for the human person. What does this mean for public policy and for the Christian commitment for a free and just society?

The Epistemic Wreckage Wrought By Unchastity

Humanae Vitae 22 addresses the need for all those who are concerned about the common good to create conditions that are “favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.” It refers to the role that various forms of modern entertainment play in arousing man’s baser passions and in fostering dissolute morals. The prophetic nature of this appeal is borne out by the fact that at this stage pornography and the wider sex industry have saturated our culture. In the light of our present cultural context, this talk will consider the consequences of unchastity on the life of practical reason. Strikingly, the fruits of psychological research highlight a truth that St. Thomas Aquinas states in his Summa Theologiae, namely that lust, that is to say, the vice opposed to chastity, causes disorder in the reason and in the will. This disorder is the main focus of the talk. It arguably offers a partial explanation for the dysfunctional nature of contemporary Western civilization.

The Epistemic Wreckage Wrought By Unchastity

Humanae Vitae 22 addresses the need for all those who are concerned about the common good to create conditions that are “favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.” It refers to the role that various forms of modern entertainment play in arousing man’s baser passions and in fostering dissolute morals. The prophetic nature of this appeal is borne out by the fact that at this stage pornography and the wider sex industry have saturated our culture. In the light of our present cultural context, this talk will consider the consequences of unchastity on the life of practical reason. Strikingly, the fruits of psychological research highlight a truth that St. Thomas Aquinas states in his Summa Theologiae, namely that lust, that is to say, the vice opposed to chastity, causes disorder in the reason and in the will. This disorder is the main focus of the talk. It arguably offers a partial explanation for the dysfunctional nature of contemporary Western civilization.

Theology of the Body: A Cure for Clericalism

Following his great predecessors, Pope Francis frequently draws attention to the evil of clericalism afflicting the Church and hindering her in her mission. What is clericalism and what can be done about it? I propose that the development of the Church’s teaching on marriage that began with Humanae Vitae and reached its full expression in the Theology of the Body throws new light on the problem, exposing its terrible depth and extent, while at the same time offering a beautiful solution on the level of both theory and praxis.

Theology of the Body: A Cure for Clericalism

Following his great predecessors, Pope Francis frequently draws attention to the evil of clericalism afflicting the Church and hindering her in her mission. What is clericalism and what can be done about it? I propose that the development of the Church’s teaching on marriage that began with Humanae Vitae and reached its full expression in the Theology of the Body throws new light on the problem, exposing its terrible depth and extent, while at the same time offering a beautiful solution on the level of both theory and praxis.

Conflict or Complementary: Natural Law and Personalist Approaches to Humanae Vitae

In his Love and Responsibility, Wojtyła gave a natural law argument defending the Church’s teaching on sexuality; in the Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II gave a personalist defense of the same teaching; a comparison of the two arguments reveals that personalism needs natural law but that the riches of personalism contribute greatly to our understanding of the Church’s wisdom in regard to sexuality.

Conflict or Complementary: Natural Law and Personalist Approaches to Humanae Vitae

In his Love and Responsibility, Wojtyła gave a natural law argument defending the Church’s teaching on sexuality; in the Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II gave a personalist defense of the same teaching; a comparison of the two arguments reveals that personalism needs natural law but that the riches of personalism contribute greatly to our understanding of the Church’s wisdom in regard to sexuality.

Redeemed Vision: Theology of the Body as a New Way of Seeing?

A paradox of Western culture is that current fascination with bodily health and beauty is putting the psychological health and serenity of a generation at risk. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body not only challenges the disintegrated anthropology of our times, it offers a different, redeemed way of seeing. Drawing on biblical and contemporary theological paradigms, this presentation will consider how ‘having eyes to see’ demands that Christians ‘look different’ and how that might impact on pedagogies in religious education and youth ministry contexts.

Redeemed Vision: Theology of the Body as a New Way of Seeing?

A paradox of Western culture is that current fascination with bodily health and beauty is putting the psychological health and serenity of a generation at risk. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body not only challenges the disintegrated anthropology of our times, it offers a different, redeemed way of seeing. Drawing on biblical and contemporary theological paradigms, this presentation will consider how ‘having eyes to see’ demands that Christians ‘look different’ and how that might impact on pedagogies in religious education and youth ministry contexts.

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