Ground-breaking Theology of the Body from St. John Paul II still resonates in 2018

05 February 2018

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is as relevant to today’s issues of same-sex unions, gender identity and pornography as it was when it was first written nearly four decades ago.

And the best antidote to healing today’s ills is the teaching of the Church, says Father Sean Kilcawley, a Catholic priest and an internationally recognized speaker on the Pope’s vision of the human person.

“I think the best way to approach those topics is to present the truth, and that truth might challenge the belief system of somebody else who’s listening. If it challenges that belief system, that’s not a bad thing,” said Kilcawley, a guest speaker at Break Forth One conference, a Christian leadership conference held in Edmonton Jan. 26-28.

Theology of the Body is St. John Paul II’s vision of the human person. It’s a series of 129 lectures given at the Vatican between September 5, 1979, and November 28, 1984. It constitutes an analysis on human sexuality, and it’s considered the first major teaching of his pontificate.

“The thing that we’re really asking is ‘What does it mean to be a human person?’ ‘What does it mean to love?’ ‘What does it mean to be made in God’s image?’,” said Kilcawley, the director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.

“John Paul II was very prophetic in 1979 when he started giving these audiences. I’m not sure he would believe where they ended up in 2018.”

Father Sean Kilcawley

It’s even more applicable today in reaching out to people from wounded or broken families, children of divorce and all who carry wounds from the hyper-sexualized culture.

“In order to evangelize the culture, we have to be talking about things like pornography, and hyper-sexualisation,” said Kilcawley, an expert in treating pornography addiction.

“Most people today need counselling to get help. Most people today have grown up with pornography, and it’s become an emotional substitute for real relationships, or they have trauma in their life.”

Kilcawley works with Integrity Restored, a U.S.-based organization which helps individuals, spouses, and families that have been affected by pornography and pornography addiction. Integrity Restored also trains and helps clergy in assisting families at the parish level.

Kilcawley said finding a good spiritual director, professional counselling and an accountability group are essential to overcoming a pornography addiction, as well as finding alternative approaches if the initial ones don’t succeed.

“If people find that what they’re doing to stop their addiction isn’t working, then they should try something else.”

To young families, Kilcawley issued a warning, telling parents to help protect their children against the dangers of pornography so they don’t become addicted in the first place.

Kilcawley said he’s had positive feedback from his Theology of the Body presentations to guests at Break Forth One, even from those who aren’t Catholic.

“A lot of them said that they came to broaden their perspective, and they were excited to hear a Catholic point of view.”

Founded in 1997 by Arlen and Elsa Salte of Edmonton, Break Forth One has since become the largest church gathering and leadership event in Canada. More than 6,000 people attend the weekend conferences which cross denominational, theological, cultural and generational barriers.