Saint John Paul II left the Church and the world a treasure of profound philosophical and theological works. During his pontificate alone he wrote on average more than 3,000 pages per year. Imagine: that’s like 10 dissertations for every birthday. Two of our faculty members have been duly influenced by John Paul’s thought: Fr. Earl Fernandes, STD, Dean and Assistant Professor of Moral Theology, and Deacon Tracy Jamison, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Below are a couple of their essays which draw upon and integrate the saint’s writings on important issues of the day.
The Demands of Human Dignity: Addressing Human Sexuality and Persons with Intellectual Disabilities within the Seminary Curriculum
Fr. Earl Fernandes, STD
Oliver Wendell Holmes is thought to be one of the most distinguished justices to serve on the United States Supreme Court, yet in the U.S. Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, he infamously concluded the ruling of the court with the words: “Three generations of imbeciles is enough!” In an 8-1 decision, with the dissenting vote coming from Justice Pierce Butler, a Catholic, the Supreme Court upheld a statute instituting compulsory sterilization of the “unfit”, including those with intellectual disabilities. Carrie Buck, a person with an intellectual disability, who had been a sexual abuse victim, was forcibly sterilized by the state of Virginia.
The case highlights the plight of persons with intellectual disabilities, particularly in the area of human sexuality. The whole issue of human sexuality and persons with intellectual or other developmental disabilities has largely been ignored by Catholic theologians and by seminaries. If such issues are treated, they are dealt with in moral theology and marriage canon law; in these cases, one is either considering the sterilization of persons with such disabilities or considering their capacity for entering into marriage. Largely the sexual issues of the person with intellectual disabilities are ignored by the public, by the Church, and by those involved with seminary formation.
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Theology of the Body for Hobbits
Deacon T. Jamison, OCDS, PhD
Faithful disciples of Christ in every age and culture have struggled to understand and accept all that Christ’s austere teaching on purity of heart required of them. And many different Christian authors over the centuries have assisted the faithful by explaining and illustrating in various ways the nature of divine love and the call of Christ to purity of heart. St John of the Cross, for example, insisted that full personal union of the human soul with God requires nothing less than having no personal desires other than the desire to imitate Christ and to do the will of the Father. Such absolute purity is humanly impossible, but it is offered to everyone through grace and the active pursuit of virtue. Christ wants to transform our desires and establish his kingdom in our hearts. This spiritual truth has been a common theme in Carmelite spirituality. John Paul II, canonized this year on Divine Mercy Sunday, developed this theme profoundly and thoroughly in his writings and provided Carmelite spirituality with the intellectual resources of the modern philosophy of personalism. The same spiritual principle has often been taught and illustrated in popular works of Christian literature, such as those by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Christ revealed that the way of spiritual perfection is the same for every person in every age and culture. Everyone is called to personal communion with God and each other through the active practice of the infused virtues of faith, hope, and love. The more sacrificially we exercise these virtues, the more curatively we purify our hearts, and the more completely we possess union with God and true happiness.
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