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The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology (Moral Trad Moral Arg) Paperback – May 21, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1589012080 ISBN-10: 1589012089

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Editorial Reviews


"[T]hey cover the whole gamut of issues in sexual ethics in impressive and thoroughly scholarly detail. They are conversant with the results of a wide range of recent studies in sexual psychology; and this material is effectively integrated into a tight philosophical is very refreshing to read such a balanced treatment, controversial but not at all combative or defensive in tone. Their conclusions are thoroughly constructive and very convincing. Overall, it is a most impressive achievement."—The Way

"Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler's new among the most important works in Catholic sexual ethics to emerge in the last two decades...Their book will be noticed because of its controversial positions on contraception, same-sex relationships, cohabitation and artificial means of reproduction. However, its contribution is its clear articulation of a person-centered natural-law ethic that offers Catholics an authentic way to think about sex in relation to their faith. "—National Catholic Reporter

"The present volume is their clearest and most detailed critical inquiry into sexual anthropology to date. The dialogue that this volume should generate between the authors and the advocates of the New Natural Law Theory will be very valuable."—Catholic Library World

"Salzman and Lawler have succeeded brilliantly in combining a rigorous historical-critical engagement of the Catholic moral tradition with a set of creative, forward-looking proposals ... Salzman and Lawler have written an engaging, well-researched book that handles extremely complicated and controversial questions in a nuanced and intellectually rigorous manner."—Theological Studies

"Stimulating reading for theologians and graduate students."—Religious Studies Review

"An unusually rich resource for a dialogue on sexual ethics among a diverse group of religious ethicists who seek more fruitfully to articulate how Christians are called to shape their sexual lives in the contemporary world."—Conversations in Religion and Theology

"[Salzman and Lawler] move among four foci: the Catholic tradition, the school they characterize as the "New Natural Law Theory," the Revisionist school, and their own constructive synthesis. The careful critiques of the three positions are worth the price of the book but their positive reconstruction (so often missing in critical works) is equally valuable. ... Their work has a carefully constructed base of historical and sociological analysis as well as the requisite theology. It is well researched, carefully documented and logically argued."—Horizons


"Salzman and Lawler are accomplished theologians with the stature to confront questions that have become highly inflammatory in the too-often polarized Catholic environment. The result is a piece of extensive, well-researched, and carefully argued scholarship. The authors are respectful, intelligent, honest, thorough, and courageous. They will alarm a few people, enlighten many, and hold all to a new standard of rigor in approaching this very personal and politicized subject."—Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

"[A] carefully reasoned, nuanced, well-informed, often inspiring, and innovative book. Bound to be controversial for proposing an alternative to the primarily procreationist, traditionalist sexual anthropology in 'official' or 'tradionalist' Catholic treatments, The Sexual Person mounts a cogent and compelling account for a renewed genuinely Catholic sexual ethic, one widely informed by the social sciences. [This book] represents Catholic theological anthropology and ethics at their very best."—John A. Coleman, SJ, Casassa Professor of Social Values, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

"This book provides the most comprehensive, critical analysis of the Catholic debate on sexual ethics over the past fifty years. Its interpersonal and experiential approach points to a thorough revision of Church teaching on birth control, reproductive technology, premarital sex, and homosexuality."—Edward C. Vacek, SJ, professor, Department of Moral Theology, Weston Jesuit School of Theology

"This superb volume courageously explores Catholic teaching on sexual ethics. The authors' exploration of the biological, relational, and spiritual dimensions of human sexuality engages Catholic teaching respectfully, critically, and creatively. The book is a significant contribution to both sexual ethics and moral theology generally."—Paul Lauritzen, director, Program in Applied Ethics, John Carroll University

"This book is a much needed contribution to the contemporary Catholic discussion of sexual ethics. The authors utilize the most recent sociological and psychological data to supplement their careful parsing of the Catholic theology of sex, gender, and embodiment. It is a work that manages to be highly theoretical while at the same time addressing everyday concerns about premarital sex, contraception, homosexuality, divorce and reproductive technology.

Lawler and Salzman embrace the model of theology as dialogue and as a result their treatment of both traditionalist and revisionist views about human sexuality is constructive and helpful. They succeed in moving a seemingly stalled conversation forward."—Aline Kalbian, associate professor, Department of Religion, Florida State University

"A bold and brave book! Tightly argued and well-documented, this book lays out an understanding of human sexuality that expresses the profound work that theologians do on behalf of the Church in order to find ever better understandings of what the Church teaches in light of the witness of Scripture, the tradition, and our understanding of human experience."—Richard M. Gula, SS, The Franciscan School of Theology, Graduate Theological Union


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Product Details

  • Series: Moral Trad Moral Arg
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press (May 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589012089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589012080
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I thought the authors offered insightful ideas in clearly written non-preachy, non-screechy language.
L. Helw
Salzman and Lawler's book can serve to jump-start one way to debate with the Catholic bishops regarding sexual morality.
Thomas J. Farrell
While I ultimately stand by the Church's teaching as correct, I agree that it is not a truth clearly or well taught.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 63 people found the following review helpful By peekrood on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
I learned a ton from this book although I disagree with the authors on most points of practical morality. I appreciate their efforts, their rigor, and their good will. In principal, I agree with them a great deal except for in the following areas:

1. Proportionalism - Proportionalist ideas are the bedrock of their reasoning. For the authors, the intention and consequences of an act are paramount and they give little credence to an action's objective moral orientation.

2. Postmodern Anthropology - because they focus so much on the historicity and subjectivity of humans, they minimize the universality of human nature. Given, historicity and subjectivity are extremely important, but these authors emphasize it to such an extent that they end up concluding that (beyond basic moral principals) specific moral norms are almost entirely relative to one's historical context. Consequently they end up dismissing much of the biblical and theological tradition on human sexuality.

3. Pseudo - Dualist Anthropology
The authors criticize John Paul II's anthropology because they claim it focuses too narrowly on the physical/biological aspects of the person and ignores the spiritual aspects. Instead, they propose a "holistic" understanding of the person, which includes affective, relational, emotional, psychological, social, and other spiritual elements, that (functionally) trumps biological and physical concerns. What they fail to realize is that John Paul's anthropology includes all of these levels and sees them all as intimately integrated along with one's physicality while their own anthropology emphasizes some personal aspects to the exclusion of the physical. John Paul is not a physicalist, he simply sees all of these aspects of the person as important.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ryan N. on September 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My primary purpose for this review is to try and give some counterbalance to the overwhelming negative, one-star response that this book has received from (narrow-minded) Catholics who have nothing better to do than copy and paste the USCCB's statement about this book on its Amazon page (many, if not most, of whom have probably not even taken the time to read the book).

If your definition of Catholic identity is complete conformity with the magisterium with no/little room for critical dialogue, then this book is not for you. You will probably find this book as heresy/pagan/dissent/immoral. Save your time, and look for another book.

However, having actually read (most of) the book, I would like to say that Salzman and Lawler deeply contribute to the discussion of this all too politicized topic of Catholic sexual morality. Not only have the authors provided a well researched, thorough, and critical overview of both current traditionalist and revisionist sexual theologies, they also propose their own new principle ("holistic complementarity") for grounding a truly person-centered sexual theology/anthropology. This new principle seeks to center the Catholic sexual discussion on the whole person, adequately considered, and not simply on biology or procreation.

This book is a must for any persons (and not just Catholics!) looking for an adequate sexual theology that uses the best of Catholic tradition, practical human experience, and social/scientific studies. It is not the end of the discussion, but a great next step forward.

My only caution is that this book is written mainly for an academic audience. While the writing is far from cryptic, it may be harder for the lay reader to speed through.
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44 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Robert William DeMarco on September 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
For too long a time the sexual ethics of Catholic authors substituted sexual anxiety and submission to authorities for critical intelligence, serious scholarship, candor, & compassion. In recent years a quiet revolution has been taking place in publications by Christine Gudorf, Patricia Beattie Jung, Mark Jordan, Margaret Farley, and James Alison, among others. Now Todd Salzman & Michael Lawler have written a carefully researched, cogently argued, frank, and revisionary study in the Catholic understanding of sexual desire, love-making, birth regulation, premarital sex, and homosexuality. A brave, intelligent, and thoughtful contribution.
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46 of 65 people found the following review helpful By L. Helw on April 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
This particular book deserves thoughtful grace. All books do, really, but one which takes such work to research and complete, particularly in our time of trolls and angels, merits reviews rather than common scolds.

This is a book I found to be interesting to read for what it says its purpose is, rather than flying at it to harp about what it is not. There are covered in this book direct experiences of men and women married and otherwise, and these bring excellent insights into issues that may remain behind a glass darkly for those not married... not engaged in these ways. I thought the authors offered insightful ideas in clearly written non-preachy, non-screechy language.

There is a heart to this book. Though some read what supports their tiny front porch only, others read for exploring other rooms of a huge House that has room for all of good will. I'd say this book belongs to the larger House.

The only aspect of the book that was not immediately clear to me was the word 'anthropology' in the title. But, then I read several pages more than once, and understood this to mean not just an effort to collect data which the antiquated Kinsey studies did, but to bring back into focus a history that has oft been ignored, purposely suppressed, or written about by those who have no direct knowledge.

I'd say the authors have brought fresh overview to a long and tangled subject that has often been purposely subverted by those seeming interested in a punitive ideology used to blast others, rather than in learning, inquiring, offering the heart's and mind's ideas to others. And sitting with. Seeing. Talking with others. Learning.

I found the book fascinating and recommend it to any who wish to see what two current scholars think and see in the huge vista of human sexuality and Catholicism.
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