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Sexuality and Catholicism Paperback – August 17, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Editor of the liberal National Catholic Reporter, Fox suggests that the Vatican's absolutist approach, condemning artificial contraception, abortion, homosexual acts and sterilization as gravely immoral and unnatural, ignores contemporary scientific discussion and the experience of ordinary people. Carefully reviewing the Catholic Church's often contradictory moral reasoning on sexuality from earliest times to the present, he concludes that the church hierarchy began a serious effort to condemn birth control only in this century. He scrutinizes recent changes within the priesthood: pressures to allow marriage and women's ordination, a rise in the number of gay priests and reports of priests molesting children. The church's denial or downplaying of such reports, he believes, has alienated many Catholic laypeople already disenchanted with official positions on sexuality. Fox surveys contemporary efforts to create an open-minded, creation-centered theology, led by priest Thomas Beryr and ex-Dominican Matthew Fox, who stress humanity's place within the unfolding evolution of the cosmos. This important, farsighted book lays a groundwork for healing and renewal within the church.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Fox, editor of The National Catholic Reporter tackles the controversial subject of human sexuality and its myriad manifestations within the context of Catholic religiosity hoping, as he says in his preface, to "move past a point of polarization to an acceptance of sexuality and faith as gifts of a loving Creator." He discusses the history of the church's views on sexuality and the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae and the more recent Evangelium Vitae, analyzing the issues of abortion, homosexuality, priest pedophilia, birth control, and the role of women in the church. -- Book News, Inc., 1 June 1996

The deft yet profoundly human touch of Thomas Fox may be felt on every page of this enlightening book. Non-Catholics will profit as much or more than Catholics from reading this succinct yet profound interpretation of the Catholic Church's outlook on sexuality. -- Eugene Kennedy, Professor of Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller Inc. (August 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807614688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807614686
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Thomas C. Fox is the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter; he also wrote Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church. He wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, "The times call for dialogue, for creative responses to a host of global problems... Religion needs to play a key role in the quest for harmony. However, the all too frequent impression is that the Catholic hierarchy... stays apart from the real world, issuing absolutist statments. The result has been to lessen church influence by keeping it out of the broader moral conversations... And yet the church, as always, has much to offer... [but] Many Catholics ... who have found the Vatican's proclamations too sweeping and unyielding have abandoned the church... In addition, all too frequent reports of priests molesting children have driven laypeople even further away... Despite dwindling numbers in seminaries... church leaders adamantly resist studying the problem. They will not allow the discussion of optional celibacy. For the past fifteen years ... I have witnessed these complex issues unfold. I have seen their often harmful effects on the lives of countless Catholics... 'Sexuality and Catholicism' looks at the critical sexuality questions facing the Catholic Church as it enters the twenty-first century. This book presents the histories, backgrounds, people, and theologies that have brought Catholicism to this juncture. It attempts to tell the Catholic sexuality story in a straightforward, comprehensible way."

He says in the first chapter, "Scripture... does not concern itself much with sex. Efforts to find a systematic presentation of a moral sexual ethic will be found wanting.
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Thomas Fox does a great job of introducing the foundations and scope of Catholic moral theology. Although I was already familiar with many of the historical and theological data on this topic, I found this book very helpful in clarifying concepts that are presented more technically in moral theology textbooks. I would recommend it as a supplementary resource, much like using a bible commentary in a scripture course. Fox's many years as a noted publisher, editor and reporter establish his credibility in researching and writing on the topics he presents. The book is well documented and has a detailed index.

I like the adequate attention to the historical background and developments in Catholic church teaching on the more commonly discussed moral issues. The treatment of birth control and Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae encyclical, abortion, homosexuality and non-marital sexual behavior is done in a respectful and professional manner, while acknowledging diverse or dissenting interpretations of moral teachings on these matters.

Although not a moral issue of the same genre as those mentioned above, the chapter on "Women and the Church" is very appropriately included within the scope of the book. Fox presents a helpful and balanced discussion of the nuances of "feminism" and its implications for women's participation in the church, including the controversies regarding ordination of women. I recommend his discussion of the lengthy stuggles (and eventual failure) of the U.S. bishops to write and publish a pastoral letter on women in the church during the ten years following 1983 - especially how the Vatican's interventions hampered this endeavor.

While in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem-cell research and end-of-life issues have become prominent since publication of this book (and are not discussed), nevertheless, Fox provides sufficient moral theology background to non-professional readers to grapple with these issues.
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Format: Paperback
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It had some very interesting chapters, like those on homosexuality and self-love, and they were very informative for a Catholic Teen like myself. The book helped to clear up a lot of grey areas, but also presented others that the Church has not made a stake in yet. It cited a lot of history, if you care for that, and gave reasons why the Church's thinking was both wrong and right. A good read for curious Catholics.
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