In the February 6, 2009 issue of the National Catholic Reporter, Julie Hanlon Rubio reviewed Salzman and Lawler’s book. Although Rubio contends that the authors’ “proposals on cohabitation and artificial means of reproduction require further consideration,” she nevertheless declares that The Sexual Person is “among the most important works in Catholic sexual ethics to emerge in the last two decades.”
Rubio also notes that both Salzman and Lawler “have written extensively on sexual ethics and have a thorough knowledge of current theological debates. They stand firmly within the Catholic tradition even as they argue for significant change.” (Mmm, they sound like my kind of guys!)
According to Rubio, The Sexual Person presents a “clear articulation of a person-centered natural-law ethic that offers Catholics an authentic way to think about sex in relation to their faith.
Following are excerpts from “Sex that Contributes,” Julie Hanlon Rubio’s review of Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler’s The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology.
Salzman and Lawler, both married Catholics, offer a new approach to sexual ethics that questions the adequacy of a traditional sexual morality that says sexual acts must take place within marriage and be open to life. They show that historical critical scholarship raises questions about whether these principles are truly scriptural and truly human.
Although they embrace reasoning from natural law, they argue it is impossible to gain pure knowledge of nature. We can only reflect on our limited human experience of nature, acknowledging that it is always partial, evolving and in need of application. Thus, traditionalist assertions about the unnaturalness of certain sexual actions are flawed.
This book’s authors and other revisionists, on the other hand, offer a more adequate person-centered ethic in which making good sexual decisions means discerning whether or not actions contribute to human flourishing. Sexual acts that are “truly human” must be loving, just, and able to meet the test of “holistic complementarity.” Complementarity is defined in relation to sexual orientation. For persons with a homosexual orientation, sexual relationships with a person of the same sex are complimentary and can be loving, just, and moral.
Personal complementarity is more significant than reproductive complementarity, the capacity to generate new life, because the sexual acts of infertile couples, older couples, couples using contraception, and couples who abstain from sex during fertile times are all equally incapable of generating life. . . . “Making love” contributes to the good of marriage, even if “reproductive complementarity” is not a possibility.
. . . [Salzman and Lawler] have begun exactly the right kind of dialogue about how sexual actions affect real people’s lives. May it continue in peace.
To read Julie Hanlon Rubio’s review in its entirety, click here.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
• Making Love, Giving Life
• The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex
• “A Wise and Thoughtful Study of Sexual Ethics”
• Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
• Dan Hanway’s “Fresh Look at a Sensitive Topic”
• Robert McClory on Humane Vitae
• Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
• The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
At The Wild Reed one year ago:
• Agreeing with the Vatican
• Song of Songs: The Bible’s Gay Love Poem
At The Wild Reed two years ago:
• CPCSM Co-founder Responds to “Not Catholic” Assertion
• Encouraging Words