The Theology of the Rational Soul

This is a (partly) cranky post, about the theological and philosophical sediment of Pope St. John Paul II’s Papacy. It’s inspired by a post at Just Thomism about a contemporary Catholic theologian’s (?) attempt at theodicy. The author of the post points out that not all divine actions are best explained in terms of love. Some are better explained in terms of intellection.

I attribute the sentimental exaggeration of “love” to Pope St. John Paul II’s so-called “Theology of the Body” (TOB). This “theology” (this usage seems wrong; shouldn’t it be “theological school” or something like that?) seems to place the image and likeness of God primarily in the body. Traditionally, the Church has said this image and likeness resides primarily in the rational soul.

Still, it is our bodies that make us relational beings who relate to each other in terms of generation and familial love. The Father begets the Son, and there is an analogy to human parents begetting offspring. This analogy doesn’t apply to angelic beings. So the image and likeness of God does reside at least in part in the body.

Nevertheless, there is a glib earnestness among TOB advocates. They talk as though there is no other framework for understanding basic Christian dogmas, such as Creation and the sacrament of Matrimony, without reference to TOB. They seem naïve. It’s disconcerting and flies in the face of the notion of ressourcement. I would like to know to what extent this particular theology is received in the African Church. I suspect that the Africans don’t require a novel, sophisticated, modern-sounding theological framework to grasp the natural law on questions of sexual morality.

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