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Katie van Schaijik

Bishop Sheen on sex and marriage

Jul. 2, 2009, at 1:32pm

I found linked today at the Dawn Patrol this treasury of free audios by Bishop Fulton Sheen. I listened to two of them. “Marriage Problems” and “Sex as a Mystery.” Both are very good. I take them as representing the best of pre-John Paul II Catholic thinking on sex and marriage. They contain much wisdom. But, it seems to me, they lack a depth dimension present in the Theology of the Body and in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s philosophy of love and marriage. They are not the “new thinking about mankind” that, as I said in my last post, we need to meet the crisis of our day.
I would love to know what others think.


Rhett Segall • Jul 18, 2009 - 7:41 pm

I agree with you Katie, that Sheen’s talks do not have a great deal of depth. But that’s perhaps because they were meant to be popular presentations. Still, there is much there for reflection.

In the talk on Marriage Problems Sheen is accurate in pointing out than couples should not be surprised when dullness and routine tend to sap the enthusiasm that the couple experienced in the first years of their marriage. He stresses, correctly, that every field of life is going to experience this. In fact he even relates this to the “dark night of the soul” in the spiritual journey. (This sense of routine, by the way, is something that DvH said is the result of habit and robs a person of their freedom. In his chapter on True Freedom in Transformation in Christ, he stress that this negative effect of habit is something that must be vigorously fought against.) I would have liked to have heard Sheen give some practical examples of how to confront this danger, perhaps by the couple seeking new areas of cooperation.

In the latter part of this talk he refers to abusive husbands and counsels wives to bear this cross in union with Jesus’ Cross. Here Sheen’s advice is sadly deficient.  Certainly Jesus’ cross is a gift in our every day sufferings. But no woman should be expected to bear with an unfaithful, abusive husband. At a minimum she should seek a separation and pursue an annulment.

I thought Sheen’s talk on “The mystery of sex” very good. His definition of impurity as isolating sex is pure von Hildebrand. Sheen is excellent on honing in on sex’s mystery as one of creativity and that the awareness of this is what evokes a sense of awe in the relationship between the sexes.

Katie van Schaijik • Jul 18, 2009 - 7:57 pm

You make me want to listen again, Rhett.  I thought I liked the one on marriage better than the one on sex.  Let me listen again and get back to you.

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