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Pope on divine love vs. erotic love
Chicago Sun-Times ^ | 01/04/2006 | CATHLEEN FALSANI

Posted on 01/04/2006 7:31:11 AM PST by klossg

Pope Benedict XVI may try to "save eros," in the first encyclical of his papacy, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George told the Chicago Sun-Times.

George expects the new pope will try to explain that erotic love, eros, and unconditional love, agape, are both inherently good in God's eyes in his encyclical titled "Deus, Caritas Est," Latin for "God is Love." An encyclical is a pope's most authoritative document, a pastoral letter circulated to the universal church.

Letter talks about Christ

The cardinal has not yet seen Benedict XVI's encyclical, which is expected to be released by the Vatican within days, but said he has "seen comments" about it. The pope has asked George to deliver an address about the major themes of the encyclical to a gathering of the pontifical charity organization Cor Unum in Rome at the end of the month, according to Colleen Dolan, the cardinal's spokeswoman.

Benedict XVI's first encyclical will likely "talk about Christ, which is a good thing for a pope to talk about in his first encyclical. John Paul II did that," George said. "And he is going to talk about the relationship between love and truth, between agape and eros."

Agape (pronounced "ah-gah-pay") is a Greek word, referring to unconditional love, the kind Catholic doctrine teaches God has for humankind. Eros was the Greek god of love, and his name has come to refer to sexual love or desire.

In the mid-1900s, Anders Nygren, a Lutheran bishop from Sweden, published a book called Eros and Agape, in which he concluded that agape is the only truly Christian kind of love.

"In a kind of Lutheran fashion, he distinguished between agape, the love of God in us, which is good; and eros, which is our own erotic life and desire, which turns us away from God," George said. "He said that in English 'love' is ambiguous and you have to distinguish between these two. And you do.

"What the pope is going to do is to try to save eros. That is to say that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves. . . . The distinction between agape and eros is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."

A pope's first encyclical is seen as setting the tone for the rest of his papacy. Pope John Paul II, who died in April, published 14 encyclicals during his 27-year pontificate.

What will it mean if Benedict XVI tackles the issue of erotic love versus divine love?

"It might be part of his overall program of trying to not let things become purely secularized and devoid of religious connection," the Rev. Donald Senior, president of Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, said by phone from Rome on Monday night.

'Purifying the church'

Senior is there for a meeting of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which was led by Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, before he became pope in April.

"He has spoken about, in a couple of his statements already, a 'soulless materialism,' so trying to integrate human experience with the divine is really fundamental to him," Senior said.

"It may be that he's worried about a picture of human love or sexuality that is devoid of any connection to the divine. And in a strange way, it may be part of his response . . . to the clergy abuse crisis.

"He talked about 'purifying the church.' Maybe this is part of his way of doing it," Senior speculated.

The pope, who is said to have begun work on his first encyclical last summer, is a scholar of St. Augustine, who famously had a hard time reconciling erotic and divine love.

"Maybe he's going to try to repair Augustine a bit," Senior said, adding that he has not seen the encyclical and had expected it to be solely about Christology, or the study of Christ.

The pontiff's "focus is so much more dogmatic. Nevertheless, he does have a very emotional way of speaking. In his homilies and stuff, people have been noting that they're all very rich in imagery and much more affective than cerebral," Senior said. "Bavarians are very sentimental and romantic."

TOPICS: Catholic
KEYWORDS: augustine; benedictxvi; cardinalgeorge; catholic; chicago; divine; encyclical; erotic; firstencyclical; humanaevitae; johnpaulii; love; pope; purifyingthechurch; religion; repairaugustine; romance; sexisgood; sexisnotbad; theologyofthebody
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To: Pyro7480
>Clearly it's the Pope trying to cash in on the Brokeback Mountain hype . . .
>>Are you implying that the Pope is going to write about homosexual "love"? Have you read ANY history about this man?

I stand corrected.
I guess he's cashing in on
Ann Darrow and Kong . . .

21 posted on 01/04/2006 7:55:42 AM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: klossg
God gave us the ability to feel eros love. The problem comes in when don't balance our feelings with logical thinking.

Eros love, acted upon between husband and wife - good.

Eros 'love', acted upon by one person with other persons based on 'feelings' that are impacted by silly things, such as the guy forgot to change his socks - bad.

22 posted on 01/04/2006 7:55:56 AM PST by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: klossg
This is my first article post.


It's a very interesting article. Thanks!

23 posted on 01/04/2006 7:59:04 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: skaterboy
skaterboy:"I am lucky..I GET BOTH WITH THE SAME LADY"

You are right you are lucky ... and blessed. I am lucky and blessed as well! I am so glad to see that the Catholic Church is divesting itself of the puritanical view of sex. Check out John Paul II's Theology of the Body - Christopher west has great summary tapes and CDs available. It warms your heart.
24 posted on 01/04/2006 7:59:48 AM PST by klossg (GK - God is good!)
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To: theFIRMbss

not like a movie
but more like God intended
ask Christopher West

25 posted on 01/04/2006 8:03:19 AM PST by Nihil Obstat
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To: MEGoody
the guy forgot to change his socks - bad.

That is a bad reason. One of my favorites is "He looks so good with that guitar." Then again, "She's got a nice tight package" is bad as well. There are so many bad ones.
26 posted on 01/04/2006 8:03:27 AM PST by klossg (GK - God is good!)
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To: sinkspur
Let us rid humanity of Manicheaism and its dualism forever!

Through Christ's grace it can be done. It is so human to look at the world in a dualistic manner. I'd say farts may have something to do with that tendency. I am not sure if we can ever overcome the impact of farts or other bodily realities but Christ's death on the cross and resurrection has a chance if we take Him in.

I do not mean any disrespect by the above. I just think that if we have any chance of someone actually grabbing God's grace on the Theology of the Body - it is if they know we too are very realistic about our bodies.
27 posted on 01/04/2006 8:08:57 AM PST by klossg (GK - God is good!)
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Comment #28 Removed by Moderator

To: sinkspur
Augustine did not have disdain for the human body and that you think he did only shows how little you know about Augustine. Some people who claimed the support of Augustine for their position did disdain the body, namely, Jansenists, but they were misusing Augustine. Read Margaret Miles's dissertation at Harvard, Augustine and the Body for starters. Or just look at book VII of Confessions if you don't want to read Miles. Or read book I of On Christian Doctrine in which he asserts, with St. Paul, that no man "disdains" (hates) his body. Nothing God created can be rightfully disdained. To do so is to sin against God. All that God created is good. Somethings are lesser goods and some are higher goods. The soul is a higher good than the body but both are good and both are higher goods than all animal bodies and animal "minds" (not souls).

Miles expected to find Augustine hating the body because that was the prejudice she and people like you start from. She was astonished to find the opposite. Her conclusion: Augustine always valued the body but the more he dug into the meaning of the Incarnation the greater his love of the body grew. Miles is not conservative Catholic but a liberal feminist.

I'm tired of people who have never actually read a work of Augustine and understood it dumping on Augustine as a misogynist, body-hater, predestinarian etc. Benedict XVI has read Augustine carefully, along with just about ever other significant theologian in the Christian tradition. You might actually learn something from him about Augustine if you dropped your prejudgments. Augustine doesn't need to be lectured to by Benedict XVI or by you and Benedict XVI is not lecturing to him or correcting him. So what gives you the authority to lecture to both of them?

29 posted on 01/04/2006 8:11:20 AM PST by Dionysiusdecordealcis
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To: Syncretic

Nygren's book is a crock. He misreads Catholicism right and left out of Reformation and secular/modern polemics. Moreover, most well-read Lutheran and Reformed theologians recognize that Nygren caricatured things, set up a straw-man Catholic eros in order to knock it down. Anyone who has read Augustine carefully recognizes that the very center of his entire theolgy is caritas, the Latin equivalent of Agape, but that he does not pit eros against agape. They are distinct but not inimical. Nygren could not see his way to keep them from being at least in part inimical. That was his fatal error. He distorts eros as much as he distorts agape.

30 posted on 01/04/2006 8:14:33 AM PST by Dionysiusdecordealcis
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Comment #31 Removed by Moderator

To: Syncretic
One reason why Catholics and Protestants cannot just get along is that they have opposing views on how God's love works in the world.

I doubt that. What I don't doubt is that Protestants who set up straw-man caricatures of Catholicism to knock down, like your post, and presumably Nygren's book, does, aren't helping anyone to "just get along".

32 posted on 01/04/2006 8:18:20 AM PST by Campion ("I am so tired of you, liberal church in America" -- Mother Angelica, 1993)
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To: Syncretic
EROS: Man’s effort; it assumes that man’s salvation is his own work AGAPE: God’s grace; salvation is the work of divine love

When you say stuff like this, and identify eros with Catholicism and agape with Protestantism, you're just setting up a tired Reformation polemic that contains no agape and vanishingly little truth, to boot.

33 posted on 01/04/2006 8:20:00 AM PST by Campion ("I am so tired of you, liberal church in America" -- Mother Angelica, 1993)
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To: Syncretic
In this book, Nygren discusses how Christians have differed in their views about love. Some Christians (Catholics) have historically viewed it as Eros. Others (Lutherans) have taken the side of Agape.


On what does Nygren base his assumptions regarding the Catholic view of love?

Are you Lutheran? I am Catholic, btw.

34 posted on 01/04/2006 8:25:34 AM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Syncretic
You can't attain Agape through your own efforts. If you have it (and very few do), it is a gift that comes directly (not through a church) to man from God.

Exactly! A church can only point you to the truth and sometimes it can get in the way of the truth - it was started by Christ but lead by humans. Of course membership in a Church doesn't automatically make you a good person.

FYI ... you mentioned that Anders Nygren has influenced th Church on this. I am sure that John Paul II was aware of Anders Nygren but he devoted a huge part of his life before and after he became pope on this topic. He wrote "Love and Responsibility" and "Theology of the Body." He takes a very metaphysical and phenomenological path to Anders Nygren thoughts.

I will put Anders Nygren's book on my wishlist.
35 posted on 01/04/2006 8:27:00 AM PST by klossg (GK - God is good!)
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To: sinkspur

Let us rid humanity of imposters.

36 posted on 01/04/2006 8:27:42 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: klossg

We had a minister in a church in CA, that continually preached on this subject. The man was struggling with the fact that his wife divorced him because she didn't want to be a minister's wife and he just couldn't get past it. I was so tired of hearing about agape love.

37 posted on 01/04/2006 8:30:56 AM PST by Eva
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To: sinkspur
"The idea that sexual desire is somehow sinful in itself is still very much with us, despite John Paul II's strong theologizing to the contrary. Perhaps it takes a disciple of Augustine to bring the world this "Nixon goes to China" moment...Let us rid humanity of Manicheaism and its dualism forever!"

Sinkspur, I could kiss you! (Blush. Note to my everlovin' husband Don-o: I mean, like, on the cheek, y'know?)

Defending honorable sexual love from shamefaced, starched-pajamas Manicheism/Jansenism on the one hand, and from let-it-all-hang-out-and-lick-our-balls-on-the-front-lawn junk-sex libertinism on the other...

Good sex, good times, good people, good marriages: in defense of all this, one would gladly give one's life!

It's so strange (wonderful strange)that the Catholic Church ends up being one of the main institutions in the 20th Century defending human rationality, that is, the human capacity (and duty) to seek out and know the truth; and one of the main institutions in the 21st century, defending honorable, natural, sexual love.

And ---- it hurts me to say it --- but it's while our stomachs are still turning over from the revelations, over the past 3 years especially, of wayward priests performing perverted homosexual acts on male youths. Goes the show the truth of the old saying, in relation to both (good) sex and (good) Church: The worst is the corruption of the best.

38 posted on 01/04/2006 8:32:59 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Corruptio Optimi Pessima)
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To: Syncretic
Plenty of very tough agape, my friend. Correcting error is one of the seven works of spiritual mercy and is a form of tough love. You might consider the truth of what I said before deciding that the messenger was unloving. I could have patted you on the back and confirmed you in your error and you'd love me for it and we'd all be happy, now, wouldn't we? Dislike me if you wish. Students hate my guts all the time. I used to be intimidated by it. But I learned from Rush Limbaugh that expecting to please everyone all the time is a ticket to disaster.

And for God's sake, you don't have to agree with me. Read JPII and Ratzinger on Augustine and caritas and eros and tell me where Nygren has it right and they have it wrong. Read Augustine on desiderium (desire) and it's proper role. Augustine, Gregory the Great, all the masters of Western theology insisted that desiderium, eros was good. It was inferior to caritas/agape, yes, but good. Jansenists and Buddhists are the ones who claim that desire is in itself evil and must be annihilated. Nothing could be further from Augustine or Gregory or the entire Western Catholic tradition. Desire is God-given. Ultimately the eros/desire imprinted in us is of God and toward God. When we give in to that eros/desiderium/yearning for God truly instead of misdirecting it entirely toward the creatures God made (idolatrous eros but for that reason not-true-eros at all), we sin and follow cupiditas rather than caritas. True caritas simply orients eros/desiderium toward it's true object, God. The two should work in harmony. That they don't is because of how we misuse them and it's called sin. All sin is a misuse of the naturally good eros/desire for God implanted deep within each of us.

You'd know this if you read De doctrina Christiana on use and enjoyment. True, God-given eros is a road to heaven that we travel here on earth. We need the road to get to heaven but if we turn the road itself into the goal, we'll never reach the destination it leads to, namely, caritas. Instead, we would then detour into idolatry.

Nygren accused Catholics of making eros into an idol, of getting off the road to caritas because of eros. He was just flat wrong about what Catholicism did in it's history. He was right about caritas as the ultimate goal, but that's exactly what Augustine taught and Nygren was wrong to claim that Augustine taught something else. He was wrong about the role played by eros in Catholic theology of the Middle Ages. I spent thirty years studying medieval monastic theologians. I noticed that eros/desiderium is central to their caritas theology but that caritas is superior. I researched where they got this from and discovered it came from Agustine via Gregory the Great and others. Read Jean Leclercq's book, The Love of Learning and Desire for God (1961) if you don't believe me.

I've just given you, in these three posts on this thread what I expect to be the guts of Benedict's encyclical. How can I do that? Because I know the tradition. It's very deep, very clear and I'll be very surprised if Benedict doesn't restate it something along the lines I've just outlined. It has implications for all of Christian society. It's exactly what JPII was doing with his "civilization of love" that applied caritas to everything from sexuality to politics to economics. Read his Love and Responsibility and you'll see how eros fits seamlessly into the phenomenological analysis of love, in the stages of attraction and desire which are good but incomplete if they do not lead on to spousal love which is his term for caritas.

39 posted on 01/04/2006 8:33:44 AM PST by Dionysiusdecordealcis
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To: sinkspur

Dear sinkspur,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


40 posted on 01/04/2006 8:34:22 AM PST by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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