To all too many people the words "Catholic sexual morality" bring forth the thought "guilt-inducing old-fashioned repressive rules made by a bunch of old men who have promised never to have sex (but often do anyway)". In A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock 'n' Roll Mark Judge tries to explain the "Why?" behind the rules. His approach of quoting philosophers and theologians (including Pope John Paul II) rather than scripture may be off-putting to non-Catholic readers but it serves the purpose well. Most religious people know what the Bible says and doesn't say on topics of sexual morality. We know that adultery goes against the 10 Commandments. We know that scripture says that a man should not lay with a man in the same way he does with a woman. We know Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. We know about the death of Onan. What Christians today disagree about is the meaning of those stories in modern life in light of the knowledge we now have, in the world in which we now live. Why has the Catholic church stood firmly against contraception, pre-marital sex and homosexual relations?
In this easy to read 180 page volume, Judge looks at the development of Catholic teachings about sex and contrasts them to the teachings of various heretics such as Gnostics, Cathars, Bogomils and Albigensians. He points out that unlike some heretics who saw sexual relations as sinful, the Church has always taught that they were good, if properly ordered toward the procreation of children, fidelity between husband and wife and an indissoluble unity. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body brought forth a new image of sexual relations imaging the unity in the Trinity.
Besides looking at the history of Catholic sexual morality, Judge analyzes how our society, including many in the Church, have gotten away from traditional beliefs. He analyzes the effect of the media and liberals in society and is quite scathing toward the liberal media.
I highly recommend this book as an answer to "Why does the Church teach that? particularly if you are tired of "because the Church says sex has to be open to procreation" as the answer.
Thanks to Staci Carmichael at Random House for providing a review copy. Please check back October 4 to read the first chapter.