Two Made Flesh. The church and sexuality in history
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“The cliché is well-established: for Catholicism pleasure is guilt, sex is a sin. A practice to be indulged in sparingly and joylessly, exclusively within marriage, and primarily for procreation. Several enunciations repeated themselves over time in Catholic preaching, until this brutal synthesis became possible. But freer sensibilities, alternative analyses of ecclesiastical texts and policies can slowly build, refute, and ultimately topple such a generic proposition.” This is the task Margherita Pelaja and Lucetta Scaraffia set themselves in a book that brings together two great intellects and two different interpretative approaches into a unique inquiry. Their investigation reveals how the attempt to unite spirit with flesh, and accordingly assign a spiritual value to sexuality, would have a powerful impact on periods and figures in the history of the church—one need only think of The Song of Songs—while a policy of sexuality that swung between repression and clemency ran parallel to this, and acted as an effective system of governance over the souls of the faithful. The solution was sophisticated and worked for centuries, until it was eroded by the primacy of science that appeared to dominate modernity. The fight had begun for hegemony, a battle between lay society and Catholics that still rages today.