Matthew Shanahan

Recovering tradition and Post-Christian thought

This presentation will focus on comparing and contrasting two theologians that have vastly different interpretations of the Adam and Eve creation story in Genesis. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, presented through his weekly audiences from 1979-1984 illustrates the fullness of Catholic interpretation of the Adam and Eve story. This analysis of human sexuality illustrates the evolution of the Catholic theological method on human sexuality in light of biblical revelation in Genesis, theological anthropology, eschatology, and sacramentality. This Christian theological development relying heavily upon the influence of St. Paul, the Marian and Petrine dimensions of the Church were developed as Christians began to make theological sense of the Jesus story, particularly His resurrection. John Paul II can be characterized as using modernity as a way to rediscover the depths of human experience in John Paul II with his ‘Theology of the Body’, not through his own personal hermeneutic in particular but as the Magisterial head of the Church. Mary Daly’s journey, on the other hand, involves an uncovering of patriarchal oppression both within the texts and the continuous theological development of Catholic tradition. Looking particularly at her book Gyn/Ecology: Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Daly’s hermeneutic is the result of deconstructing the patriarchal narratives that constantly seek to control and oppress women. Her goal is to rediscover the essence of femaleness that has been repressed throughout history, allowing freedom to reign and ultimately, for women to flourish. Examples range from an embrace of pseudo-feminism that actually promotes patriarchy to a culture that promotes the myth of a feminine evil found through the character of Eve in the book of Genesis. While it is evident that these metanarratives do in fact differ in substance, it is also clear that they differ in language. They have simultaneously inherited from a western body of thought that critically aims to understand truths about humanity. These radically diverse views will be both mediated and scrutinized in my presentation with the hope of gaining insight to further authentic theological assessment of a globalized human nature and sexuality. Furthermore, these tools can be used as a basis for dialogue between people of different views that are constantly navigating a public arena impacted by globalization across a variety of cultures.

These two examples are a clear dichotomy of what has arisen in the West in the 20th century. In the end, these two positions, in all of their depth and rigor, promote a culture that heads in different directions, on different paths to what they see as a true and equitable future for humanity in accordance with how we were created. Different value judgments are present in these approaches that seek to rebalance the appropriate amount of order and chaos within human relations, in accordance with how the historical past is interpreted.