John E Perito (Author),

Contemporary Catholic Sexuality

What is Taught and What is Practiced

Since the dramatic changes of Vatican II many Catholics, lay and professional, have left the church in anguish over sexual issues. Others have rallied around the church’s traditional teachings. In this book, Dr. Perito explores…

“This is a gusty book. It isn’t angry, it isn’t radical, it isn’t recriminatory or accusatory. It is just very sane. It argues for a compassionate, sane view of all these issues we’ve been so…
  • Imprint: Crossroad
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  • Title: Contemporary Catholic Sexuality
  • Subtitle: What is Taught and What is Practiced
  • Page Count: 192
  • Available Formats: Trade-paper (9780824519681)
  • Edition: Trade Paper
  • Original language: English
  • Retail US: Trade-paper (22.95)
  • Retail Canada: Trade-paper (25.95)
  • Retail Canada: 25.95

John E Perito (Author)


  1. In the face of the collective shame and anger we Catholics feel as official reports of clerical abuse of children are published and widely discussed, this slim paperback offers us hope. Not that it makes excuses for the sinful scandalous behavior; quite the opposite (and of course we know there are no excuses); and not that the priestly scandals are even the major focus here (they are discussed in only two chapters). But, the fact that this book has been published at all - a book that describes, confronts and rebuts with both intelligence and respect the many Church "shall nots" on sexual matters - and by a major publisher of Catholic books, is hopeful in itself. What is especially remarkable is that "Contemporary Catholic Sexuality: What is Taught and What is Practiced" by John E. Perito is neither wimpy nor inflammatory. There are no apologies and no tirades. Just respectful but firm arguments, often illustrated by personal narratives, explaining and challenging many Church teachings relating to sex, from the all-male priesthood to contraception and much more. Perito speaks from authority: as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst; a practicing Catholic; a former seminarian, a husband, father and grandfather. He never exploits his personal authority or flaunts his expertise. And he doesn't flinch from confrontation. He offers his book as a dialog with people of good will, recognizing that the balance between "official" Church teaching and freedom to explore one's conscience is an especially important struggle today. Seeing sexuality as a gift from an imaginative creator, he begins with the obvious: "Sexual ethics in the Catholic Church are in a state of flux;" and the hope that the "naiveté, ignorance and arrogance of the past will not return." He gives a concise and helpful survey of the evolution of Church teachings on sexuality from St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, writing as if in dialog with these teachings, like a kindly professor with his peers, presenting their views with the same respect and clarity that he uses to often rebut them. He has this to say about changes in Church teachings: "It took 700 years between the time of St. Augustine and the time of St. Thomas before there was any authoritative teaching that sexual pleasure in marriage is not a sin. It took another 700 years before the secondary end of marriage, the mutual love and support for the spouses, was placed on a par with the primary end, namely the procreation and education of children (This happened at Vatican II.) When the Church does change directions on something, it is more like the turn of an ocean liner than a speed boat." Clearly, many Catholics would prefer the speedboat. But Perito does not encourage us to jump ship. Our Church is a work in progress, he tells us, urging us to keep the balance "between loyalty to the official teaching and freedom to explore and follow one's conscience...a struggle that has faced believers in every age and especially today." The fact that some in the clergy have lost credibility as moral guides in the area of sexuality only reinforces the resistance some Catholics have to Church teachings on other issues, such as capital punishment or preemptive war. There's no sexual issue that Perito seems afraid to explore. He disputes the Vatican teaching that homosexuality is an "objective disorder" and while he doesn't take a position on gay marriage, he argues that "there needs to be some moral room made for them [homosexuals]...to live in a holy committed relationship that will allow for genital expression that can foster love and generativity in their lives." This is not a negative book. The chapter the author considers most important, "Sexuality and Spirituality," offers an imaginative exploration of how sexuality and spirituality might be better integrated, through prayer and self-reflection. Chapters on marriage and on aging and death explore the milestones of life with imagination as well as realism. The final chapter raises a sensitive issue. How do Catholic educators who are not in sync with official teaching respond when adolescents press them with questions about sexual behavior. He recommends "respectfully and completely teach what the Church teaches but...have the freedom to honestly express where one's own reflections might differ." This might be the appropriate time, he suggests, to apply the Church's teaching about the primacy of conscience. This is a sensible, brave and hopeful book.
    --The American Catholic

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