Tuesday 24 May 2016

Oliver O'Donovan on the limits and possibilities of the body

A few highlights from Oliver O’Donovan’s 1982 Grove Booklet ‘Transsexualism and Christian Marriage”:

“The either-or of biological maleness and femaleness to which the human race is bound is not a meaningless or oppressive condition of nature; it is the good gift of God, because it gives rise to possibilities of relationship in which the polarities of masculine and feminine, more subtly nuanced than the biological differentiation, can play a decisive part. Through masculinity and femininity we claim the significance of males and femaleness for relationship, and give it, through relationship, an interpretation which can express our individuality as persons.” p7.

“One aspect of form common to all matter, of course, is plasticity, an openness to forces that mould and fashion; and this is what makes it possible for man to confer form upon matter while respecting the form that is there. But in more complex organic structures there is also a degree of systemic difference which runs counter to plasticity. The body of a living animal is susceptible to moulding only at the cost of its systemic integrity; sealskins make excellent coats, but the decision to make coats out of them is the decision to kill seals. Respect for natural forms, then, must mean more than the exploitation of plastic possibilities. It implies sometimes the resolve not to exploit plasticity in order that the more complex forms may retain their integrity.” p15.

“To know oneself as body is to know that there are only certain things that one can do and be, because one’s freedom must be responsible to a given form, which is the form of one’s own existence in the material world.” p15

“The first obligation of every human being is to hail that givenness [as male or female] as a created good and to thank God for it, even though he or she may then have to acknowledge that for him or her in particular that created good has taken on the aspect of a problem.” p16