Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Book Review

One Body: An Essay in Christian Sexual Ethics

Alexander R. Pruss
University of Notre Dame Press
ISBN 978-0-268-03897-7

Professor Robert George writes that this book is " a terrific -really extraordinary- work of scholarship." And yes, it really is that good. With great clarity and without recourse to religious argument, Pruss gives the reader an extensive philosophical reflection on love and sexuality.

The work begins with an account of the nature of love. It is argued that there are different kinds of love, such as parental,filial and romantic love, and the differences lie in the kinds of union that is sought. Romantic love is fulfilled in bodily union that is procreative in nature. Sexuality thus matters objectively and is not a matter of subjective desire.

The author argues persuasively that sexual union is a union in reproductive striving. Thus positive marital contraception is wrong. It is argued that whether contraception adds to the objective guilt in cases of non-marital intercourse is not that clear. Or, to put it another way, we cannot seek our moral salvation by recourse to intrinsically bad acts. 

It is shown that contraception itself leads to a vast increase in non-marital sexual activity. This is because contraception makes sexuality less meaningful because it no longer has connection with biological strivings directed towards procreation.

The author examines reproductive technology and concludes that it is only morally permissible when helping coition to be fruitful, so that the childalways remains a fruit of the marital act.

Pruss has presented us with a substantial apologia on Catholic teaching on human sexuality.