A balanced, broad summary of Catholicism's response to sexuality that will be a valuable reference tool for the layperson, although the scholar will find little that is original here. Fox, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, writes with an easy, accessible, journalistic style. The greatest strength of the book is the way he delineates the interconnectedness of the many sexual issues he tackles, e.g. gender roles, abortion, homosexuality, and contraception. His basic thesis is that Catholicism's ``natural law'' view, which Aquinas developed and which has now become the standard litmus test for Catholic morality, is the crux that defines widely variant sexual practices as sinful (natural law forbids all sexual relations not aimed toward procreation). Fox also provides intriguing behind-the-scenes explorations of contemporary Catholic politicking, such as the inner workings of Vatican II, describing how the Church was lovingly but firmly introduced to the modern era. He tells this story engagingly and expresses clear progressive opinions while retaining a nonjudgmental tone. The book is weakest, on the other hand, when Fox attempts to summarize 2,000 years of complex historical and religious changes in perfunctory digest form. Readers conversant in Catholic history may feel that Fox has sacrificed depth in favor of breadth. His insightful discussion of postVatican II Catholicism, however, more than makes up for his sweeping generalizations about the more distant past. His focus on dissenters within the Church is an especially perceptive chronicle of a growing cadre of critical Catholic thinkers who have formed unofficial but vocal groups such as Catholics for a Free Choice. Although he fails to provide definitive historical analysis of the many sex-related issues he addresses, Fox offers sensitive insights into contemporary Roman Catholic morality.
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