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v2.1 Reference

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart

Cultivating a Sacramental Imagination in an Age of Pornography

In an era in which the internet has made pornography readily accessible, Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart offers a theological critique of pornography and retrieves from the Christian tradition an alternative visual culture. This visual culture is constituted by both the character of the images we behold and the manner in which we see. Contributors include psychologists William M. Struthers and Jill Manning, who address the neurological effects of pornography and its influences on personal, familial, and social life. Their professional analysis is complemented by the testimony of a young man in recovery from pornography addiction. In an exposition of Christian visual culture, Orthodox iconographer Randi Sider-Rose describes the spiritual discipline of icon writing, Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D., surveys the iconography and art of Marian traditions, and art historian Dianne Phillips elucidates the meaning of divine desire as evident in Catholic visual culture of the late medieval and early modern periods. Catholic theologians Ann W. Astell, Nathaniel Peters, Boyd Taylor Coolman, and Nicolas Ogle discuss specific practices and dimensions of the Catholic tradition that can contribute to the cultivation of sacramental vision, and David W. Fagerberg, Kimberly Hope Belcher, Jennifer Newsome Martin, and John C. Cavadini offer reflections on sacramental imagination and the healing of vision.

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart is a work of scholarship composed with pastoral care and concern, and it will be serviceable to both classroom teachers and pastoral ministers. A special feature of the book is an inset of seventy-two full-color plates featuring both classic and contemporary works of Christian iconography and art. The essays and images invite readers to behold in beauty the truth that we are created by the triune God not for sexual objectification but with a sacramental vocation to deification through Christ and the Holy Spirit of love.

About the Author

Elizabeth T. Groppe is professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton.


"The contributors to this volume highlight how widespread the effects of pornography are and why this is of concern to those of the Catholic faith as well as discussing resources – mainly visual – within the tradition that provide a way of understanding the world."—Jason King, author of Faith with Benefits: Hookup Culture on Catholic Campuses

"In this rich and thoughtful volume, the contributors insist that pornography is not identified by nakedness, eros, or even the affirmation of sexual desire. All of these belong to Catholic visual culture. What marks pornography in our world, they consistently say, is its association with damage that falls disproportionately on the most vulnerable. The analysis of this damage and its opposite is as surprising as it is sophisticated—Janelle Monáe's videos are evidence for one contributor of the sacramental imagination at work—and add up to a volume that is subtle, engaging, and humane. The book is a pleasure to read and an important contribution to understanding both pornography and our present visual moment."—Natalie Carnes, author of Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia

"Too often, pornography is treated by Catholic thought simply as a moral infraction. The problem is lust, and we move on. But this remarkably rich volume provides a far better diagnosis of pornography as a crisis of visual culture, one that requires a counterculture formed by a sacramental imagination of beauty. In delicate but direct treatments from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, Groppe and her colleagues not only help us understand how pornography works, but how seeing the world is a fundamental task for Christians that, in a sense, precedes and shapes moral analysis. A rare work that is essential for both scholars and pastoral workers that opens up hope in the face of a massive problem!"—David Cloutier, The Catholic University of America

"Starting with Groppe's luminous historical chapter on the contrast between the sacramental and pornographic gazes through an impressive array of chapters by experts in psychology and neuroscience, visual culture, liturgy, Christian spirituality, and theologies of healing, this testament to fruitful interdisciplinary scholarship delves deeply into the question of images and their formative power. The exploitative, violent, and racist pornography industry is confronted with the beautiful ideals, practices, and arts of Christianity. Each chapter challenges Christian churches, racked by their own histories of sexual abuse, to reclaim resources for chaste, peaceful, harmonious, and true human connection and intimacy. A message of healing, mercy, and compassion resounds throughout. Above all, this volume maps trajectories for a new aesthetic education in the sense of Christ (sensus Christi)—from the catacombs to Our Lady of Luján, from Byzantine icons to Masaccio to Janelle Monáe—aimed at fostering sexual and spiritual health, wholeness, and holiness."—Peter Joseph Fritz, author of Freedom Made Manifest: Rahner's Fundamental Option and Theological Aesthetics

"This is a remarkable book. If pornography is one of the most pervasive and sinister elements poisoning human culture today, this well-integrated collection of essays courageously examines matters from multiple angles, with an eye toward pastoral care of individuals. Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, sociology, art history, and theology, the book takes a hard look at the devastating violence caused by pornography, then explores a range of Christian approaches to seeing the human person more sacramentally. The rich, clearly written essays present the reader with an array of intellectual, spiritual, and practical tools for combating evil and cultivating a truer, more complete way of encountering the other. Parents, Catholic teachers, young adults, art historians, and theology students alike will find this volume a helpful guide."—Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB, St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology

"Excellent collection of essays on the meaning and practice of Christian visual culture in a world saturated with pornography."—Cistercian Studies Quarterly

9780813232898 : seeing-with-the-eyes-of-the-heart-groppe
Paperback / softback
368 Pages
$34.95 USD

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