How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating released in US, authors interviewed
In 2009, a book I co-authored with my friend Leah Perrault was published by Novalis, the Canadian Catholic publisher. Because of the age we live in, the book has been available to the American market from the beginning. Nevertheless, Novalis does not have the marketing or distribution wherewithal to make a major entry into the US market. As such, we sought an American publisher to produce an American version of the book.
After selling out our first Canadian print-run in short order and receiving several favorable reviews, we were able to come to an agreement with Paulist Press. We are delighted to announce that the book is now available through Paulist. The American version of the book has a different cover and some new endorsements (from Donald DeMarco* and Richard Gaillardetz*). It has also received an imprimatur from the Archdiocese of Newark, where Paulist is located, something the Canadian version did not feature. The text also includes 3 or 4 very minor changes to sentences that, in their original form, could have been read contrary to our intention.
Josh B., a long time friend of Vox Nova, has just published a lengthy interview with Leah and I about the book over at the blog Evangelical Catholicism. We would like to thank Josh for his help in promoting this work.
We strongly encourage anyone interested in the book to buy from your local bookstore or from the publisher’s website. And don’t just do that for this book, do it whenever you can.
Here is a snippet from the interview, but be sure to visit Evangelical Catholicism for the whole thing:
Josh: What resources influenced your model for dating?
Brett: We are part of the John Paul II generation, so when we had questions about this stuff in early undergrad, we went looking through his stuff and other things in the tradition. Of course, there is very little explicitly written about dating in the Catholic tradition. Essentially what our model does is take a Catholic theology of marriage and work backwards from it. If sex belongs in marriage because it is the physical manifestation of a full gift of self, as John Paul II says, what should people who are in a serious relationship, but have not yet made that full self gift in marriage be doing? What should their relationships look like?
When we were working out a model to answer these questions, we assumed that dating was done for the purpose of discerning your future. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun too, but Catholic dating has marriage as at least a remote possibility.
One big key for our model came when Flannery, who is now my wife, and I went to see a priest we were close with when we started dating. We knew we shouldn’t have sex, but we had very different ideas about appropriate physical intimacy at that stage in our relationship. When we asked Father Peter for advice, he didn’t give us any specific lines, but instead starting asking us questions about our relationship in general. He made it clear that physical intimacy has to correspond to the other ways of self-giving in your relationships. And this is true for everyone, whether dating, married, friends, family members, whatever. Physical intimacy is an important way that human persons communicate with one another, but it needs to say what the rest of the relationship is saying or it can really hurt people.
Leah: We were young adults ourselves when we developed the model. We were trying to figure out how to date in a way that would prepare us for whatever vocation God had in mind for us. We wanted dating to be fun but also respectful of our own and others’ dignity. We were frustrated with the predominant models for faithful dating that had been offered to us: either don’t touch each other at all or draw arbitrary lines based on someone else’s advice and then try not to cross them.
When I met Marc’s fabulous French family for the first time, he walked into the house and kissed everyone on the lips. By the time I came a second time, his dad and other male relatives were giving me quick greeting kisses on the lips. While it took a little while to get used to that, it gave me an insight that we’ve been relying on for a long time. In healthy relationship with our families, friendships and even strangers, we navigate physical intimacy based on the whole context of the relationship. As we get to know people, our whole lives become more familiar to one another. Touch progresses along a continuum, according to the time we spend with someone, the commitment we have and with reference to social norms. Hormones often make this natural process rushed and a bit urgent when people are attracted to one another, and secular society’s norms around sex and dating aren’t helping young people to heed the Church’s wisdom to save sex for marriage. We needed a dating model which would help young people navigate growth in physical intimacy, develop skills to discern God’s plan for them, and develop a reverence for the mystery of the person they love. All of these skills are highly transferable to marriage, friendship and the rest of life, no matter where the relationship goes.
* The authors are keenly aware of the omnipresence of the secular world and the powerful influence it has on young people. They know that Christianity is counter-cultural. Therefore, they approach controversial issues, such as abstaining from intercourse prior to marriage, masturbation, and the use of contraception, very gently and with great sensitivity. Nowhere, however, do they depart from Catholic orthodoxy. In this regard, they deserve praise for their courage, knowledge, and apostolic desire to bring light to others.
–Donald DeMarco, Professor Emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and Adjunct Professor of Holy Apostles College & Seminary
* Rarely do I have the opportunity to so enthusiastically recommend a book as theologian, spouse and parent. Perrault and Salkeld have written a clear, engaging and accessible volume that is doctrinally faithful to church teaching, theologically sound and pastorally wise. More importantly, they have written that rare book on Catholic sexual ethics that might actually engage and even persuade your average teenager or young adult! I can think of no greater compliment than to say that my first thought upon reading it was to buy copies for my sons!
–Richard R. Gaillardetz, Joseph Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one. Besides being co-author of How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating, Brett has also written Can Catholics and Evangelicals Agree about Purgatory and the Last Judgment?