Lecturer examines the 'whys' behind human sexuality Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
 Vicki Thorn
 Vicki Thorn, founder of Milwaukee-based post-abortion healing program Project Rachel and speaker at the St. Thérèse of Lisieux lecture in Madison on February 19, answers questions from attendees John and Olivia Bohn after the lecture. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)

MADISON — In a lecture touted as “What they don’t teach you in sex ed,” speaker Vicki Thorn offered real-world rationale for the “whys” behind Catholic teaching on human sexuality, drawing on various aspects of scientific research to prove her counter-cultural points.

“This is a remarkable, interconnected gift from God,” Thorn said of human sexuality during her hour-and-a-half talk, part of the semiannual St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series. “When we tinker with it, we mess things up.

“The Holy Spirit was right,” she said. “The Church holds the truth, and the Holy Spirit kept us on track.”

Thorn, a popular speaker on the topic who has come to the diocese previously through her work with the Milwaukee-based post-abortion healing program Project Rachel, spoke before approximately 250 people at the Bishop O’Connor Center February 19. The crowd included people young and old from around the diocese — priests, Sisters, and lay people alike. Bishop Robert C. Morlino even attended for a portion of the evening.

Held as part of the ongoing 40th anniversary celebration of the life-affirming encyclical Humanae Vitate, the talk, titled “The Biochemistry of Sex,” examined the biological explanations behind Church teachings on sexual morality. Thorn explained through the results of scientific research studies how society’s current obsession with contraception has altered how males and females — and their hormones and pheromones — interact, and the dangerous consequences of “tinkering” with the process.

Several of the studies Thorn cited during her talk have achieved general interest in the news media, including one well-publicized recent study that found that human females chose the scent of different, less genetically compatible males when on birth control  — and the study suggests that the hormones might then affect how women would like the scent of their partner after they went off the pill.

Other studies she spoke of, including one in which a male primate appeared to show more attraction to females not on birth control (and when all of the females were on birth control, showed signs of aggression and abnormal sexual behaviors), are less well-known.

“I think it’s become self-evident that it doesn’t work — but we don’t know what’s wrong with it,” Thorn said of people’s interest in talks such as hers, which examine the problems with the contraceptive culture. “So when someone says, ‘let’s talk about it,’ they’re interested. They’re fascinated.”

The topic speaks to, as Thorn described it, “anyone in a body.” Several people in the crowd after the talk commented on how knowing the information she shared explains many behaviors — as one lecture attendee said, “I wish I knew this when I was 19 or 20.”

“She has a really engaging message, and I think it’s both scientific and very faithful — and it really is a message most people haven’t heard,” said Jessica Smith, the coordinator of family planning for the Diocese of Madison and one of the organizers of the event.

“The original idea of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Lecture Series was to have the spirit of divine wisdom St. Thérèse had reflected,” Smith said. “Vicki Thorn’s topic reflects perhaps a different variety than before, but also the wisdom of the Church.”

The next St. Thérèse of Lisieux lecture, continuing the celebration of Humanae Vitae, will take place on Thursday, April 23, at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison. It will feature Patty Schneier, a Catholic housewife from the Archdiocese of St. Louis whose witness talk “Prove it, God! (. . . and He did)” examines the power of prayer and the life-changing conversion of Theology of the Body.

A video of the Vicki Thorn lecture will be made available through the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, which can be reached at 608-821-3160.

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