Sex and Heaven

Catholics in Bed and at Prayer

John Portmann

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

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John Portmann examines what it takes to get into heaven, and why religions--Roman Catholicism in particular--place so much emphasis on sex and sexual orientation as a measure of a soul, making "correct sex" the key for achieving salvation above all other virtues. Even as the Vatican has acquiesced on the morality of slavery, and in 1964 officially admitted Jews into heaven, homosexuals--even those who may be otherwise model Catholics--are still disqualified from entering heaven's gates. Portmann analyzes how the way we worship is not as important to the world's religions as the way we make love.


Praise for Sex and Heaven

"A fascinating and probing inquisition into the Catholic church's obsession with sex."--Conscience

"This trenchant study will appeal to those demanding changes in church teachings on human sexuality...."--Publishers Weekly

". . . there are very interesting and knowledgeable passages in this book and he has read widely in popular as well as scholarly texts."--The Tablet - The International Catholic Weekly

"Overall, the book is readable and passionate. Many readers will resonate with the author's pain. His self-revelation in the concluding chapter of why he was moved to write the book is a poignant testimony to what many who continue to fight battles for change from within the church likewise feel."--Catholic Books Review

". . . insightful, conscientious . . . Yet for all its analysis about the sex that gays are not supposed to have, Sex and Heaven is not a rant about individual rights denied or a condemnation of bigoted religious beliefs." --Southern Voice

"This book is knowledgeable, perceptive--and, surprise--well-written . . . This book delivers. . . All you wanted to know about Heaven and never dared to ask. . . Portmann subjects the inscrutable, the idea of Heaven, to strict and penetrating scrutiny. The result is like a trailer park after a tornado." --White Crane Journal

"Sex and Heaven is an exploration of the nature of morality and how religions, in particular he Roman Catholic Church, have focused on sex and sexual orientation to measure a soul's eligibility for admission into heaven. Portmann reminds us that the Church has already had to accept defeat on the issues of the morality of slavery and the position of our earth in the galaxy; now it must acknowledge and cleanse itself of the anti-Semitism and homophobia-'the ancient heterosexual dance'--at its core. Portmann is persuasive, compassionate and learned, and Sex and Heaven will change forever most readers' perceptions of heaven." --Elizabeth Abbott, author of A History of Celibacy and A History of Mistresses

"John Portmann's book has the great merit of going far beyond the themes of the sexual revolution and even of the gay and lesbian liberation movements, towards a wider consideration of the general meaning of sexuality for religion and for social morality. As the author shows very persuasively, all the sexual politics of the Christian churches, and also of lay Western societies, depends on the idea that a correct view of sex is the sole key for achieving salvation today. Portmann offers hope to those people interested in a richer personal spirituality, one which does not begin and end with sex."--Gianni Vattimo, professor of philosophy at the University of Turin, author of After Christianity and Belief, Socialist member of the European Parliament

"The Roman Catholic Church is in modern times the last great hope for the very paganism--that certain spiritualization of the flesh--that it has always ostensibly condemned. In John Portmann's analysis, the many sexual controversies in which the Church has embroiled itself, especially in the United States, have made modern Catholicism seem oddly like a fertility cult, albeit a singularly paranoid one. Paradoxically, we define religious and moral orthodoxy as an erotic discipline, a sexual panic scarcely distinguishable from sexual indulgence. Portmann offers us an informal, genial invitation to consider what is most new and challenging in recent scholarship on sex and the Church. He is entertaining, but also very well informed."--Ellis Hanson, professor of English at Cornell University, author of Decadence and Catholicism

Reviews from Goodreads



  • John Portmann

  • John Portmann is the author of When Bad Things Happen to Other People and the editor ofIn Defense of Sin. A self-described liberal Catholic, Portmann lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Available Formats and Book Details

Sex and Heaven

Catholics in Bed and at Prayer

John Portmann