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An Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest parish in St. Louis is in an uproar over a parishioner's website selling sex-related merchandise.
A website called Catholic Intimacy is closing up shop as of April 15, and some St. Louis Catholics are breathing a sigh of relief.
Launched by James and Megan Walther, the site purports to "strengthen Catholic marriages" and "provide a safe space and resources for virtuous romance and love."
James Walther, owner, Catholic Intimacy: "I have ongoing conversations with several theologians about nuances of things — just trying to express the Church's teaching as clearly as I can."
Few Catholics would object to the site promoting rose petals or lingerie, but the online shop's inclusion of so-called marital aids, such as vibrators and sexual devices that use suction mechanisms, troubled some of the faithful.
When word of the online shop got out, the Catholic quadrant of the internet lit up with various concerns and objections.
Bob Baker, CM Resistance member, St. Louis, Mo.: "The name 'Catholic Intimacy,' associating the name 'Catholic' with this type of website, I thought was quite scandalous. And especially disconcerting, when this website first went up, it stated it was done with the approval and endorsement of the pastor of St. Francis de Sales."
Since the Walthers are members of one of the area's few Traditional Latin Mass parishes, St. Francis de Sales, critics took their concerns to its spiritual leader, Canon Benjamin Coggeshall.
Baker: "I wanted to verify, was this really being endorsed by St. Francis de Sales. I mean, St. Francis de Sales is a very traditional church, still having the Latin Mass. It just didn't make sense to me."
Canon Coggeshall appeared to concur with Baker.
In an email message, the canon said he had given James Walther "serious admonishment, reminding him that he has the grave duty to avoid having anything to do with immoral and unnatural practices relating to the sixth and ninth commandments."
Walther acknowledges the controversy:
There was some controversy at first, but internally, like with our community, there were people who had questions and concerns, and that was discussed, whether one on one or with groups, to explain their, you know. I made a point to do my research, to cite my sources, to make sure that I'm within the bounds of Catholic theology.
On one point, all agree: There's not nearly enough teaching from the pulpit on marriage and human sexuality.
Church Militant reached out to St. Francis de Sales' Canon Coggeshall but has not received a response.