Who is Damon Owens?
April 8th, 2009
In their delightfully campy ad currently running in several states, the National Organization for Marriage presents a spokesperson, Damon Owens. He tells us that “A rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color are coming together in love to protect marriage”, but he tells us nothing about himself.
And other than presenting his name with “National Organization for Marriage” underneath, we know nothing about his position or affiliation. He’s not listed on the NOM website as being on their lily-white staff or a member of their Board of Directors. In fact, a search on their website for “Damon” yields no hits at all.
Who then is this mysterious Mr. Owens?
Well an internet search reveals a bit about Damon Owens and his unique perspectives on marriage. An undated bio on the website of the National Black Catholic Congress tells us:
Damon Clarke Owens lives in West Orange, NJ with his wife Melanie and their five daughters. He is the Director of Natural Family Planning for the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ and the founder of New Jersey Natural Family Planning. He speaks nationally on marriage, chastity, Theology of the Body, and Theology of the Family. [more on that later]
And we also find that Damon Owens is a devotee of the spirituality of St. Josemaria, better known as the Opus Dei. A secretive Catholic organization mostly unknown before being dramatized as the fictional villains of The Da Vinci Code, the Opus Dei is a group that believes in the sanctity of good works (perhaps best defined by the advancement of Roman Catholic doctrine). The Opus Dei is also known for the far-right political associations of its members.
Perhaps the most controversial practice of the Opus Dei is Mortification, self-inflicted pain intended as a gift or sacrifice to God. This may include the use of a celice, a metal chain with inward pointing barbs, or other discomforts. Mortification is practiced primarily among the celibate, about 30% of Opus Dei followers.
Owens is not, however, among the celibate. In fact, he goes in the opposite direction. As indicated in his bio, Owens is a practitioner and teacher of the Theology of The Body.
The Theology of the Body loosely refers to Pope John Paul II’s teachings about Catholic doctrine and how it applies to sexuality and family. But to Protestant ears such as mine, it seems to go much further than matters of behavior and spiritual conviction.
I hesitate to state with certainty, but it appears that the Theology of the Body hints, at least, that one knows God – or perhaps Christ’s relationship with the Church – through sexual complimentarity with the opposite sex. Because this seems startlingly like the beliefs of a fertility cult, I may perhaps be overstating their views.
[Jim Burroway provides additional context for understanding the Theology of the Body and, while foreign to my religious experience, it does appear to be well within Catholic orthodoxy. ]
In any case, Owens is hardly representative of “people from every creed”. Rather, he is affiliated with some rather extreme offshoots of the Catholic Church, and his beliefs about marriage are far from mainstream Christianity, much less the American populace.