It is a very interesting question. Your concern about the moral value of the Bernini statue echoes the concern that even some contemporaries of Bernini expressed. IMO, ecstacy is ecstacy, be it a spiritual one or a physical one; our bodies can only express it in a certain way. And whose to say that perhaps what Teresa was going through physically
wasn't akin to the same feeling a woman in the height of sexual orgasm experiences? Of course, Teresa was also experiencing a whole other plane of spiritual
feelings that we can only begin to comprehend that would propel her ecstacy far above and beyond that of a mere orgasm.
I, for one, find Bernini's rendering to be quite brave on his part, considering the current of thought in Western Christianity at that time was almost on the verge of denying the saints any emotion whatsoever. It reminds me of a sermon I heard on Good Friday at St. Alphonsus in Baltimore during the Seven Last Words/Three Hours of Agony devotions. During a reflection on the words of Christ to John and to His Mother, the priest commented that many of the depictions of Mary at the Cross were "wrong", as they showed her fainting or being distraught. He said that the Blessed Mother was a strong woman who faced watching her Son being murdered with an almost stoic disposition. The thought of this appalled me, as even Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. If the Lord can cry at such a time, why would not His Mother be beside herself as she watches her Son nailed to a tree like a common thief? Would she not be tearing her hair out and wailing, like any mother would?
Where am I going with this? I'm not sure myself
As you pointed out in your original post, God made the body and sexuality, so they must be good. We can use them to convey certain messages, such as religious ecstacy, provided that we convey them in a proper context and with the proper guidance and disposition.
Anyone who only
sees Bernini's statue in a sexual way has some major issues that s/he must deal with. Of course every once in a while the thought that Serge expresses may spring to mind...after all, we're only human. But one should also get the feeling that Teresa is experiencing something so much more than sexual pleasure, which I'm sure the vast majority of us would say is the height of physical
pleasure. The fact that Teresa is experiencing that, and so much more, without sexual contact or thought, but through the experiencing of God, is a wonderful and powerful teaching tool.