Category Archives: Chastity

Aug 8 – Solemnity (OP calendar) of St Dominic, Ebur Castitatis, “Ivory of Chastity”

“O Lumen”, said at Compline each night in Dominican houses…

“O Light of the Church, Doctor of Truth, Rose of Patience, Ivory of Chastity…”

“…Sadly, however, many in the Church have failed spectacularly in this regard. The Church is currently reeling in the aftermath of revelations that a now former cardinal had for years sexually abused a child and many seminarians. It is even sadder that this is just one of many examples of those in Holy Orders who have abandoned their resolve to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom. And then there’s the question of who knew about these double lives and failed to take any actions. How many Catholics have become disillusioned with their faith because of such betrayals? How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been lost? Sexual infidelity is definitely not compatible with Christian fruitfulness.”
– Fr Robert Verrill, OP, English Province

May 24 is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic. This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233…

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried out at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

But they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.”
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/why-the-feast-of-st-dominic-is-not-actually-the-dominicans-biggest-feast-day-93473

“Chaste is waste.”
“Virtue can hurt you.”
-popular sayings

“We live in a culture of entitlement. Movies, TV shows, and magazines exhort us to get the love that we “deserve.”

But love defies the culture’s rules. (Ed. is it REALLY love if sought or obtained immorally, selfishly? If the “other” is not a person, but an object or subject to objectification as a resource to be used, abused, and disposed of, is it REALLY love? I don’t recall selfishness, being part of the definition of love? Selflessness, agape, yes. Willing the good of the other, is the definition of love I understand, and am challenged through my own sinfulness to constantly pursue.) It is not something one can “get” in the sense of taking it for selfish reasons. When love is treated as an object to be consumed, it vanishes. “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Song of Songs 8:7).”

Becoming chaste requires a conscious decision to change perspective. Relationships can no longer be viewed through the lens of entitlement.” –https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/abstinence-and-chastity/10-12-reasons-to-be-chaste

Are you only your anatomy? Is anyone? Is that all you are? A thing? A piece of something? To be consumed, a resource, at the will and how and whim of another more powerful or deceptive? Perhaps an unwanted vermin to be exterminated? Does “reason” play any role in our decisions? Is it possible our “reason” can steer us more towards happiness? Like in every other aspect of life? Are we held to account by reason? For reason? Are we permitted to only be held to account by reason when it is convenient? What kind of a silly, ephemeral, meaningless thing this “reason” you say would be then?

“Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self.” (CCC 2346) The “Gift of Self” IS the definition of love. “You cannot give what you do not have.” -common proverb

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” -Rm 1:22

Novena to St. Joseph – The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Most Chaste Spouse

O glorious descendant of the kings of Judah, Inheritor of the virtues of all the patriarchs. Just and happy St. Joseph, listen to my prayer. Thou art my glorious protector, and shall ever be, after Jesus and Mary the object of my most profound veneration and confidence. Thou art the most hidden, though the greatest Saint, and art particularly the patron of those who serve God with the greatest purity and fervor. In union with all those who have ever been most devoted to thee I now dedicate myself to thy service; beseeching thee, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Who vouchsafed to love and obey thee as a son, to become a father to me; and to obtain for me the filial respect, confidence and love of a child towards thee.

O powerful advocate of all Christians, whose intercession has never been found to fail, deign to intercede for me now, and to implore for me the particular intention of this Novena.

Present me O great Saint to the adorable Trinity, with Whom thou hadst so glorious and so intimate a correspondence. Obtain that I may never efface by sin the Sacred Image according to the likeness of which, I was created. Beg for me that my divine Redeemer would enkindle in my heart and in all hearts, the fire of His Love, and infuse therein the virtues of His adorable infancy, His purity, simplicity, obedience, and humility.

Obtain for me likewise a lively devotion to thy virgin spouse, and protect me so powerfully in life and death, that I may have the happiness of dying as thou didst, in the friendship of my Creator, and under the immediate protection of the Mother of God. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

The devil made me do it


(One of my FAVORITE movies of all time! Kelly and I often quote it back & forth to each other, especially when Elliot is a wimpy, sunset loving, guitar playing, tuna-eating-dolphin-free marshmallow who lets bullies kick sand in his face, thinking, after reading Alison’s diary, and wishing from the devil, Elizabeth Hurley, to be a sensitive man. Of course, Satan being the father/mother of lies, so Elliot always gets Hell, instead, literally, never the heaven he thought he was bargaining for by offering his soul. How true. I made a custom ringtone from Alison’s final line in this scene. Ever since seeing the movie the first time, I said, out loud, if the devil REALLY looked like Elizabeth Hurley….we might have to talk….JUST KIDDING!!!! I think. 🙂 )


-by Br Albert Dempsey, OP

“One of the most influential and now forgotten historians of the 19th century was the Austrian Dominican Heinrich Denifle. Despite having many administrative responsibilities, Fr. Denifle found time to pour over thousands of medieval manuscripts, making significant contributions to the study of medieval mysticism, the rise of universities, the Hundred Years War, and the life of Martin Luther. During his lifetime, his work was lauded by Catholic, Protestant, and secular scholars throughout Europe.

In his later years, Fr. Denifle examined the general decline in observance among the clergy in the late Middle Ages, as well as the not infrequent counter-examples of heroically virtuous clerics. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Europe endured the threefold calamity of war, famine, and plague; Europe’s population would not fully recover until the industrial revolution. Death claimed the wicked and the pious alike, and the Church herself was rent with schism. Moreover, the prevailing intellectual trend of the age—Nominalism—posited an utterly arbitrary and terrifyingly vengeful God. These factors led many in the late Middle Ages—even priests and religious—to adopt either an extreme asceticism or a nihilistic hedonism. Fr. Denifle observed that the curious thing about many lax priests was that they continued to know right from wrong. Their error lay, rather, in thinking that they could not help but sin when confronted with temptation.

Sound familiar?  Many of our contemporaries still recognize the wrongness of sins like overeating, adultery, slander, and embezzlement. Yet so often we exonerate ourselves by protesting our own lack of freedom: “I just couldn’t help myself.”  Our society is quick to explain disordered actions by pointing to psychological or biological causes, whether traumatic experiences, psychological disorders, or simply being born a particular way. In attempting to alleviate moral guilt, this modern tendency strips the human agent of liberty, reducing him merely to reacting to stimuli rather than making free and creative choices. Yet the Scriptures are quite clear that men—in general—retain moral responsibility for their deeds.  While psychological and physiological disorders may influence human behavior negatively, they are not the only cause of disordered actions.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, the possibility for sin rests primarily in the freedom of our created natures. As creatures, we are finite and, therefore, defectable, able to go astray by not loving what we ought as we ought. Moreover, due to the stain of original sin, fallen man is less inclined to good actions. There is ignorance in the intellect and malice in the will, by which we love lesser goods more than we ought. Even our sense appetite is disordered by concupiscence and weakness: we are too desirous of sensual goods, and we are unwilling to strive after difficult goods. Thus, our senses and emotions can often overmaster our impaired intellects and wills, leading us to act unreasonably.

Yet original sin did not corrupt human nature entirely, as though Adam and Eve were transformed into some other sort of creature. Man remains created in the image and likeness of God, a rational creature possessed of intellect, will, and free choice. No matter how disinclined towards virtue he may be in his sinfulness, he retains the seeds of virtue, for the inclinations towards truth and goodness—the goals of virtuous actions—are inscribed in the very nature of his intellect and will. Moreover, the baser powers remain fundamentally subordinated to the higher, yearning to be directed well by free choices. Sin does not destroy our liberty, it merely makes it more difficult to exercise it—to act as we know we ought (see Rom 7:19). Yet God’s grace is capable of penetrating the depths of our fallen nature, healing and elevating it interiorly. Therefore, let us neither despair of ever being able to resist temptation nor protest our inability to act according to right reason. Rather, let us remember that our nature has not been utterly denuded of its freedom, and let us beseech God’s aid in exercising our liberty well despite our woundedness, remembering his teaching, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).”

Behold me, O my God, at Your feet! I do not deserve mercy, but O my Redeemer, the blood which You have shed for me encourages me and obliges me to hope for it. How often I have offended You, repented, and yet have I again fallen into the same sin. O my God, I wish to amend, and in order to be faithful to You, I will place all my confidence in You. I will, whenever I am tempted, instantly have recourse to You. Until now, I have trusted in my own promises and resolutions and have neglected to recommend myself to You in my temptations. This has been the cause of my repeated failures. From this day forward, be You, O Lord, my strength, and in this shall I be able to do all things, for “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)” Amen.

Mary, Mother most pure, and Joseph, chaste guardian of the Virgin, to you I entrust the purity of my soul and body. I beg you to plead with God for me that I may never for the remainder of my life soil my soul by any sin of impurity. I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity. Obtain for me a deep sense of modesty, which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes, the windows of my soul, from anything that might dim the luster of a heart that must mirror only Christ-like purity. And when the “Bread of Angels” becomes my food in Holy Communion, seal my heart forever against the suggestions of sinful pleasures. Finally, may I be among the number of those of whom Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)” Amen.

Love, and the peace that comes from His will,
Matthew

Risks & facts of gender dysphoria

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire

School administrators and board members terrified of expensive lawsuits are capitulating to the demands of “gender”-confused adolescents. Parents are capitulating to the disordered thinking of their children, terrified that if they don’t, their children will commit suicide. Their fears are stoked by a deeply flawed study that is grossly misunderstood.

1.) No one knows what causes gender dysphoria. While some subscribe to “brain sex” theories of causation (for which there is no proof) or believe that intrauterine hormone exposure causes the development of gender dysphoria, there are other possibilities, including pubertal changes (e.g., early breast development in girls can lead to unwanted male attention that results in girls feeling uncomfortable with their female bodies); autism; sexual abuse; childhood trauma ; family dysfunction; and excessively rigid gender roles. Moreover, even a discovery that biochemical factors influence the development of feelings about gender would not mean that chemical and surgical treatments are appropriate responses to gender dysphoria.

2.) Gender dysphoria can diminish, resolve, or be treated in less drastic ways than the “trans”-affirming protocol that involves chemical and surgical interventions for a non-medical problem (i.e., puberty is not a medical problem). The best research to date suggests that upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children will “desist,” that is, their gender dysphoria will resolve and they will accept their bodies, unless their rejection of their natal sex is affirmed by their environment.

3.) There’s been an explosion in the numbers of children and teens identifying as “transgender,” including teens who never before exhibited signs of gender dysphoria. This latter phenomenon, which affects primarily teen girls, has been called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Some parents are reporting that their children have several friends who identify as “trans,” and some are reporting that their children self-diagnosed after spending time on the Internet where they encountered videos or chat rooms in which young people describe their gender dysphoria or “trans” identity. Many believe the dramatic increase in this profoundly unnatural phenomenon results from “social contagion,” which tends to affect adolescents much more than adults.

4.) The medical community admits it has no idea whether pathologizing healthy sexual development and setting children and teens on a path of lifetime risky medical treatments will help them, and they have no idea if these children will grow up to regret their “transitions.”

5.) Gatekeeping is lax. Gatekeeping is the process that determines who accesses “trans”-affirming medical treatment like prescriptions for cross-sex hormones. Parents and former “trans”-identified men and women criticize the mental health community for failing to take adequate medical and mental health histories of new patients that might reveal “co-morbidities” (i.e., the simultaneous presence of more than one chronic disease or condition in a patient) prior to prescribing cross-sex hormones or making surgery referrals. Some young gender-dysphoria sufferers are able to get prescriptions for opposite-sex hormones after just a couple of visits with a doctor. Worse, the pressure is mounting from the “trans” cult to eliminate gatekeeping entirely, even for minors.

6.) Puberty-blockers carry serious known health risks, and long-term effects are unknown. Kaiser Health News recently wrote about one of the primary puberty blockers administered to gender-dysphoric children: Lupron. Lupron is thought to cause osteopenia (bone-thinning), osteoporosis (bone loss), degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and depression. Due to the number and nature of complaints received, the FDA is now reviewing the safety of Lupron.

7.) “Progressives” argue that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible and merely buy gender-dysphoric children time to figure out their “gender identity.” What they don’t share is that the vast majority of children who take puberty blockers move on to cross-sex hormones. In contrast, as mentioned earlier, upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children who do not take puberty blockers or socially transition eventually accept their sex. Preventing the process of puberty to proceed naturally not only interferes with the biological and anatomical development of children but also changes he social experiences that attend puberty.

8.) Cross-sex hormones are risky and lifetime effects unknown. Voice changes, sterility, and hair growth patterns (including male pattern baldness in women who take testosterone) are irreversible. Side effects and long-term health risks for women who take testosterone include a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL), an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, weight gain, possible increase in risk of heart disease (including heart attack), stroke, and diabetes. The side effects and long-term health risks for men who take estrogen include liver damage and disease, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, gall stones, heart disease, prolactinoma (a cancer of the pituitary gland that can, in turn, damage vision), nausea, and migraines.

9.) Many gender-dysphoric girls bind their breasts much like Chinese women used to bind their feet. “Chest-binding” carries serious health risks including compressed ribs, which can cause blood flow problems and increase the risk of developing blood clots. Over time, this can lead to inflamed ribs (costochondritis) and even heart attacks due to decreased blood flow to the heart, fractured ribs that can lead to punctured and collapsed lungs, and back problems.

10.) Boys under 18 can have vaginoplasty in which they are castrated and the skin from their penises and scrotums used to fashion the likeness of a vagina and labia. A surgeon, in effect, turns a boy’s penis inside out, with the outside skin of the penis becoming the lining of the “neovagina.” Alternatively, boys can have “intestinal” or “sigmoid colon” vaginoplasty, which uses part of their intestines to construct “neovaginas.” A 2015 study showed that between 12-43% of patients who had vaginoplasty experienced “neovaginal” narrowing, and 33% experienced “changes in urine stream and heightened risk of urethral infection.”

Bottom surgery for girls who pretend to be boys is more complicated and has less satisfactory results. It first requires a hysterectomy followed several months later by phalloplasty which requires skin grafts taken from the forearm or thigh to create a penis that has no capacity for producing an erection. Therefore, patients who want to have intercourse will need penile implants, the most common of which requires the most skill to use, has the highest complication rate (50% must be removed due to complications), and must be replaced every 3-15 years.

WARNING!!!!!!   CAUTION:  GRAPHIC VIDEOS & CONTENT

Minor girls can also get double mastectomies as young as 15 years old.

All surgeries carry risk, but teens and young adults are having these life-altering, risky procedures—not to treat a disease—but to alter normal, healthy processes and mutilate healthy anatomy.

11.) Several studies reveal that the majority of “trans” identifying adults desire to have their own biological children, and yet minors are being given cross-sex hormones that leave them permanently sterile. Further, “it is not currently possible to freeze immature gametes.”

12.) There is a growing “detransitioning” movement. Detransitioners are men and women of diverse ages who regret having taken cross-sex hormones and amputated healthy body parts. Many have come to understand the cause or causes of their gender dysphoria and feel sorrow over the irreversible damage they have done to their bodies. Their stories, easily available online, are painful to hear.

13.) Research into gender reversal transitions is stymied by political pressure from “trans” activists.

What is now commonly understood is that brain development is not complete until about age 25.

“The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so…. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”

Culture is providing a lens through which young people with still developing brains interpret their experiences of discomfort with their bodies. This lens is distorting common, usually transient experiences.

As months and years pass, more men and women will tell their stories of anger and sorrow at being deluded and betrayed as children by ignorant and cowardly adults—some of whom cared more about lawsuits than about children.

So, when your school administration and board decide to allow objectively male students into girls’ private spaces or vice versa, ask them if they will accept some measure of responsibility for facilitating confusion and error when ten or twenty years from now, the “trans” ideology is exposed as one of the great pseudo-scientific errors in American history along with Freud’s theories of psychosexual development, false memory syndrome, and lobotomies.

For more information about detransitioning, watch these Youtube video clips:

Love & truth,
Matthew

Sexual orientation & gender identity: what does the science say?

real-love

“Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2016 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For most young people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria, the experience is in fact temporary, and a non-heterosexual orientation is not as fixed as sometimes claimed, a new overview of the relevant research says.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” said the report, published in The New Atlantis Journal.

As many as 80 percent of men who reported same-sex attraction as adolescents no longer do so as adults. There were “similar but less striking” results for women. The idea of innate sexual orientation is “not supported by scientific evidence,” the report said.

Titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” the report reviews various research studies to examine claims about sexuality and gender.

It was authored by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, Ph.D., a biostatistician and epidemiologist now a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins University; and by Dr. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
The report considers various claims like the basis and permanence of gender identity and sexual orientation.

It found there is a lack of scientific evidence for claims that gender identity is an innate property “independent of biological sex.” Scientific evidence also does not support claims that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body.”

Gender identity problems can arise for someone with Intersex conditions, where a person has ambiguous biological sex due to genetic abnormalities.

However, brain structure comparison of transgender and non-transgender individuals show only “weak correlations” between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations are not evidence that this identity has a basis in the biology of the brain.

Similarly, sexual orientation’s neurological basis can be overstated. Against the “born that way” claim, the report authors write: “While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

The report also considered sexuality, mental health, and social factors.

Non-heterosexuals are two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The authors weighed the evidence that non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors may increase the risk of suffering sex abuse, or that sexual abuse may cause non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors. They said that more research is needed before claiming a link between sex abuse and non-heterosexual attractions.

Non-heterosexuals do face elevated risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. They are estimated to have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse than the heterosexual population. They face double the risk of depression and 2.5 times higher risk of suicide.

The transgender population, recently estimated to make up 0.6 percent of the total population, suffers a lifetime suicide attempt rate of 41 percent, compared to 5 percent of the overall population.
There is “limited, inconsistent and incomplete” evidence that social stressors like discrimination and stigma “contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations.”

The report said clinicians and policymakers should not assume that models focused on social stressors offer a complete explanation for these health differences.

“Just as it does a disservice to non-heterosexual subpopulations to ignore or downplay the statistically higher risks of negative mental health outcomes they face, so it does them a disservice to misattribute the causes of these elevated risks, or to ignore other potential factors that may be at work.”

Adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries continue to show a high risk in mental health, being about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide compared to a control group.

Regarding therapies for children that delay puberty or modify sex characteristics of adolescents, there is “little scientific evidence” for their therapeutic value, the report said.

At the same time, “some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification.”

“There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender,” the report added.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

A Universal Church has universal opinions….shocker!!!!

A 3d graphic of the words in the question What Do You Think? This could be used to encourage people to participate in a survey or poll and ask their opinion or

Some people are surprised, or scandalized, or relieved, or whatever, to learn Catholics have differing opinions from each other, ALL THE TIME!!!  Some of this results from inadequate, eighth grade level catechesis, at best, and even then of questionable quality, but exactly how many sublime and nuanced truths as contained in philosophy and theology can you really communicate to college students, let alone eighth graders?

My humble opinion is, with the elevated level of education on the part of the laity, the Church has relied too long on its old, old model of the ignorant and illiterate peasant farmer or such, Catholic, Catholic ghetto, immigrant getting off boat, train, etc., and making a bee-line for the rectory where the good Father, the only literate Catholic within miles, will secure housing, food, employment, etc. for said peasant.  See where priests get there historical power, besides the obvious?  Not a healthy, mature, relevant, sustaining, Christian, 21st century, empowered (and, I hate that word, as used in “corporate”) model, but, still.  We’re still using that ancient model.  The world HAS changed, and so have most Catholics; maybe not clergy, sharing power is a BITCH, like surrendering one’s divinity to become mortal, or even going to the Cross, out of love, but they are dependent on their bishop for everything, ok.  And, a bishop is dependent on Rome to even be called Catholic.

Granted, not every Catholic wishes to enter into post-graduate theological catechesis, or the relevant discussion therein implied.  However, this is where REAL answers begin to emerge.  Sorry, not sorry.

Some may be scandalized to realize Catholics are not a monolithic thought block.  We’re not.  Once formally declared as teaching of the Church, however, things become more linear, they do, or they should. This is pretty much where Luther, and other Reformation leaders, fell off the boat. Obedience is a virtue. No matter how right I think I am, I will NOT disobey Holy Mother Church. She is my mother, after all. Lord, have mercy on my soul. Please!!!!

However, anyhoo, even with THAT, Catholics would have raging differences of opinions on EVERYTHING.  It’s very Catholic.  As I have mentioned MANY times and places, asking questions, and I know I have a problem with asking questions and with the truth, I like them both TOO MUCH!  But, asking questions is VERY Catholic!!  Deo gratias!!

Trigger warning!!!  🙂  Let’s have an example!!!!  Yeah!!!

Q.  Do homosexual unions have moral value?  (No ez ones in my class!!  They’re boring, anyway. 🙂 )

matthewcullinanhoffman_avatar_1435256636
-by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

Kardinal_Reinhard_Marx
-Cardinal Marx

“According to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, homosexual relationships have “worth,” a worth that must be recognized by the Catholic Church.

“We have to respect the decisions of people,” Marx told the media last week in Dublin after delivering a speech at Trinity College, according to a recent report in the Irish Times.

“We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family, some were shocked but I think it’s normal, you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that] that is nothing, that has no worth,” he said.

Consequently, according to Marx, the Church owes homosexuals an apology for its historical treatment of homosexuals. “As Church and society, we have to say ‘Sorry, Sorry,’” Marx said. He added that the Church should support “regulating” homosexual partnerships. “We as church cannot be against it.”

Marx’s statements seem to fly in the face of repeated affirmations by some of the Catholic Church’s most authoritative documents, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which calls homosexual sexual acts “acts of grave depravity” which are “intrinsically disordered,” and “can never be approved.” They also contradict the Vatican’s 2003 instruction on homosexual unions, which forbids support for legal recognition for homosexual unions of any kind.

St. Peter Damian, a cardinal who wrote the most extensive treatment of the issue of homosexual unions in the Church’s history, also had a very different understanding of the value of homosexual relations from that of Cardinal Marx.

According to Damian’s work on the subject, the Book of Gomorrah, written in the 11th century in response to a plague of homosexual vice among priests and clergy, homosexual unions are in no way beneficial to their participants; to the contrary, they are utterly destructive to them, spiritually, psychologically and even physically, throwing them into an emotional and spiritual confusion that makes them subject to demonic manipulation.

Damian writes that “this vice, which surpasses the savagery of all other vices, is to be compared to no other. For this vice is the death of bodies, the destruction of souls, pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of the intellect, expels the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart, introduces the diabolical inciter of lust, throws into confusion, and removes the truth completely from the deceived mind.”

Damian recognizes that the logic of homosexual vice leads to ever-more degrading and self-destructive acts, a reality confirmed by those who have come out of the gay lifestyle. The homosexual relationship “violates sobriety, kills modesty, slays chastity,” writes Damian. “It butchers virginity with the sword of a most filthy contagion. It befouls everything, it stains everything, it pollutes everything, and for itself it permits nothing pure, nothing foreign to filth, nothing clean.”

The homosexual relationship removes “the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice,” Damian writes, adding that it “removes the foundation of faith, enervates the strength of hope, breaks the tie of charity, destroys justice, undermines fortitude, banishes temperance, and blunts the sharpness of prudence. And what more shall I say? Since indeed it expels every cornerstone of the virtues from the court of the human heart, it also, as if the bolts of the doors have been removed, introduces every barbarity of the vices.”

Damian notes that individuals who involve themselves in homosexual relationships suffer from anxiety and other psychological disturbances, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed by numerous peer-reviewed medical studies in recent decades.

Of those who participate in such relationships, Damian writes: “His flesh burns with the fury of lust, his frigid mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion, and chaos now rages hellishly in the heart of the unhappy man while he is vexed by as many worries as he is tortured, as it were, by the torments of punishment. Indeed, once this most poisonous snake has sunk its teeth into an unhappy soul, sense is immediately taken away, memory is removed, the sharpness of mind is obscured; it becomes forgetful of God, it forgets even itself.”

In some ways Damian seems to foresee the behavior of the modern homosexual movement. Using a metaphor that seems particularly appropriate, Damian refers to the homosexual lifestyle as “the queen of the sodomites,” who enslaves and degrades her victims, taking away their peace and instilling in them a frenetic obsession with pleasure. He also notes that those who involve themselves in such behavior feel compelled to draw others into the same wretchedness, by becoming homosexual “militants.”

“This most pestilent queen of the sodomites renders him who is submissive to the laws of her tyranny indecent to men and hateful to God,” Damian writes.

“In order to sow impious wars against God, she requires a militancy of the most wretched spirit,” he continues. “She separates the unhappy soul from the fellowship of the angels, removing it from its nobility to place it under the yoke of her own domination. She strips her soldiers of the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice. . . . She gnaws the conscience like worms, burns the flesh like a fire, and pants with desire for pleasure. But in contrast she fears to be exposed, to come out in public, to be known by others.”

In contrast to Cardinal Marx and other Catholic prelates who have recently advocated affirming homosexual relationships or tolerating them, Peter Damian writes that we must avoid the “cruel mercy” of staying silent in the face of evil, and even warns that we become the “murderer of another’s soul” if we do not speak against the immorality of their behavior.

“Who am I to watch such a noxious crime spreading among those in holy orders and keeping silent, to dare to await the accounting of divine punishment as the murderer of another’s soul, and to begin to be made a debtor of that guilt of which I had been by no means the author?” writes Damian, adding later, “For how am I loving my neighbor as myself, if I negligently allow the wound, by which I do not doubt him to be dying a cruel death, to fester in his soul? Seeing therefore the spiritual wounds, should I neglect to cure them by the surgery of words?”

St. Peter Damian’s words were well-received by Pope St. Leo IX, who said “everything that this little book contains has been pleasing to our judgment, being as opposed to diabolical fire as is water.” Today, however, Damian’s warnings are increasingly ignored by European and American prelates in favor of an indifferent and even benign understanding of the sin of sodomy.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin? WTF? What’s that? Who cares? What’s the diff?

chastity

There’s a BIG diff. Holiness “integrates” the entire human person, as God intended, repairing the wounds of sin in that person and their community; and is achieved ONLY through His most merciful grace. Sin, the rebellion against God and His Holy Will, therefore, “disintegrates” the human person. We can see this now, here, in our lives through greed, lust, envy, pride, divorce, addiction, adultery, even atheism/agnosticism, heresy, and their counterparts all disintegrate the human person from what God intends. Praise His most holy name. Praise Him. Please, please pray for me in my struggles against my own temptations, that I might not be disintegrated in His sight. He has been so good to me! 🙂 1 Cor 9:27. Pray that I may turn from my sin, and LIVE!!!! 🙂

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-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

¨Bob is Bob,” and “Dan is Dan;” these statements are tautologically true. Yet we also say that “Bob isn’t himself today,” and this manner of speaking gets at something profound. We can, somehow, be more or less “ourselves.” But what does that mean, exactly?

It doesn’t mean that personhood changes or disappears, or that someone becomes someone else. Rather, it is a statement about wholeness, completeness, and integrity of life; or the lack of integrity and that absence of a proper order in life—being scattered, fragmented. And there is, ultimately, only one thing that can destroy integrity: sin.

Sin wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1849)

Sin is not an offense against an arbitrary standard concocted by a devious divinity. It’s an offense against reason and truth. As such, its effects are not only external, breaking the divine and eternal law, but also internal. It wounds human nature by destroying the proper ordering of life, by twisting nature to perverted counterfeits of the good it seeks. Sin makes us less ourselves.

All sin and vice lead us to lose ourselves, but some kinds more than others. This depends not only on the gravity of the offense, but also on the role that each virtue and vice plays in human life. One virtue is particularly important, and particularly neglected in our era: that of chastity. Chastity is especially important not because Christians are obsessed with controlling a particular, and personal, aspect of people’s lives, but because it reflects and informs integrity and self-possession throughout all facets of life.

The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift … Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. (CCC 2337, 2346) (Ed. Since when I was in novitiate and missioned to St John’s food pantry in Cincinnatti, where I heard the true, true maxim, oft since reheard, “You cannot give what you do not have!”)

The proper ordering of life is, ultimately, one of self-mastery and self-gift, for “man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24). Chastity is a virtue exemplifying both self-mastery and self-gift. Self-mastery, since “the alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2338). Self-gift, since “some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner,” and some profess vows “in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman” (CCC 2349, 2337). Chastity, thus, is worth our special concern.

In today’s age, in a culture of explicit and unbridled and almost unavoidable unchastity, sin has harmed each of us, distorted your integrity and mine, in a drastic way. It is no surprise that so many people are “not themselves” and are unable to gather the scattered fragments of life. It may tempt us to despair, but we are comforted by our Savior and the confidence that “where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rom. 5:20). It is by grace, purchased at great price, that sin is expelled, virtue gained, and our selves made whole.”

Love,
Matthew

“We’re FREE!” & miserable: women & hookups

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anne_maloney
-by Anne Maloney

“A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
∼ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“…The young women I encounter every day on the campus of the university where I teach are worse off than the Stanford University victim, because they do not know what has gone wrong in their lives. Nonetheless, something has gone terribly wrong, and on some level, they know it.

In thirty years of teaching, I have come to know thousands of women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. These women are hurting. Badly. Consider these examples from “the front lines”: a young woman says to me with all earnestness, “This weekend I went to my first college party, and I hit it off with a guy so we went into the back bedroom where the coats were and started kissing, but then he reached down, moved my panties aside and penetrated me, so I guess I’m not a virgin anymore.” Another young woman came to me in tears because her doctor told her that since she has genital warts, she may have trouble conceiving children in the future. She had always assumed she would get married and have a family someday. “And the worst part is,” she wailed, “I’m not even promiscuous. I’ve only had sex with six guys.” This young woman was nineteen when she said this to me.

Once, in a writing assignment about Socrates and the Allegory of the Cave, a student wrote that she decided to make better choices after she woke up one morning in a trailer, covered with scratches, naked, next to a man she didn’t remember meeting. At least she knew there was a problem. All too often, these women come to me in a state of bewilderment. Women have never been more “sexually liberated” than these women are, or so they are told. No more are they shackled by ridiculous bonds like commandments, moral rules, words like “chastity.” They shout: “We’re free!” Yet they whisper: “Why are we so miserable?”

It is no coincidence that the top two prescribed drugs at our state university’s health center are anti-depressants and the birth-control pill. Our young women are showing up to a very different version of “college life” than that of the previous generation. One woman, while in her freshman year, went to her health center because she feared she had bronchitis. In perusing her “health history,” the physician said, “I see here that you are a virgin.” “Um, yes,” she responded, wondering what that fact might have to do with her persistent cough. “Would you like to be referred for counseling about that?” This student came to me to ask if I thought she should, in fact, consider her virginity—at the age of eighteen—a psychological issue. (I said no.)

In a seminar I teach every other year, we discuss the ways that addiction reveals certain truths about embodiment. One of the books we discuss is Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. The students adore this book, and we have fascinating conversations in class. The chapter that generates by far the most passion, however, is the chapter on drinking and sex. Knapp speaks honestly about the key role that alcohol played in her decisions to have sex, sex that she regretted and that made her feel terrible. My students resonate deeply with Knapp’s experiences, and I continue to be struck by how unfree these students feel. Once the culture embraced non-marital sex and made it the norm, women who do not want to have casual sex often feel like outcasts, like weirdos. College is the last place where one wants to feel like an utter misfit; couple that with the fact that first year students are away from home for the first time—lonely, vulnerable, insecure—and you have the recipe for meaningless sexual encounters followed by anxiety and depression.

Why don’t these women just stop it? Rather than get drunk in order to have casual sex, why don’t they put down the glass AND the condom? The world we have created for these young people is a world which welcomes every sort of sexual behavior except chastity. Anal sex? Okay! Threesomes? Yep. Sex upon the first meeting? Sure! Virginity until marriage? What the hell is wrong with you?

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the reason so many college-aged women binge-drink is so that they can bear their own closeted sorrow about what they are doing. The woman who got drunk and got raped behind the dumpster is the victim of a toxic culture. But my students are also the victims of a toxic culture. Small wonder that the number of women suffering from eating disorders, addiction, anxiety and depression is at an all-time high.

They end up in a stranger’s bed with a bad headache, a dry mouth, and an incalculable emptiness. An entire generation of women is wounded yet unable to find the source of the bleeding. There is, indeed, an “unconscious despair” behind their “games and amusements.” They “hook up,” feel awful and have no idea why. It’s hard to heal when you don’t know you’ve been damaged. And the despair and shame that these women who hook up feel is real. Contemporary sexual culture is toxic for young women, and until women stand up and acknowledge that fact, despair, sadness and regret are going to be the underlying chord structure of their very lives. We fail an entire generation when we withhold from them the “wisdom not to do desperate things.”

Love & prayers,
Matthew

Sex as Summum Bonum?

“To think sex is repulsive is a failure of true chastity and a moral defect.” ( S.T., II, II, 142) -St Thomas Aquinas, OP

Is sex the “greatest good”?  Certainly, it is a great good.  WOOT!!  WOOT!!  Ask any healthy adult person!!  Amen.  And, a gift from God!!!  But, heresy, I know, is it the GREATEST good, the Summum Bonum?  Our bodies may tell us “HELL, YEAH!!!”  Any flavah!!!  Any kind!!  Sky’s the limit!!  It’s ALL for US, baby!!!  The kinkier the bettah!!!  The weirder the bettah!!!  Marquis de Sade, eat your….whatevah, OUT!!!!  ALL 4 US!!!  HAhahahahahaha!

It has a purpose?  A reason?  Not just fun?  It’s supposed to be used for something?  Crazy talk.  Crazy.  There’s a plan?  An intention?  A reason?  WutchU talkin’ ’bout, Willis?  WutchU talkin’ ‘BOUT?????

talkinboutwillis

Animals crave sex, food, warmth, comfort, security, safety, etc., ALL the “creature comforts”.  Of course, silly.  Wait…what?  Why are you asking such a ridiculous question, Matt?  Matt, you pull out some doozers, but this is a DOOSIE!!!!  Matt!!!  How DARE you question the ULTIMATE TRUTH!!!  This is what we LIVE for, Matt!!!  Take the keyboard AWAY from that man!!!  He really has LOST IT NOW!!!

But, even accepting the theory of evolution, or its future cousins, plainly, faith and reason, fides et ratio, is sex the GREATEST good?

“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  -Gen 1:27

The Catholic Church is often maligned as HATING SEX!!!!!  I can assure you, NOTHING could be farther from the truth.  I come out of Moral Theology seminars at the St John Bosco Conference at Steubenville University shouting to every young person I meet, “The Catholic Church wants YOU to have AWESOME SEX!!!!”  It does!!!  It truly does.

But, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), it does NOT want you to be merely an animal.  You, as a human being, are MADE in the IMAGE & LIKENESS of G O D, H I M S E L F!!!!!!!  WOW!!!  WTF???? = Well, that’s fantastic!!!!  Wdtm??? = What does that mean???  Ah, the rub.  Now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we?  Or, maybe you ARE just an animal???  I guess that’s up to you, but, last I heard, notwithstanding the cuteness of “all good doggies go to heaven”, a gentle answer for a child bereft of their favorite pet, not too many mentions of animals in Heaven??  🙁

So, if you DON’T want to go to Heaven, then go ahead, be an animal.  It’s NOT ALL GOOD.  🙁  But, if you DO want to go to Heaven, then, maybe, just maybe, that “IMAGE & LIKENESS” stuff has implications??  No matter HOW MUCH you gotta scratch that itch?  Maybe??

Can’t we just say “Thanks, God.  We’re outta here!!!” with that image & likeness stuff??  Can’t we?   Well,…no.  Darn!  You mean that stuff has implications?  Consequences?  Responsibilities?  Entanglements?  Requirements?  Such a great gift?  Really?  Really.

Summum bonum (Latin for the highest good) is an expression used in philosophy, to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods. In Christian philosophy, the highest good is usually defined as the life of the righteous, the life led in Communion with God and according to God’s precepts.

Saint Augustine states, clearly, God is the Summum Bonum in De natura boni (On the Nature of Good, written circa 399 AD). Augustine denies the positive existence of absolute evil, describing a world with God as the supreme good at the center, and defining different grades of evil as different stages of remoteness from that center.

Experience soon teaches that all desires cannot be satisfied, that they are conflicting, and that some goods must be foregone in order to secure others. Hence the necessity of weighing the relative value of goods, of classifying them, and of ascertaining which of them must be procured at the loss of others. The result is the division of goods into two great classes, the physical and the moral, happiness and virtue. Within either class it is comparatively easy to determine the relation of particular good things to one another, but it has proved far more difficult to fix the relative excellence of the two classes of virtue and happiness.

The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life. But even if a married couple were to video tape their sexual acts for their own use, without distribution to third parties, such creation and use of pornographic material would not be moral. The marital act is inherently intimate and private, and should not be recorded for any purpose. The material itself is also morally disordered when the contents contain explicit depictions of unnatural sexual acts, or explicit depictions of any type of perverse sexuality. Such acts are inherently gravely contrary to God’s plan for sexuality in human life.”

http://www.catholicplanet.com/ebooks/the-immorality-of.pdf

“c) Marital chastity subordinates sexual pleasure to communion. The pleasurable sensations of sexual activity culminating in orgasm are in themselves a private and incommunicable experience.  Hence, to focus attention on this experience and strive to intensify it as much as possible tends to make the other person into a means, a “sex object.” So, the Church teaches that spouses should pursue sexual gratification only in subordination to marital love.168 Marital chastity, by making the marital good itself central, makes it possible for the experience of loving cooperation in one-flesh communion to predominate and enjoyable sensations to take their proper, subordinate place in marital intercourse. Thus subordinated, erotic pleasure no matter how intense, is morally good (see S.t., 2–2, q. 153, a. 2, ad 2).

The point is clarified by John Paul II’s teaching that a man can commit adultery in his heart by looking lustfully at his own wife. He does not mean spouses may not look at each other with erotic desire or with the intention of arousing desire in themselves and each other. To look lustfully instead means to reduce “the riches of the perennial call to the communion of persons, the riches of the deep attractiveness of masculinity and femininity, to mere satisfaction of the sexual ‘need’ of the body.” The person looked at in this way is made into a sex object. Hence: “Man can commit this adultery ‘in the heart’ also with regard to his own wife, if he treats her only as an object to satisfy instinct.” And a woman likewise can commit this adultery toward her own husband.169

d) If reason calls for abstinence, intercourse cannot express love. Even when it is not appropriate to engage in marital intercourse, people often are tempted and constrained to do so by sexual excitement and desire. Of itself, however, sexual drive does not express love; it is no more communicative than any other biological drive.

Outward behavior can express what is in one’s mind and heart only insofar as it is, not the result of a biological drive, but a free self-communication. Thus, if an uncontrollable nervous condition causes a man from time to time to blurt out “Omaha, Omaha!” everyone soon realizes that his “Omaha, Omaha!” is meaningless.

If his wife wants his agreement about anything important, she asks him to put it in writing. Likewise, to be expressive, sexual activity must be free, and to convey genuine love, it must tend to common benefit; unless freely chosen for the sake of common benefit, marital intercourse cannot express and nurture unselfish love.170

It follows that to be able to give oneself in marital intercourse so that the act means something, one needs self-control sufficient to be able to choose not to engage in intercourse when reason, considering all the relevant goods, calls for abstinence. At such times, love is expressed and fostered not by intercourse but by mutual support in abstaining cheerfully.

Consequently, marital love requires a husband and a wife to develop marital chastity, that is, to subordinate genital arousal and satisfaction to the reasonable claims of all the aspects of their common good as a married couple. By enabling the couple both to come together when appropriate and to abstain when appropriate, marital chastity empowers them to engage in sexual acts which truly embody love, rather than merely manifest an urge for inwardly focused, selfish self-satisfaction.171

http://www.twotlj.org/G-2-9-E.html

But wait, why not just give into our desires? Yeah! That’s the ticket. If so, in this case, the desires of the spirit, of the mind and will, become so disordered as to wholly pursue the desires of the flesh. But even here, the body is not satisfied, and there is no peace between body and soul. Look carefully, not just on the surface of social media, and you will hear what I mean. I promise. Aka, the noticeably ubiquitous “NO hook-ups!”

The wisdom of Scripture stands vindicated: letting the desires of our flesh take charge doesn’t lead to peace; rather, quite the opposite. But how can we find peace between body and soul?

Pope Benedict XVI analyzes this struggle in his encyclical Deus caritas est. He writes that society presents unfettered sexual love as “man’s great ‘yes’ to the body,” but this “contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive.” When we choose an excessive desire for bodily pleasure, we don’t liberate our bodies from their yearnings; rather, we turn them into “mere objects” that we try “to make both enjoyable and harmless.” This, the pope argues, actually limits our freedom, for then the body is no longer “an arena for the exercise of [our] freedom” but just another piece of matter that we try to control. Paradoxically, then, “the apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness.”

Even when we try to satiate our bodies’ desires, they still turn against us, and we remain turned against them. It can seem that there is no way out—whether we pursue the fullness of sanctity or of pleasure.

Use is the opposite of love.  How’s that for romantic?  Not bad, huh?  🙂

Love,
Matthew

Dec 25 – “Christian, remember your dignity!!!”, Pope St Gregory the Great, (540-604 AD)

StGregory

“Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of Life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for Himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its Creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which the devil had overthrown mankind.   And so at the birth of our Lord, the angels sing in joy:

Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in His great love for us He took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins He brought us to life with Christ, so that in Him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind Who is your head and of Whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and death and brought into the light of God’s kingdom, for ALL eternity!!!

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a Guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Pornography, Custodia Occulorum, & Custody of the Eyes

Not going for TMI, and I can only speak for myself, but I SUCK at this virtue. 🙁 I do. But, I’m trying. 2016 & camera phones ARE NOT helping!!!

I hope I make at least somebody in Heaven prolly half-smirk in disdain at my disgusting efforts? Lk 15:7.

Lord, give me your grace to overcome this temptation!! And, I shall be set free!!! I shall. Lord, increase my faith!! Thy will be done!!

For this virtue, St Alphonsus Liguori, mentioned below, is your man. Tell him I said hi! We know each other, professionally, TOO WELL. 🙁

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-by Rebecca Bratten Weiss

“If we start with the first revelation of the Other as a look, we must recognize that we experience our inapprehensible being-for-others in the form of a possession. I am possessed by the Other; the Other’s look fashions my body in its nakedness, causes it to be born, sculptures it, produces it…He makes me be and thereby he possesses me, and this possession is nothing other than the consciousness of possessing me…”

This quotation from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness delineates a structural relation of opposing or warring selves, in which the very look, or gaze, of the Other inevitably reduces the self to an object. Within this relation, one’s selfhood can only be reclaimed by entry into a sort of combat with the Other, reclaiming oneself as Self by taking a stance of opposition: “thus the project of recovering myself is fundamentally a project of absorbing the Other.”

The terrible thing here is that only through the objectifying gaze of the Other does one come to be aware of oneself as a being.

This is all very depressing, and I don’t deny that it happens, but what nihilistic despair, to assume that this, inevitably, is our only possible relation. Hints of such a nihilistic despair creep into that far better existentialist work, Simone de Beauvois’ The Second Sex – and, this is not surprising, because nowhere does this inevitability seem more fixed than in the culturally constructed relations between men and women.

It seems that too many Christian discourses on purity reinforce this idea. To look upon the Other – particularly the sexual Other – is, inevitably, to make an object of her. This is the common refrain in so many injunctions to chastity, as young men and even boys are taught to look away, as in this piece, whenever a woman whom some adults might construe as immodestly dressed looms upon the horizon. This trend in some traditional Christian groups equates male purity with not looking at women, or at least only looking at their faces (but not their mouths!) – and looking very briefly.

At least Sartre’s dismal view of the human gaze emphasizes the objectification of the Other as the core danger. This is a legitimate moral concern, and I think Christian moralists would do well to keep the focus on this when discussing the sin of lust. I disagree with Sartre that all looks are inevitably objectifying, but looks that are objectifying are, indeed, morally wrong – whether the look reduces the Other to a sex-toy to be enjoyed, an enemy to be killed, or a worker to be exploited.

The creepy thing is that the Christian tradition of custodia occulorem, or custody of the eyes, often placed the danger not only in the disposition of the objectifying subject, but in some malevolent power radiating from the objectified one. Custody of the eyes originally entailed a responsibility to avoid gazing on anything that might be potentially dangerous to the soul (idols, for instance, which were sometimes regarded with an almost superstitious dread). But over time it came to mean only avoiding gazing lustfully at someone of the opposite sex. The injunction was usually directed towards men, not because prior cultures shared our bias that “men are more visual,” but because custody of the eyes was connected with a fear of the actual agency of dangerous objects, and female bodies were considered to have just such agency, through the wiles of the devil. Tertullian (who also advised men to avoid looking at depictions of demons) declared: “woman, you are the gate to hell.”

Sermons against unchastity often utilized hyperbolic rhetoric to highlight the deceptive nature of female beauty, and the female body was seen as itself the terrain of dangers. While to explore the uncharted territories of this terrain might appeal to erotic poets, the message of the moralists was more along the lines of “here be dragons.”

“To avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects,” says St. Alphonsus de Liguori.

I have difficulty with this idea, on a general theological level. We see constantly in the Gospels that Jesus looks upon the faces of those to whom he ministers. Why would he not want his followers to do the same? Certainly, there are times when it is fitting to avert one’s gaze, but to be staring constantly at the earth seems to indicate fear, not trust, as though creation truly were corrupt all-through, as though the divine were not made present analogously in all beings.

I have special difficulty with this idea from a female standpoint. Is it really so impossible for a male to look at me without stumbling headlong into a pit of iniquity? I am reminded of the comical scene in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, when a hapless sailor accidentally beholds the protagonist’s female ankle and nearly plummets from the rigging to his death. This sort of protection of the male from the dangerous female body (or protection of the female from the dangerous male gaze? funny how we’re never entirely certain which) is not healthy.
A man who is brought up to believe that looking on a woman will provoke lust is likely to look on a woman and experience lust, because he has transgressed into the realm of the forbidden, where everything is tinged with fantasy, and faces hide behind masks. How would it be possible for a man raised this way to work effectively as a doctor, or a nurse, or a first responder? If a man feels incapable of looking at women in bikinis without lustfully objectifying them, how would he react if he went to do mission work in cultures where woman casually reveal parts of the body traditionally covered in western societies? A man who marries may find this approach to women to be especially frustrating on his wedding night, since it is likely to provoke either over-excitement or guilt – or, probably, both. And if priests are trained not to look at women, or to glance at us only sparingly, how will they be able to minister to women as spiritual directors or confessors, without everything being very awkward?

While I am glad that recent philosophies of the person have led us away from the superstitious terror of the female body that was once mistaken for virtue, many Christians are in danger or embedding chastity within a morass of Sartrean nihilistic despair, in which the mere phenomenon of one person looking at another becomes an act of violence. I do not deny that there is always a danger of violation in relationships, especially between men and women, as sexuality is so often entwined with power, but to view this as inevitable is hopeless indeed. Perhaps there may be phases of development in which avoiding looking at people is somehow necessary, but it is not a mature condition, and certainly not a goal to strive for. There are also times when it is correct and moral to look away, to respect the individual’s intention to be veiled or private. This applies especially in cases when a person is helpless. If a person is lying wounded, naked, and unconscious, the decent thing is to look away, or better yet to find a way safely and respectfully to cover that person. But a person who meets you face to face, greeting you as a person, deserves to be greeted as a person in response.

Training in sexual responsibility should not draw lines around most of humanity and signal with an arrow that “this alone is safe to see.” It should involve training in seeing the other not as an object, but as a subject herself. When we see the person as subject we see that the person possesses herself, that the person is a whole in himself and cannot be reduced to fragmentary desirable parts. We learn to see the person not simply as a token “woman” or “man” but as someone unique and irreplaceable. There may be an array of fitting and morally acceptable erotic approaches to the person as person, as we look with fascination on the infinite mystery of the other, and ask that he reveal himself to us as a friend.

A mature custody of the eyes should entail, not looking away, but seeing rightly.”

Love,
Matthew