Category Archives: Morality

Conscience Rights & Intrinsic Evil


-by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Ignitum, Fr. Christopher serves in the Diocese of London, Ontario.

“Bio-ethicists have claimed that to offer effective-referrals (government (Canada, a failed state, for example) legal requirement for doctors) for medically assisted suicide, abortion, etc. is to “formally cooperate” with an act that is intrinsically evil.

Conscience rights are an important thing worth protecting, at the civil level, and we must learn to accept the negative repercussions that come from the diversity of views that result therein. In any community it is imprudent to micromanage or coerce consciences, violently into the same value and agenda as the state. Obviously, there are some matters which involve enforcement, however when it comes to matters of conscience that are complex, and diverse, the process of informing one’s conscience should not be obstructed by coercive tactics from the government such as “losing your Job if you don’t offer an effective referral” or “You are fired because you would not provide Plan B.” There are several things that this inhibits in a mature democracy, but I will name three: (1) affective maturity, (2) individual dignity, and (3) free-speech/thought.

1) Affective maturity is where one can understand another person’s position that is contrary to their own without taking it personally. In this regard, there is an openness to the other to dialogue, and not vilify the enemy. This happens on both sides – take for instance those discussing the vaccine: it is the “mark of the beast” or the people receiving the vaccine “hate the vulnerable.” None of these are mature responses, but they are angry ones that are rooted in a type of affective-wound that has gone unhealed. Part of that maturity is living in a society where we meet professionals who don’t share our same world view, and having the patient respect that they do not have a right to force someone to do something they don’t believe in.

2) Respecting the individual consciences of others allows them to go through a process of informing their conscience, and to exercise it. Consciences are a distinctive part of a human person where their own individuality is called to humbly submit to the truth and act accordingly. In this regard we reflect on the importance of “interior freedom” where fear, coercion, and dictates are not imposed upon that individual for the sake of egalitarian conformity. Such conformity is unintelligible, especially if it rises from a type of Categorical Kantian ethical system that does not have the opportunity to nuance complex situations that may exist in each individual. For instance, there are those who cannot receive the vaccine for several reasons, some in regard to their interpretation of the data/science, others because of their medical situation as mothers, etc… but the circumstances of each particular individual needs to be respected, as well as the process by which they come to make a decision so that it can truly be their own. Without this freedom, we have slaves to fear and coercion.

3) Free-Speech and free-thought is incredibly important, because, as a subset to the previous point, it enables a person to freely examine their own reasoning without the pressure to conform to various tribes. However, if a disproportionate type of enforcement occurs, it will undermine the ability to speak, dialogue and even shed a light upon the topic being discussed. Conclusions and recommendations from others will become untrustworthy because opposing views have been silenced or oppressed.

Finally the application of all of this is to say that while the Church cannot provide religious grounds for a person to avoid receiving the vaccine, the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Office, the Roman Inquisition) does clearly indicate that one should respect the conscience freedoms of others. These two should not be conflated: religious reasons, and conscience freedoms. Although there is certainly an overlapping dimension between the two, the religious aspect pertains to the moral and theological reasoning, while the conscience pertains to one’s own particular circumstances, their own philosophical reasoning, and experiences. Thus, conscience rights are more general (broader) than religious rights. These conscience rights, the CDF does believe are worthy of defending, which in a democratic country, and especially in Ontario have demonstrably been proven not to be respected. I think this is an area worthy of our efforts to reexamine.

The original purpose of this post was to explain that while I am in favor of vaccines, I respect the right for others to think otherwise. I believe we need to have healthy discussions on this matter, as a mature democratic society should, but this is unfortunately inhibited by what is already demonstrated to be a lack of liberty amongst health officials, and what is sometimes an equal-opposite reaction.”

His justice shall reign,
Matthew

Bringing sanity to sex: part 2

Bringing Sanity to Sex: Part 1


-by Karlo Broussard

“Sexual sanity, an objective reality with which we need to live in accord in order to be sexually sane.

Regardless of someone’s personal motive for engaging in sexual activity, procreation is its natural end. Now, the charge that such a view reduces human sex acts to mere biology might have force if producing children were the end of the story. But it’s not.

There is another purpose of sex intrinsic to making babies: the physical and emotional drawing together of spouses. Catholic theology calls these the procreative and unitive dimensions of sex.

There are two ways to see this intrinsic connection. The first sees the spousal friendship as finalizing the procreative dimension inasmuch as it makes sex a human reproductive act. The second sees how the unitive is bound to the procreative for the sake of rearing children.

Let’s start with the first way and see how the unitive makes sex properly human.

Not like the animals do

The natural end of begetting children follows from the animality of human beings. It is our sexed bodies—our reproductive organs—that order sexual activity toward procreation. We have this in common with other animals.

But we know that human sexual activity is different than animal acts of reproduction. No one in his right mind refers to two dogs “making love.” Mares don’t don lace nighties to enhance the equine sex experience. Ranchers don’t dim the barn lights and put on Barry White music for their cattle to breed.

So what is it that transfigures reproductive acts in human beings and makes them distinct in the animal kingdom? What is it that makes sex properly human?

Let reason be your guide

We can begin to get at the answer by considering other human acts. Take the act of looking at a tree. When a girl and her dog, walking along a country road, look at a tall plant with a trunk and branches and leaves, they both see a tree. But they see it in essentially different ways. The dog sees a particular thing with a certain shape and colors. The girl not only sees everything her dog sees, she sees it as tree.

In other words, the girl is able to abstract the essence or nature of what the thing is and form the universal concept of tree-ness. She is able to judge that the object before her is a tree, along with the other trees in the meadow, and reason to certain conclusions about trees—that they are material and subject to corruption, etc.

Notice that the girl’s power of sight is radically transformed by her ability to reason. As philosopher Edward Feser explains, “A human visual experience is a seamless unity of the rational and the animal…we (unlike non-human animals) conceptualize what we receive through sensation” (Neo-Scholastic Essays, 395).

Or take the act of eating. All animals share the drive to eat for the sake of self-preservation. But, far from being merely an animal activity, eating for humans is infused with rationality. Philosopher Paul Gondreau describes the human dimension of eating:

“[E]ating serves a profound human function, indeed, it becomes an art, in as much as we prepare our meals with the highest of nutritional, gustatory and even aesthetic quality in mind, we observe proper etiquette when consuming our food, and, typically the preferred occasion of shared human fellowship, mealtime satisfies deep social (i.e., rational) needs (“The Natural Law Ordering of Human Sexuality to (Heterosexual) Marriage: Towards a Thomistic Philosophy of the Body,” in Nova Et Vetera, English ed. Vol. 8, No. 3 (2010): 553-92).”

Human sex is more than animality

What these examples show is that our animal sentience becomes human only when integrated with our rationality. It’s the same for sex.

For sex to be genuinely human, it must be integrated with our rationality, which involves knowledge and love. And where are knowledge and love united but in friendship or interpersonal communion? The bodily union between man and woman that is ordered to begetting children therefore finds its perfection in what Aquinas calls the “indivisible union of souls” (Summa Theologiae III:29:2) that exists between spouses.

We might say that the unitive dimension of sex is to the procreative dimension what the rational soul is to the human body. Just as the rational soul makes our bodies human bodies as opposed to animal bodies or vegetative bodies, the spousal friendship (communal living) makes our procreative inclinations properly human, integrating them into the rational part of our nature.

Union for the sake of children

Unlike other species in the animal world, human infants cannot care for themselves. Nature has ordained them to be radically dependent on others for their needs, and for a long period of time.

The needs for human offspring go beyond the physical. Because humans are rational animals, children depend on other humans for what Aquinas calls “the training of the soul” (SCG III, 122. Children’s minds need to be formed in what is true. Their wills need to be directed toward what is good. They need help in learning how to live in community with others.

It is here where the union between husband and wife comes into play. Nature ordains that both man and woman be needed for the child to come into existence and then to be reared.

It is difficult for a mother to protect and provide for herself and her children when she is pregnant and/or attending to her offsprings’ needs. So, naturally, a father has to provide and protect the woman and the children with whom he has had the children. Both parents are also needed to bring their children to full maturity as members of the human race. Frank Sheed explains,

“Humanity is not man or woman but both in union. A child brought up by a father only or a mother only is only half-educated. He needs what the male can give him and what the female can give him. And he needs these two not as two separate influences, each pushing him its own way, so that he moves on some compromise line that is neither, but as one fused influence, wholly human, male and female affecting him as conjoined not as competing influences (Society and Sanity, 105-106).”

The bottom line

Just as a human being is both body and soul, human sex is both procreative and unitive. Nature has made it so that both aspects are essential to human sexuality.

Our sexed bodies are ordered toward the begetting of children. But because we’re human, the procreative end necessarily involves an interpersonal union of knowledge and love. The unitive dimension of sex recognizes that sex is for union with another person. But the procreative dimension recognizes that sex is for a union between a man and woman.”

Love & sanity,
Matthew

Bringing sanity to sex: part 1


-by Karlo Broussard

“Sanity is to see what is (reality) and live in accord with it. If your grandfather thinks leprechauns are jumping in his butter dish and he gives them his butter knife to use as a springboard, then his sanity is defective.

He mistakes a hallucination for what is real and behaves accordingly. As he tells you about this phenomenon at the dinner table, you probably would invite him to become a citizen of the real world and see reality as it is and live in it.

Sexual sanity

I use this example to prompt the question, “Is there a real world when it comes to sex and our sexual powers?” In other words, is there a meaning to sex that is independent of what you or I make sex out to be? Is there a reality to sex, and thus to our sexual powers, that we ought to reverence and live in accord with? Is there a real world with regard to sex that we could invite someone to live in? Is there such a thing as sexual sanity?

If sex doesn’t have any sort of intrinsic meaning (a purpose independent of human contriving), then it would be impossible to be charged with sexual insanity. How could one be mistaken about the reality of sex if there is no reality about which to be mistaken?

But if sex does have an objective reality (intrinsic meaning and purpose) and we don’t make it up as we go, then how we relate to sex will determine our sanity just as much as does how we relate to butter dishes and leprechauns.

Drooling is not thinking

In order to determine if sex has an objective meaning (meaning and purpose independent of our intentions), we must do what modern man does not do: namely, think about sex.  (Ed. 80% of people THINK they’re above average!!)

I know what you’re thinking, “How can you say modern man doesn’t think about sex? Just watch the commercials—from shampoo to yogurt to cleaning supplies, everything is sexualized. Haven’t you seen Fifty Shades of Grey?”

No, I haven’t seen the movie or read the book, and, yes, everything in our culture is hyper sexualized. But this is not thinking about sex. I can’t put it any better than Frank Sheed:

“The typical modern man practically never thinks about sex. He dreams of it, of course, by day and by night; he craves for it; he pictures it, is stimulated or depressed by it, drools over it. But this frothing, steaming activity is not thinking. Drooling is not thinking, picturing is not thinking, craving is not thinking, dreaming is not thinking. Thinking means bringing the power of the mind to bear: thinking about sex means striving to see sex in its innermost reality and in the function it is meant to serve (Society and Sanity, 107).”

To think about sex is to ask, “What’s it for?” This is the first principle of intelligent use for anything. For example, if I don’t know what a microphone is for, I may be inclined to use it to hammer nails while building my house. But of course this would destroy the microphone.

Similarly, to intelligently use our sexual powers we must know their innermost reality and the function they are meant to serve. And as I’ve learned from my good friend Fr. Sebastian Walshe, a Norbertine priest at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California, to know the intrinsic purpose of sex is to know the proper activity of sex.

For example, the proper activity of a knife and its purpose is one and the same: to cut. Sight is the purpose of the eye, but it is also its proper activity. If an eye is defective and blind, then it isn’t acting (functioning) properly.

So what is sex for? What is its proper activity?

What’s pleasure got to do with it?

Someone might say, “Sex is for pleasure.” Although sex does involve pleasure, and this may be an individual’s subjective motive for having sex, it doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of reason as an intrinsic purpose of sex (nature’s ultimate goal for sex).

For starters, one can attain sexual pleasure in many ways:

  • A man can rape an unconscious girl whom he drugged at the bar.
  • A doctor can sexually abuse a woman who is in a persistent vegetative state.
  • The sports star can bed as many women as he can in order to gain the pleasure of conquest and bragging rights in the locker room.
  • The married airline pilot can sleep with stewardesses on his long trips.
  • As one woman said in an on-street interview that Catholic Answers conducted, “Someone could marry their donkey for all I care”—which, of course, implies certain types of pleasurable behavior with the donkey.
  • (Ed. a person can sexually abuse a child, or engage in human trafficking for sex, or enjoy child pornography.)

Anybody of good will recognizes that such behaviors are not appropriate human sexual behavior. Therefore, there must be something other than pleasure that makes for proper sexual activity—that is to say, sex must be for something other than pleasure.

Moreover, pleasure is not the ultimate purpose of sex anymore than pleasure is the ultimate purpose of eating or breathing. Have you ever experienced being suffocated? Not so pleasurable, was it? The pleasure of breathing serves the ultimate end (goal) of breathing: namely, to keep you alive.

Eating is also pleasurable, but it is clearly not for pleasure. Pleasure is subordinate to the intrinsic purpose that it serves—nourishment of the human body.

The same line of reasoning can be applied to sex. When we bring the power of the mind to bear on our sexual powers, we see that sexual pleasure is subordinate to the end (goal) for which nature intends humans to engage in sex: to reproduce. As the philosopher Edward Feser writes, “To emphasize pleasure would be to put the cart before the horse” (Neo-Scholastic Essays, 389).

The ‘baby-making’ meaning of sex

In his book On the Meaning of Sex, the natural law philosopher J. Budziszewski identifies two conditions that must be met in order for some Q to be the purpose of some P, and procreation meets both of them. First, it must be the case that P actually brings about Q. Do the sexual powers of male and female bring about children when used in sexual activity? Yes.

Second, Q must explain why we have P in the first place. Does procreation explain why humans have sexual powers? Yes. Without the begetting of children, our sexed bodies would be unintelligible. To put it another way, if we weren’t meant to reproduce we wouldn’t have sexed bodies.

This is not to say that procreation entails sex, since there are some species that reproduce asexually. Rather, the claim is that sex entails procreation. Procreation is that for the sake of which sex exists.

So, regardless of what man may use sex, and consequently his sexual powers, for—whether it is for the expression of romantic love alone or the giving of bodily pleasure in recreational activity—childbearing is sex’s own purpose (intrinsic purpose) and thus its proper activity. It is the end toward which sex is ordered.

Once again Frank Sheed puts it succinctly:

“If we consider sex in itself and ask what nature had in mind in giving sex to human beings, there can be only one answer: sex is meant for the production of children, as lungs for breathing or the digestive organs for nourishment. . . . It would be monstrous to deny . . . that that is what sex is meant for, that is why we have sexual powers. The fact that man can use sex for other, sterile purposes of his own choosing does not alter the certainty that childbearing is sex’s own purpose (Society and Sanity, 110).”

So, as we use reason to see what is there concerning sex and check our sanity, we can conclude that it has its own intrinsic ordering to procreation.

At this point many questions abound: What about the fact that a human baby, unlike other species in the animal kingdom, is unable to fend for himself for quite some time once he is generated? If sex is for the generation of children, then what makes it distinctly human, since non-rational animals engage in the same kind of activity? Aren’t you reducing sex to mere biology and mechanics by saying sex is for begetting children? “Where’s the love, man” (can you hear the hippie voice?). Why should I even respect the procreative dimension of sex when I can avoid it?

The latter question can be answered only after we answer the former questions, which will be the subject matter of “Bringing Sanity to Sex: Part 2“.

Love & sanity,
Matthew

Unreasonable sex

Human rational nature

“Catholic views on personhood and human nature include emphasis on the dignity of each person, from womb to tomb. The claims made for this inviolable dignity invariably stem from the recognition that all human beings, regardless of their state of dependency, are made in the image of God and are thus the bearers of certain moral rights. But in our fallen state that image is wounded and needs to be repaired. Hence, Christians need to learn to recapitulate the life of Christ in their own lives by growing through the stages of human life according to the model that He presents to us…but out of respect for human nature there are moral norms that need to be respected and that may never be violated…Catholic views on personhood and human nature take shape from revelation and reason…The human being is not only (Ed. just some) a creature of God, but that particularly important kind of creature that was made in God’s image and likeness, a dignity that sets humanity apart from the rest of creatures. Among (Ed. other creatures), what separates man from the rest is the possession of the powers of intellect and will, that is, the power of understanding…, and the power to make free choices and to love…

…The point is not that we are always perfectly free (Ed. the vagaries and vicissitudes of life, abuse/misuse, drugs, alcohol, suffering we have endured, health, condition/circumstances into which we are born, accidents, misfortune, maturity, or lack of it, etc.), but that free choice is something quite real in us, something we can gain or lose, and something what can be measured by degree – we can be more or less free in various respects. In the language of the Church, there comes a time when we reach the age of reason, and what that claim means is that we can arrive at the point when we can be quite conscious and aware of what we are doing. We are then considered responsible for what we choose to do or not do…Freedom in the sense required here has to mean self-determination – that is, the power of the self to control one’s actions and even to control the direction of one’s thinking. Metaphysically, this entails the position that there is some real but immaterial power of the soul – the will and its ability to make free choices. In a sense, this pair of powers (intellect and will) is at the deep core of the person, but it is crucial always to bear in mind that the authentic Catholic sense of these powers insists that the person as a whole, a unity of body and soul, and that our bodily actions are the expression of that person……it is by virtue of having an intellect and a will that we bear a special resemblance to God,…intellect and will must always be thought about in relation to our embodiment.”

-Koterski, J, SJ, (2012).  Human Nature from a Catholic Perspective. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol. 71, No. 4, Two Views of Social Justice: A Catholic/Georgist Dialogue (OCTOBER, 2012), pp. 809-839 (31 pages)


-by Karlo Broussard

“So why is same-sex sexual activity not an act befitting a human being? Here’s one answer: it goes against our rational nature.

The end or goal of man’s intellect is to know the truth. So, anything that’s true, like the proposition “Socrates is mortal,” our intellect affirms. Anything that’s false, like “It’s possible for a square-circle to exist,” our intellect abhors—or should abhor.

Now, the order of our intellect toward the truth not only pertains to our ability to understand and judge propositions, like in the examples above: it also allows us to judge the intelligibility of human actions. In other words, we use our intellect to direct our will in a rational way—to do and say what makes sense—and to avoid doing and saying things that don’t make sense.

For example, if I were to go around saying, “I’m actually dead,” I’d be guilty of self-contradiction, since my saying the statement makes it not true. What the statement gives with one hand, the act of a living person saying it takes back with the other.

So, if I were to go around saying “I’m actually dead,” you’d think me a fool. And you’d be right! The intellect recognizes this type of behavior as going against human reason, so it directs the will away from affirming it. This is a natural, logical response to foolishness.

The same natural principle applies to same-sex sexual activity, because it entails the use of the sexual faculty in a way that thwarts its natural procreative end. Human sexual organs naturally aim at procreation. So one gives with one hand, as it were, the procreative end of sex just by using the sexual faculty. But at the same time one takes the procreative end back with the other hand by perverting the sexual faculty and intentionally directing it away from its procreative end, thus rendering the act self-contradictory.

Although it is terribly out of step with popular culture to say that it is irrational to use sex for intentionally non-procreative purposes, the underlying logic is actually easy to grasp.

As the MeToo movement has shown, most in our culture rightly condemn sexual coercion: they recognize such coercion as irrational and evil both because it treats a human being as a tool to be used and because sex is supposed to be an act of love, which is free.

Forcing someone into sexual activity is at odds with the other natural end of our sexuality—unitive love. It amounts to an anti-love act of love. Similar irrationality is found in same-sex sexual activity, which thwarts what the sexual faculty naturally aims at—namely, procreation. As such, it’s an anti-procreative procreative act.

Just as a healthy intellect recognizes the inherent contradiction in sexual coercion and thus directs the will away from it, so too a healthy intellect ought to recognize the inherent contradiction in same-sex sexual activity. Neither are befitting of our rational human nature.

This is the same rationale behind the Church’s condemnation of contraception, as articulated in Pope St. John Paul II’s “theology of the body,” and in his earlier writings.

In his essay “The Teaching of the Encyclical ‘Humane Vitae’ on Love: An Analysis of the Text,” then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla writes that when couples have sex, they “can and should intend by it precisely what it means essentially.” In other words, the sexual act has a natural and internal logic to it, and a couple should intend to speak that “language of the body” when they have sex.

He identifies this natural and objective meaning of sex in the two ends or goals that we’ve articulated before: unitive love, which he calls the “special union of persons,” and procreation, which he refers to as the “possibility (not the necessity!) of fecundity.” Consequently, for the couple’s sexual act to be “intrinsically true and free of falsification,” it must signify the objective meaning of sex.

Here is where the self-contradiction of such actions comes most clearly to light. If a couple has sex while intentionally thwarting its procreative end, it follows that they contradict its objective meaning—they “falsify” the meaning of the sexual act. What they give with one hand, engaging in an act that has the objective meaning of procreation, they take away with the other, intentionally rendering a procreative act non-procreative.

To engage in sex in a way that goes against its internal logic is thus irrational behavior, since the behavior contradicts what reason knows about the truth of sex. When there is harmony between the two, sex is reasonable. When there is disharmony between the two, sex violates reason. And this can’t possibly be good for us.

Sex is a good and natural thing, and it is healthy to desire sexual union. But, like all actions, that which makes us properly human must govern this instinct: namely, our gift of reason. Otherwise, our sexual acts would involve a betrayal of our intellects, and that’s not something we should let happen, especially if we want to be a person of reason and good will.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Diocese of La Crosse, WI

1/18/20

The Diocese of La Crosse released the names Saturday of more than two dozen clergy who have faced a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

The diocese said none of the accused are now in public ministry. Many are listed as deceased. The list comes from an independent review of clergy files dating to 1868 by the audit firm Defenbaugh & Associates Inc.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties: Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

Those identified are:

Bruce Ball

Raymond Bornbach

Albert Sonnberger

James Stauber

Patrick Umberger

Raymond J. Wagner

Two were identified as being from another order or diocese, but whose allegation occurred while service the Diocese of La Crosse:

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Five more were identified as non-diocesan clergy whose whose names appear on a list in another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse has no specific information relating to the allegations.

Those clergy are:

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/lacrossewi.htm

“The statistics for the Diocese of La Crosse reveal that, out of 705 clergy who have served in the diocese between 1950 and 2002, there have been 10 individuals (including one who was not a priest of the diocese) with substantiated allegations against them. The result is that only 1.4 percent of the total clergy population in that time period had substantiated allegations.

Accused Clerics: 28 (of which allegations were substantiated against 10; of that 10, one was not a priest of the diocese)
Total Priests: 705 (of which 478 diocesan priests, 187 religious order priests, and 40 deacons)
Allegations: 58 (of which allegations against 3 were “withdrawn” or the priest was “exonerated”; 24 were unsubstantiated)

On January 6, 2004, the Diocese of La Crosse released its statistics regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy.”

2/5/20

“The Diocese of La Crosse has released the names of seven more priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

These additions, made Wednesday, include two priests who held assignments in La Crosse and four who worked at a now defunct Jesuit boarding school in Prairie du Chien.

They are:

At least five of the priests have died, and the other two were long ago dismissed by the Society of Jesus. It is unclear whether Cannon (dismissed in 1997) and Haller (dismissed in 1982) are still alive, still working with children or still serving in religious roles.

Though they served within the boundaries of the La Crosse diocese, none of the seven priests were official diocesan clergy or directly overseen by the bishop.

Wednesday’s disclosure came less than three weeks after the diocese released the names of 20 priests who were credibly accused of child abuse while serving in the diocese.

The list included J. Thomas Finucan, who was president of Viterbo University in La Crosse from 1970 to 1980.”

God is merciful. God is just.

Love,
Matthew

Ars Moriendi – The Art of Dying


-by Br. Columba Thomas, OP, graduated from Yale School of Medicine and completed residency in Internal Medicine/Primary Care.

“Ars Moriendi, or “The Art of Dying”, was an immensely popular and influential medieval text aimed at equipping the faithful for death and dying. It appeared by order of the Council of Constance sometime between 1414 and 1418, and although its author is anonymous, some scholars speculate that it was a Dominican friar.

It is no surprise that the Church would focus on death-related themes at this time: one of the central pastoral preoccupations of the late medieval Church was preparing souls for death, which included saving them from damnation and shortening their stay in purgatory. To suppose that this focus on death was primarily driven by the effects of the bubonic plague is probably an oversimplification; it seems, rather, to be a foundational characteristic of medieval piety, resulting from a flourishing belief in the reality of life after death and the salvific efficacy of the sacraments. Hence, securing the ministrations of a priest in the final hours of death was a chief concern. But the impact of the bubonic plague, including the loss of clergy who would assist the dying, heightened the need for additional forms of guidance—thus arose the Ars Moriendi, a standard for deathbed pastoral practice intended for the use of dying persons and their loved ones assisting them.

The span of centuries notwithstanding, some modern-day bioethicists have looked to the medieval Ars Moriendi for inspiration in discussing contemporary approaches to death and dying. They recognize that patients nearing the end of life today often are overwhelmed by the complexity of health care and miss the opportunity to prepare well for death. A modern-day Ars Moriendi, then, would serve as a corrective to the prevailing over-medicalized, technologically driven death. Whereas bioethicists generally have sought to use the medieval text as inspiration for an approach that accommodates a wide variety of belief systems, religious and secular, it seems vital that the expressed religious intent be preserved in such a work—in fact, certain insights from the medieval text may provide a helpful addition to contemporary pastoral approaches at the end of life.

Just a cursory look at the medieval Ars Moriendi may suffice to draw out some of these insights. As the text emphasizes, dying persons are commonly faced with temptations that threaten to rob them of salvation, including the temptation against faith, the temptation of despair, and the temptation of pride that leads to complacency. When faced with these temptations, such persons must realize the importance of dying in the faith of Christ and in union with the Church to attain salvation, which is true happiness. This includes the reception of the sacraments, repeated professions of faith, self-examinations, and prayer.

For sure, the sacraments are the primary means by which the faithful can attain salvation; nevertheless, one can resist the graces offered in the sacraments, and so these other practices are important to help dispose one to receive the sacraments efficaciously. In this way, simply ensuring the visitation of a priest and the reception of the sacraments does not suffice. While efforts must be made to console dying persons that death itself is not to be feared, in light of Christ’s salvific act, it is better to stir them from complacency than to allow them to drift away from God for the sake of comfort.

These insights from the medieval Ars Moriendi may be key in reclaiming an art of dying for the twenty-first century. They give cause for concern that the typical approach for Catholics nearing the end of life today presumes that the reception of the sacraments all but guarantees salvation—typically, little emphasis is placed on the need for regular self-examination, professions of faith, and overcoming common temptations against the love of God. Instead, the focus is on consoling the dying person and loved ones, not necessarily for the sake of overcoming fear of death to remove a barrier to salvation, but out of deference to social sensibilities. Based on these concerns, it seems we truly are in need of a modern-day Ars Moriendi. The medieval text makes clear that the reality of judgment after death and hope for the salvation of souls should take priority over everything else, including attempts to better navigate the complexities and limitations of medical management at the end of life.”

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Homosexuality

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mt 5:17

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10

“Whenever the topic of homosexuality and the Bible comes up, it doesn’t take long before someone says, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality!” In a 2012 interview, former president Jimmy Carter essentially did that when he said:

“Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

Some go a step further and claim that Jesus affirmed homosexual behavior. For example, one pro-gay Christian website claims that the centurion who sought Jesus’ help to heal his servant in Matthew chapter eight was actually in a sexual relationship with that servant. Their primary evidence for this comes from the centurion’s use of the term pais to describe the servant, which they say refers to a male lover. From this they conclude, “Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Regardless of what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality in the Bible, this counterfeit Christ would never condemn homosexual behavior today. He would instead affirm such behavior as part of healthy relationships that are morally equivalent to marital love between men and women.

But how can that be true if . . .
…Jesus Never Affirmed Homosexual Behavior

Just because Jesus healed someone it doesn’t follow that Jesus affirmed everything that person did. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them returned to give God glory for his healing, but that doesn’t mean Jesus endorsed the religious laxity of the other nine (Luke 17:11-19)

Similarly, even if the centurion and his servant had a sexual relationship, does it follow that Jesus’ miracle meant he affirmed the practice of older men purchasing younger male sex slaves? I doubt the revisionist critic would say, “Jesus restores a master-slave relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a slave-owner as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows compassion to people in spite of their sins, and his healings and deliverance from harm are invitations to further spiritual salvation. For example, Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery from being executed, not so that she could return to her sinful ways, but so that she could repent of them. That’s why he said to her, “do not sin again” (John 8:11).

That said, there is no evidence that the centurion and his slave actually were involved in a sexual relationship. New Testament professor John Byron writes:

“The Greek noun pais is used in the New Testament twenty-four times and has a range of meanings that include “adolescent,” “child,” and “servant.” [In the Greek Old Testament] it appears numerous times and it always refers to a “servant.” There are no occurrences of the term anywhere in the Bible that can be interpreted a referring to the junior partner in a homosexual relationship.”

Other attempts to tease out of Scripture hidden pro-homosexual meanings are similarly dubious. It’s no wonder, then, that the arguments for a “gay-affirming” Jesus are usually arguments from silence—arguments based on what Jesus did not say. They claim, in so many words, that since Jesus never condemned homosexuality he must not have seen anything wrong with it.

But we actually don’t know if Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, because Jesus said many things that are not recorded in Scripture (John 21:25).

For example, when Paul was in Ephesus he spoke to the elders of the churches there, exhorting them to provide for the needs of the Church in Jerusalem. He then said to them, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Even though Paul relates this saying of Jesus in a way that suggests it’s well known, nowhere is it recorded in the Gospels. This is one indication of how some of Jesus’ teachings were not written in the accounts of his life but were passed down through oral means (what Catholics call Sacred Tradition).

Since there is an unbroken tradition of Christians condemning same-sex behavior from the beginning of the Church’s history, we can safely conclude this tradition comes from Jesus and the apostles. Indeed, it would be downright bizarre if Jesus approved of homosexual behavior only to have all his followers teach the opposite—including Paul, whom Jesus chose as an apostle and inspired author but who clearly condemns homosexual behavior in his own writings (Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:10).

The Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson is in a legal marriage with another man, yet when it comes to Jesus’ silence on homosexuality he admits, “One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence.” Robinson instead claims that all “we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence is that He was silent on the issue.”

I wonder if Robinson would likewise say that “all we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence on polygamy, incest, bestiality, idolatry, and child sacrifice is that He was silent on those issues.”

He likely wouldn’t, because Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on, for example, murder show He would never have supported child sacrifice and so it is an absurd question to ask. Likewise, Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on sexual immorality show He would never have supported sexual activity between people of the same sex, or any kind of behavior that violated the universal moral law.”

Love,
Matthew

Talking to children about “gender fluidity”

“One of my sons attends a large public high school where it is not uncommon to see kids in various states of “gender fluidity”—but not simply in the sense of “feminine” boys and tomboy girls as I saw back in my large public high school in the 1980s. No, these kids are either formally “transitioning,” or else experimenting with opposite sex alter-egos, both of which have become trendy and faddish.

As parents, we are often lulled by a misguided compassion that keeps us from sharing the truth, even in a loving way. If your compassion (or fear) leads you to silence about or sympathy for sin, you could be unwittingly playing into the hands of a culture that denies truth and risks the eternal fate of so many souls.

Kids do not need wishy-washiness. They need us to graciously, firmly, stand up for the truth.

Remember the words of St. Paul, who hoped that “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15). Your gracious confidence in these discussions is paramount, so ask the Holy Spirit to give you plenty of it! After all, Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you!” (Matt 7:7).

He Said, She Said?

The use of pronouns used for people who identify as transgender can be a source of conflict in the culture and at school. Your teen might be caught up in a discussion about a transgender celebrity, or have a biologically male classmate who now has a female appearance, a new name, and demands to be addressed with “she” and “her.”

Ironically, these pronoun battles present an opportunity for Catholics to “turn the tables” on critics and point out how they are imposing their morality on us. After all, it’s one thing for a person to claim to be transgender, but quite another to force others to go along with this claim against their will, even requiring Catholics to speak words they don’t believe.

If your teen gets cornered on this subject, or even challenges you on it, return to first principles: It’s wrong to lie. Additionally, a lie becomes more serious when it is spoken about something significant. This shifts the focus from your child (or you) to the real issue. Here’s how this might play out:

Tom: Why do you keep saying [man who claims he’s a woman] is a he? That’s really hurtful!

Mary: I’m not trying to hurt anyone, but please see where I’m coming from. It’s wrong to lie, and if I say [man who claims he’s a woman] is a woman, that would make me a liar.

Tom: But it’s not a lie! If she says she is a woman then she is a woman.

Mary: Wait, are you saying that merely saying or believing you’re a woman makes you a woman? Why should I believe that? Can a person change his race or his species in the same way?

Tom: Well, it’s her own sense of self that matters!

Mary: But that still doesn’t make it true. There’s no evidence, in science or in anything we can measure, that “gender” exists except in the imagination. Morally, I am not allowed to lie for anyone. I hope you can respect that my faith requires me to be honest and speak only what is true.

What’s in a name?

I don’t think it’s a big deal to refer to this person by a new, preferred name. Some girls have “male” names and some boys have “female” names. But incorrectly using sex-specific pronouns like “he” and “she” in order to accommodate someone’s feelings forces us to lie. Lying is not only a sin, but in this case it denies another person’s God-given dignity and God’s created order.

(Ed. I wrote to the book publisher/authors the following. “as a Catholic who no longer teaches in a government school, I can tell you the student who objects will be summarily “executed” academically. Before the truth argument, I would humbly submit to the authors objective statements about objective dangers that cause physical harm, even death, would be harder for all opposed to summarily dismiss, if the student is given the unexpectable privilege of defending themselves.

From experience, government schools go to great effort to conceal what exactly they are teaching to students by preventing any evidence, save the deeply awkward and impressionable minds of their children and their memories, to wander home after school, even if inquired with about school by parents. Parents, in general, are equally disabled from contesting heresy, biblical or moral.

I might offer arguments and their distaste by all, generally, in being equivocated. Take the argument from morality, terribly important, to mortality, terribly objective, unnuanced, and undeniably permanent.

-Accidents (unintentional injuries), homicide, suicide, cancer, and heart disease. Accidents account for nearly one-half of all teenage deaths.
-As a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db37.htm

“You can go 120 mph and not wear a selt belt if that’s your true self.  Everyone will support your choice.  It’s ALL about YOU!!”
“Living is a lifestyle choice. Whatever you want. It’s all about YOU!”
“I can handle a baby at sixteen!”
“I’ll NEVER change my mind! Nothing ever will!, etc.

Extreme, or not, I realize, however to engage in conversation about the more easily deniable, due to the vagaries of the human mind, the extreme is, at times, needed to pique the conscience into a reasonable conversation regarding the latter.”)

Identity or Reality?

When a person has a body dysphoria unrelated to sex or “gender,” everyone understands that the person needs help. When an anorexic looks in the mirror, she might see someone who is obese, even if she weighs much less than everyone else her age. We don’t tell that girl, “That’s right, you are overweight, and we will help you lose the weight that’s right for you.”

Instead we say, “What you perceive yourself to be, well, that isn’t you. In reality, you are dangerously underweight, and because we love you, we aren’t going to help you harm yourself.” That is the loving response.

What about people who think they are a different race or ethnicity? In 2015, the head of the Spokane NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, was discovered to have two white parents. While the organization for black Americans does have white leaders, some of its members claim Dolezal misled them into thinking she was black. Forced to resign from her position, Dolezal still claims she is black, even though her genetics say otherwise. She says, “I feel like the idea of being trans-black would be much more accurate than ‘I’m white.’ Because you know, I’m not white.”

You can see the irony that if Dolezal had claimed she was a black man, then her “progressive” critics would have said she was only half right. Yet, how can we tell a person she’s wrong about her sincere sense of her racial identity, but right about her sense of gender identity—when both exist only in the imagination? There is no logic to saying we affirm your “sense” of being a man, but we condemn your “sense” of being black. Your teens will see the contradiction here.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Sexual Identity

(CCC 2333) “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”

(CCC 2393) “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”

Body and Soul

(CCC 364) “The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

    Pope Francis

Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (2015)

(# 155) “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an ‘ecology of man’, based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will’. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

(# 56) “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’ It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’ …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to Updated August 7, 2019 3 replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

(# 285) “Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.’

(# 286) “Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations. It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy ‘exchanges’ which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential.”

Address to Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Pastoral Workers during the Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan (October 1, 2016)

“You mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonizations.”

Address to the Polish Bishops during the Apostolic Journey to Poland (July 27, 2016)

“In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible! “In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator’. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a ‘raw’ state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the ‘raw’ state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. ‘This is the age of sin against God the Creator’. That will help us.”

Address to Équipes de Notre Dame (September 10, 2015)

“This mission which is entrusted to them, is all the more important inasmuch as the image of the family — as God wills it, composed of one man and one woman in view of the good of the spouses and also of the procreation and upbringing of children — is deformed through powerful adverse projects supported by ideological trends.”

Address to the Bishops of Puerto Rico (June 8, 2015)

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.” Full text General Audience on Man and Woman (April 15, 2015) “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”

Address in Naples (March 23, 2015)

“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind — gender theory — creating so much confusion.”

Meeting with Families in Manila (January 16, 2015)

“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.”

    Pope Benedict XVI


Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (2005)

(# 5) “Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”

(# 11) “While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’… Eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.”

Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (January 19, 2013)

“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”

Address to the Roman Curia (December 21, 2012)

“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

Address to the German Bundestag (September 22, 2011)

“…There is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”

    Pope St. John Paul II

Letter to Families (1994)

(# 6) “Man is created ‘from the very beginning’ as male and female: the light of all humanity… is marked by this primordial duality. From it there derive the ‘masculinity’ and the ‘femininity’ of individuals, just as from it every community draws its own unique richness in the mutual fulfillment of persons… Hence one can discover, at the very origins of human society, the qualities of communion and of complementarity.”

(# 19) “…the human family is facing the challenge of a new Manichaeanism, in which body and spirit are put in radical opposition; the body does not receive life from the spirit, and the spirit does not give life to the body. Man thus ceases to live as a person and a subject. Regardless of all intentions and declarations to the contrary, he becomes merely an object. This neo-Manichaean culture has led, for example, to human sexuality being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of that primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”

Theology of the Body

Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006)

(# 9:3) “The account of the creation of man in Genesis 1 affirms from the beginning and directly that man was created in the image of God inasmuch as he is male and female… man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.”

(# 9:5) “Masculinity and femininity express the twofold aspect of man’s somatic constitution… and indicate, in addition… the new consciousness of the meaning of one’s body. This meaning, one can say, consists in reciprocal enrichment.”

(# 10:1) “Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

(# 14:4) “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons.”

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (2004)

(# 2) “In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

(# 12) “Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form.”

Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975)

(III) “… There can be no true promotion of man’s dignity unless the essential order of his nature is respected.”

Congregation for Catholic Education

“Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019)

(# 1) “It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality. In many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason”. The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.” ** This entire document deals with gender theory and education. The above is the first paragraph.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

(# 224) “Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. . . .’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original, internal citation omitted).

Pontifical Council for the Family

Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions (2000)

(# 8) “In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined Updated August 7, 2019 8 fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the very bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”

(# 8) “Starting from the decade between 1960-1970, some theories… hold not only that generic sexual identity (‘gender’) is the product of an interaction between the community and the individual, but that this generic identity is independent from personal sexual identity: i.e., that masculine and feminine genders in society are the exclusive product of social factors, with no relation to any truth about the sexual dimension of the person. In this way, any sexual attitude can be justified, including homosexuality, and it is society that ought to change in order to include other genders, together with male and female, in its way of shaping social life.”

    USCCB: Various Documents

Chairmen Letter to U.S. Senators regarding ENDA Legislation (2013)

“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex.”

ENDA Backgrounder (2013)

“ENDA defines ‘gender identity’ as ‘the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.’”

“ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity would lend the force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. Second, ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity’ would adversely affect the privacy and associational rights of others. In this respect, ENDA would require workplace rules that violate the legitimate privacy expectations of other employees… Third, ENDA would make it far more difficult for organizations and employees with moral and religious convictions about the importance of sexual difference, and the biological basis of sexual identity, to speak and act on those beliefs.”

Chairmen Statement on ENDA-style Executive Order (2014)

“[The executive order] lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that ‘gender’ is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.”

Chairmen Statement on Department of Labor Regulations (2014)

“The regulations published on December 3 [2014] by the U.S. Department of Labor implement the objectionable Executive Order that President Obama issued in July to address what the Administration has described as ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ discrimination in employment by federal contractors. . . . [T]he regulations advance the false ideology of ‘gender identity,’ which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.”

Chairmen Statement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (2013)

“Unfortunately, we cannot support the version of the ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013’ passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate (S. 47) because of certain language it contains. Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’ All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union.”

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th Edition)

(# 53) “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.” (No. 70) “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”

For further related USCCB resources, see:

• USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009), https://www.usccb.org/resources/pastoral-letter-marriage-love-and-life-in-the-divine-plan.pdf

• USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006), https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/homosexuality/upload/minstry-persons-homosexual-inclination-2006.pdf

• Made for Each Other (video, viewer’s guide, and resource booklet), available at www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

Love & truth,
Matthew

Vice is the opiate of masses…

-by Dr. Matthew Tan, The Divine Wedgie

“A diagnosis that is common to the thought of Nietzsche and Marx concerns the pacifying strength of fantasies.

At the risk of oversimplification, we can say that for Marx, the fantasy concerns the artificial worth injected into things by capitalist modes of production, which for him religion played a part by redirecting the vision of the have-nots to a realm beyond things. For Nietzsche, meanwhile, the fantasy is one of an artificial morality imposed by the weak on the strong. Regardless of the source, these fantasies acted as a narcotic that was consumed at a societal level, blinding whole communities to the reality of things and preventing the administration of the cure.

If fantasy was the sickness, the cure lay in casting off these fantasies and the structures that sustained them to reveal the reality of the world. For Marx, it was the integral connection between a person’s identity with his dialectic with the world, while for Nietzsche, it was the necessity of the rule by those that are able to embrace the flux of life over those that seek to block that off that flux by hiding behind a veneer of order.

While we can debate over whether these two were correct in their particular diagnoses of the fantasy, the diagnosis of the fantasy itself is something for the Christian to consider seriously. This is because doing so sheds new light on what the vices do as negations of the virtues. The vices are not just bad things that people do.

In in the classical and medieval mind, the virtues were what helped a person attain his or her end as a flourishing being. A person living a life of virtue is one that is able to immerse themselves deeply into the reality of the cosmic order, and in the reality of the supernatural order. In doing so, they were also able to see themselves for what they really were, their abilities, limits, desires and so on. Armed with this knowledge, persons living the life of virtue are able to live in the present.

By contrast, the vices recognize no such order. Instead, the vices are powerful narcotics which produce upon consumption, fantasies about ourselves, our relationship with the world, and ultimately our relationship with God. Rather than receive our status as creatures of God, for instance, we imagine ourselves to be creators over and against God. As R.J. Snell argued in Acedia and Its Discontents, vice is a refusal to accept any limit and to be frustrated by any that come our way.

Importantly, if we are attentive, we find that the limits are those that we face all the time and in the present.

What this causes us to do is to indulge in fantasy, which comes in two forms. The first fantasy, one that was identified by Evagrius of Alexandria in the sixth chapter of his Praktikos, is nostalgia, where we recall blissful moments of the past where those limits were overcome. The other is speculation, where we imagine our lives in states where those limits do not exist (it can be in terms of wealth, sex, status, jobs and so on). In casting our minds to these states, we think of those moments as salvific, which by contrast reframes the present as a state of damnation. We find the present repulsive and even futile, and prefer to indulge in fantasy and speculation – with all the audiovisual aids and substances concocted by pop culture – thinking that our connection with reality lies in those moments, when those are exactly when our connection with reality is eroded.  This is because those moments do not exist. The past can no longer be retrieved, and the future speculation can never arrive. Insofar as we are stuck in either the past or future, we are indulging in fantasy. What does exist, what does connect us to reality, is the present moment we find repulsive on account of their limit, the limit that we find to be a denial of reality and an impediment to God’s providence.

By contrast, as Julian Carron said in “A Leap of Awareness”, limit constitutes the very site of God’s providence. Writing from another angle, Romano Guardini argued in The Living God, that the experience of the overcoming of limit occurs precisely where we are most cognizant of that limit.  This is the present moment that the vices prompt us to find repulsive. As Guardini writes in a chapter entitled “God’s Providence”, “There is a way of coming to experience [Providence] as a reality, and it is a way that is constantly recurring: it is ‘the now’.”

It is the precise moment when we realize that we are not the ones that provide our own providence that the reality of Providence emerges as an experiential reality. Indeed, we find that Providence is the very structure of reality, and the life of virtue is a constant attunement to that reality. If we feel we have missed that moment, do not worry, for as Guardini says, the moment of providence is constantly recurring, and the offer to reconnect with reality is made new every single moment.”

Love & virtue,
Matthew

“Blessed are they who mourn…” – Mt 5:4

“…But there is also the mourning occasioned by the shattering encounter with truth, which leads man to undergo conversion and to resist evil. This mourning heals, because it teaches man…

…Peter is an example of (this) second kind: Struck by the Lord’s gaze, he bursts into healing tears that plow up the soil of his soul. He begins anew and is himself renewed.

Ezekiel, Chapter 9

Then I heard Him call out in a loud voice, “Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.” And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, He said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple.

Then He said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”

He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”

11 Then the man in linen with the writing kit at his side brought back word, saying, “I have done as You commanded.”

Ezekiel 9:4 offers us a striking testimony to how this positive kind of mourning can counteract the dominion of evil. Six men are charged with executing divine punishment on Jerusalem—on the land that is filled with bloodshed, on the city that is full of wickedness (cf. Ezek 9:9). Before they do, however, a man clothed in linen must trace the Hebrew letter tau (like the sign of the Cross) on the foreheads of all those “who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the city” (Ezek 9:4). Those who bear this mark are exempted from the punishment. They are people who do not run with the pack, who refuse to collude with the injustice that has become endemic, but who suffer under it instead. Even though it is not in their power to change the overall situation, they still counter the dominion of evil through the passive resistance of their suffering—through the mourning that sets bounds to the power of evil.

…Once again, as in the vision of Ezekiel, we encounter here the small band of people who remain true in a world full of cruelty and cynicism or else with fearful conformity. They cannot avert the disaster, but by “suffering with” the one condemned (by their com-passion in the etymological sense) they place themselves on his side, and by their “loving with” they are on the side of God, Who is love.

…Those who do not harden their hearts to the pain and need of others, who do not give evil entry to their souls, but suffer under its power and so acknowledge the truth of God—they are the ones who open the windows of the world to let the light in. It is to those who mourn in this sense that great consolation is promised. The second Beatitude is thus intimately connected with the eighth: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

The mourning of which the Lord speaks is nonconformity with evil; it is a way of resisting models of behavior that the individual is pressured to accept because “everyone does it.” The world cannot tolerate this kind of resistance; it demands conformity. It considers this mourning to be an accusation directed against the numbing of consciences. And so it is. That is why those who mourn suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. Those who mourn are promised comfort; those who are persecuted are promised the Kingdom of God—the same promise that is made to the poor in spirit. The two promises are closely related. The Kingdom of God—standing under the protection of God’s power, secure in His love—that is true comfort.”

Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (Kindle Locations 1418-1429, 1430-1433, 1436-1445). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Love, blessed be God,
Matthew

 

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP