Category Archives: Theology of the Body

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

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“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

Rhode Island Bishop: Legal Pot Leads to “Land of Oblivion”

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While Buddhists may aspire to oblivion/Nirvana, Catholics do/should not. There is a difference. Interestingly, Rhode Island was founded as a colony for religious freedom.

-by Matt O’Brien, AP, R.I. — May 10, 2016, 6:38 PM ET

“Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic bishop said he wants to smell holy incense, not cannabis, in Providence’s cathedral and warned state lawmakers against transporting young people to “the land of oblivion” by legalizing marijuana.

Bishop Thomas Tobin shared his opinions in an essay titled “Nope to Dope.” The essay was published on a diocesan website Tuesday, just hours before a hearing on a bill to legalize pot.

Tobin said he’s heard about “zombie-like” people who are “completely stoned” filling public places in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. He said young people already addicted to electronic devices and “attached to their virtual umbilical cords” would become more detached from society if the drug were legal. He said he was disturbed by a recent report of a woman smoking pot in the back of a cathedral during a morning service.

Tobin said his viewpoints are purely theoretical and objective because he’s never smoked pot despite coming of age in the “moral wilderness” of the 1960s.

“In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain,” he wrote.

Polls have found Rhode Island to be the nation’s most Catholic state, leading some marijuana legalization advocates to worry about Tobin’s entrance into the debate.

“I don’t think it’s a deal breaker,” said Jared Moffat, director of legalization advocacy group Regulate Rhode Island. “We’ve seen the legislature go against Bishop Tobin’s social views and his social conservatism before on issues like marriage equality. It’s certainly not an insurmountable obstacle.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, said Tuesday “there’s more questions than answers at this point” about the marijuana legislation but not because of Tobin’s essay.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearing testimony on the bill Tuesday evening. Ruggerio said it’s unlikely for the bill to pass before the Rhode Island General Assembly adjourns sometime next month. Other New England states also are considering bills to legalize marijuana, and Massachusetts and Maine could put ballot questions before voters in November.

“The bishop makes some very valid points,” Ruggerio said. “We have to vet it very carefully, study the issue, and study how it’s happened in other states.”

Nope to Dope

-by His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence

“The legal status of marijuana: approve for medical use, decriminalize or completely legalize? That’s the question being debated across the country right now, including here in Rhode Island.

Presently in Rhode Island the use of marijuana for medical purposes is permitted. A bill before the General Assembly would legalize the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. Smoking marijuana in public would still be prohibited.

The issue is important; it has medical, economic, sociological, and moral consequences. And apparently it’s a very touchy subject for lawmakers too. According to a recent article in the Providence Journal, only 20 of the 113 lawmakers surveyed would even indicate their position on this “political hot potato.”

The Catholic Church has a position about the morality of recreational drug use, but before we look at that, let me mention a couple of preliminary points.

First, I should emphasize that my observations here are from a purely theoretical, objective viewpoint. Although I came of age in the moral wilderness of the 1960s, when just about everything was on the table, I’ve never smoked marijuana – or anything else for that matter. For me, “Puff the Magic Dragon” was a song about childhood, nothing more!

Second, a case can be made that the moderate use of marijuana by a responsible adult in a controlled setting is not always immoral. It’s very similar to the moderate use of alcohol some theologians will argue. Their approach is that the use of pot is not intrinsically evil; its morality is based on whether or not it’s abused, and whether or not it leads to other harmful consequences.

The nuances of moral theology aside, the teaching of the Church on the recreational use of drugs is pretty clear.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” (#2291) Note, there is no exception for marijuana mentioned here.

Pope Francis has addressed the issue: “Let me state in the clearest terms possible. Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on other occasions: No to every type of drug use.”

Beyond the moral dimensions of the issue, there are a number of practical and societal concerns to be considered.

The first is the numbing effect that widespread marijuana use can have on a community. I recently had a conversation with a prominent businessman who just returned from Colorado where the use of marijuana is legal and widespread. He said that the local scene is disturbing. Some public places he visited were filled with zombie-like individuals, completely stoned. Adding to the problem is the fact that marijuana is available in a variety of seemingly benign forms: candy, cookies, brownies, and mints, for example. From his experience the legalization of marijuana has had noticeable destructive consequences, at least in one place.

With so many of our citizens, especially the younger ones, already immune to reality with their addiction to electronics – hoodies on, heads down, ear buds in, and attached to their virtual umbilical cords – do we want to provide another means of escape for our kids, transporting them even further into the land of oblivion?

We just had an incident in Providence that exemplifies the concern: an individual was found smoking pot . . . in the back of our Cathedral . . . during the 10:00 Mass. She was quickly removed and the local police called. Really, if I’m going to smell anything in our Cathedral I want it to be holy incense, not cannabis.

Sometime ago I was in a meeting with a leading law-enforcement official who described the increasing incidence of marijuana use among young adults, a problem his officers found especially in arrests for impaired and dangerous driving. Marijuana was becoming an equal concern to alcohol abuse he said, though both are far too common and of grave concern.

Additionally, the health problems related to marijuana have been extensively studied and publicized. They include damage to the brain, heart and lungs, an increase of testicular cancer in young males, concerns during pregnancy, and a variety of psychiatric disorders as well.

We’re all aware of and concerned about drug abuse in the local community, especially the tragedies resulting from the opioid epidemic. A report from a special Task Force documented the serious problems: “Addiction and overdose are claiming lives, destroying families, and undermining the quality of life across Rhode Island. In 2014, 239 people in our state lost their lives to overdose, more than the number of homicides, motor vehicle accidents, and suicides combined . . . In 2013 Rhode Island had the highest rate of illicit drug use in the nation.”

The shocking numbers illustrate the extent of the problem. So, the question is: Do we want to add another drug to this lethal landscape that results in death, destruction, and societal decay?

In light of all these concerns, I urge our state leaders to say no to the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island. In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain. And, frankly, with all the social dysfunction we’re already dealing with in the state, we don’t need any more problems.””

Love,
Matthew

Cannabis Myths Exposed

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-by Edward Ronkowski

“I retired after three decades as a prosecutor. While in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, I drafted a training manual called Narcotics Law which was later used in the office as a manual for Assistant States Attorneys for over a decade and years after I retired. After I retired I have defended people accused of violating the Cannabis Control Act. Knowing how the system really works, I can dispel several cannabis myths. It’s like Ronald Reagan said, “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

Myth Number 1: Jail time

First time Cannabis users don’t go to jail or prison. Defense attorneys game the system to keep clients from being sentenced to jail or prison. It almost always takes at least five arrests for cannabis violations before jail or prison time is considered. In Cook County they have what is called Drug School. First offenders are allowed to go to classes and if they attend, the case is dropped without a conviction. Defense attorneys say their clients like Drug School because it exposes the dealers who were caught on a mere possession charge to new customers. You can only get Drug School once.

Second misdemeanor cannabis offenders are allowed to get Court Supervision for a year or two. At the end of the Supervision, the court enters a finding of not guilty.

A third arrest for a cannabis violation usually ends up in 710 Probation which is for first time offenders and is expungable.

A fourth arrest can ends up in a Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC) probation if the defendant claims he has a substance abuse problem. TASC dispositions are also expungable. Now cannabis arrestees can ask for “Second Chance Probation” instead of TASC Probation. At the end of Second Chance Probation the defendant gets discharged.

A fifth arrest ends up in in straight probation with no jail time because the offender is “clean” with no prior convictions. Occasional errors of omission on rap sheets and criminal histories allow defendants to get these programs more than once. So only after the fifth arrest will judges start giving out jail or prison because probation did not work. With a docket of murderers and other violent criminals, judges give away the store rather than be bothered by such relatively innocuous violators. When a defendant is at the end of his rope with these programs the defense attorney will try to win a motion to suppress, win a bench trial, or win jury trial to avoid real jail or prison time.

Every year the Illinois Department of Corrections releases an Annual Report showing what percent of the prison population is in for what type of crimes. The latest report is for 2014 and it shows that 1.4% of Illinois’ prison population is in prison for violations of the Cannabis Control Act. None of these are mere users. This 1.4% are the dealers doing time, most on plea bargained reduced charges, where the seizures are measured in pounds or tons.

Myth Number 2: Cannabis is Harmless

The last 20 years of research reveals “what isn’t so.”

Marijuana use has become increasingly prevalent over the years, and the review of marijuana studies summarizes what researchers have learned about the drug’s effects on human health and general well-being over the past two decades. One such peer reviewed academic study was done by Wayne Hall, a professor and director of the Center for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland in Australia. Professor Hall examined scientific evidence on marijuana’s health effects between 1993 and 2013. He found that adolescents who use cannabis regularly are about twice as likely as their nonuser peers to drop out of school, as well as experience cognitive impairment and psychoses as adults. Moreover, studies have also linked regular cannabis use in adolescence with the use of other illicit drugs

Researchers in the studies debated whether regular marijuana use might actually lead to the use of other drugs. Professor Hall pointed to longer-term studies and studies of twins in which one used marijuana and the other did not as particularly strong evidence that regular cannabis use may lead to the use of other illicit drugs

The risk of a person suffering a fatal overdose from marijuana is “extremely small,” and there are no reports of fatal overdoses in the scientific literature, according to the review. However, there have been case reports of deaths from heart problems in seemingly otherwise healthy young men after they smoked marijuana, the report said. Professor Hall said, “The perception that cannabis is a safe drug is a mistaken reaction to a past history of exaggeration of its health risks.”

Marijuana use carries some of the same risks as alcohol use, such as an increased risk of accidents, dependence and psychosis, he said. It’s likely that middle-age people who smoke marijuana regularly are at an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack, according to the report. However, the drug’s “effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco,” Professor Hall wrote in the review.

Regular cannabis users also double their risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as disordered thinking, hallucinations and delusions — from about seven in 1,000 cases among nonusers to 14 in 1,000 among regular marijuana users, the review said. And, in a study of more than 50,000 young men in Sweden, those who had used marijuana 10 or more times by age 18 were about two times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia within the next 15 years than those who had not used the drug.

Critics argue that other variables besides marijuana use may be at work in the increased risk of mental health problems, and that it’s possible that people with mental health problems are more likely to use marijuana to begin with, Hall wrote in the review. However, other studies have since attempted to sort out the findings, he wrote, citing a 27-year follow-up of the Swedish cohort, in which researchers found “a dose–response relationship between frequency of cannabis use at age 18 and risk of schizophrenia during the whole follow-up period.” In the same study, the investigators estimated that 13 percent of schizophrenia cases diagnosed in the study “could be averted if all cannabis use had been prevented in the cohort,” Professor Hall reported.

As for the effects of cannabis use in pregnant women, the drug may slightly reduce the birth weight of the baby, according to the review.

The effects of euphoria that cannabis users seek from the drug come primarily from its psychoactive ingredient, called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, Hall wrote in the review. During the past 30 years, the THC content of marijuana in the United States has jumped from less than 2 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2006. The THC content of the drug has also likely increased in other developed countries, Hall wrote in the report.

Some argue that there would be no increase in harm, if users adjusted their doses of the drug and used less of the more potent cannabis products to get the same psychological effects they seek, Professor Hall said. However, “the limited evidence suggests that users do not completely adjust dose for potency, and so probably get larger doses of THC than used to be the case,” Hall said.

Studies on the use of alcohol — and, to a lesser extent, other drugs such as opioids — have also shown that more potent forms of these substances increase users’ level of intoxication, as well as their risk of accidents and developing dependence, he added. People who drive under the influence of marijuana double their risk of being in a car crash, and about one in 10 daily marijuana users becomes dependent on the drug, according to a new review.

With cannabis use not deterred by law enforcement efforts as currently practiced, the deleterious effects of cannabis use, especially on our youth will increase over time.”

I’ve never seen pot users get smarter. That’s all I’m saying.

Love,
Matthew

What is chastity?

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Celibacy, or abstinence, is the absence of sexual activity.  It is as viable and valuable a means of practicing chastity as faithfulness is in marriage.  Chastity is the presence of and active practice of this virtue and self-discipline, enabled ONLY by HIS GRACE!!!  Praise Him, Church!!!  Praise Him.  Pray for chastity.  Pray for it.  Ask Him for His Grace, and He will say “YES!!!  I AM WHO AM do will it!!”

Trust Him!!!  Trust Him, ALL the days of your life.  In this, and EVERYTHING else.  Never take your thoughts, your mind, from Him.  Your will be done, Lord.  Your will, not mine.  

Chastity, the fruit of His Grace, is the taking of full, adult responsibility for the AWESOME powers of creation of life adults possess.  Chastity is a virtue to be practiced by the married and the unmarried.  Chastity is NOT deprivation, rather, it is adult responsibility, wisdom, and the rejection of abuse of self and others, the misuse of self and others, and the rejection of denigration, humiliation of self and others.  

It is peace, in His will.  ALL are called to chastity, in their given state of life.  If you give yourself over to the fire of your passions, and they ARE a fire which feeds on itself and deceives, ye will reap what ye sow!  You will.  This is not merely a Christian understanding, either.  This is a universal truth.  Gal 6:7-9

Once freed from death by Christ, DO NOT again, become a slave of the devil by your own abasement!!!!

“Christian, remember your dignity!!!”Pope St Gregory the Great

-from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.

The integrity of the person

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.125

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”127

2340 Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer. “Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity.”128

2341 The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.

2342 Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life.129 The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.

2343 Chastity has laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. “Man . . . day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.”130

2344 Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is “an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.”131 Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.

2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort.132 The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.133

The integrality of the gift of self

2346 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. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God’s fidelity and loving kindness.

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate Him Who has chosen us as His friends,134 Who has given Himself totally to us and allows us to participate in His divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

Love,
Matthew

Chastity vs. fornication 2 – “It doesn’t make sense!”

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Catholicism defines “love” as the willingness to suffer for the beloved, if unavoidable, or for the greater good of the beloved, like the salvation of their soul.  Sound like ANYONE you “know”?  Now, where HAVE I heard that kind of talk before???  Think, think, think.  Nope.  Nothin’.  Typical, for me.  Crazy talk.  Crazy like…God? 🙁  :/ )

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-by Emily Stimpson, Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 8:22 AM

“My fiancé, Chris, and I are not living together. And it doesn’t make sense.

More accurately, it doesn’t make sense to the world. Currently, we pay my mortgage, his rent, two utility bills and a food bill consisting mainly of restaurant tabs. Moreover, we live 45 minutes apart. Most nights, one of us spends 90 minutes in the car. And on the nights we don’t, we miss each other terribly.

Combine those sacrifices with the ever-mounting cost of our upcoming wedding, and it’s understandable why most people look aghast when they discover we’re not cohabiting.

Today, two-thirds of all couples live together before marriage, including at least half the couples marrying in the Catholic Church. Most of those couples cohabit for the same reasons that not cohabiting feels like such a sacrifice to Chris and me. They want to be together. They need to save money. And there’s no social pressure to do otherwise. So why wait? From a practical perspective, it seems logical.

Decades of research contradicts that logic: Couples who live together before marriage run a substantially higher risk of marital unhappiness, domestic violence and divorce. But when you’re in love, it’s easy to ignore research. Sociological evidence can’t compete with desire … and wedding-strained pocketbooks.

For those reasons and more, Chris and I understand why so many couples cohabit. We sympathize with them. But we still choose to sleep apart. And that choice only makes perfect sense in light of our faith.

The New Testament doesn’t leave any wiggle room regarding how God feels about sex outside of marriage, biblically known as “fornication.” Jesus explicitly condemns it in three Gospels (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 8:41). St. Paul does the same in three Epistles (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5).

Moreover, unlike some biblical prohibitions, which the Church deems more reflective of ancient Near-Eastern culture than God’s unchanging law (i.e. the injunction on women cutting their hair), the Christian prohibition against premarital relations hasn’t changed (and won’t change) (Catechism, 2350).

And yes, premarital relations and cohabitation aren’t the same. Some couples, more virtuous than us, might manage to live together chastely. The Church considers the possibility of that so remote, however, that she frowns on even the attempt (Catechism, 2391).

It’s also a question of public witness. The world mocks the Catholic understanding of sexuality, denying the mere possibility of loving both chastely and joyfully. Publicly cohabiting, even if privately abstaining, is, at best, a compromised witness. It shows the world what it already believes and hides what it claims impossible.

Regardless, Chris and I live separately (and chastely), because we trust Jesus and his Church. We believe that Jesus is Who He says He is — the Son of God — and the Church is who she says she is: His Bride, divinely appointed to transmit, guard and interpret God’s word.

Accordingly, we take the Church’s prohibitions against premarital relations and cohabitation as seriously as we take her prohibitions against lying and cheating. God is God. We are not. If He says something is sinful and a danger to our souls, then it is. It’s not up to us to pick and choose which of His teachings to accept. That’s not what faithful disciples do.

This can sound like blind obedience. But only when seen from the outside. Like stained glass, which looks dull from one side but brilliant from another, our decision to trust Christ and his Church with our relationship has been a decision illuminated by beauty, grace and reason.

The Church’s teachings on marital love, described so powerfully in St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, help us see love-making as a precious gift from God and a sacred renewal of the marriage covenant, meant to bring new life into the world and draw husband and wife closer together.

We’ve not yet entered into that covenant, so its joys aren’t ours to claim.

We’ve also learned to see living under one roof and sharing one bed as an embodied sign of Christian marriage. For Christian spouses, dwelling together isn’t about sleeping arrangements. It’s about what we are — one flesh — because of what we vow on our wedding day: to give ourselves totally and completely to one another for the sake of our salvation.  (Ed. – The living in and through one’s vocation, one’s state in life, is the vehicle through which we realize our salvation in Catholic theology.)

We haven’t yet made that vow, so its blessings aren’t ours to enjoy.

We do get to enjoy some blessings now.

There is the blessing that comes from a deep friendship, rooted in a shared love of Christ and a mutual desire to sacrifice for the other’s good. (Ed.  don’t know about you, but Paris Hilton and I think that’s romantically HAWT!!!  !!!En fuego!!!!  !!!!Muy caliente!!! 🙂 !!!Ay carumba!!!  Very Catholic, very.)  There is the blessing of learning how to love in non-sexual ways, preventing sex from becoming a substitute for affection and communication. And there is the blessing of never feeling used or worrying that we’re marrying out of convenience or guilt.

There’s also the blessing of anticipation, of mounting desire and tension that will only be answered on our wedding day. (Ed.  !!! Aye, aye, aye!!!  !!!Agua, por favor!!!!)  We’re looking forward to so much more than a big party on July 1.

Most of all, though, there’s the blessing of knowing that we’re walking the path Jesus asks us to walk, trusting that, through obedience, we’ll reap unknown graces and be spared unknown crosses. In trust, there is peace.  (Amen!!!  Sistah!!!)

Yes, that peace comes at a cost. It requires sacrifice. But we’re betting on God — laying odds on the rightness of His wisdom, not the world’s ways or our desires.  (Good bet!!!  I LIKE IT!!!  May the odds & Jesus, be evah in your favah!!! -St Katniss Everdeen, pray for us!!!  Mea culpa.  [courtsy])

And, fortunately, if we stumble we know we can start over with a good confession.  (Mine ALWAYS begin “Bless me, Father, how much time DO you have? 🙂 Should we order in?  I have an app for that!)

That’s true for all couples. It’s never too late to trust Jesus and His Church in your relationship. (Ya know, I KNEW I liked that Guy!!!)  It’s never too late to move in with a friend or onto a couch. It’s never too late to love your future spouse as Jesus asks you to love, sacrificially and purely. Lastly, it’s never too late to witness to the world that there is a better way: the way of life-giving love.

Pray for engaged couples; so few even know that way exists. And pray for Chris and for me, so we can continue to walk it.”

(Count on it, Emily & Chris.  It’s already in the bank.  Emily Stimpson writes from Steubenville, Ohio.

Easter Joy!
Matthew

Chastity vs fornication

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-former militant atheist, Rosalie Contrite, now a contrite Catholic

“Of course, I was told to wait for marriage and I considered it, at first. People in my life were telling me to wait. The reality remains that undetectably and over time, the culture, my friends and even, the adults that I knew, did not really expect me to wait. The movies I saw didn’t show waiting, and many of the people in my life as caregivers or relatives had or were co-habitating.

I had babysitters in my life who told me how I could get contraception, secretly. I had friends tell me about how they got free birth control from Planned Parenthood. The pills they gave me never warned me about the pain that they would cause. I knew that the prevailing wisdom was to wait, but that was it. No one ever told me why. Without the why, the what is useless.

Of course, today I know the why. I can tell you with 100% certainty, if I had known the why, I would have waited. No question. This is the pain that I live with, and the choice that lead me to great dysfunction in my life, for a time. I would have waited had I known. I wish people had believed in me. I wish I had known WHY waiting is wonderful.

As a young adult, after I had already given away what rightfully belonged to my husband, my mind was always pondering, “What can I do next to keep him interested? What level of depravity can I jump to so that I will seem alluring and captivating?”

I often wore next to nothing. I was so numb and dead inside from making myself vulnerable and being left by people who said they loved me. Immodest dress ensured constant attention. I didn’t care where it came from, so long as it came. The stress of constantly needing to be exciting because that’s what Cosmo says, was so demeaning and depressing long-term.

I had to become very masculine in my behavior because I had no excuse for not wanting to be together, when I was on contraception. Some freedom….

The culture told me that there was something fundamentally wrong with my natural, healthy body. I was broken, and I needed to be fixed with contraception. If I didn’t think so, I was at best naive, and at worst, reckless and irresponsible. What no one ever told me was what sex was supposed to be. No one ever told me it was the physical renewal of marital vows, which would only be a lie, if I were not married.

No one told me the emotional connection that would be formed as the result of a powerful chemical, oxytocin, released in the body during these encounters. This chemical has been shown to cause women to overlook the bad in their partners – even abusers. It’s the same hormone that is released when women nurse their newborn babies, to help them only see the wonderful in the baby during those first trying weeks. That is the kind of power you fight against when you misuse the greatest gift given to mankind. No one told me that. Yes, I should have waited for marriage. Why? No one told me. No one had answers.

These answers, I would blessedly find later in life.

There is so much comfort and safety knowing that you aren’t being compared to anyone else in your martial relationship. That is what you can have if you wait. Your spouse won’t have to imagine you embracing another in a way only meant for them, if you wait. Anyone worth being with, in this way, is someone who will wait with you.”

Love,
Matthew

St Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Remedies for sadness

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I suffer from clinical depression.  I was diagnosed in 1994; meds, therapy, the whole nine yards.  So sadness to me is not unfamiliar or infrequent.  It is a cursed associate:  soul & body, body & soul.

In Roman Catholicism, the theology of the body is based on the belief that the human body has its origin in God. It will be, like the body of Jesus, Resurrected, transformed and taken into heavenly glory.

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 § 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.”  -CCC 382

On certain days we have all been sad, days when we have been unable to overcome an inner torpor or depression that weighs down on us and makes it difficult to interact with others. Is there a trick for overcoming sorrow and recovering our smile? St. Thomas Aquinas suggests five remedies against sadness that have proven surprisingly effective (Summa Theologiae, I–II, q. 38).

The first remedy is granting ourselves something we like. It’s as though the famous theologian had already intuited seven centuries ago that “chocolate is an antidepressant.” (YEAH!! 🙂 )This might seem a bit materialistic, but no one would deny that a tough day can end well with a good beer (DOUBLE YEAH!!!). It’s hard to refute this by citing the Gospel, since our Lord took part joyfully in banquets and feasts, and both before and after his Resurrection enjoyed the noble and good things in life. One of the Psalms even says that wine gladdens the human heart (although the Bible also clearly condemns getting drunk).

The second remedy is weeping. St. Thomas says “a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened” (I-II q. 38 a. 2). Our melancholy gets worse if we have no way to give vent to our sorrow. Weeping is the soul’s way to release a sorrow that can become paralyzing. Jesus too wept. And Pope Francis said that “certain truths in life can only be seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I invite each of you to ask yourself: Have I learned how to cry?”

The third remedy is sharing our sorrow with a friend. I recall here the friend of Renzo in Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed. Finding himself alone in his deserted home ravaged by the plague and mourning his family’s horrible fate, he tells Renzo: “What has happened is horrible, something that I never thought I would live to see; it’s enough to take away a person’s joy for the rest of his life. But speaking about these things with a friend is a great help.” This is something we have to experience in order to understand it. When we are sad, we tend to see everything in tints of gray. A very effective antidote is opening our heart to a friend. Sometimes a brief message or phone call is enough for our outlook to once again be filled with light.

The fourth remedy against sadness is contemplating the truth. Contemplating the “fulgor veritatis” St. Augustine speaks of, the splendor of truth in nature or a work of art or music, can be an effective balm against sadness. A literary critic, a few days after the death of a dear friend, was scheduled to speak at a conference about the topic of adventure in the works of Tolkien. He began by saying: “Speaking about beautiful things to people interested in them is for me a real consolation …” Amen.

The fifth remedy suggested by St. Thomas is perhaps something we wouldn’t expect from a medieval thinker. The theologian says that a wonderful remedy against sadness is bathing and sleeping. Amen. It’s a deeply Christian viewpoint that in order to alleviate a spiritual malady one will sometimes have to resort to a bodily remedy. Ever since God became Man, and therefore took on a body, the separation between matter and spirit has been overcome in this world of ours.

A widespread error is that Christianity is based on the opposition between soul and body (a deadly heresy, actually…), with the latter being seen as a burden or obstacle for the spiritual life. But the right view of Christian humanism is that the human person (both body and soul) is completely “spiritualized” by seeking union with God.

No one thinks it strange to seek out a physician who cares for the body as a guide for a spiritual illness,” says St. Thomas More. “The body and soul are so closely united that together they form a single person, and hence a malady of one can sometimes be a malady of both. Therefore, I would advise everyone, when confronted with a physical illness, to first go to confession, and seek out a good spiritual doctor for the health of their soul. Likewise for some sicknesses of the soul, besides going to the spiritual physician, one should also go to a physician who cares for the body.”

Love, and always praying for your well being. Give Praise to our Creator Who wonderfully made us!!!
Matthew

“Conscience is a window to Truth.” – Rev. Wojciech Giertych, OP, Theologian for the Papal Household

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ROME, November 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Conscience is a window to truth, according to the pope’s theologian. And an act of conscience is an act of reason, not something to be confused with feelings.

Father Wojciech Giertych, Theologian for the Papal Household, aka Master of the Sacred Palace, sat down with LifeSiteNews during the final week of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family to discuss some of the issues considered during the international gathering of bishops called to address challenges to the family.

Father Giertych did not take part in the synod, and he was therefore not privy to any of the closed discussion occurring there, nor was he able to speak to specific synod developments.

However, the one on-call theologian for the pope, Father Giertych is a valuable resource on the Church’s teaching. And he was able to offer clarity on some of the moral areas discussed so widely at the synod.

Given the underlying question of conscience during the synod gathering, LifeSiteNews asked Father Giertych about the prevalent indifference to sin in society and its implications. He concurred that there is an absence of a sense of sin today in many parts of the world, with the effects carrying over into real consequences for people’s lives.

“If the perception of moral truth is unclear, then people are lost,” Father Giertych said. “People aren’t quite sure what is right and what is wrong.”

Following this, conscience is now often cited to allow permission for people to act on their impulses and desires, without regard for sin or consequence.

Specific to the synod, a term that received attention was “inviolability of conscience,” which seeks to establish an individual’s personal conscience as paramount, without necessarily first defining conscience.

Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews that we have to be careful in what we mean by the term “conscience.”

“Conscience is the act of practical reason,” he stated.

“Many people identify conscience with feelings,” said Father Giertych. “Feelings are secondary; conscience is a window to truth. … The conscience has to be formed to see the truth.”

We should not identify our conscience with our feelings, he continued. Rather, we have to go to the truth of the matter. And application of conscience is not an arbitrary thing.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong.”
“You have to perceive the truth of the matter,” stated Father Giertych, “by reason.” This means taking all factors involved into account.

There are three specific criteria that determine an individual’s perception of the truth related to an act of conscience, Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews. These are the intention, the object of the act, and the circumstances. “If one is missing, then the whole act is inappropriate.”

The truth of an act of conscience can vary according those criteria.

One example he explained was the question of whether a doctor should amputate a patient’s limb. This is an extremely serious thing, and it would not be appropriate to take the limb in a medical setting where it could be saved. However, it is another matter entirely if leaving the limb will kill the patient.

Father Giertych clarified that while the conditions that establish the criteria surrounding an act of conscience can vary, the definition of conscience and its application do not.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The concept of conscience permeated much of the synod discussions, as it directly relates to the moral issues debated there.

Among the most hotly disputed matters was that of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Father Giertych revisited for LifeSiteNews the fundamental question of who should present him- or herself for the Eucharist.

“Every individual before he receives Holy Communion has to see that he receives the Communion worthily, believing this is the body and blood the soul and the divinity of Jesus Christ given under the species of bread and wine,” he said, “and that the individual is in a state of grace. That means that individual is not aware of having committed mortal sin.”

When someone is in a state of grave sin, Father Giertych said, he must be absolved of his sin before presenting himself for Communion.

“If that is the case, then it’s required to go to Confession and be absolved of the sin,” he stated.

A perfect conversion is necessary for worthiness to receive Communion, the papal theologian continued, and that means a conversion toward God and an aversion to sin.

The same can be said of any temptation, Father Giertych explained, as it is in the case of Catholics living objectively in a situation that is contrary to the moral truth.

No one is owed Communion; rather, it is a gift from the Lord to be given proper regard and handling.

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God,” said Father Giertych, “and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude. … Whereas if we approach the gifts of God with our list of demands, it destroys the purity of our relationship with God. So any sort of sense of entitlement is incorrect. It’s inappropriate.”

“The teaching of St. Paul is clear,” the theologian explained: “we have to be worthy to receive the Eucharist, we cannot receive it unworthily, and affirmation of sin makes a person unworthy.”

When asked about the idea often expressed that Communion is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine for the sick, Father Giertych clarified that this does not negate the elements necessary to be worthy of receiving Communion.

“The sacraments are a nourishment,” he said, “but they’re nourishment that has to be received in truth, and in the pure relationship of gratitude towards God, and in the recognition of the light that God has given us.”

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God, and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude.”

Father Giertych pointed out that the Commandments and moral teaching transmitted in the Church are also a gift, and that one must accept all of the gifts God gives to properly accept any.

“We receive Jesus not only on the sacraments, but also in the teaching that accompanies the sacraments,” he said.

And Father Giertych dismisses the idea of a supermarket approach, saying, “You enter the supermarket: ‘I want this, no, I don’t want that. … But in our relationship with God, we cannot impose upon God our own list of demands. ‘I want these graces, I don’t want those other graces…’ If we are pure in our relationship to God, we accept them all.”

To the argument that the Church must adapt Her teaching to align with society’s standards today, Father Giertych counters that today is not at all different from any other time in that no justification exists to allow the Church’s principles to be compromised.

It’s not a novelty that times change and the Church would face new challenges, he told LifeSiteNews.

The Church had to invent certain practical ways to help people to live the fullness of the Gospel in the past, he said, but the fullness of the Gospel has not changed.

“Human nature, the sacraments, divine grace, what we receive from Christ and the identity of the Church, the mission of the Church has not changed. [T]he principles have not changed; human nature has not changed. And the guidance that God gave us ultimately in the Word made flesh, in Christ, that does not change.”

Regarding the concept discussed during the synod of Church decentralization, Father Giertych was quick to correct a misconception that the Vatican controls everything. He said the term decentralization refers to government.

He also clarified that the Church has always defended the concept of subsidiarity – the idea that it’s always best to handle things on the local level whenever possible.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”
But the idea that any doctrinal matters could be managed at the diocesan level is wrong, he said, as it is not the local bishop’s place to do so.

Individual bishops must handle issues in their respective dioceses, but only within the confines of upholding Church teaching. A bishop cannot decide doctrinal issues because he hasn’t the authority, as the Church’s teaching comes from the Church and therefore cannot be changed.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems,” said Father Giertych, “by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”

Love,
Matthew