This is just too funny, I couldn't pass it up.
Pope Benedict's chat with Archbishop Neinstedt and his fellow bishops from Minnesota etc. has generated quite a bit of comment. I have chosen not to write on the 'gay marriage threat to culture' aspect or his take on the evils of co habitation, but on Benedict's insistence chastity is one of the foundational planks of Catholic sexual morality. It is, but it shouldn't be. Relationship should be the foundation of Catholic sexual morality. The following is from Vatican Insider:
Benedict XVI's message to U.S. bishops: “Sexual difference is a question of justice”Alessandro Speciale - Vatican Insider - Rome 3/9/2012
These are real sore points in the United States where recently, in many states, marriage between same-sex couples has either been approved or is being discussed.
Next autumn Minnesota will vote on the introduction of a ban on same-sex marriages to their state Constitution and the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Mgr. John Nienstedt – who led the delegation of prelates on their Ad Limina visit to the Pope – is at the front line of the electoral campaign.
(Pope Benedict is definitely giving the papal seal of approval to Archbishop Nienstedt's refendum to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. 2012 must be the year Rome tries to remake the US in it's own image and likeness.)
During his speech, Pope Benedict XVI condemned “the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.” He asked the Church in the U.S. to “resist this pressure” with a “reasoned defence of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.” ("Reasoned" is precisely where the arguments for Prop 8 are failing in court.)
“Sexual differences - he added - cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.” (This all sounds nice and reasonable except that the children of gay parents are left out, and the Church itself marries childless couples all the time.)
At a time when the Church in the United States has a very short fuse in as far as Barack Obama’s Administration is concerned, over the exemption of Catholic organizations from offering health insurance cover that includes contraceptive care, Benedict XVI expressed his concern at the threats to the “freedom of conscience, religion and worship” – topics which were already addressed in a previous speech to U.S. prelates.
These threats - the Pope said in today's meeting - “need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions.”(This statement is quite disingenuous. It is not the individual conscience which is the driving force for US Catholic bishops. It is the institutional conscience that bishops are defending. Women have zero say in determining that 'conscience', and that 'conscience' is hell bent on restricting the freedom of women to make decisions with regards to their own bodies.)
What worries the Pope the most, is the “contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality.” Indeed, “a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity,” lead to a “grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”(This idea of grounding a mature sexual ethic in the practice of chastity is spiritually infantile. More on this in my own remarks.)
Benedict XVI also showed concern for the drop in the number of Catholic marriages and the widespread tendency of young couples to live together before getting married: a “widespread practice” which is however “gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society.” Bishops were urged therefore to “develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.” (I'm sure the bishops will work diligently to come up with programs that place the importance of the chastity of these young people far and away above their actual relationships.)
With regard to these topics and to virtues such as chastity, which is often “ridiculed”, Benedict XVI aknowledged that these could partly be attributed to “deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades.”
In all the debate and conversation surrounding the HHS birth control mandate or gay marriage very few people have gone to the heart of Catholic sexual morality. I'm glad Pope Benedict has decided to emphasize this heart, this foundation. That heart and foundation is sexual chastity. Here is the definition of chastity from the Catholic Encyclopedia: Chastity is the virtue which excludes or moderates the indulgence of the sexual appetite. The use of the term 'appetite' in a similar definition to food is intentional. If one peruses the entire section on chastity, one finds the comparison between the sexual appetite and the food appetite as the bedrock of the whole article--with one fundamental difference. A human being can die from hunger, which is a bad thing, but a human being is actually sanctified by intentionally and permanently denying their sexual 'appetite'.
No where in this definition of chastity does one find the notion of sex as a fundamental relationship between two people. A reader will find the idea of sex as expressed in the reproductive relationship between male and female. This reproductive relationship defines the action of 'moderates' in the above definition of chastity. Sex in context of reproduction in a valid marriage is the only licit form of sex. This is all very utilitarian and denies any meaningful relational context for sex. It denies any ideas which suggest sexual expression maybe a real human need in expressing love between two people. Sex is after all, an intense form of touch that has a secondary reproductive pay off if engaged in between a male and a female, but it always retains it's primary tactile function of validating and expressing love between two people.
This would be exactly like the very scientific fact that a mother holding and hugging her child is absolutely essential to the well being and neural development of that child. If the relationship between mother and child is devoid of a tactile component, the child does not prosper and grow no matter how much formula is jammed down it's throat. We also know that adults who are starved for touch, also do not prosper and grow. That's why nursing homes and residence facilities are allowing 'therapeutic pets'. The therapy is not coming from any scintillating conversations between a cat and it's slave/owner. I can attest to that fact. It comes from the touch and the purring and the snuggling and the body warmth and the smiling that engenders---for the cat at least. So we know touch is critical for all humans at all times, and at certain times in our maturation, the primary and most important form of touch is sexual. But the Church is advising that denying this fact is holy and sanctified and better than anything else we can do.
In the interests of helping Pope Benedict properly catechize us Catholics, I offer the section from the encyclopedia which describes the highest form of chastity for women:
The first-mentioned is the virtue of those who, in order to devote themselves more unreservedly to God and their spiritual interests, resolve to refrain perpetually from even the licit pleasures of the marital state. When this resolution is made by one who has never known the gratification allowed in marriage, perfect chastity becomes virginity. Because of these two elements — the high purpose and the absolute inexperience — just referred to, virginal chastity takes on the character of a special virtue distinct from that which connotes abstinence merely from illicit carnal pleasure......The special virtue we are here considering involves a physical integrity. Yet while the Church demands this integrity in those who would wear the veil of consecrated virgins, it is but an accidental quality and may be lost without detriment to that higher spiritual integrity in which formally the virtue of virginity resides. (I guess this is a very circumspect way of saying the physical presence of the hymen is not as important as it used to be unless you want to be a consecrated virgin.) The latter integrity is necessary and is alone sufficient to win the aureole said to await virgins as a special heavenly reward (St. Thomas, Suppl., Q. xcvi, a. 5). Imperfect chastity is that which is proper to the state of those who have not as yet entered wedlock without however having renounced the intention of doing so, of those also who are joined by the bonds of legitimate marriage, and finally of those who have outlived their marital partners.
I love the definition of 'imperfect chastity' because many many of my fellow Catholic teen age virgins back in the day surely thought we were perfectly chaste. It seems Pope Benedict is right, we were imperfectly catechized because even though we thought we were perfectly chaste and truly virginal, we actually weren't because none of us had formally renounced the intention to marry. Well, moving right along.....
Up above I wrote this sexual morality we are supposed to espouse was spiritually infantile. It truly says God really loves Catholics who perpetually vow to keep themselves in the prepubescent sex is icky stage.
For me it's not just that, it's that this underlying foundation of chastity is scientifically ignorant and reduces the sense of touch to an after thought which mostly serves to get us in trouble. If touch is a sort of mistake or challenge to our spirituality on God's part, why in the world create a material universe in which touch is the newest perceptual sense a sentient consciousness needs in which to navigate in this new reality of matter? What if touch and sex are not supposed to be vilified, denied, and controlled but lived as the highest form of spiritual expression we have in this reality. Jesus healed through touch. Babies are conceived through sexual touch. Children are made safe and secure when they are held and rocked. Domesticated animals are defined so on the basis of allowing and enjoying humans to touch and guide them. We may think our brains are what makes us all that and a bag of chips, but it's also our ability to use touch to communicate, and most importantly to communicate love. I know, I asked my cats.
"'Reasoned' is precisely where the arguments for Prop 8 are failing in court."
You're so right about that. Because they HAVE no reason at all, when they're pressed about their reasons. All they have is animus and prejudice, which they expect society to endorse because they say their religious beliefs (and not reason) require discrimination.
And as you note so very well, "This all sounds nice and reasonable except that the children of gay parents are left out, and the Church itself marries childless couples all the time."
Bill one of the things that surprised me about Pope Benedict's language is his insistence on categorizing his view of sexual morality as reasonable--as in based in solid reasoning. It may have been based in what passed for solid reasoning 800 years ago, but we've come a long way since then.Delete
A lot of the behavior he finds 'less than fully human' is directly the result of a sexual morality which is 'less than fully human'. One breeds the other so to speak. We need a sexual morality based in relationship because this would open the door to re evaluate the place of sex in the lives of all people. It would take sex beyond notions of gender power, which sex is really mired in at the present, and open up some space in which to view sex from the lenses of communication, physical intimacy, and mutual affirmation.
Imagine a Catholic world in which adult sexual expression was understood as life affirming rather than soul condemning.
These issues came up many times at Catholic Singles concerns I've attended. OTOH , the speakers would go on about Pope JPII's TOTB (Theology of the Body) and the nuptial meaning of the body about how our bodies are created to be given as gifts to one another. Singles would then begin asking then what are adult singles supposed to do? This gift is indelibly stamped into our very anatomy and psyches according to TOTB and yet singles, divorcees, gays and lesbians still get these very lackluster answers. Yet TOTB is supposed the "ticking time bomb" that will usher in the new Springtime of evangelization but it can't be squared with the traditional teachings of the Church. I also can't see why the bishops mandate celibacy for the secular priesthood in light of what Pope John Paul II was teaching. The traddies in the Church get this and have rejected TOTB, but the conservatives continúe glossing over the implications of TOTB. Myself, I'm coming around to the relational / unitive basis for human sexuality that you are speaking of that I think TOTB is eliding to yet won't admit.Delete
That's why I get miffed when Catholics teach that " thwarting the sexual appetites" won't kill you like not eating will right after singing the praises of TOTB.
As anyone discovers when they growth into puberty, sex is certainly a distinct appetite compared to eating, relaxing etc. I can fantasize about eating but it won't stop hunger pangs, I can fantasize about sleeping and look at catalogs of matresses and loungers and still not feel rested but with sexual libido no further explanation is needed. Why are our brains wired in this way? Sex can't just be another appetite.
John your take on TOTB is well stated. I too have wondered how conservative Catholics can reconcile traditional teaching with some of what JPII wrote. I guess it's called 'compartmentalization'.Delete
I have a different set of issues with TOTB. For the most part it ignores the fact women are sexual beings right along with men. JPII apparently thought he had to take this stance given that he grounds this whole opus in Genesis. Women then become receptive vs active and complimentary vs truly equal. His language does allude to a more relational understanding of sexuality, but it's still an unequal relational expression and still has reproduction as the highest calling of sexual expression. Hence not much in it for singles of any stripe.
I think we are just beginning the long road to returning to a more balanced and nuanced sexual culture that takes the emotional and spiritual needs of partners into consideration with the physical needs. Roman Catholicism is way behind the eight ball on this particular path because it still insists we see sexual morality in terms of acts, not persons. TOTB is as close as we have to any teaching that even begins to recognize sex as something more than acts the Church determines are 'licit' or 'illicit'. Dear Holy Mother Church has a long way to go and compounding this issue, the wrong group of leaders in charge.
Somebody ought to tell Pope Ratzinger that SEX is the basis of sexual morality. How can one expect a group of uptight old men to have a clue about phenomena like touching, real intimacy or the intrinsic link between physicality and love? I'd suggest they go out and hug a child, but we know where that has led!ReplyDelete
Bill, it only led there for some priests who were most likely very compromised a long time before they were ordained. I did laugh at your comment though. They could go out and a hug a cat though! They would have to be careful and non threatening, or else they would find that cats are well versed in abusive touch.Delete
SEX. Not as much happening as the Vatican fears. Reminds me of economists that think all economic behavior can be explained by that other sin, greed. Grow up boys.Delete
Thank you Colleen, for reminding us that ideally relationship should be paramount, and that the sensual aspects of love complement the relationship.
We live in an imperfect world. I think the American bishops, in many ways, have lost their minds. How insular they are in opposing health care legislation. How naive, to be played as dupes and dopes by the political right of Hudson Deal, Newt Gingrich, Rich Santorum, and Karl Rove.
They should be tending to the flock instead. Stephen Covey, Mormon, had a great insight into human behavior when he described the "Circle of Influence" and the "Circle of Concern". (The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People) The bishops may be concerned about civil law but their influence should be primarily with their flocks. What are they doing to address sexuality in the Catholic Church? ...
I am among the last pre-Vatican II confirmed Catholics. In my Catholic High School graduating class there were 50 girls. At least 4 of them (that I know of) were pregnant before graduation. There were no legal abortions in Canada in those days. At my high school denial of the sexual self resulted in a pregnancy rate for 15-19 year olds that was at least twice as high as the national average. (If some statistician wants to question the small sample size, go ahead I agree.)
"I think the American bishops, in many ways, have lost their minds." They sure do seem to have lost something. I'm not sure though it's their minds. It may have been a lower part of their anatomy, especially when it comes to all things Vatican.Delete
The Pope insists on chastity for all but how many priests are actually living in a state of chaste purity? I actually once thought that 95% of priests were physically chaste through the special graces that they received upon being ordained. Now I know that this is not true. I am still stunned that bishops allowed and protected priests who were most definitely not chaste to the continue to serve in positions of authority. I read of a priest in Philadelphia who raped and 11 year old girl, molested another girl in the confessional and got another young girl pregnant and secured for her an abortion. This priest was sent for treatment but was allowed to return and be the pastor of a church. Why in the name of heaven would a bishop allow such a man to minister to the faithful? Did these men have such contempt for the laity and for children?ReplyDelete
The bishop would allow such a man to return to ministry for any number of reasons. First is the 'closed black line'. They protect their own, not our children.Delete
Second is the whole idea of sacramental confession and forgiveness. If confession cleans the slate then maybe the man really will sin no more. I'm sure this bishop also crossed his fingers and knocked on wood.
Third, many of these predators refused to do the sane moral thing and leave the priesthood, or they were encouraged not to by questionable psychiatric evaluations. Canonically this puts the Bishop in a quandary. Some bishops actually did insist on defrocking a predator and lost their case in Rome when said predator appealed via Canon Law. When word gets around Rome is making things very difficult, bishops don't bother.
Fourth, no bishop ever opted for the criminal system over the canonical system. All of these situations were kept in house. Canon law has no provision for prison sentences.
Finally the whole clerical system is a sick system with sick people in too many positions of authority. This is why it didn't matter if a bishop was VII like Weakland or Hunthausen, or VI like George or Bevilacqua, they all engaged in covering up pedophile behavior and transferring pedophiles and silencing victims. Theology and personal belief were always trumped by loyalty to the system.
The bishops are living in an insulated reality that the rest of us don't experience. Veronica, you are on target that the bishops are being played by Deal, Newt, Rick and Karl. The political rhetoric is pretty toxic now, but it will get even worse as the presidential election gets closer. I don't watch much TV, but I can only imagine how nasty the political ads will get. Mark, the insulated reality explains why the bishops are unable to empathize with the laity and choose to engage in scorched earth tactics and have returned known abusers to active ministry. It is an example of what Colleen has described as clerical narcissism. See the posting on the interview with the supremely clueless Edward Egan, the now-retired Archbishop of New York.ReplyDelete
I can't wait for the even more toxic rhetoric to come. I can't imagine what the big PAC's will run for commercials once the target is President Obama. I'm hoping it will get so stupid and so toxic the vast majority of America will tune out the PACS and their candidates.Delete
You are so right about Cardinal Egan. His interview was text book clerical classic narcissism.
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This papal talk supports my conviction that the Pope's and hierarchs' concept of human sexuality is centered on two externally visible organs (or sometimes one). Then, a sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity (as described in the Catholic Encyclopedia) can be developed as a training exercise in logic. The rest of a human being, which you deal with so well and much of which is connected intimately together, is ignored.ReplyDelete
It's time to hope the Vatican can once again see the likes of Patty Crowley (d. Nov 23, 2005), notable lay, married, female participant in papal birth control commission meetings in the 1960s. She reportedly educated a large majority of a roomful of learned clergyman on what married life was about, thereby playing a key role in shaping the commission's Majority Report (favoring change) that resulted. Unfortunately, the Encyclical that followed from Paul VI stuck with the minority and endures without effect, 44 years later.
There is also the issue of creeping infallibility. The Catholic Right has a tendency to treat all papal encyclicals and pronouncements as though they were infallible, even though infallibility has been seldom invoked. Not only that, but I think the Vatican's view of human sexuality is fundamentally based on outmoded scientific and philosophical learning. JP II's Theology of the Body is also not very convincing.Delete
Kathy, is it just me, or do you think this current version of the Church is even more top down than the pre Vatican II Church? My memory may be a little faulty, but it seems the parish priest was far more influential in the life of the average pew sitter than Pope Pius XII. I suppose part of that was Confession, lots of pastoral thinking was passed on in the Confessional, but maybe it's also a product of far better communication underpinning Vatican control. Snail mail isn't called snail mail for nothing.Delete
From older Catholics I've heard the same recollections. Speaking as a Gen X'er I think JPII's papacy cemented this trend in for my generation and the Millenials coming after us. Ironically the traditionalists are the Catholics that first pointed this trend out to me and criticized it. However my issue with that crowd is that they constructed an idealized image of the Church between the Council of Trent and Vatican II. They go from critizing Papalmania to immersing themselves into Catholic retromania.Delete
I love your last sentence. I sometimes read the Remnant and am shocked at how much I can agree with their criticisms of the JPII church and then those sometimes pleasant surprises all go up in incense with the commenting on triumphalistic notions of Latin Masses and fiddle back chasubles.Delete
Let us not forget that according to Sipe, only about 1/2 of the RCC clerics are celibate at one time. This points to a fact that Bishops and Popes themselves do not lead total lives of celibacy. Seems like they have a lot to hide about themselves and the criminal priests know it and may even be able to detail it for others. Many Bishops were and are running scarred themselves about what might happen if truth were told about them. I had a lady once tell me that her family survived the great depression because the holder of the deed on their Kentucky farm turned out to be the monsignor of a Cathedral in Chicago. They kept their farm by black mailing this duplicitous priest. This man lead a life as a married banker father of 4 in Kentucky and also a priest in Chicago. Recall the recent Los Angeles Bishop who was forced to resign after his family was discovered.ReplyDelete
There are many different permutations that those who follow a rule of self deprivation follow. There are many characterologic traits indicating disorder that are noted. Any person that truly follows celibacy does show severe schizoid tendencies. Others that are not celibate live in a duality that blossoms into other borderline and or sociopathic symptoms. Remember one of the signs of boarder line personality disorder is the feeling of omniscience (The Teacher) and omnipotence (feelings of being a God Himself as the Bishops continually attack others without the slightest understanding of their own faults.)
Religion has been with humanity all the way through our evolution, but it is time for it to evolve more rapidly. I can not follow the anthropomorphic God of the Old Testament or the God of Moses any longer. Was there a burning bush? Did Moses lead millions of Jews out of Egypt? (Anthropologists can find no evidence of a large Jewish presence in Egypt.) Did Moses part the Red Seas and swallow up the complete Egyptian army and the Pharaoh? There is no anthropologic evidence. I can not accept the tenth commandment as it was written. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors things, his ass, his slaves, his wife or his property. The Tenth Commandment makes some people not equal to others. The whole of Genesis and Exodus are metaphors or lies if taken literally. The same thing applies to infallibility of one Man or a group of men over others.
If we are to believe Christianity, we must get back to Christ and the Gospels especially Matthew and the ideas of love of God and others as self. The I and Thou approach for to do less invites the idea of leaving religion and its lies and false metaphors behind. We can no longer live with a false structure defined by authoritarianism. Better to have no religion than the one practiced by the Church leadership!
I just wish we could get back to some semblance of collegiality and subsidiarity. I just finished reading NCR's article on VII priests. It's both very good and very sad. One priest made a very important observation about the Gospels--they were written for very specific audiences carrying a very specific language of understanding The Way. Of course, this is still happening in global Catholicism, but for some reason Rome does not want it to continue to happen or evolve in first world countries.Delete
I get that in these countries Catholicism is evolving towards democracy and individual conscience, away from Monarchy and a parent/child relationship with religious authority, but instigating the rantings of our bishops is not going to change that direction. It's going to cause fracturing in the name of an artificial Orthodoxy. I just wonder how much longer it's going to take for first world Catholics to accept the fact they don't need a parent/child relationship with the Roman Catholic Church to follow Jesus. When enough lay Catholics reach that point, the clerical system will come tumbling down.
Half of the RCC clerics are celibate at any given time... Hmmm. Some smokers say they give up cigarettes almost every day too. You and Colleen have more expertise than most in identifying pathology. Enforced celibacy seems to generate mental health issues unlike behavior that is motivated internally. Many people, some even within the context of marriage, do not have sex very often. Celebrities like Amy Sedaris, for one, admit on late night talk shows that they don't mind not having a lover and don't desire to be married. It doesn't seem an imposition.
The sort of duplicitous life Marcial Maciel led, like the priest of your story, is too much effort for most people. I imagine most non-celibate clergy are more like Ted Haggard. They look forward to an occasional "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" vacation. I seriously doubt most partake in crystal meth with gay prostitutes. They are probably more like frat boys on spring break blowing off some steam, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, if you know what I mean.
I agree completely with your thoughts on the literal reading of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. There's plenty of misogyny in the New Testament too, we're looking at you Paul! Diarist Valerie Tarico makes some good points about the anti-woman messages in the Bible in:
"Many people, some even within the context of marriage, do not have sex very often. Celebrities like Amy Sedaris, for one, admit on late night talk shows that they don't mind not having a lover and don't desire to be married. It doesn't seem an imposition."
Remember that the clerical definition of celibacy forbids masturbation! I think this is why the Sipe numbers of 50 % at one time hold true. It is true that the older some people get, the less appetite they MAY have for physical sex. It is not true for everyone or even most that the older one gets, that they do not desire much sex. However, some women (as little girls), a high percentage if you believe the sociological studies, suffer post traumatic stress from being rapped and they may never desire much sex. It is true although less true of the numbers of little boys being rapped. But anyone who was once in this position, continues to have post traumatic stress and will display those symptoms. I am sure this is true as well for many priests and nuns. It was once said that there were only three possible vocations for women-- marriage, convent or prostitution. Many rapped young women opted for a convent.
Young people who do not develop close interpersonal relationships with others of the opposite or same sex do tend to show powerful schizoid tendencies. Others that have many clandestine relationships tend to not develop any close interpersonal relationships and may have far worse personalities disorders. The monsignor from Chicago and the Bishop in LA, especially with all the "effort expended" are likely more healthy than others who lead lives without anyone.
I highly doubt that there are very many healthy people who do not need others for close interpersonal relationships. It is true that the physical nature of these relationship evolve over the years, But also remember the 80 year old nursing home patients who scandalize care givers by sleeping with others to whom they may not even be married. Fact is for some elderly, it is too much a hit on their Social Security to involve marriage. I agree that most "celibates" find easy ways to express their sexual needs. There was, however, a recent gay Roman prostate service broken up that specialized in doing business inside the Vatican. dennis
Thanks for the clarification. Masturbation... sheesh. How could I forget that a woman's sexual destiny was to be owned, denied or sold.Delete
Hey Paul, you Canadians have our Dick Cheney all trembling and afraid of you:Delete
Scared eh? In the past few years conservative speakers of all sorts have canceled appearances with the same excuses. They don't seem to like free speech and peaceful assembly when it comes their way. I think these cancellations are a strategy designed to appeal to the most authoritarian among their followers. And the conspiracy buffs.Delete
Cheney, W., Sarah, you can keep them all.
Roman prostate = Roman ProstituteReplyDelete
One thing missing from the Pope's musings on Chastity/Celibacy is the fact that it is a Charism. Some people have that and some will never attain it. Like all the Vows, you wear them lightly, or they wear you (down). Just take a good look at your parish priest, and you will see if he has the charism for it or not. For some priests the yoke is indeed too heavy.ReplyDelete
Chastity should be emphasized as a relational stance, not a sexual one, to be understood correctly. It shows itself in the way we treat others. Are our relationships with others generous, yet free of reciprocal expectations? Are they modest in our needs/wants, taking into account the needs/wants of others? A way to explain it would be this: it is living with an open heart and open hands. To view chastity as only sexual purity limits it to an adversarial role in one's life. A constant battle against the Devil of temptation. One to which most would surely lose.
The Church's constant focus on sexual morality without an understanding of the important role sexuality plays in our relational well being is why the Church can never be taken seriously regarding the topic. It refuses to take into consideration any modern data. And viewing chastity/purity as somehow a superior state of being is contrary to the Gospel message of God's loving acceptance of all, and should be regarded as the idolatry that it is.
Excellent excellent comment. I really liked this line:Delete
"To view chastity as only sexual purity limits it to an adversarial role in one's life. A constant battle against the Devil of temptation. One to which most would surely lose."
Richard Sipe makes the same points that celibacy and chastity are a charism and have to be seen, as you point out, in the context of a relational stance. And this understanding takes a great deal of maturity, self knowledge, and spiritual integration.
I was in a religious community for a spell, and this is the way the Vows are taught. The problem is, a double message is then created. The Church (and religious communities, especially women's) still perpetuate the mythology of the Purity Cults (as I like to call them) where the virginal trumps all. The nice theology built around the Vows (really to support their existence in today's post VII world) looks good on paper, but exists mainly on the surface, not in the heart. The pre-VII ideas of the virginal, obedient bride are tough to dispel, especially among the older sisters. So, even though everyone says they believe the newer interpretation of chastity, (and to a much greater extent, the vow of poverty. I'll let you guess why) in actuality, it tends to be expressed through a prudishness towards sexuality. It's a way to guard your vow. Once again, the only foe is Temptation.Delete
The purity cult concept is just too convenient to let die because it underlines the whole idea that bodies are profane and women's bodies are especially profane. The thing that gets me is that this view was absorbed intact from Pagan cults, although virgins did have their place in certain Jewish Temple rituals.Delete
But what it really says is that once women open themselves up to creating life they have closed themselves off to the highest forms of holiness, which means even the sacrifice involved in having and raising children is somehow profane next to the exalted virgin. It's all crazy.
What's interesting is for all it's efforts the Church practices the heresies it's fought so hard against. John's gospel is one long dissertation against Gnosticism (the heresy of Dualism), yet here we are, still disbelievers that God sanctifies the flesh He created.Delete
Exactly, makes one wonder why Jesus bothered to Resurrect His body.Delete
I'm glad to see more direct discussion here and on Bilgrimage of the need to redefine sexuality itself within the Church...when I first started reading your and Bill's blogs a little over a year ago I would bring these issues up but felt that there was basic agreement on your part but also an unstated reluctance to discuss them in any depth...it felt to me that acceptance of sexuality in long term gay relationships was OK but let's not go any further than that for whatever reasons...that was an impression I had at the time and I may have missed the mark since I had not started reading your blogs from their inception...your insights about touch are very important...people of all sexual orientations need touch and sexual intimacy as a way to connect us to other human beings...this nourishment can be experienced, in and of itself, as whole and spiritually sacred...it can also be procreative of another human person...as you know the Church has in it's reading and acceptance of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures created a dichotomy of the flesh vs the spirit...with the things of the flesh mostly being assigned a sinful role in our lives....those evil pagan Canaanites used sex in their religious practices so it must be anathema to us kind of approach....the Church's role in our sex lives should only be advisory in terms of sexual ethics...in terms of how we treat each other as we share our sexuality....and certainly not forec us into some sort of eunuch status....but right now I wouldn't even allow our current crop of priests to be advising us on any sexual matters...not until they cleaned up their own immature and broken sexual lives.....Michael Ferri
Thanks Michael. There's much more to the sex equation and the Church is falling flat on a number of other aspects. A person's mental and emotional state have a lot to do with how their sexual activity is accepted and integrated. For instance, sex in context of two partners whose minds and emotions are centered on love and sharing for and with each other will have far different consequences than sexual activity where one partner is focused on domination, control, and personal gratification. In the latter situation, the receiver of that kind of sex will experience a very powerful negation of their worth as a person and take in a really negative energy, not just experience. I think this is the biggest factor in why it is so difficult for abuse victims to get past their trauma and is why I have always written the best description of what has happened to the victim is soul murder.Delete
Soul murder indeed.Delete
And yet society loves the masquerade party, the reversal of roles, the Mardi Gras followed by the ritual atonement of Lent. Duplicity appeals to human beings at some level. As mentioned above by FreeRangeK the surface may conceal what the heart does not want to reveal. Other times we fail to read the most obvious signs.
I didn't arrive at this blog until I became aware of Marcial Maciel. I never understood the "Naughty Nuns", "Vicars & Tarts", or other juxtapositions of sexuality and denial involving religious stereotypes. And then it all made sense in the discussions here. Dominance & submission, make me do something bad, physical abuse and the misuse of authority. It isn't just a perverted game for some.
Ooops. Meant to include the phrase "blame the victim" in my last sentence in my comment above.Delete