Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
While it is still too early to know what the results of the elections throughout the country have been, things don’t seem to be going in our favor. I know this can be disheartening. After eight years of slow advances towards a true Culture of Life and Civilization of Love, it seems we have fallen back. We have been here before. In the 4th century, Constantine advanced the cause of Christianity, and merely two and a half decades later, Julian the Apostate came to the scene. Julian was not all-evil, as no one eve is. His paganism was heavily Christian/Arian. He was a man of great chastity and asceticism. He shunned imperial pomp and worked for the poor. But he began the renewed persecution of the Church, not by massive martyrdoms like previous emperors, but subtle state persecution of the Church. He ruled for only two years. During this time, Christians certainly tried to resist persecution. They would not pray to false gods. They worshipped no god but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the God-Man Jesus Christ. However, our fathers and mothers in the faith never lived a bitter life. They never lost the joy and hope that was within them due to their faith in Christ. They prayed for the emperor and did not despise him. They could do this only by the intercession of the saints and the grace of God. No matter who wins, we must pray for our elected officials, that they humbly seek the common good.
Like it or not, we need to live in this world but not be of the world. Now is the time to begin evangelizing. Now is the time to begin reaching across the aisle and building a Catholic alliance that stands up for life and the traditional family while agreeing to work together on prudential decisions. Now is the time to resist FOCA and any other sort of disaster with all our political ability, asking for a court stay while we challenge obscene laws against the dignity of human life. Now is the time begin planning for 2012 (Chris Smith for President).
We may be down but we can take it. “With God all things are possible.” This is certainly bad for our country on many levels, but I strongly encourage you to keep an eternal view of things. Our witness to the eternal in this time, when those who do not share our faith will expect us to be so tied up with worldly affairs, can be a great testament to our faith and a witness to the work of grace in our lives.
Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It’s only the second issue of the semester for the Boston College newspaper The Heights and already the paper has printed an opinion’s column by Matt Hamilton in support of a same-sex marriages. The article, The Real Meaning of Marriage advocates that since marriage is about love, and same-sex couples do love each other, this is equivalent to marriage. The article refers to Dr. John McDargh. I have no doubts that Dr. McDargh loves his partner. The question is whether or not his actions are one that communicate love.
There is a mistaken notion running around in the moral theology field these days, and it can be found in the works of Boston College professor Father James Keenan SJ who has a large impact on the Boston College campus. Virtue ethics is the traditional ethics of the Catholic Church, and it is found in Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Whereas deontology focuses on acts themselves and consequentialism focuses on consequences, virtue ethics focuses on the seven virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and love. The one who is truly ethical acts with these virtues.
However, the problem arises when these virtues are used to justify acts that are not loving by claiming that they are loving. Let’s use a basic example that everyone would understand. Imagine that a child is asking his or her parents for a cookie, but the cookie contains nuts to which the child is allergic. Giving the child the cookie and killing him or her is never an act of love. Similarly, some acts are always wrong, like adultery. As Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, “Only God, the Supreme Good, constitutes the unshakable foundation and essential condition of morality, and thus of the commandments, particularly those negative commandments which always and in every case prohibit behaviour and actions incompatible with the personal dignity of every man. The Supreme Good and the moral good meet in truth: the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, created and redeemed by him” (99).
Returning to Hamilton’s article, it can be said that there is nothing wrong with a man loving another man. I love my dad, I love my roommate, I love my cousins, and I love my parish priest. None of this is wrong. In fact, even if the love of one man toward another involved an erotic desire, he still would not be at fault for doing anything wrong, Just like a married man cannot control that he finds physically attractive a woman other than his wife, the same can be said for a man who experiences same-sex desires. However, both can be faulted if they encourage these desires by lustfully dwelling on them or acting upon them. This is not to say that Dr. McDargh’s love for his partner is the same as adultery. It is to say they share this one similarity.
On the contrary, the problem lies in how Dr. McDargh and his partner express their love. While no knowledge is given of their private life, it is clear that they advocate that their relationship is one equal to that of marriage. This is not the case. No matter how much revisionist theologians try, they cannot erase the clear command of God against the homogenital act found in Genesis, that God made woman for man. If they want to sin, that’s their business, but they should give up trying to convince others to follow them. Leading others to sin is never an act of love seeing as it separates man from God.
A more thorough explanation can be found in the book The Truth About Homosexuality by Father John Harvey OSFS.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Please forward this to anyone who may be interested. Hopefully, soon we will have tax exempt status for donors.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The sole element that offers any possibility of renovation is the Word of God, in its inexhaustible richness. However, an instinctive horror, purely negative in effect, of the Catholic tradition has in practice left to the presiding minister the choice of readings from the Bible, and of the hymns to be sung. As to the prayers, generally he improvises them himself, just as likes. Ultimately, then, everything normally centres on the ideas or forms of religious sentiment he has decided to impress on the congregation in his sermon. The scriptural passages are chosen with this in view. The hymns are those which will in his opinion best prepare his audience to accept what he hsa decided to say to them. The prayer itself is simple a second version of the first sermon, but addressed to God.
The final result is that the Protestant who seeks, in his Church, food for his faith finds it only in the form of a total subjection to all the peculiarities, the momentary idiosyncrasies, of his minister's personal devotion.
One cannot imagine any system more completely effective in replacing the authority of God y that of the individual minister, at the same time subjecting to him the religious personality of each participant in the worship of his Church.
Morever when Protestant Churches try to react against this by setting up lituries-which, as experience shows are never adopted without being everywhere adjusted and made subservient to the minister using them-all they do is to impress on a greater number of persons the formulas, the feelings, the private opinions, of a minister or group of miisters, and the remedy is soon found to be worse than the disease.
The above quote is from a must read book, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer. Written in 1954, Bouyer entered in the Catholic Church after time as a Lutheran minister. He was ordained a priest. Can we not see what he warns as a problem in Protestantism present today in the Catholic Church? The Church has exhorted priests consistently that they are not to add, remove, or change anything of the Mass. This is rarely followed. Many times this is accidental, sometimes it is intentional. When priests do this, it is the highest form of clericalism: the priest denies to the laity something that is rightfully theirs, that being the Mass as approved by the Church, and gives to them his own Mass. This mentality makes the laity, as Bouyer notes about Protestant laity, a slave to the priest's whims. No priest can extemporaneously created texts that rival the beautiful collects of the liturgy, which the Church in Her great Motherly wisdom has deemed to be what the laity need to hear and what should be said to God.
Say the black, do the red.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
After The Observer at Boston College received a letter to the editor from the directors of The Vagina Monologues, I realized that I was going to need to respond for the sake of dialogue.
First, the directors are correct in critiquing my article when I wrote that they agreed to “help put on” The Jeweler’s Shop. At the event, if I remember correctly, Ms. Riley and some members of the cast sitting in the front row whose names I do not know said that “we should have” (or similar words) it at BC. I took “we” to mean that some of the cast members were going to help with the event. After receiving the e-mail, I conferred with others I know who were in the audience, and they said that they took “we” to mean “we the BC community” and that my interpretation was wrong. I admit my error.
After my article was submitted for the last issue, I had a thought about on a more diversified panel. The directors say that they invited over ten professors to speak on the panel. I have heard people say that such a statement is unbelievable, as surely someone would sit on the panel. Not only does this uncharitably assume that the directors are liars, I do know that one professor was invited but had a prior commitment that evening and submitted other names as suggestions.
I wonder if professors have fears of speaking against the play if they are not tenured. To speak in favor of the play is to speak in favor of maintaining the status quo. To speak against is to claim that the university is doing something wrong. This is position professors may not want to be in. If, God-forbid, the play is still being performed on campus in five years, maybe a professor on staff now who receives tenure between now and then will come forward. In the meantime, maybe two students who are opposed to the play could sit on the panel.
The meat of the directors’ letter to the editor was on what it means to be a Catholic institution. The mistake that the directors make is confuse catholic with Catholic. The definition used for the word catholic came directly from the dictionary; however,
The directors’ objections of my article were three-fold: 1) that I underestimate the ability of our peers to find errors in a text and thus insult them2) that I only hire Catholics who have not excommunicated themselves by obstinately holding heretical beliefs 3) that the above suggestion would “de facto ban The Vagina Monologues and other non-Catholic texts: ‘academic freedom’ in such a situation would be a logical fallacy.”
I do not think I underestimate the ability of our peers at all. What are we paying here for if not to be taught? Are am I really paying $40,000+ a year for a piece of paper which says that BC has inspected me and certifies that I can think on my own? Or am I paying for BC’s faculty to impart knowledge to me? Lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify: professors are certainly teaching us not what to think but how to think, and students are capable of thinking on their own. That does mean, however, that students will not always get things right.
We live in a world that has many ridiculous ideas, and ideas have consequences. I remember my horror when during a class last semester I listened to a student defend pedophilia. Obviously, always loving a good debate, I challenged him, only to be told that I must be repressed because I believe that some things are wrong and that “even if we want to do them, we shouldn’t.” I was defending the typical Aristotelian concept of virtue: do the good, form habits, build virtue. Where was the professor in showing him his error? I can never explain Aristotle as well as she could, and while she was right in letting me make my best attempt, when my explanation was insufficient, she should have spoken. Can we imagine what the consequences in the future of not correcting his erroneous belief then might be? (And would the cast of The Vagina Monologues celebrate his rape of a young man by attending a play about male-sexual liberation called Cock Tales?)
All joking aside, this is a serious point. Should students be left alone to discuss such a controversial play? If the relativism that the panel promoted is reality, then there is no benefit to having wiser professors help guide a discussion. To think that we can explain the problems (and merits) of the play sufficiently without their guidance stems, possibly, from intellectual pride.
As for the second point, I did not suggest that we only hire Catholics but that we hire more faithful Catholics. Non-Catholics should always be welcomed to attend and teach at Boston College and to offer their ideas as part of the dialogue we are having here, but the Catholic position must be articulated clearly enough so that all students encounter it on campus. This is what makes a Catholic education different from a secular one.
Finally, this would not make academic freedom a fallacy. The Catholic tradition is one of dialogue, as the directors rightly noted, and this dialogue would continue in the classroom. How many works by great Catholic thinkers are titled “Against Someone or Something”? What may happen is that professors would not necessarily endorse ideas contained in such works. Do the faithful Catholic professors are on campus today ban the works of Nietzsche and Freud in class? They are read because, in typical Jesuit, humanist fashion, it is believed that grace builds upon nature. Even in works that contain errors (including The Vagina Monologues), some truth or something useful may be found. Similarly, there already non-Catholic professors on campus who contribute to our discussion?
I understand why my previous article may have been interpreted wrongly as to say that only Catholics should be hired and that they might ban works they disagree with in class. Now that I have clarified, is this really such an absurd idea? I think not. To think otherwise stems from one of two possible roots as I see it: a strong disagreement in the beliefs of the Catholic Church and a desire to ensure Her teachings are not defended because one holds to something else, or the relativism of which I spoke of in my last article. As one Jesuit wrote to me after reading my article, “As you said, there is Truth and then there is the relativism that some are desperate to promote as ‘a truth.’”
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Have you ever thought that maybe your gut feeling about a Church teaching you disagree with may be wrong and that the Church may be right? You’d be surprised what you’ll find if you investigate why the Church teaches what it does. Here’s a list of resources (which the theology department doesn’t want you to see) that may be helpful to you:
- Is there a difference between blind obedience and religious obedience? Yes! http://bcatholic2.blogspot.com/2008/01/on-blind-faith-and-obedience-to-holy.html
- The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by our very own Kreeft and Tacelli demonstrates that Jesus Christ is God and He rose from the dead. Christianity is metaphysical and not just a moralism. It corresponds to reality.
- Refutation of Moral Relativism also by Kreeft. Title says it all.
- Karl Adams’ The Spirit of Catholicism is a great overview of what the faith is.
- Upon This Rock by Stephen Ray is a great defense of the papacy.
- Audio talk “The Conversion of Scott Hahn” available at www.catholicity.com. Catholicism is Biblical. www.Biblechristiansociety.com has more audio that is helpful.
- The Ratzinger Report, Salt of the Earth, and God and the World. All three include great commentary by Joseph Ratzinger on modern Church issues.
- Christopher West The Good News About Sex and Marriage. You’ve been lied to about your sexuality and the Church has good news about what it’s really for.
- Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy. A deeply theological book on the Mass and why more ‘traditional” Masses are more fitting for worship.
- Patty Schneier “Prove it God” and He did audio talk from omsoul.com. One practicing Catholic’s conversion story on an issue of Church teaching that can apply to all of us in other areas.
- The Theology of the Body talks by Pope John Paul II
- “Humanae Vitae and Conscience” audio talk by Janet Smith. What is the role of conscience in Church teaching?
- Companionofjesus.org explains Ignatian spirituality without watering it down.
- “Development or reversal?” by Avery Cardinal Dulles. How many times are we told Church teaching has changed on X so it can change on Y? This exposes that fallacy. http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=234
- History of Christendom by Warren Carroll. The first book debunks a lot of myths about Scripture that we are taught at BC. Read all of them.
- Person and Being by Father Norris Clarke. The Church has long held that men and women complement one another. A lot of feminists reject this, seeing receptivity (a fact of sexuality) as something bad. They get this belief from Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre. Clarke shows how both men and women are at times receptive and that this is something good. The first chink in the armor of feminism.
- The Priest is Not his Own by Fulton Sheen. This explains what priesthood is all about, in case there was any confusion.
- The Courage to be Chaste by Groeschel shows that a celibate life can be a joyful one. This applies to those with same-sex attraction and those without it.
- Beyond Gay by David Morrison. This book shows that not every person with same-sex attraction has the same experience that tells them there is nothing wrong with what they are doing and how conversion to Christ brings about true happiness.
- The Truth about Homosexuality by Father John Harvey. Explains Church teaching and debunks the myths that in all circumstances same-sex attraction is innate and unchangeable.
- God or goddess by Manfred Hauke. Think it’s okay to call God “Mother” or “She”? Think again.
- Women and the Priesthood by Alice von Hildebrand and Kreeft. A short little book on the topic.
- Women in the Priesthood by Manfred Hauke. To my knowledge, the definitve work.
- Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Muller. Women aren’t going to be deacons either.
- Why Catholics Can’t Sing by Thomas Day. This is just for fun, and it explains why so many people find Mass boring and the music is so bad.
- www.Catholiceducation.org has articles explaining everything.
And just remember, none of any of this matters if you don’t live as a disciple. So study, yes, but love and follow Christ.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Catholicism is not a set of rules
My roommate is from Long Island, and as such has a great love for Billy Joel. Last month, when I should have been at an Observer meeting, we were busy going through his iPod and listening to every Billy Joel song ever, looking for a particular song. It turns out that what I was seeking is in fact by Jim Croce, but at one point he said to me, “Do you like ‘Only the Good Die Young?’”
I responded by saying that it has a catchy tune but dislike the text. At the same time, I was on Wikipedia and other websites seeing if I could see anything that would point me towards the song I was looking for. I noticed that on Wikipedia, the song was described, in Joel’s own words, as not being anti-Catholic but “pro-lust.” Joel, who is a former Catholic, is certainly not anti-Catholic. I’d say that pro-lust is accurate.
The whole instance reminded me of a question an atheistic friend of mine once asked me. “Donato, if we proved that Christianity was false, which commandments would you still keep?” He was trying to show that I was “enslaved to God” and arbitrarily doing His will, as He is a tyrannical lawmaker. It’s a very common view, one which I have had many people express to me, and I must admit I one-time myself believed it, both when I was an agnostic and when I first came back to the Church. However, at this point in my life, I said to my friend, “The only things that I would stop doing are going to Mass and praying Catholic prayers.” I think he was hoping that I would say I’d go out and hire a prostitute or at least be willing to go to the local porn store and do what he deemed as “having fun.”
What I was trying to explain to him, I recently heard Father Michael Himes homilize on very well. “If you abide in My word, then you are My disciples, and you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” He said that we should note the order. If we abide in His word, then we will understand the Truth. It wasn’t until I lived the Church’s teachings that I understood that nothing had ever made me so happy. I had previously decided these teachings must be right because the Church that logic had shown me to be infallible had said these teachings were true.
The thing about Pascal’s Wager, and Father Himes said this in the same homily (although I’ve said it many times, so this wasn’t new to me) is that it’s not just “fake your faith to get into Heaven.” Pascal says, if you live it and try to understand it, you will eventually understand the Truth. “All who have ears ought to hear,” said our Lord. It isn’t until we understand what the Mass is and begin going that we learn how much joy it brings. It isn’t a burden at all! The same thing goes for all prayer, reading the Bible, and any number of the moral teachings of the Church.
This is why the teachings must not become simply a moral law. They must flow out of the relationship we have with Jesus. For example, the “rules” about going to Mass feed us and help us fall more truly in love with He who is Love itself (source of all happiness) and the ones about sexuality explain to us how we ought to love our neighbor. It isn’t until we study them and then try living them that they be comprehend as the meaning of our lives. It’s a beautiful experience.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Fr. Tacelli asked me to inform you that Fr. Norris Clarke S.J. passed away early this morning. Fr. Clarke was not only one of the most distinguished and brilliant Thomistic philosophers of his day, but he was also a wonderful man and holy priest. He came up to BC numerous times for lectures and conferences and was a very good friend to the St. Thomas More Society. He will be solely missed. To read more about this amazing Jesuit go to http://www.fordham.edu/Campus_Resources/Public_Affairs/topstories_1280.asp.
I have recommended his book Person and Being here before and have also enjoyed his The One and the Many.
Welcome into your Kingdom Lord, our dearly departed brother. May Your face shine upon Him and may He experience the dynamic bliss which is Your Presence.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I’ve been told that saying “He” and saying that “She” is inappropriate hurts the faith of some Christians, in particular those who have been hurt by their fathers and women. That makes this a pastoral issue, not just one of doctrine. I don’t know if this is something I would ever preach from the ambo. Wouldn’t this be something to speak to someone one on one about? Wouldn’t that include lots of listening on my part first? Indeed. It would include helping the woman see how the abusive father is nothing like our true Heavenly Father. And while there may certainly be occasions when I listen to others use this language which I find theologically inaccurate and say nothing at that time, I would never myself use that language because to do so is to encourage it.
The reason for this is that we are growing still. While one may at one time not be ready to understand why Jesus revealed God as Father in the prayer he gave us to say, and not “parent” or any other term, at some point the theology behind it must come to light to help the faith of the individual Christian grow. Some frame the whole issue as a pastoral one and not one of revealed theology, but the truth always sets people free and any fear on our part to testify to it would be a betrayal of love for God, self, and the person with whom we are dealing. It may be hard to accept, like the Eucharist, but Jesus preached that, too. If this teaches us something about God, reality, and ourselves, it is something that at some point we must preach.
First, just because some large figures in the history of the Church did something does not justify it. Saint Thomas Aquinas was wrong on the Immaculate Conception, but we must not follow in his error.
Now, obviously to understand God as actually male in sex would be simply wrong as well. This is another danger one must guard against. This is why priests must be teachers. As usual, the truth is really the golden mean. The problem is that theology here is being done bottom-up and not top-down as revealed. God is three-persons, and when we say “Father” we are speaking to only one of them. To whom is the person saying “mother” referring? Earthly fatherhood is named after the Fatherhood as found in the Trinity’s very essence, not the other way around. We are the ones made in His image, not He in ours. To understand the Father as a mother is to alter the way in which He and the logos (which is the feminine side of God) relate. Christ called God Father for two reasons. The first is that Mary was His mother. The second was because in the Trinity’s very nature the Father is the active one, not the receptive one. We have been baptized into Christ’s Body, and so we must call God “Father” as well. Similarly, to call God “she”, as alters the way in which we view God’s grace being given to us. Like in intercourse, God puts grace into us, not the other way around. In all seriousness, I think calling God-mother has implications which help to justify homogenital activity. It makes the Father-Son relationship one that cannot be fruitful. That people are confused about all the issues involving women is because people do not know the beauty of receptivity and degrade it. To better understand the beauty of receptivity, I would recommend Person and Being by Father Norris Clarke.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Congratulations to Father Paul McNellis, chaplain for the undergraduate Catholic men's group, the Sons of Saint Patrick. He won the Mary K. Waldron award and was honored with a video by students.
Last weekend I attended the final vows ceremony for two FPO brothers and the ordination for two more FPOs. What a beautiful order. The Franciscans of the Privative Observance are located in Lawrence, MA and worth checking out.
Tomorrow is the ordination of seven men for the archdiocese of Boston. I'll be there. You should be, too.
I am spending this summer as a summer intern in the vocation office for Boston. I encourage you to pray for vocations.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Father Dan Hennessey of the vocation office spoke on 3-10-08
Father Peter Grover OMV spoke on 3-17-08 on Lent
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I recently loaned a book to a priest friend which explained rubrics for adoration more fully. We had an e-mail exchange in which I said,
I'm glad it was helpful. I find the introduction most beautiful. The liturgy is really my passion. I really believe that liturgy done well brings us into intimacy with our Lord and teaches us the faith (lex orandi, lex credendi). When the proper balance between reverence and solemnity on one side and inculturation on the other is achieved, people will be deeply attracted to the faith. Sometimes I really struggle on campus where it can be hard to find liturgy celebrated according to the rubrics of the Church. I know it's justified as trying to reach people, and this is certainly a noble endeavor, but sometimes we go too far. What I'm trying to say is, I think it's great that you ordered a copy. It is an incredible book with many insights.
It was such a striking contrast to a conversation I had just the week prior about the liturgy, in which my interlocutor expressed the view that all that matters was whether or not the Mass was valid. Everything after that was superfluous rules. He was, in particular, interested in rejecting papal legislation of Church music. He is right when he says they can become superfluous rules, but it’s rare that such a case occurs. I don’t know many people who get worked up over priests having to work with what they have. I do know people who are upset by priests who for no reason other than personal preference make the liturgy their own creation, not vesting properly, changing words, and subjecting the laity, who have a right to Mass according to the Church’s rubrics, to the worst form of clericalism. I highly recommend an article which I once read in Saint Austin Review “The Importance of the Liturgy and Liturgical Form” by Shawn Tribe.
This apathy towards proper liturgy seems to stem from failing to put an emphasis on Christ as Truth. Christian living has become about good feelings and not about Truth. But wasn’t it our Holy Father who said that, "Truth without love is cold; love without truth is empty." How many times do people take the time to study their faith and check to see if they are living in accordance with true doctrine? I am not saying everyone should have a theology degree, but it seems to me that every Catholic should be trying to understand what the Church teaches and why. This must be done in a two-fold manner: the first is in prayer, particularly Eucharistic adoration, and the second is through study.
A disregard for Truth could stem from a lack of love of Christ. Imagine this situation: someone comes to you and says that you did something that hurt someone you love deeply. This is something you continue to do. Would the normal reaction be to try and understand or to commit the act more, assuming that your gut was right? Clearly, true love demands that you cease committing the act and try to come to an understanding. Obviously, sometimes one must decide that the act must be done and that the beloved is wrong, but this can only happen after much study.
We live in an age that forgets that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He leads to the Father; He gives the fullness of Life, and He cares about Truth because He Is It. We must return to an authentic study of catechesis in our parishes and among the people of God if we want to increase devotion beyond, to quote Cardinal Sean, a mere “me and Jesus and the warm fuzzies” spirituality.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
What I want to address is one of the other things she told me he said. She told me that he said something like, “If sex before marriage is wrong, then why does God allow conception to occur in this context?” (The argument is a non-sequitur and easily can be shown to be one using this reductio ad absurdum. If that argument logically follows, then the same could be said for adultery, which also results on occasion in conception.) She told him that God can allow good to come from sin. He rejected that good could come from sin.
Let’s look at his position for a moment. I think that his position really undermines God’s providence. Take as an example the problem of evil. People who struggle with the problem of evil constantly ask, “How could God let something like the Holocaust (Shoah) happen?” Sometimes people give the lame answer that God gave us free will and He doesn’t interfere in our affairs. While true, I say this is lame because God most certainly does interfere in our affairs when He wants. A look at a crucifix shows us He greatly desires to bring us back to Himself through entering into our lives. Do we forget that even today every saint canonized requires one miraculous healing performed by God through the saint’s intercession? God most certainly could have prevented the Holocaust. If doing so is beyond His normal course of action, then many verses in Scripture become meaningless. Psalm 91 says that we will be safe under God’s wings and not to fear the terror of the night. Psalm 27 asks of whom should we be afraid, since God is at our side. So the answer to the Holocaust question is that suffering has meaning. It is redemptive. God was in Auschwitz with those suffering. Maybe we don’t understand the meaning, but the meaning is there.
This is not to say that God supports sin. Think on a smaller scale about a car crash. If someone gets drunk, goes for a ride, and kills someone, in no way is God pleased in the action of sinner, the driver. He, did, however, bring about His ends through the sinner. He used the car crash to take the life of an innocent (in this situation) bystander. Another example would be if I turned to the person sitting on my left and in anger punched him. God could have stopped me from punching him. The anger in my heart could have been the sin without having hit my neighbor. However, God, in His providence, used my punch. In no way has God been in favor of my sin. Using the previous aforementioned reduction ad absurdum, does this make murder part of God’s will? God’s will is the death of the person and He brings it about through murder. This is illogical, as murder is clearly sinful.)
In the same way, God, in His providence, brings about His will, in this case conception, through sinful means without supporting the sinful means. This means that that even though intercourse before marriage can result in conception, it is not morally acceptable. We are not to make any judgments on the people who commit this sin or on those who are conceived in this manner. However, we cannot condone the act for the sake of people’s feelings either because we do in fact know it to be wrong. We must be sensitive to their feelings but remain dedicated to the truth and out of love tell them the truth so that they repent, not to condemn them, but to save them and straighten out their relationship with God.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The original post
What is the purpose of The Vagina Monologues
Contra Letters in Support of The Vagina Monologues
Gloria Steinem's Introduction
"Hair" and Questions
My Essay: "The Church Makes True Love Possible"
"The Vagina Workshop"
"Because He Liked To Look At It"
"My Vagina Was My Village"
"My Angry Vagina"
"The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could"
Through the End
This scene is about a lesbian who used to be a tax-lawyer but now is paid to make women moan. By definition (she sleeps with other women for money), she is a prostitute.
She begins by saying, “I do not see them (women and vaginas) as separate things.” This error has been discussed here before. The entire scene is a defense of moaning. There’s nothing wrong with moaning, unless you happen to be waking people up doing it. There is something wrong with lesbian sexual intercourse, and that is not discussed here. The speaker also has a problem with those who don’t moan. “No, I pushed her further, all the way to her power moan”
I want to comment her on orgasms. It is truly sad that many women do not experience pleasure during intercourse. An orgasm within the context of intercourse is a good thing. What we must opposed are using the ends to justify the means, for example, allowing lesbian sexual intercourse in order to achieve an orgasm.
After the scene, Ensler tells us that the woman it was based on didn’t think it was her story. She liked the scene, but it was not her. Ensler interviews her again.
The woman glorifies lesbian sexual intercourse, even though it is disordered and sinful. A plethora of articles on this topic are available here. The interview is a very graphic description of how the woman has lesbian sexual intercourse.
The last scene is on birth, and it didn’t contain anything controversial, in my mind.
Monday, February 4, 2008
The scene is about saying the word many times so that it is no longer offensive. It is desensitizing. Two years ago while discussing this entire play with a girl who supports the continued performance on our campus. She said at one point, “There is nothing offensive in the show.” Later in our talk, I dropped the c word. She flipped out. Apparently, even after seeing the show, the word remains offensive. There is no real reason for Ensler’s effort to change perception about this word. Some feminists want to reclaim it and so that it won’t have power over them. I don’t think Italian-Americans have tried to reclaim wop. I don’t think they ever will try it. Why do feminists?
The next scene is one in which Ensler asks more of those ridiculous questions about anthropomorphizing vaginas. This time she asks a six-year old.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Ensler puts forward the theory that since almost every homeless woman she has met has been abused sexually, they flee home, associating home with the memories of their rape or abuse. This story is a true one, told to Ensler by one of the woman she met in a shelter. This woman is now in a committed lesbian relationship with another woman she met at the shelter. I have already detailed Church opposition to homogenital relations in my essay “The Church Makes True Love Possible.” I would add that helpful books on this matter are those by Father John Harvey, founder of Courage.
The monologue involves a woman recounting memories of her childhood. She tells us at age five she liked to touch herself, and that her mother yelled at her for it. The girl was never told why not to, and consequently, thought that she had rubbed her vagina off. When she gets beat up at school by a boy who punches her in the vagina, she is yelled at again, and she is treated as if she is the one to blame. Later, she is impales herself on a bedpost, and then is raped by her father’s friend.
At age thirteen, she is in the car with a neighbor who is twenty-four. The woman begins to passionately kiss her. The young girl stays over at this woman’s house. The woman gives her vodka. “The alcohol has done to my head and I’m loose and ready…Then she does everything to me and my coochi snorcher that I always thought was nasty before, and wow.” The woman then teaches her how to pleasure herself. “She makes me play with myself in front of her and she teaches me all the different ways to give myself pleasure so I’ll never need to rely on a man.” She never sees the woman again, and the speaker says that the experience was her “surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation.” She says that this woman took her vagina and “raised it up into a kind of heaven.”
I cannot imagine the pain that this woman went through as a child as I had no similar experiences. However, I know that trauma is many times the cause of interrupted psycho-sexual development and of same-sex attraction. The Church does not condone homogential relationships.
What amazes me is that people do not object to the fact that this girl is thirteen. The girl states that the woman made her masturbate herself. The girl is made drunk before she is taken advantage of. Lastly, the girl is thirteen and the adult is twenty-four. This is statutory rape. If the adult was a man, this would be frowned upon. (Does this remind anyone of the priestly sexual abuse scandals?) However, since the relationship is homosexual, it is considered okay. None of this scene is compatible with what the Church teaches. The woman copes with her problems in the wrong way, and offers these wrong answers as viable options. This is exactly what I meant when I said
There is nothing wrong with using the human experience as a point of discussion. Sometimes, however, we misunderstand our experience and come to wrong conclusions about it. This is exactly what The Vagina Monologues does and it needs to be critically examined. This can only be done in a classroom. It is impossible for it to happen as long as the play performed outside the classroom.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
EDIT: Re-reading, I noticed that the author complains about doctor's using rubber gloves when examining her vagina. Is she seriously opposed to sanitary precautions?
Monday, January 28, 2008
In an article titled "Faculty panel challenges stereotypes", Professor Joseph Breines speaks about the inequality on this campus between those who are heterosexual and those who suffer from same-sex attraction. The article says, "He said that Catholic, heterosexual students have a socially accepted right to privacy that GLBTQ students do not enjoy because GLBTQ students have to either come out or be in the closet."
Reminds me of this CNN clip.
We either speak about sex lives or we don't. It works the same for both types of people. There is no third way.
Then there is a vagina fact on masturbation. It speaks of the unequal treatment that the two sexes get in terms of masturbation. Women used to be punished with a clitoridectomy but castration was not a punishment for men. The only problem with the way this is written is that it tacitly promotes masturbation for women and men, instead of shunning it as the sin it is.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
In a previous post, I linked to Christopher West and theology of the body to give a primer on masturbation. For my own thoughts, please see my essay titled “The Church Makes True Love Possible.”
The scene continues the false perception that women are their vaginas or that it is the most important part of their bodies. (If a vagina is the most important part of a woman’s body, is a man’s his penis? If he loses his, is he no longer a real man? We see how shallow this is.) The woman who runs the workshop says that the clitoris “is the woman, the essence of” the woman. The scene ends with the woman masturbating.
As a college aged man, I see how many of my peers are addicted to masturbating. Many have no idea that it’s wrong, and many think that overcoming the sin is impossible. Guys tell me they are ashamed but think that they have no hope of overcoming this sin or that they’d be abnormal if they did what they know to be right. Does this scene help in any academic way? No. It is simply an exaltation of sin. This should not be performed on a Catholic campus. In a classroom, a professor could point out the errors involved. In this context, no good can come from it.
Author and speaker Christopher West says that the reason college students are so interested in sex and drinking is because they crave the Sacrament of Marriage and the Holy Eucharist. He continues by stating that these same people don’t know that this is what they want because they think that binge drinking and hook-ups are as good as it gets. He compares this to the people who think that Easy Mac is real macaroni and cheese. West believes that what the Church proposes about marriage is not only beautiful, but he calls it good news. Most American Catholics don’t believe what the Church teaches about sex. This sharp dichotomy stems from a misunderstanding of what the Church has to say, which was elaborated best by Holy Father Pope John Paul the Great.
Everyone wants love. This is a common human experience. John Paul the Great says that Scripture teaches this is part of man’s very nature. Man is said in Genesis to be made in God’s image. While this has mainly been taken to mean that humans have reason, John Paul adds that the way in which men and women love each other is a part of this. Genesis 1:27, “God created man (mankind-haadam) in His own image. In His divine image He created them; male (zakar) and female (uneqebah).” Both men and women are part of the image of God. To understand this, one must understand the Trinity.
God is three persons, all co-eternal, who constitute one Being. God the Father has existed from all time. In the same way that humans have an idea of who they are, the Father has an idea of who He is. Because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, His knowledge is so perfect that it is another Person: the Son. Scripture tells us God is Love. It says this because God loves mankind, but also because His very nature is love. The Father has an infinite love for the Son, and the Son, who is infinitely receptive of this love, also has an infinite love for the Father. This love they share is so strong that it is a third Person: the Holy Spirit. There love is fruitful, free, total, and faithful.
The new commandment that Jesus gave to His Church was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loved the Church by giving His life up for the Church on the cross. This love was freely given, a total self-gift, and was fruitful in the fact that it merited graces for the salvation of the world. The “it is finished” that Jesus spoke on the cross was referring to His joining together God and men’s souls in a marriage. This marriage is consummated each time the Eucharist is received. That is where the Creator gives Himself freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to His Bride, the Church.
Using these concepts, it can be easily understood why the Church teaches what it does on sexuality. When a couple marries, they stand before each other, God, and the Church and commit themselves to love each other as God loves the Church. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church…” This commitment is to be freely made, totally made, kept faithful, and be fruitful. While Moses permitted divorce and remarriage, Jesus calls remarriage adultery. God’s plan in creation was to join two people together forever. Everyone understands the concept of body-language. A rolling of the eyes signifies some sort of frustration or disgust. The conjugal act is a profound statement of body language. To have intercourse is to say, “I give myself to you freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully and I accept you freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.” To allow a marriage (or any form of polygamy) after someone has said this to someone else is a lie. A person can only give his life up to one person at a time. (Since Jesus says that there will be no marrying nor giving in marriage in Heaven , it is permitted that marriage be “until death do us part.”) Divorce and remarriage, then, is nothing more than serial polygamy.
Similarly, sex outside of marriage is a lie with the body. When a dating (or adulterous) couple has intercourse they are lying to each other. Their bodies say, “I give myself to you totally forever” but neither of them means to say this. The adulterous couple cannot say this because they already have said it to someone else, and the dating couple doesn’t mean it because if they did, they would already be married. Until a couple has made the commitment at an actual wedding, it remains a false promise. Many people say, “I don’t just have intercourse with anyone; I wait until I’m in love.” While this is noble, it is misguided in that love is something that can be cloudy. The dating couple may (or may not) be in love, but they aren’t enough in love, or they would be married already. Therefore, sex outside of marriage is clearly not an act of love but one of hurtful deception, and couples who want authentic love will struggle to remain chaste.
However, true marital love can only be made real in a state of purity, and purity is much more than avoiding sex before marriage. Many people sneer at purity, but purity, properly understood, is a beautiful thing. Jesus says that anyone who has lust in His heart has already committed adultery. Lust takes people and pulverizes their uniqueness, treating them as objects instead of persons, just like communism treated people as cogs in a machine and capitalism can treat people as capital to be used. The other must never become an object of sexual satisfaction but always remain an other to love. This is not to say that intercourse shouldn’t be pleasurable; it should. Pleasure, however, is to always remain a side-effect and never the goal of intercourse. Once it becomes a goal, intercourse becomes selfish. The husband and wife are no longer giving themselves to each other in love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, but using each other as living toys for masturbation.
Before marriage, people must strive to avoid masturbation. Marriage is not a solution to a chastity problem but a vocation that requires the ability to live a life of chastity. Fathers should take care to train their sons to be real men of virtue who can control their bodies. Many people say that masturbation is so wide-spread and harmless that it shouldn’t be looked down upon; however, this is false. If a man enters into a marriage without having been able to live a life of chastity before, he will only be changing the means of his masturbation. Now the woman is the object of pleasure for him instead of his hand. He cannot give himself freely because he has no self-control. The fullness of love will not be possible because the man is still self-centered, turning love in upon himself. Masturbation mocks the gift of sexuality that God gave to man. While chastity is difficult, and for teenagers may seem almost impossible, all things worth doing take effort. This is certainly one of those things, as what is at stake is the ability to experience real love
Contraception is intrinsically related to masturbation. Probably the most controversial of all Church-teachings, it is also one of the most beautiful.
The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the Magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
One of the marital vows is to be fruitful: open to life. Some people argue that as long as the couple is open to life over the course of the marriage, not every act has to be. This is nonsense, like saying that a couple can be faithful most of the time over the course of their marriage, but that certain acts can be unfaithful. The Church permits couples to use Natural Family Planning, which is 99% effective in preventing births. The method charts a woman’s fertility, meaning the couples who think a pregnancy would not be the best thing for the family at this time (to use NFP for an entire marriage would require grave reasons for doing so), simply avoid having intercourse during a woman’s fertile period. This is now highly developed and is actually more effective than using a condom. Because it is so effective, many people say it is simply “Catholic contraception” and that the means of achieving the result shouldn’t matter. If people thought about this, they would realize that this is absurd. If a man needs money, he can rob a bank or get a job. Everyone sees one as ethical and the other as not, even though the results are the same. The same holds for NFP and contraception. Pope John Paul the Great said, “In the common viewpoint it often happens that the method, separated from the ethical dimension proper to it, is put into effect in a merely functional and even utilitarian way. By separating the natural method from the ethical dimension, one no longer sees the difference between it and the other methods. One comes to the point of speaking of it as if it were only a different form of contraception.”
Once more, this is about body language. The contracepting couple says, “I accept all of you except your fertility.” As Pope John Paul the Great says, “This extension of the sphere of the means of ‘domination of the forces of nature’ menaces the human person for whom the method of ‘self-mastery’ is and remains specific. The mastery of self-corresponds to the fundamental constitution of the person; it is indeed a ‘natural’ method. On the contrary, the resort to artificial means destroys the subjectivity proper to him and makes him an object of manipulation.” This is not about legalism but a lived-relationship with the Creator and true love with the spouse. A couple who uses contraception or sterilizes one of the spouses turns loving intercourse into masturbation. Married couples who make the switch from contraception to NFP say that it has transformed their marriage for the better.
Homosexual activity is one of the hardest of the Church’s teachings on sexuality to explain. This may have something to do with the fact that people who do not experience same-sex attraction feel as if they are forcing their lifestyle on those who do struggle with these feelings. Scripture is clear that God made man and woman for each other, and since homogential activity can never be procreative (fruitful), it does not mirror God’s love in the inner life of the Trinity or Jesus on the cross, and therefore, is sinful. It makes sense to allow someone who has lived the gay lifestyle and now lives the Gospel explain the Church’s teachings. David Morrison chronicled his experience in the book Beyond Gay, and his work is an immense contribution to the subject. He reiterates that sexuality not tied to life can easily become a form of objectifying the other, and then continues,
The Church recognizes that men and women, in a very real sense, lack something in their personalities and persons that they can only get from the other. The attraction between men and women unlike that documented among same-sex couples, is rooted strongly in the desire for and exploration of the other. By contrast, same-sex couples often find attractive one another’s similarities, even to the point, noted in one interview in The Male Couple, of feeling as though they share each other’s bodies and breath. In the attraction of man for woman and vice versa there is a desire for the other as other; in same-sex couples there is often the desire for the other as redundant .
Jesus Christ gave an invitation, “Come, follow me.” It is important that Christians grasp the magnitude of this call. While all men desire to change to be better people, Dietrich von Hildebrand points out that this is a grander challenge for the Christian. “It is, in other words, the adequate consequence of our consciousness of being in need of redemption on the one hand, and our comprehension of being called by Christ on the other. Our surrender to Christ implies a readiness to let Him fully transform us, without setting any limit to the modification of our nature under His influence.” Following Him means abandoning all that keeps man from God: every sin.
Maybe some people remain unconvinced that God is not trying to ruin all their fun. These same people need to be reminded that God is all-knowing and also all-loving. He desires nothing but the happiness of everyone. He made all people; He knows how they were designed to live. He knows what fulfills their very nature. Father Michael Himes pointed out in a homily once that the Scripture says, “If you abide in My word, then you are My disciples, and you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free” and that says that people should note the order. If people abide in His word, then they will understand the Truth. Sometimes it isn’t until someone lives the Church’s teachings that they understand that this is what is really going to fulfill them. People seem so willing to try to fulfill themselves with distraction after distraction. They are willing to try drugs, alcohol, and a different sexual partner every weekend. If people are so open to trying new things, why not the Church’s teachings?
Friday, January 25, 2008
For more on Catholic teaching on mastburation, see Christopher West.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
In the introduction, the author laments how one person she interviewed was seventy-two and had never looked at her vagina. She had also never had an orgasm nor touched herself except while cleaning. Being a man, I obviously don’t know what it is like to have a vagina nor do have never seen my own. I asked a woman about why she thought Ensler would mourn the fact this woman never looked at hers. She said that while there are plenty of reasons to look at one’s vagina, it is never necessary. She thinks that Ensler believes that the vagina is so crucial to a woman’s identity that without investigating it, a person is not truly a woman. Obviously, a woman needs to know she is a woman and come to terms with this. This is part of psychosexual development. However, does a woman need to see her vagina to be a woman? Blind men do not see their penises. Are they lesser men for it? No. Only a person who misunderstands what it means to be a person would be so obsessed with genitalia to think this. As for only touching herself while cleaning, this seems to be correct behavior. Women who masturbate are not liberated but enslaved. Men, too, should not touch themselves in the way that Ensler suggests.
As for the remark about an orgasm, if she were married, this would be sad indeed. She would be missing out on some part of her marriage. On the other hand, since she is not married in this scene, this shouldn’t be so shocking. One does not have to have had an orgasm, to have had sexual experience, to be a fully integrated person. The single, chaste life is completely human. Only people obsessed with pleasure, in a Freudian sense, would say otherwise.
In between each scene there are facts about vaginas. The first one comes after the scene “The Flood.” There is nothing wrong with the fact as it is presented.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Last night I was walking back from my friend’s apartment and thinking and praying about what we had said at Sons about faith and I thought that I should e-mail you with my thoughts that I was trying to convey but explained more thoroughly. When you said that you thought that blind obedience could be a bad thing after I spoke, I kind of assumed that it was a reaction to what I had said, as I’ve had people tell me before that I do favor of blind obedience, especially when I say things like, “Lord, I have no reason to cast my net again but because it is You who tell me, I will cast.” That’s why I jumped back in by saying that there is a role for understanding, and you were making a very good point, but the understanding comes after faith, as Saint Anselm wrote.
After further reflection, this was what I thought of. You know we live in a society affected by moral relativism and hedonism. Many times this causes people to appeal to their conscience and the fact that they don’t understand what our Church teaches to justify various behavior which we cannot condone. I am not judging these people, far from it, I was once one of those people, and I understand the difficulty and temptation of all of this, but I can certainly in hindsight say that for me thinking that I could understand everything about right and wrong was rooted in an intellectual pride.
The appropriate response to a Church teaching we don’t understand is not to disregard it until we understand it. (I am not saying that this is what you were suggesting, but I just wanted to clarify on this matter what I was trying to say.) The appropriate response is to accept it and to then seek to understand why. This often seems like blind faith but it is not. We have a good reason to trust our Lord and to believe His Church because He promised to guide her in what she teaches us. If we believe in our Lord (which isn’t blind, as it can be strengthened through reading books like the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Father Tacelli and Peter Kreeft or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis) and we believe in His promise, then everything follows from that. This is supernatural faith. On a more natural level we might similarly say, for example, I understand every other teaching on Mary but this one in particular I don’t. However, since the Church has been right on everything else on Mary, I can assume she is right on this one as well.
Saint Ignatius Loyola is a great model for us here. At the end of the spiritual exercises, he provides for those who have made the exercises with eighteen rules for having correct sentiments we ought to maintain within the Church. The rules are not to be given to everyone but only to those the retreat master thinks should receive them. The rules are given at the end of the retreat because without the radical foundation of a personal relationship and encounter with Christ, they are meaningless, but they are useful here, and so we should look at them even though I don’t know if you have done the exercises. The first rule is, “Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one's own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy.” The thirteenth is “That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same.” And the ninth is, “To uphold especially all the precepts of the Church, and not censure them in any manner; but, on the contrary, to defend them promptly, with reasons drawn from all sources, against those who criticize them.”
I find this very important, ______________, because many people do not want to listen to the Church to see if what she preaches is correct. I once did a little experiment (which had been done before me, I was not original in doing this) where I asked a group of practicing Catholics if they accepted the Church’s teaching on contraception as taught in Humanae Vitae, and they all said no. I then asked if they had ever read Humanae Vitae, and no one had read it. No one had even read any books that summarize or try to defend Humane Vitae. Faith, in their case, was not seeking an understanding. Interestingly enough, many had read books against the Church’s teaching. Without making any judgment of their character, we can say that in this instance, this is not the right posture to have towards the Church and the teaching of our Lord which she transmits to us. Our Lord has given us the Church as a teacher and guide, and we should treat Mother Church as such because we have faith in Him.
Please forgive my rambling. I hope this e-mail contained something that was of meaningful. If you would like to share your thoughts, I would love to hear them.
Keep the faith.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The next two scenes are a just the answers to two questions Ensler asked women. What would your vagina say and wear? Some of the answers are sexual in nature and things that should not be said in public because they will arouse men, possibly to lustful thoughts. We are to avoid being the source of sin for people. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea" (Mark 9:42). However, once more we see here that the vagina is personified. The question what would one’s vagina say is just as ridiculous, “What would your knee wear?” The answer is, “My knee would wear exactly what I would wear, as my knee is a part of me.” Ensler is asking what the person desires to wear at her innermost being but chooses a vulgar way to do it.
As for saying, she is asking the woman what she, as a person, wants to say about her sexuality. The vagina says nothing, but the person does. As above, Ensler is simply choosing a vulgar way to say what she wants to say. (And while she might say I only think it’s vulgar because I’m uncomfortable with the word vagina, I would add that it would be vulgar if the same question was asked of a man and his penis.)
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
All I desire to say about the first is this:
Ensler says, “Slowly, it dawned on me that nothing was more important than stopping violence toward women—that the desecration of women indicated the failure of human beings to honor and protect life and that this failing would, if we did not correct it, be the end of us all. I do not think I am being extreme. When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet. You force what is meant to be open, trusting, nurturing, creative, and alive to be bent, infertile, and broken.”
Eve, I don’t think you are being extreme. Your goal is noble and the charities you support do work. This cannot be denied. The question is: is this play the right way to do this?
We shall see.
The first section is a forward written by Gloria Steinem. She begins and ends her reflection with bookends about the sacredness of the vagina and how her foremothers did not know theirs were sacred. She argues that if they knew it was sacred, they would not have been ashamed of it and referred to it by such things as “down there.” They would have used the proper terms for it. I cannot claim to know whether or not her foremothers knew about the sacredness of our bodies and the sacred gift which is our sexuality, but I can say with certainty that many times, we do not name what is sacred. Could it be that by naming the vagina, it has lost, not restored its sacred power? I do not know.
Steinem desires what many Catholic feminist theologians desire, which is to remake god in their image. As I’ve posted before, God is not male or female in and of Himself, but in relation to us, He has revealed Himself as masculine for a good reason. LINK Steinem sees this as patriarchy. It actually has nothing to do with patriarchy, which has at times in the past and to this day plagued Christianity. However, we must seek the Truth and to live in the Truth, and not be reactionaries and live the opposite of the current error to an extreme. Steinem is a reactionary.
Steinem makes a good point that the 1960s only made women more available to be used by men. I would argue that The Vagina Monologues never goes past this. She looks up to and fondly remembers Betty Dodson, who spoke openly and in favor of masturbation, something opposed by the Church because of its misuse of sexuality for utilitarian purposes. She also sees lesbianism as a good, something also not approved of by the Church.
Steinem makes a bold claim that the Church’s real subconscious reason for believing in Original Sin is that man is born of a woman and that women are dirty. This belief is completely incompatible with Christian orthodoxy, which believes in Original Sin because it is blatantly clear that we are estranged from God. Pascal claimed it was the only completely verifiable doctrine of Christianity. We see that we want to do good but there is something wrong with us that we don’t do good. Christ came and poured Divine Life back into us who had lost it through a sacrament: a symbol with real effects. We are washed clean of this Original Sin, and we call this new life. It is new life in Christ. Steinem rejects Christ and therefore must come up with her own unverifiable theories of why Christians do the things they do.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The first letter is from Richard Green. Richard plays the typical, “if you’re opposed to this, you’ve never seen it” card. Two years ago when I tried to lead a campus wide debate on the issue, this was said to me continuously by those who wanted to silence me. There were several people who were actually interested in an exchange on the matter, and they never accused me of having not read it. These people who sat down with me all said the same thing to me, “It’s just a comedy-show; how can you be opposed to its content? Besides, it raises money for a good cause.” This is the exact problem with the show. People view it as comedy, and it is lewd comedy. There are serious, intelligent, meaningful scenes in the show, and I am not objecting to those. I object to the rest of the content, and I argue that because this content serves the exact opposite purpose of the intent of the play, it should not be performed. Many places host an event called Take Back the Night, which focuses on the same women’s issues involved in the play and does so in a way consistent with the dignity of women.
The second letter is from Leah Reschly who asks, “Why is this [the play] ‘offensive’ when it teaches what the Church is attempting to communicate, namely that we need to educate against using human bodies (in this case, women's bodies) as objects??” The reason is because it does not teach what the Church communicates as will be documented here in the scene by scene analysis beginning in less than two weeks. If this is what Leah thinks, then she does not understand the subtleties of objectification. Objectification of women will continue to exist until lust is rooted out from men’s hearts. The Vagina Monologues does not try to root out lust but encourages lust. It simply tries to control lust: lust is okay if it is agreed upon.
Leah then shows that she does not understand what sexuality is for. Her letter, written in response to Bishop D’Arcy’s letter on the play, says that procreation is not an important in sexuality. She portrays sexuality as being about playfulness. This is contrary to Catholic teaching, which says that sexuality is about a renewal of the wedding vows and a gift of self. Fun is a result, not the goal, of sexuality. If fun is a goal, necessarily the intercourse is utilitarian.
Leah doesn’t believe in absolute truth in regards to sexual morality and the dignity of the human person. She asks if there must be only one truth. The answer is yes, in the same way that there is only one answer to 2+2.
Finally, we come to Father Wildes letter. Coming from a priest, this letter is all the more scandalous. People point to this as if it represents a legitimate view, but Father Wildes is mistaken on this point. He portrays the issue as one of academic freedom. However, this is a great misunderstanding of what academic freedom is. He says
While academic debate may be intense, it ought to be done in a way that women and men can express different views. Loyola University, like any university, is committed to the free expression of ideas and the rigors of debate.
This is probably the most used argument in favor of allowing The Vagina Monologues on campus. However, the performance of the play on Boston College’s campus does not fall under the category of academic freedom. Father William Most wrote an article called, “Sophia, goddess? in which he gives an excellent definition of academic freedom. “Academic freedom means the right of a properly qualified professor, lecturing in his own field, to put out his own opinions without hindrance.”
There are five ways in which the play does not fall under the category of academic freedom. The play is not being used in the classroom and does not involve a professor teaching. As Father Shanley, president of Providence College, wrote in his letter, “Prohibiting a theatrical production of The Vagina Monologues does not prohibit free inquiry about the play. All members of the campus are free to read, study, and discuss the play in various settings, especially the classroom.”
The second reason that this does not fall under academic freedom is that Boston College students know that this is entertainment. I stated this already above, in reference to my discussions with people on campus. I am sure many people will doubt my assessment of BC students’ view on this matter, and so I quote from The Heights article by Laura Mueller, “Monologues is triumphant in its voice and message” (February 20, 2006).
To lighten the mood after particularly dark scenes such as these, a sexily-clad French maid, played by Nadia Aboussir, A&S '09, entered with a crowd-pleasing "Happy Fact" about the female clitoris. The most interactive actress in the performance, Aboussir would ask for the audience's help in proclaiming that the clitoris is the only organ that exists "purely for pleasure," and that it has 8,000 nerve fibers, or twice as many as the penis.
Her constantly upbeat, high-pitched cries were usually accompanied by pelvic thrusts and tongue flicking, making for truly comical intermissions from the authentic monologues. The only detraction from Aboussir's performance was her accent, which sometimes sounded British or South American, but rarely French. Nevertheless, her moments on stage were clearly audience favorites, as people shouted and laughed with her as she trumpeted the happy nature of the clitoris
The third, fourth, and fifth reasons all tie together. It does not follow the principles of the field of ethics. At a Catholic university, Catholic ethics take as a known the teachings of the Magisterium. These are articulated well in many documents but in a way that will speak to the current college generation in the theology of the body addresses. The third reason is, therefore, that the play does not take these principles as a given and holds them up for debate. The fourth is that it does not teach the truth but proposes something false as the truth. To hold the principles to be in question is one thing, but then to come to a different conclusion is an unacceptable error. The fifth stems from this: students at Boston College pay to receive a Catholic education. To be fed something other than a Catholic education is an attack on social justice (false advertising). They have been lied to and are victims of fraud from the administration who does nothing to stop the play.
Loyola University, as a Jesuit university, is rooted in a tradition of Christian humanism that seeks to understand the human experience. To understand that experience - and to improve it in the long term - we must first listen to it. For too many centuries "human experience" has been seen through the eyes of a few individuals and small groups of people. Today, we are more conscious of the diverse views of human experience that are present in different races, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions. We are conscious of the voices that have not been heard in the past. Among these voices are the important, and for too long overlooked, voices of women. When it was developed a number of years ago, “The Vagina Monologues” was done as a vehicle to empower women to speak of their experiences as women…. To exclude the play from a Catholic campus is to say, either that these women are wrong, or that their experience has nothing important to say to us.
There is nothing wrong with using the human experience as a point of discussion. Sometimes, however, we misunderstand our experience and come to wrong conclusions about it. This is exactly what The Vagina Monologues does and it needs to be critically examined. This can only be done in a classroom. It is impossible for it to happen as long as the play performed outside the classroom.
There are people who say that the play has no place on a Catholic campus. But this position misses the reality that the play has provoked a good deal of conversation among women and has helped them to name the dehumanizing attitude and behaviors which reduce them to sexual objects.
Naming the dehumanizing attitude and behaviors which reduce women to sexual objects is a good thing indeed. I would add, however, that the play never gets to the root cause: lust. Furthermore, ends never justify the means. There are other ways to achieve this end without the misguided means involved. I have proposed such ways before, as has Father Brian Shanley.
Now that all of the common arguments in favor of the performance of the play have been dismantled, we will critically examine the play in order to show how it is in conflict with Church teaching, and must be removed from Catholic campuses.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I think the reason this idea is so prevalent at Boston College is because people do theology from the ground up instead of top down, in the manner in which our Lord came to us. Many times people think that we call God Father because He is like an Earthly Father. This is false. "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). Our Earthly fathers are named after our Heavenly one. Similarly, our true mothers are Holy Mother Church and Blessed Virgin Mary.
I do sympathize with feminists who are confused on this matter. Many of them say that we have lost the feminine in God. They make a very important point that God is actually the fulfillment of male and female. The Catechism says, “In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman” (370). Both of us are made in His image. Doing theology from the bottom up is what causes the confusion and when this happens, we are making God in our image. Sadly, some members of the Boston College theology department openly admit that they do theology bottom-up.
Looking at the Trinity, we see how the Father loves the Son freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, and the Son receives this love. The Son is called the Son because the Word Incarnated as man. However, in the Trinity, the Word takes on a feminine role. Similarly, feminine imagery is used in Scripture for God. God is like a mother-hen or a woman looking for a lost coin.
However, God is masculine in relation to us. We, the Church, the Body of Christ, are the bride of God. Jesus is the bridegroom. We see this imagery in the Song of Songs. In the conjugal act, the man actively puts something and leaves something in the woman, and the woman actively receives. This is the image we use with God’s grace. If we freely open ourselves up to it, God will pour it into us. In his interactions with us, God acts as loving parent and as masculine. We have only one masculine parent: the Father.
How we pray will reflect how we think about God. This principle is called lex orandi, lex credendi (as the Church prays, so she will believe). While we sometimes address God by other titles, “Lord” and “Savior” for Christ or “Creator” for God, these are functions. Father is not a function. When we pray, though, even if we emphasize one of God's other roles, Jesus commanded that "Father" be an essential part of our prayer. Whatever else God may be, we must understand Him as Father. It is important we not call God “Mother” or any members of the Trinity “she” as this goes against the specific instructions of Christ, even if we don’t understand fully how calling God these things will affect our thought belief.