Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love and Sex and Keeping your Mouth Shut


Paul Stilwell brings up a fascinating subject in his daily Lenten post on Christopher West.

He shows how West misunderstands a remarkable homily by Fr. Ramiero Cantalamessa entitled The Two Faces of Love - Eros and Agape, a homily which itself elaborates on a subject Pope Benedict XVI deals with in Deus Caritas Est: the relation between the gratuitous love of agape and the passionate and possessive love of eros.

In this blog I've struggled quite a bit with trying to express my own "eros", the eros of actors, which is a powerful and passionate love for our vocation and at the same time for the God Who calls us to our vocation. In fact, just before the Christopher West subject came up, I wrote The Problem of Love and Frozen Banana Stands, which dealt awkwardly with the perennial problem, how can we love?

For this is a problem, and as Fr. Cantalamessa points out, it's a problem that gets split in two. For the world (and for Christopher West), eros is reduced to lust. But in a similar but opposite error, for many in the Church, agape is reduced to good will.

Now we know what it looks like when people think that love is the same thing as sex (we see that every day), but what many of you who have normal friends may not know is what happens when people think love of God is the same thing as keeping your mouth shut.

My friend Noah Lett tells me of his frustration with devout Catholics who, for example, might have a child diagnosed with a terrible disease and they will pray "God's will be done". Noah says, "Yes, you must pray that, but you can't begin and end with that! Look at David! When God struck his son with illness, he fasted and prayed non-stop from the depths of his heart for the life of his son - and only after he knew that his son was dead, did he accept God's will and move on."

Noah continues, "If you don't pray for your son, if you don't plead with God from the depth of your soul to spare his life, who will?"

I knew a very devout Catholic woman who married a man who turned out to be mentally disturbed, and it was clear from looking at her that the marriage was wearing her down and wasting her away. Knowing her, there's no way she prayed, "God, why did you do this to me? Why did you let me marry this man? I was trying to do your will! How could you let this happen to me?"

Praying to God with that kind of affect, or from the heart, is a movement of eros. It is a hot love, not a cold one. It is the fury of Job, who loves God even in the midst of his suffering, but who will not keep his mouth shut (as his facile comforters suggest). Job will not keep his mouth shut precisely because of his very deep love for God.

And yet there seems to be, in devout Catholic circles, a kind of Quietism that presumes that we can't approach God with any heat or humidity - we must cool the heat of our hearts and dry the humidity of our tears before we dare approach Our Lord in prayer.

And it is this kind of phenomenon Fr. Cantalamessa adresses in his homily; but it is exactly this sort of thing that the Westians so utterly misconstrue. If Christopher West would focus on eros, and on the fullness of eros (which is much more than what he makes of it - mere sexual desire), he might be able to do some good.









Monday, February 27, 2012

Suffering for Us via Christopher West


Paul Stilwell at Spike is Best has vowed to make his Lenten Penance a daily post on Christopher West!


Such suffering is beyond human ken.


Two highlights so far - a distrubing look at where proto-Westianism took Eric Gill (not for the faint hearted), and a patient look at an infuriating subject, West's Apology for Pornography, in which Mr. Stilwell makes the admirable observation ...


Here's a question: Is it possible to keep talking about "the human body" without having to concede at some point (indeed, at some point very early on) that "the human body" must be this or that human body - in other words, the human body belonging to this or that particular person?


Stilwell also points out that the dignity of man resides in the Human Person, not merely in the Human Body - a point West obfuscates.


I know a lot of you want me to shut up about this. But of all the heterodoxies I've battled on this blog, I personally think this one is the most pernicious.


Why? Because ...


* Torture Defenders do not personally torture anyone.


* Lying Apologists are probably no more honest or dishonest in their everyday lives than Critics of Lying.


* But Westians are changing their behavior - to the detriment of their souls. For example, under the cover of a serious misreading of Bl. John Paul II, good and sincere and devout Catholic college kids are now openly obsessing about sex on campus and congratulating themselves for their spirutal maturity in doing so.


In my mind, panty raids are more spiritually mature than this.


West's mistaken theology has, it seems to me, done more harm than theological mistakes on torture or lying ever will.

No Weddings and Three Funerals

We had three funerals to attend three days in a row last week, all for the parents of friends or family who had died - two Catholic funerals and one Protestant.


The Protestant funeral was at an "African American" church in North St. Louis County. My wife and I were pretty much the only white people in attendance.


The service was astonishingly different from the Catholic Mass - and more improvised than anything.



The best way I can describe it is that even though we have Jesus physically present at the altar in our Masses, we approach Him in an indirect and round-about way. But these black worshippers, in a church where Jesus was not physically among them, went for Him directly and without a trace of reticence or self-consciousness.


The main sermon was by an eighty-year old woman, the pastor of the church, who was quite compelling and fascinating to listen to.


Oddly, though this was clearly a church in the "Bible Only" tradition, much of this lady's sermon had nothing to do with Scripture. For instance, she assured her listeners that at the Judgment Seat, Jesus will judge only Christians and will send all of them to heaven; also, she made sure we understood that there are several "crowns" that we could win in the afterlife, with the "crown of glory" going to all clergy. Of course, neither of these assertions has any Scriptural warrant whatsoever.


And yet this darling woman got the heart of it right.


I have never heard anyone speak about the two Great Commandments - Love God with all your Heart, Mind and Strength, and Love your Neighbor as Yourself - with more assurance and heartfelt sincerity.


And this was a wonderfully refreshing and good thing to see.


Let us remember that our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, though they are missing the fullness of the Sacraments and of Catholic teaching, nevertheless can sometimes get the heart of the matter more right than we do.

The Highlight of my Career



[Photo: Yours Truly as King Arthur and Jessica Franz as Guinevere in Kill-a-Lot]


After years of therapy and extensive soul searching, it appears as if the reason I got into show business was so that my mother would love me.


Now this makes little sense, because my mother, God rest her soul, certainly loved me.


But for whatever strange reason it seems I was unconvinced of this unless I could make her laugh.


"Your mother laughed at everything you ever said," my wife Karen has observed on numerous occasions.


She always adds: "That was her mistake."


And so Karen refuses to laugh at anything I say, and she usually manages to hold this line rather well.


So I'm married to a woman who never laughs at anything I say, while my mother laughed at everything I said, but not uncontrollably. And there's the rub! I knew on a deep subconscious level that I would never be happy as an actor or comedian - or for that matter as a man - unless and until I found a woman who would laugh uncontrollably at everything I ever said. (Sad but true).


And so, beginning at age five or so I would memorize long-play comedy records and recite them at recess to make the girls laugh. I remember quite clearly the principal of Trinity Lutheran Grade School coming over to the merry-go-round and listening to me recite all of Morey Amsterdam's Mixed Up Stories for Smart Kids. He asked if I would be willing to perform this at the school assembly, since apparently no kindergartner had ever memorized all of Morey Amsterdam's Mixed Up Stories for Smart Kids. I declined, but proceeded to enrapture my playmates every day with a different "mixed up story".


I still remember a sample from that comedy album - "Cinderella's step sisters used to make her sleep in the fireplace. She felt like a silly ash. The older step-sister went on a diet. Every day she ate nothing but coconuts and bananas, coconuts and bananas. She didn't lose any weight, but boy could she climb trees."


But back to the highlight of my career.


It happened on Thursday night last week at Summit Lake Winery in Holt's Summit, Missouri, where Maria Romine and I were performing my comedy murder mystery Kill-a-Lot ("King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table investigate Murder Medieval Style").


There was a cute young woman sitting at a table who not only laughed at everything I said, but laughed uncontrollably at everything I said. She was also sporting tattoos and wearing a very revealing top that was, in effect, almost no top at all.


This girl, then, had the three things I most desire in a woman: breasts and a sense of humor.


At any rate, I realized at that point that my career had peaked. I no longer had any deep hidden subconscious reason reason to be in show business, so from this point on, I can do it all for the glory of God. And to make a living. And because it's fun. And because it's my vocation.


But at least I've achieved the selfish and miserable and unexplainable thing that I had set out to achieve.


And now may the rest of my career begin!




[Above: Me as Lt. Columbo, who for some reason solves the mystery in Kill-a-Lot]

Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act

One of my state's senators, Roy Blunt, has sponsored the Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act, and Catholic Vote has sent out an email urging support for it at this critical juncture in American history. Catholic Vote writes as follows:


***


Dear Friend of CV,


Every bishop in the country just received an urgent letter from Cardinal Timothy Dolan.


Here's what he wrote:


In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive—not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.


Those are powerful words from Cardinal Dolan. But he also had a very urgent request. He called upon every Catholic in America to immediately contact their legislators to support the Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act.


The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday of next week on this legislation, which would repeal the HHS mandate – and provide conscience protections for ALL Americans.


The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and it would protect the rights of conscience for religious organizations and for businesses so they wouldn't be forced by the federal government to pay for medical procedures which violate their moral beliefs.


My sources in Washington tell me that we are in need of several critical swing votes, especially the following Senators.


Here are ten Senators we need to contact IMMEDIATELY:


202-224-2043 – Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota
202-224-2523 – Sen. Susan Collins of Maine
202-224-5344 – Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine
202-224-5824 – Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana
202-224-4041 – Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut


202-224-3954 – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia
202-224-6154 – Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri
202-224-5274 – Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida
202-224-2353 – Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas
202-224-2644 – Sen. Jon Tester of Montana


If you get a busy signal, try calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.


If one of these Senators represents your state, it is critical that you call their office and tell them to Vote YES on the Blunt Amendment.


Please also forward this message to all of your friends and family. We need everyone to call.


If you don't live in a state on this list, but know someone who does, please forward this message immediately.


We're also running web-based ads in these states encouraging people to call their Senator to protect religious liberty.


Please consider a gift of $14 or $28 to fuel this campaign.


Senator Blunt's legislation would stop the HHS mandate's assault on our religious freedom. It would protect the rights of conscience of all Americans.


The Bishops are counting on Catholics everywhere to help them get this done.


Please call and please help us get the word out.


The time is now.


Brian Burch, President
CatholicVote.org

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shouting from the Rooftops ... about Sex?!



Over at The Ink Desk, Dierdre Littleton has written a post that struck me as so utterly Westian and so well-meaning but utterly wrong, that I had to comment.


My comment has not yet been posted (I just submitted it and it is awaiting moderation) but once it is, you should read it, along with this young woman's article.


I will begin by saying that I admire any young person's attempt to recognize that sex has become degenerated in our culture, and it's good to know that the Ave Maria University students realize that college kids should do more with sex than just have it. Or maybe less with sex than just have it. At any rate, the event Miss Littleton relates - "love week" - sounds pretty weak on love and strong on some powerful misunderstandings about sex.


Note how sex in this article, and perhaps in the discussions at this week-long event, seems divorced from its context, with the students treating the issue as if it were something that could be grappled with outside of marriage and babies, or as if it were something we could ever get a handle on.


Note as well Miss Littleton's insistence that "ME and MY BODY are the SAME THING".


As I say in my comment, if this were true, I'd better get a gym membership.


The fact is that there is a dualism between the material and the immaterial. ME and MY BODY are not the same thing. If this identity between the two were true, then one could affirm either mere materialism (there exists only bits of matter in motion) or radical idealism (there exists only spirit). Only by recognizing the mind-body or spirit-matter duality can we stay sane. Indeed, even at the general resurrection MY (current) BODY will be gone, while ME will remain, in a body that resembles my current one as a plant resembles a seed.


In fact, the problem of sex is largely a problem of how to understand the fact that ME and MY BODY are not exactly one, and yet MY BODY and MY WIFE'S BODY sacramentally become one.


Well, in my comment I try to be encouraging of this young author and her peers at Ave Maria University. They are clearly being counter-cultural in their attempts to redeem sex from what it is at most American universities.


But I'm afraid in doing so under what appears to be the influence of Christopher West and his misunderstanding of the Theology of the Body, they are countering the culture with mere pop culture, and a pop culture against which fornication seems almost healthy by comparison.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why I Love Jesus and South Dakota but Hate Videos about Religion




(Above: Amy Doom center, with daughter Maggie right and friend Philly left in the beautiful mission church in Marty, South Dakota.)


Tonight I am in Wagner, South Dakota, where I enjoyed a fine dinner and conversation with the Doom family.


After dinner, patriarch Todd Doom pulled up the YouTube video Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus, a video I had heard about but not yet seen. It's a charming and well-produced quasi-rap poem pitting Jesus against "religion" - though it's not easy to tell what the performer means by "religion". At one point he says he hates religion but loves the Church. Not sure what he means by that. At any rate, he seems to be saying that Jesus is about more than following rules, and he's certainly got that right.


But he gets a lot wrong. He says that Jesus came to abolish religion, whereas, as Fr. Barron points out , Jesus came not to abolish religion but to perfect it, not to do away with rules but to intensify the purpose of the rules, not to destroy the Law but to fulfil it (see Matthew 5:17). The Achilles heel of this video, then, is a false dichotomy that the performer sets up between Christ and the Body of Christ.


Todd Doom and I discussed the video at length. Todd emphasized that the point of following Jesus is to get away from the thinking that by fulfilling external requirements one becomes justified, that the point of following Christ is to be like Christ; the point is a person, not a set of rules; our call is to internalize the being of Christ. It's about being, not behavior.


"But to argue that is to argue the indispensability of rules," I pointed out, and took as an example learning to play a musical instrument or learning to speak a language. If you don't follow "the rule" of the thing, you won't get very far. At first you struggle mightily to get the technique down, and to learn the method; you struggle to internalize the way to play the instrument or how to speak the foreign tongue. Very slowly and with much effort, you become proficient, so that "the rule" becomes a part of you and the instrument or language can be used to express your thoughts and feelings. The rules exist so the thing you are trying to integrate can become a part of who you are. Abolish rules and you abolish the integration of rules, you abolish integration itself.


"For example," I said. "What of the rules known as the Commandments? It is by internalizing the Commandments that we become better Christians - better people. But in internalizing the Commandments does this mean we can ignore them? Can a Christian ignore the Commandments and commit adultery?"


"A Christian," Todd replied, "wouldn't want to."


"Todd," I said, "Have you ever met a Christian who so perfectly followed Jesus that he didn't want to disobey the rules, that he didn't want to sin?"


"Have I ever met a Christian?" Todd replied.


That was clearly the best line of the night, and I wasn't going to top it. Still, we forged ahead.


Todd kept bringing up an alcoholic, who had to abstain from booze because he couldn't handle it. "For the alcoholic, that rule applies. For others, it doesn't."


Why, I began asking myself, does Todd's argument that certain rules apply only to certain (particularly unadvanced) people make me think of Christopher West's position on custody of the eyes?


I responded, "But we're all alcoholics when it comes to sin. We're all sin addicts who need to follow the rules - either external rules if we can't muster doing good from our hearts, or rules that have become internalized and that we concede are written on our hearts. Either way, the rules are from God and show the Way to live, which is the Way called Jesus."


In other words, contrary to what Todd and the performer seemed to be arguing, the rules of religion are not arbitrary. They are not a man made code of conduct to make us feel superior to those not in the club.


They are the indicia of who we are - and who we are made to be.


And even the performer in the video implicitly acknowledges this, as much as he rails against it. For the performer admits to having once been a bad Christian, who would go to church on Sunday morning but watch porn and get drunk on Saturday night.


But who tells this guy that porn and too much booze are bad? Religion. The Church. The Law. And what is abstaining from porn and inebriation but following the rules, living out "religion"?


For rules are from God and are for all of us. God's Law is the Law of Love - the framework, the guideposts and the form through which we are better able to love.


Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways. (Psalm 119:1-3)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Obama Explained

The Fifth Column: Obama's Obituary

Steve Kellmeyer publishes these words by president and playwright Vaclav Havel under the funny but unfunny title "Obama's Obituary"

***

The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.

Past the Breaking Point


I don't know about you, but I complain a lot.


I complain about the persecutions involved in writing a stupid blog. I complain about dealing with difficult clients or nutty actors. I complain about that awful guitar music at Mass.


I complain about a lot of things, especially when I'm called to give of myself.


And then along comes St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (and us), saying, "God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7) And if that phrase isn't annoying enough, he's saying it in the middle of a fund raising appeal! Much of the point of Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians is to encourage the Corinthians to follow through on a pledge they made a year prior (2 Cor. 8:10-11) and pony up the money for churches in need - because Paul is now sending out folks to collect it and pass it on (2 Cor. 8:16-24).



Well, just let me throw in my five bucks and be done with it. Just let me put in my hour at Mass on Sunday cringing at the bad pop music and go back home to take a nap. Just let me take the only talent I have left and bury it in the sand.



Jesus marvels at the widow who gives what little she has into the temple treasury, for though she gives little, she gives all of what she has. "For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." (Mark 12:44)


By contrast, the followers of Jesus complain and carp about the woman with the alabaster box, who breaks it and pours the precious ointment over Our Lord's head. He rebukes them: "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me ... Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." (Mark 14:6 & 8)


In both cases, the giving involved a breaking.


The widow gives everything and is broke.


The woman with the alabaster box breaks the box. It is in the breaking of this treasure that her love is expressed.


Both women are examples of what true love is. True love takes us past the breaking point.


One of the errors of our day is the mistaken belief that we can have our cake and eat it too, that we can give a gift and retain the gift we give, that we can break a treasure chest and yet keep it whole.


This is because there is a pain involved in love, even if love is expressed by opening a banana stand. To avoid that pain and that defeat, to avoid going broke, to avoid breaking the box we cherish, we compromise ourselves. We praise lying (to keep our politics from breaking), bad theology (to keep our lust from breaking), false idols (to keep our personal world from breaking), and in doing so we may indeed avoid the breaking, but in that breaking is the breaking of the bread, in that breaking is the fragmentation of the host which can not be shared and eaten unless broken, in that breaking is the sword which pierces a crucified heart and in that breaking is the blood and water which is poured out to save us.


Friday, February 10, 2012

God Bless the Church


The letter issued Friday by the USCCB - the USCCB of all groups! - is brilliant.


God bless our bishops.


And God bless those standing with them. My enumeration of those standing with our bishops and standing up for religious liberty against tyranny comes from a post by Mark Shea.


God bless EWTN.


God bless Priests for Life.


God bless Belmont Abbey.


God bless the Eastern Orthodox bishops.


God bless Chris Matthews (!)


God bless the Republicans (!)


God bless the Evangelicals.


And may God save us from religious persecution and the man who is spearheading the Culture of Death.


President Obama desperately needs our prayers. He is not the antichrist (I don't think), but he is doing the work of the spirit of antichrist. We must realize he is but a man, a man with a heart that can be touched by God, if he opens it. Pray for him. He has become a tool for great evil and he will be a harbinger of greater persecutions to come.


I once predicted that if the persecutions arrive in full force, 2/3 of the US bishops would apostasize.


Maybe I was wrong!!!

Consolations


It has lately been troubling to be blogging here.


My wife is becoming more and more set against it, as my time spent doing this can become consuming, and the controversy this blog engenders is beyond belief - and from a certain perspective, utterly unnecessary.


For example, during the Lying Debate, I received more than one phone call from people doing their best to dissuade me from either criticizing James O'Keefe or from daring to say that the Catechism of the Catholic Church actually teaches Catholic Doctrine, and for daring to suggest that we ignore this doctrine at our peril. Indeed, I lost a few friends along the way over that debate (one of whom I'm grateful to have recently reconciled with).


During the Corapi Scandal, I was told in several emails by complete strangers that I was an anti-Catholic bigot doing the devil's work because I dared to suggest there was something wrong with a priest renouncing his priesthood and openly disobeying his superior and his bishop. Not to mention his proclivity for drugs and hookers.


My criticism of Bishop Finn of Kansas City elicited at least one threat of physical violence, as a reader from KC vowed physically to assault me, "even at Mass", for my criticism of a bishop who failed to protect children and who facilitated the destruction of evidence in a criminal investigation. I am often in Kansas City, but I will not go to Mass at churches I used to frequent there just in case this person is serious. St. Thomas a Becket is a role I need not play.


And most recently, my critique of Christopher West ended with someone threatening to destroy my reputation and my livelihood unless I took down this blog.


So ... why on earth would I do this??? Why not simply take down the blog? Why put up with abuse from friends and total strangers?


Well, an odd little confirmation came from friend and commenter Tom Leith today. Tom writes ...


If West is advising people to seek out near occasions of sin, or if he's telling people that near occasions of sin are not near occasions of sin, he should be stripped of his EWTN Rock Star status as Fr. Corapi was and denounced as a heretic; then every bit of media he ever produced should be consigned to the Memory Hole. If he's saying that unavoidable near occasions of sin present an opportunity to practice virtue, he's right. If he's saying this does not at least begin with keeping custody of the eyes, he wrong. Very wrong. Stupidly wrong. Deserving of a rebuke from Mrs. von Hildebrand and implicitly at least from Archbishop Chaput.


I call this a confirmation because it shows that these issues are really quite simple. I should add that West teaches that the traditional Catholic practise of keeping "custody of the eyes" applies only to the spiritually immature. Meaning, it seems, certainly not to him. So West would say he teaches what the Church teaches ... but he doesn't. It's convoluted, but really quite simple.


Indeed, very simple. We should heed the teachings of the Church outlined in the Catechism. We should be wary of priests who openly disobey superiors and who "quit" the priesthood. We should speak out against criminal negligence, especially when it involves a bishop. And we should call a spade a spade, refusing to brook heterodoxy, even if such is proclaimed by a Catholic media celebrity.


The first line of critics will say I'm being "judgmental", but I say, I am not judging these men but their behavior; we should pray for them, for we are all sinners as great or greater than they.


The second line of critics will say I'm just a dumb actor and what do I know? I say, exactly. There's no reason for anyone to pay any attention to what I write.


The third line of critics will get ugly and nasty.


And I say, I will (by God's grace) wait on the LORD.

Why I Fight



Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to shut down this blog in any way they can. And it's taking a fair amount of my time and energy to resist them.


But here's why I blog, and here's why I will continue to blog.


The Lying Debate of last year was, as all these debates are, frustrating and seemingly counter-productive. "Conservative" Catholics were furious that the Catechism claims that the end does not justify the means and that lying is never a good thing to do.


And now that the Obama administration is poised to destroy the Catholic Church in America, "Conservative" Catholics are howling that Obama is the spawn of Saul Alinksy, the man who taught him (and "Conservative" Catholic Folk Hero James O'Keefe) the doctrine that the end justifies the means and that lying can indeed be a good thing to do.


There's a reason why I endure scorn and protest from friends who turn into enemies because I speak out on these issues. The reason is that if we harbor and cherish errors we will be sowing the wind of bad thought and reaping the whirlwind of bad deeds.


John Vennari goes into detail on the wind of Consequentialism behind the whirlwind of President Obama here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our Story So Far


OK, I'm getting off the Christopher West thing for a while. We're about to leave on the first of two major tours for Theater of the Word and I hope to post about more entertaining subjects for a bit, God willing.

But to recap.

The Liberals are the Problem

After I was received into the Church (July 30, 2000 - the 78th anniversary to the day of G. K. Chesterton's reception), I spent some horrendous years discovering the lesson of how badly the liberals have messed everything up in the Church.

The Conservatives are the Problem

Then we started Theater of the Word Incorporated and have been struggling with conservatives from the get go, who I found, much to my surprise, are just as confused as the liberals and just as resistant to grace.

Sin is the Problem

But then there's the internet. In the past two years blogging, I've dealt with the following ...




  • Catholics defending torture


  • Catholics defending lying


  • Catholics defending usury


  • Catholics defending consequentialism


  • Catholics getting angry when I praise Holy Poverty


  • Catholics deconstructing the Catechism


  • Catholics defending a priest who renounced his ordination and openly disobeyed his superior and his bishop


  • Catholics defending a bishop who refused to protect children under his care and who saw to it that evidence was destroyed in a pending criminal case


  • Catholics defending the practice of leering at naked women and implying that those who don't aren't spiritually mature


... and the story continues.



The problem ain't the liberals. The problem ain't the conservatives.



The problem is us. We have met the enemy and it is sin.

Semantics and Sense


[This is a rewrite of this post from a few hours ago].


After I banished a certain commenter from my comboxes for the second time, Wade St. Onge writes ...


***


Someone who will go unnamed private messaged me with the following quote from JP2's TOB: "In mature purity, man enjoys the fruits of victory over concupiscence". I was asked, "Wade, what do you think this means?"


The implication he was trying to make was clear: "JP2 is saying the man who has achieved mature purity need not practice custody of the eyes because he can look at naked women and not lust".


Of course, there was no attempt to engage what St. Alphonsus said, although that did not surprise me.


Thanks to one non-contextualized quotation from John Paul II, we can not only dispense with everything that all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church taught with regards to custody of the eyes, but we can re-define the scriptural and patristic notion of "spiritual warfare" to mean that we continue to look upon scantily-clad women rather than looking away because the latter can in no way be classified as "fighting temptation".


When will this TOB madness end?


***


At first it seemd to me that this was not "one non-contextualized quotation from John Paul II", but a mis-quotation from John Paul II, for EWTN, which carries the full text of JP2's so-called "theology of the body" (TOB) lectures (general audiences), quotes the Holy Father thus ...


"In mature purity man enjoys the fruits of the victory won over lust ..."


This at first looked to me like a huge difference.


But a friend of mine, trained in theology noted, "The problem here is this: the words 'lust' and 'concupiscence' are sometimes theologically interchangeable, and you can't really make the distinctions you try to make in your post on the level of semantics."


So that being the case, I think we need to fall back on context. What is the context of this quote? The simple context, meaning the few sentences surrounding it?


The Holy Father continues in context ...


In mature purity man enjoys the fruits of the victory won over lust, a victory which St. Paul writes of, exhorting man to "control his own body in holiness and honor" (1 Th 4:4). The efficacy of the gift of the Holy Spirit, whose "temple" the human body is (cf. 1 Cor 6:19), is partly manifested precisely in such mature purity. This gift is above all that of piety (donum pietatis) ...


So even within a very narrow context, we can see that this Victory over Lust of which John Paul speaks is a victory of a man who controls his own body in holiness and honor by way of the grace of piety, or reverence toward God.


This is a far cry from what West and the Westians are tyring to make of this phrase.


EWTN publishes the "Theology of the Body" in Bl. John Paul's own words here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pope Pius XII Contradicts Christopher West


From Sacra Viginitas.


54. It should be noted, as indeed the Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach, that we can more easily struggle against and repress the wiles of evil and the enticements of the passions if we do not struggle directly against them, but rather flee from them as best we may. For the preserving of chastity, according to the teaching of Jerome, flight is more effective than open warfare: 'Therefore I flee, lest I be overcome.' Flight must be understood in this sense, that not only do we diligently avoid occasion of sin, but especially that in struggles of this kind we lift our minds and hearts to God ...


55. Flight and alert vigilance, by which we carefully avoid the occasions of sin, have always been considered by holy men and women as the most effective method of combat in this matter; today however it does not seem that everybody holds the same opinion. Some indeed claim that all Christians, and the clergy in particular, should not be 'separated from the world' as in the past, but should be 'close to the world;' therefore they should 'take the risk' and put their chastity to the test in order to show whether or not they have the strength to resist; therefore, they say, let young clerics see everything so that they may accustom themselves to gaze at everything with equanimity, and thus render themselves immune to all temptations. For this reason they readily grant young clerics the liberty to turn their eyes in any direction without the slightest concern for modesty; they may attend motion pictures, even those forbidden by ecclesiastical censorship; they may peruse even obscene periodicals; they may read novels which are listed in the Index of forbidden books or prohibited by the Natural Law. ... But it is easily seen that this method of educating and training the clergy to acquire the sanctity proper to their calling is wrong and harmful. For 'he that loveth danger shall perish in it;' [Ecclus 3:27] most appropriate in this connection is the admonition of Augustine: 'Do not say that you have a chaste mind if your eyes are unchaste, because an unchaste eye betrays an unchaste heart.'


HT Wade St. Onge

Adam and Eve Go to Marriage Counseling


For those of you wondering if I'm just carping about Christopher West or if I have anything better to offer, I think I do.


My touring troupe, The Theater of the Word Incorporated will present Adam and Eve Go to Marriage Counseling, the world's first comedy based on the "Theology of the Body".


After thousands of years of marriage, Adam and Eve decide they need a little help, and so they head to marriage counseling. To their surprise, their counselor seems to know a lot more about love and sex and sacrifice than they ever imagined he could - perhaps because of who he really is.


We deal with love, sacrifice, marriage, divorce, chastity, contraception, and all the hot button issues that your priest would get stoned for if he spoke on them from the pulpit. We present these issues in a funny and engaging way, issues that go to the core of Catholic tradition and that have been taught from the beginning - since the "theology of the body" when presented properly is really the "theology of the Body of Christ", the Church - a reality that points to the great Wedding Feast, the Coming of Our Lord at the End of Time, to us, His bride.


We will be performing Adam and Eve Go to Marriage Counseling on the following dates ...


Wednesday, February 8 at The Immaculate Heart of Mary in New Melle, Missouri.


Monday, February 13 at The Boys' and Girl's Club (sponsored by St. John the Baptist parish) in Wagner, South Dakota.


Tuesday, March 6 at St. Eugene's in Yonkers, New York.


These will probably be our only stage performances of this show. Our plan is to film it and upload it as part of Theater of the Word TV, our internet channel, which will debut sometime this summer ... if we can find some generous donors or backers (like you)!

Monday, February 6, 2012

By His Fruits We Know Him


Wade St. Onge has published a letter he wrote to Cardinal Rigali concerning Christopher West.


What interests me most about this are the footnotes, in which St. Onge displays, quite disturbingly, what West's most ardent followers believe and practise.


For example:


... one family “who teaches ‘God’s plan’ [West’s DVD series] shared with us their graphic description of their love making which they share each morning with their 6 year old at breakfast.” The other family “who teaches it, has recently taken it upon themselves to walk around the house naked and they have children 7 and under.”


Other Westians St. Onge profiles believe quite whole-heartedly in the things I am arguing are implicit in West's teachings, such as the moral neutrality of public nudity, the ability to look at others with arousal but not lust, and the carte blanche to indulge an appetite they feel has now been "redeemed".


Is it possible such ardent followers (some of whom have heard over one hundred of West's talks) are mis-interpreting him? Certainly. But if this is so, then it is incumbent upon West to clear up these misapplications of his teaching and to distance himself from defenders who publicly make the case for the exact errors I've been warning about in these past several posts.

Thinking Outside the Combox

We've had some very interesting comments in the comboxes at previous posts on the Christopher West issue.


So far it seems to me that West's defenders defend his orthodoxy quite admirably, but it seems as well that they defend what I think is the germ of heterodoxy which is sometimes implicit and sometimes explicit in West's writings.


This heterodoxy takes two forms:


1. It ignores the proper context for the redemption of lust and


2. It encourages saying yes to temptation in the hope that the disordered appetite will be redeemed and the good toward which the sin tends will be honored.


In other words, West begins with a basic truth - that a married man and a woman must learn to channel their sexual desire for one another into an expression of love that's open to the possibility of procreation, as opposed to what their sexual desire might become if left unsanctified - mere lust and objectification of the other. This is quite a solid Catholic teaching. But in West it gets blurry. West is never clear that Marriage is the framework in which the redemption of lust must take place.


For example, in West's interview which I quoted here, he says, "There is something good behind it [pornography]. What is good behind it? The human body in its nakedness. Behold, it is very good!"


One of my friends suggested that West is simply trying to show that the porn user is seeking a good in a disordered way. But to say of a naked body abused and trashed by porn "Behold it is very good!" is appallingly wrong. West is echoing both Genesis and the Mass in this exclamation, and such a juxtaposition and misplaced emphasis makes one wonder.


At any rate, these seem to be the two major problems in West's theology, 1. ignoring the proper context in which lust is to be redeemed, and 2. encouraging sin for the purpose of redeeming that sin.


Hidden under these two mistakes are a host of Gnostic errors, which I go into here.

Pro Life and Pro Creation



Tom Richard, a friend of mine, sent this to me re. the Christopher West debate. Tom writes ...


***


Fr. Pat Koch, SJ, may he rest in peace, covered this exact subject in sophomore theology for us, and I'll never forget it:


"Gentlemen, when you leave this place, Satan will tempt you with assumptions that have not an element of truth, but instead the foundation of a twisted lie. 'The naked body is beautiful' as justification for it's portrayal in any fashion is one such lie. The whole work of pornography is, 'It's too hard for you to obey, so don't - give in to the things that made you the human animal - come fornicate, come masturbate.' It is true that you are a human, but listen to the word of God. You are above the animals - don't give into the lie that you are just another one of them. Listen to the voice of your reason. Do you really believe that pornography conveys the image of woman that God intended? Mr. Hefner would have you believe that the most sanctifying bond between a man and a woman is mere recreation, as if the business of man is recreation. No, gentlemen, the business of man is the family of God, and the business of that family is procreation, and I mean that in all senses of the word. We are Catholic in our belief that we are pro God's creation."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

West Contradicts Blessed John Paul II




On page 251 of Christopher West's book At the Heart of the Gospel, he quotes Sarracino and Scott's book The Porning of America.


"Pornography ... typically has an essentially Puritan point of view on sensuality and sex ... Porn revels in what Puritanism rejects."


This has been a linchpin in West's argument - the great sin is Puritanism, and Puritanism gives rise to the sinful endeavors of a disordered libido, such as pornography. The problem with pornography, West tells us, is that it attempts to react against Puritanism, but does so by going to the opposite extreme. And in my last post, West chides a Catholic priest for averting his eyes from naked women because "As John Paul II observes, 'the essential error of the Manichean ethos consists precisely in this.'"


In other words, for West the Cardinal Sin that gives rise to perhaps all of the sins he deals with in his teachings is not lust, but the Puritanical and Manichean repression of lust.


Not only does this mistaken notion that the Repression of Lust is a Cardinal Sin imply that its opposite (the Expression of Lust) is the corresponding Cardinal Virtue, this mistaken notion flatly contradicts the teachings of John Paul II, the man West always uses as a weapon against his (West's) critics.


For this is what Blessed John Paul actually says.


"The whole problem of pornovision and pornography is not the effect of a puritanical mentality or of a narrow moralism, just as it is not the product of a thought imbued with Manichaeism." - John Paul II, Art Must not Violate the Right to Privacy.


And elsewhere West argues that honoring limits (such as "custody of the eyes") dishonors the spirit of JP2's teachings ... well, as far as that bit of spurious nonsense goes, John Paul also says ...


The truth about man, about what is particularly personal and interior in him—precisely because of his body and his sex (femininity-masculinity)—creates here precise limits which it is unlawful to exceed.


Among those limits which it is unlawful to exceed, always and everywhere for all men and women, regardless of the degree of sanctity to which they have, by God's grace, attained, is pornography.


I call on Christopher West to state this clearly and unambiguously - that the use of pornography is always and everywhere a sin, exceeding as it does those "precise limits" "it is unlawful to exceed", as John Paul teaches, and as the Catholic Church and the Law written in our hearts has always taught us.


John Paul concludes ...


It is a question of an extremely important, fundamental sphere of values. Before it, man cannot remain indifferent because of the dignity of humanity, the personal character and the eloquence of the human body.

West! Breast! Chest! Sex!


First, let's take a quick look at how Christopher West is arguing against his critics in his newest book.







West is referring to a post by Father Angelo Mary Geiger on Dawn Eden's blog.


To begin with, note how West throws around John Paul II. My friends, Blessed John Paul's lectures that are popularly called the "theology of the body" are about love, not sex. For West to imply that Fr. Geiger is a prude or a dirty old man because he's not as sexually redeemed as John Paul II calls us to be is simply nutty.


But beyond that, the problem here is what West is implying and what happens if you follow his implications.


We see here West using language that implies much more than it expresses. It is hard to know which side of his mouth West is talking out of. Thus, I think we should respond to either of the two arguments regarding concupisence that seem to be couched in West's response to Fr. Geiger.



  • If West is saying that a married man, when he makes love to his wife, should try to cooperate with God's grace, asking God to turn his tendency towards lust into something holy, something expressive of charity and analagous to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, I concur heartily - provided the other tenets of Catholic teaching hold, that the marital act should be expressive of love and open to the possibility of procreation.


  • On the other hand, if West is saying that a man should seek or expect God to obliterate his concupiscence when it comes to looking at naked women, even breastfeeding women, West is fooling himself and us. Now, in the case of breastfeeding women, one could say, "Well, get over it, bud. My baby's hungry." And in such a case, or in such a culture where breastfeeding is open, indeed a man should either avert his eyes or pray for the grace to overcome his concupiscence in this situation.


But look at the sly trick used at the end of the above quotations. Fr. Geiger is saying, "My libido is fallen and therefore I will avoid occasions where my libidio may lead me to sin and lead me to objectify women." West charges Fr. Geiger with doing exactly the opposite. He's saying that if Fr. Geiger averts his eyes so as not to lust, the priest is by that very act justifying "his lustful libido to the detriment of the object of that libido."


Huh?!? "I won't look at this naked woman because my heart may grow to lust after her, and I respect and love her too much to objectify her in such a way" becomes "I won't look at this naked woman so that I can objectify her with my lust."



Beware, my friends. Beware.



This is all touchy-feely 1970's nonsense that seeks to "normalize and even justify" "lustful libido" - precisely the things West accuses his critics - in this case, an ordained priest - of doing. I had my fill of it in the 70's. It begins with mutual back-rubs in acting class, with accusations that you're a prude if you're not comfortable with nudity, with the implication, eventually made explicit, that through promiscuous and even perverse sex we "grow" as "persons".


Now, I challenge my readers to examine the quoted passage above and fail to see how West is utterly inverting not only the case made by an ordained priest but also inverting the 2,000 year moral authority of the Church.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Questions for Christopher West






  • Is any man in this life able to overcome concupiscene completely, and be sanctified to such an extent that any thing this man does will not be sinful? In other words, can a saint on earth look at internet porn without sin?





  • Can a saint on earth experience lust and engage in fornication and adultery and masturbation and yet not be sinning because his human will has been joined with the Divine Will?





  • Can one use pornography to find God?





  • Are there a select few, a group of illuminati, for whom sex is sacred and all of their sexual activity holy, though viewed by the unenlighted prudes as sinful?





  • Is there a group of those who Know and who, when they engage in acts commonly known as "fornication", "adultery" or "masturbation" are doing something pleasing to God and expressive of God?





  • Does the Divine Will ever erase or consume the human will on this earth and in this mortal life?





These goes to the heart of West's heterodoxy, couched as his heterodoxy is in implication and enthusiasm.

A Triolet


Our love for God by sex expressed
He would not look me in the face
I went on a date with Christopher West
Our love for God by sex expressed
He saw Mount Tabor as my breast
To "get it on" is God's good grace
Our love for God by sex expressed
He would not look me in the face

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sure, I Masturbate to Porn, but I Mean Well



A commenter over at Facebook says that Christopher West "does not mean to 'redeem pornography' --or at least I hope not -- but he means to redeem the intentions behind the person looking at pornography."


I should add that this commenter is an intelligent and devout Catholic - and I should add he's right, this is exactly what West is trying to do.


But, I ask you, how does one redeem one's intentions when viewing pornography???


The very possiblity that one could consider this is an affront to common sense, much less the Holy Spirt who guards our conscience.


A different Facebook friend suggests that this may be due to equivocation regarding the nature of evil on West's part, but whatever the cause, this empty rationalization is precisely what West is advocating. It's the inanity of thinking we can get our rocks off and claim we're getting closer to God. It's the lie that the penetration of a hooker is moral because it's the penetration of a sacred mystery. It's the cheap unthruth that we serve God when we service our gonads. And it's all sung by West as a kind of theological pop tune.


But whatever West is pitching, it's not theological. It's simply original sin raising its ugly head. But sexual sin is typically a sin of the flesh; conjoining lust and God to rationalize sexual sin becomes a sin of the spirit, and a very serious one at that.

Clarification


Over on Facebook, I've gotten at least one correspondent who's confused by my Christopher West posts.


I responded thus:


Here's why West is dangerous. We must certainly suffer evil in our union with Christ, this evil being the bad things that happen to us and our concupiscience, which the sacraments do not remove. We can never in this life be without the evil around us and the evil within us, and in that sense we must "offer it up" or "suffer" it.


But West is using this truth to go one step further. He's saying it is Puritanical to avoid near occasions of sin, that it is instead a mark of an illuminated Christian to embrace occasions of sin and to seek the good in them.


His argument is Jungian. It is really nothing but "there's good at the heart of everything bad". True enough. And there's even a kind of "good" in pornography, so far as sex itself is good. Even Satan still retains things that are "good" - his intelligence, his will. These he uses for evil, but they are in themselves good.


West is paving the way for what the wrong kind of people could use as a kind of "grooming behavior". He is trying to dull our sensibilities by speaking theological half-truths that are used to rationalize sin.



Here's a test for you. Use West's argument with your wife if you're married. Tell her, according to West, that looking at another woman naked is a good thing because you're looking at her through the eyes of a redeemed Christian and you're seeking the good that lies at the heart of lust. Tell her you're going to the strip club for just this high minded theological reason.


See if she buys it

Christopher West and the Case for Evil



My latest post Theology of the Trench Coat does not begin to scratch the surface of what's wrong with Christopher "Wild Wild" West.


On page 186 of his new book At the Heart of the Gospel, West says ...


As we let the fundamental truth about good and evil sink in more and more deeply, it changes our whole approach to evil. We overcome it not by categorically "throwing it out". Why not? Because there is always a baby in that bathwater ... We ultimately conquer evil not by wagging fingers at it, but by "suffering it" in union with Christ.


This, my friends, is plain rationalization.


West is saying (slyly and in happy-clappy theological terms that are hard for college girls to see through) that you should view pornography because there is a good at the heart of it. Evil is merely the privation of good, therefore evil has no real existence, therefore seek the good even amidst the evil. You should not block porn sites from your computer, for that is "wagging your finger" at evil. Instead, see the body with the redeemed eyes given us by the risen Christ and you can use porn for the good that's there, not the evil that isn't.



This reminds me of nothing so much as Carl Jung, the gnostic psychologist who was my biggest hero in my atheist days. I read the entire collected works of Jung, over thirty bound volumes, and the center of his psychology is what he called the "integration of the shadow", or the indulgence of the dark side of our souls. Jung claimed that only by seeking out, drawing forth and cultivating this rejected part within ourselves could we achieve "individuation", by which he meant self-actualization, the fulfilment of our highest destinies.


This is why Jung slept with his patients, one of whom became his life long mistress. This is why he got lost in New Age thinking, in alchemy and sorcery. This is why he saw everything within the mind as merely a reflection of the mind itself. Jung preached the redemption of evil, the normalization of it, the celebration of it. And he used language not unlike Christopher West's.


West is a Jungian.


He is telling us to embrace our dark sides.


He is doing so in terminology that is superficially Catholic, but it ain't Catholic underneath.