Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Sayers Says

A friend on Facebook linked to a remarkable essay by Dorothy L. Sayers, delivered as an address in 1940, entitled Creed or Chaos

For me the two top highlights were what Sayers says about the Consequences of Dogma, as well as her use of the word Judgment to define something I've been struggling, but failing, to express for more than a month.

***

The first point is the main thrust of her essay.  Delivered during the Second World War, Sayers address early on makes the keen observation (emphasis mine) ...

The rulers of Germany have seen quite clearly that dogma and ethics are
inextricably bound together. Having renounced the dogma, they have renounced the
ethics as well
—and from their point of view they are perfectly right. They have
adopted an entirely different dogma, whose ethical scheme has no value for peace or truth, mercy or justice, faith or freedom; and they see no reason why they should
practise a set of virtues incompatible with their dogma.


It is hard for us to see this, Sayers points out.  "It is only with great difficulty that we can bring ourselves to grasp the fact that there is no failure in Germany to live up to her own standards of right conduct. It is something much more terrifying and tremendous: it is that what we believe to be evil, Germany believes to be good. It is a direct repudiation of the basic Christian dogma on which
our Mediterranean civilisation, such as it is, is grounded."

In other words, the Germans say (among other things), "Why should I respect the brotherhood of man when I do not accept the Fatherhood of God?"

Now it doesn't take much to see that these comments can be very much applied to the Obama administration and our secular neighbors today.  This is not saying that Obama boosters are Nazis, but they do adhere to a dogma that is "a direct repudiation of the basic Christian dogma" on which our civilization, until recently, rested. 

The dogma of the secularists (I use the term "Obama boosters", but many "Romney-ites" think the same way) consists of many things, but I think its true foundation is what I would call Existential Nominalism - the assertion that Being is an individual phenomenon and that no truth exists outside of a particular experience of it.  This Existential Nominalism is a rejection of all Form, all metaphysics, all generalities, and therefore the rejection of Nature, especially Human Nature.  It is a dogma that tells us that human beings are infinitely malleable and that culture is nothing more than a convention of consent, that there is no such thing as Natural Law, but that all law is "positive", meaning "put forth" arbitrarily.  "Gay marriage" flows from this the way milk flows from a cow.  For if truth is atomized, then nothing can have a teleology or purpose beyond personal taste or preference.  Therefore sex is a purely private matter and marriage but a sham and a social construct, entirely capable of being reconstructed at our own whim.

This dogma - Existential Nominalism -is changing the world, and we are slow to see it, because we think, as Sayers points out, that differences about religion are unimportant, that dogma doesn't matter, and that as long as we all just "get along", we can ignore the chasms that separate the way one man thinks from the way another thinks.

And this is generally true in the marketplace and on the street corner, where convention and convenience rule, for practical reasons.  But it is not at all true on the level of culture and politics, where the battle is being fought. 

For in the same way the Germans denied the value of the human person by denying that man was made in the image of God, so do the Existential Nominalists of our day - which is to say so do the Americans now.  Abortion and euthanasia are meaningless issues if there is no innate dignity to man, a dignity that the Church teaches has its only source in God.

***

The other great insight of this address (and please read the whole thing) is Sayers use of the word Judgment to express what I sometimes clumsily call "The Consequential" or "Reality" in contrast to the "Unreal".

For Sayers, Judgment is simply the hell we make for ourselves. 

It is the inevitable consequence of man's attempt to regulate life and society on a system that runs counter to the facts of his own nature. In the physical sphere, typhus and cholera are a judgment on dirty living; not because God shows an arbitrary favouritism to nice, clean people, but because of an essential element in the physical structure of the universe.
And this is another way of saying what I wrote just yesterday ...

The essence of sin is the setting up of our own personal realities, which contradict the reality He has given us - our own private worlds, in which we can be lazy, greedy, ravenous, adulterous; where we can molest children, seduce women and marry our gay lovers; where we can feel good about ourselves by worshipping an idol that approves of all of these things.  Our own private worlds are by their very natures Unreal, and thus sterile - dead ends, miserable lonely corners of an unfurnished house, dry awful and empty.
And this is what Drama is all about, boys and girls.

There is something inherent in all reality that produces certain Consequences to our actions.  Without this "element in the physical structure of the universe" as Sayers terms it when referring to cholera (it's in the metaphysical structure as well), no work of dramatic art - comic, tragic, or in between - would have any meaning.  And neither would our lives.

But our Secular Fundamentalists, our Crusading Atheists, our Existential Nominalists by the dogma they believe and live by deny this element in the universe (and technically, they deny even the "universe").  There can be no dramatic art in the world Obama and his followers are building (or "the Americans" as Sayers might call them), for there can be no Consequential, there can be no Judgment.

But when we shy away from Hell in our homilies, when we back off of discussing Sin (a very unpleasant topic), when we say that we should overlook differences of dogma because, after all, "why can't we all just get along?"  When we do all this, we concede to the prevailing dogma of the day, and the consequence is a loss of Consequence, the judgment is the loss of "right judgment" (clear thinking) as well as theological Judgment (aka "karma").

The loss is the loss of everything that makes our culture humane.  The loss is an inevitable slide toward a kind of hell that will make Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia look like havens of happiness, for ours will be a self-imposed hell-of-hedonism where (since universals are denied) the only thing that will be recognized as valuable or true will be physical pleasure and its corollary, blunt force.

From Our Lady of Victory to St. Mary of Victories

The weekend saw us at the beautiful Our Lady of Victory basillica in Buffalo, New York.  Here I am with Joseph Pearce and Dale Ahlquist in front of the Lourdes grotto and the tomb of Father Baker.



The ever affable Phil Viverito introduces Dale, Joseph and me at St. Amelia's, speaking on G. K. Chesterton


At St. Amelia's about to speak on Chesterton
 

Our loyal fan, Paul Friedman

 
Joseph, Dale and Kevin at the Q & A following our talks.

Niagra Falls

View from the Observation Tower on the U.S. side.

American Falls



Fr. Brian Harrison, chaplain of St. Mary of Victories, St. Louis, MO

We drove back from Our Lady of Victory in Buffalo last night to catch Mass at St. Mary of Victories in St. Louis this morning, all during the novena that leads to her Feast Day, Oct. 7.


Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne, Australia celebrated Mass at St. Mary's this morning.


A young lady in the pew.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sin and Coloring Books

God gives us a coloring book and we keep trying to color outside of the lines.  Then we get mad that the pictures aren't pretty.

The essence of sin is the setting up of our own personal realities, which contradict the reality He has given us.  Our own private worlds, in which we can be lazy, greedy, ravenous, adulterous; where we can molest children, seduce women and marry our gay lovers; where we can feel good about ourselves by worshipping an idol that approves of all of these things - our own private worlds are by their very natures Unreal, and thus sterile - dead ends, miserable lonely corners of an unfurnished house, dry awful and empty.

And this is what I've learned in the past two months.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Poet, Ejected from the Castle, Contemplates his Sorry State

The Princess had the guards throw me out and rough me up. Of course she had the best intentions. And who could blame her? I was a bit drunk, and I had no business singing her a love song at that hour. But I seem to remember another princess and I seem to recall that I was once another poet, and a better man – I was not drunk and she had not stopped her ears, as she has now, with more than a whiff of indignation. That other princess - she could hear those four lost notes, the ones I’ve been searching for all my life. I played them once – in another life, in a better world, to a sweeter princess.

It hurts. I hurt.

What hurts is not my head, not my side where the guards kept prodding me. What hurts is that hole, that ache. It’s been there all my life. When I try to fill it with cheap beer and cheaper girls, it only hurts all the more. So I sing.

I sometimes sing songs that are smart and sassy, clever little jazzy numbers that make the people dance, filled with loud and jangly chords that never linger in the mind, tunes that are over before you hear the echo – the echo that sounds if I play notes that are too close to my hollowed heart, too close to that hole within me.

But sometimes I sing love songs. I am made to sing love songs. And they come from the depth of that hole. I had supposed the hole was empty – filled with nothing. But there is something there – a great longing, a great lost love, a great poem that I have not quite written, but that pours out in tears, a wail from a man abandoned in a garden, a garden that is far from paradise.

I gather my instrument. I get up. I head down that road. There is no Surprising call from the castle. There is only silence.

Silence, awful like an empty hole – or like a heart, pierced and bleeding from a cross. It is from that silence that I sing. And what I sing is a song of love.

He calls to me, and I call to the world with a song - though I'm never quite in tune.

And somewhere, somehow ... there is a Lady who hears it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Very Heart of Reality

Mark Shea (Catholic blogger hated by many Catholics) writes a piece of great scope and insight on love in the National Catholic Register.

In it, he points out that purity can be fruitful, for all real love is fruitful, whether consummated sexually or not.  By contrast, "safe sex" is never fruitful.  Shea writes (emphasis mine)...


The artificial virginity of contraceptive sex boils down to the permanent attempt to strip mine the gold of pleasure from the sacramental union of love and fruitfulness, enthrone autonomy and pleasure, and declare love and fruitfulness “optional” rather than what revelation declares them to be: the very heart of reality. It is the attempt to replace love with power.

Love and fruitfulness are "the very heart of reality", and when we avoid this heart of reality, we replace love with power.  This is quite simply true. 

We don't want to admit it's true.  We tell ourselves that we celebrate sodomy out of tolerance and good will.  We tell ourselves we simply enjoy pornography and onanism and that there's nothing really artificial or untrue about either of them.  We tell ourselves that our myriad relationships that mimic friendship are true friendships, even though mutual sacrifice and "getting real" are both carefully avoided.

But we're fooling ourselves.  These things are all about power- the human attempt to usurp reality and to create an unreality that we can control.

Thus the two main themes of this blog over the years ...
Unreality is a form of idolatry, it is setting up contrived situations that we can control.  It is in the air we breathe at almost every single suburban parish.  It permeates the suburban Mass, usually in the form of bad music that conveys a theme of contrived love or artificial faith, and in the form of insipid homilies that never "get real".

But unreality is all around us in other areas of our lives.  Our economy, based on fiat currency, unpayable debt and usury - an economy stripped from any meaningful relation to the creation of tangible wealth - is "unreal", a contrived situation that we think we can control.  Our entertainment is more and more about spectacle and sensations-that-numb-our-senses and less and less about the quiet realities and the unsettling truth of daily life.  The contraceptive mentality has effected even "Devout Catholics" and turned the relation between the sexes into a trade off of mutual use for emotional stroking - even when sexual activity is not involved.

And of course, since we despise the fruitfulness of real love, the unrealities we create to avoid "the very heart of reality" become more and more fiendish. 

This is an unwavering law of human nature, and it does not flow intuitively.  Why can our false constructs not be humane and kind and happy?  Why must our houses of cards become dungeons of torture?  Why can't our utopias be heavens?  Why are they always hells?

Because when we shut out reality, we are shutting out God, who is the ultimate reality and the source of all that's real.  And when we shut out God, we shut out love, for God is love.  And when we shut out love, we are left with power.  And when we are left with power, we become devils in the flesh - slowly, and subtly perhaps, but inevitably and inexorably.  A man-made universe that shuts out love, truth and God ... is hell itself, and we are its demons.

Shea points to the main example of this - how our culture abuses children, affirming his motto "a culture that despises virginity is a culture that despises children," who, he explains, "are both its weakest members and the last images we have of both purity and virginity."

Thus abortion; thus the sexualization of pre-teens; thus my need to monitor comments on this blog so as to keep away Devout Catholics who in effect condone child abuse by claiming that children as young as 12 can seduce adults, and that it's not the fault of the adults who molest sexy kids, because after all Statutory Rape is a legal fiction and how dare I suggest otherwise and Bishop Finn is just a victim of the liberal media and so forth and so on. 

We're all hypocrites and sinners in one way or another, and it's always where the rubber hits the road, where we get uncomfortable and challenged and asked to sacrifice - for it is there that our Unrealities are threatened and our private little hells come tumbling down, for not only will the Kingdom triumph over the gates of hell out there, but it also threatens to triumph over the gates of hell in here - in our hearts - and that's where the other heart - "the very heart of reality" - the reality of love and sacrifice and fruitfulness - becomes most disturbing to us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gone with the Passing of the Wind

Here are some shots of our performance of our inter-active murder mystery GONE WITH THE PASSING OF THE WIND, from last Friday at Kirby's Private Dining, Evansville, Indiana.

Maria Romine as Scarlett O'Hara

Me as Colonel Sanders O'Hara, a Volunteer from the Audience as Melanie Hamilton, Maria as Scarlett


Me as Rhett Butler, with Scarlett and her first dead husband.

We had two actual police officers make an appearance.

Rhett gets rhuffed up.

Me as the evil and villainous Ashley Wilkes

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holy Catholic Blogger Speaks

BloggerTerry Nelson said...
After all of these years I've discovered that very few people are as holy as Catholic bloggers.
 

This comment appeared on my post Scratch a Catholic, and it took me a while to realize that this was Terry Nelson of the consistently well-written and challenging blog Abby Roads.  Naturally, it was delivered tongue-in-cheek, and it may have been simply a joke - or the implication may have been that Holy Catholic Blogger (i.e., "fraud") that I am, I should not be throwing stones at the Devout Catholics around me who reveal themselves, time and again, to be far less Christian than they either pretend to be or attempt to be.

And this is a hazard for any critic or satirist.  We knock down idols made by human potters when we ourselves have feet of clay.

But that's really the point I'm trying to make.  It's not your fault out there, it's my fault in here.

***

Fifteen years ago this coming Sunday - Sept. 23, 1997 - I had a remarkable conversion experience that brought me from atheist to the Christian Faith.  I have described this in detail on The Journey Home and elsewhere, but the upshot of that rather remarkable night was that I realized that if this "Christianity" thing I had been pondering from the writings of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and the Bible was real, I could not leave it on the shelf.  It had to be lived.

And so the first thing I did was try to pray; and then try to start being honest in a business / financial situation that I had been cheating on that entire summer.  Soon after that, I even made a swing at trying to root out lifelong sexual sins, and though it took me eight years of struggling, God gave me a great deliverance from what was really addictive behavior, from what was a great perversion of Love (in the form of Eros), a tremendous enslavement to a way of life that prevented me from being happy or from being effectively engaged in any creative way with the world around me.

This is why I have great sympathy but little patience for those who try to rationalize their sins of the flesh.  I know both how miserable things like that make you, and I know how enslaved we become to them without realizing it.  Heroin has nothing on porn, for example.

After a few years of "mere Christianity" and of participating in the spectrum of mistakes about Christ, from being a fundamentalist Missouri Synod Lutheran to being an ultra-liberal-indifferentist Episcopalian, my wife Karen and I were finally received into the Catholic Church on July 30, 2000 - a date I later learned was the 78th anniversary of G. K. Chesterton's reception into the Church.

Since then, I've again traveled the spectrum, from being around ultra-liberal-indifferentist suburban Catholics to being surrounded by hateful-and-deliberately-miserable city-church attending radical traditional Catholics - from living with, as it were, Stanford Nutting for a bit and then with his mad-trad half-brother Williamus Filius Johani (Bill Johnson) for a bit.

And since my conversion, our greatest spiritual adventure - and our greatest mistake from a worldly perspective - was starting the Theater of the Word IncorporatedAfter five years of this ministry, we have still not financially recovered.  Bankruptcy continues to loom as an option for the O'Brien family.  The only thing that may save us is that we are booking fewer Theater of the Word shows - and the more shows we do, the more money we lose, so fewer bookings means things are looking up!  I have not drawn a salary from Theater of the Word Incorporated for over three years, and while our secular business Upstage Productions supports us, it took a large financial hit when we started our Christian drama apostolate, and we are still struggling to get Upstage to recover.

(Thus the life of what Michael Voris disdainfully refers to as a "professional Catholic".)

***

But my point in all of this is what I'm learning from the Spiritual Journey.

I have recently seen that for many years I've been involved in a very sinful and damaging situation in my life that I had utterly rationalized away.  As I said in "Scratch a Catholic",

Yes, Devout Catholics have little blips and tics that reveal a troubled conscience over the compromises they make, but in general even Devout Catholics have imbued the secular attitude that We Have a Right to Do What We Want, and if What We Want contradicts Church teaching, well it's easy enough to explain away - we either expand the teaching to cover our behavior, or define our behavior in such a way that it fits Church teaching (for example, either the Catechism doesn't condemn lying in sting videos, or lying in sting videos isn't really lying).
 
I was not pointing fingers at others with that statement; I was not being the Holy Catholic Blogger throwing stones at y'all.   Yes, I was talking about the rest of you; but I was also talking about myself. 

And as I also wrote not long ago ...
We invite sin in, we set up an easy chair for it, we make it a nice drink, we invite it to sit down and visit with us. We even take it into the bedroom and make love to it. It bears our progeny. And we laugh and go to Mass on Sunday and parrot the Act of Contrition and secretly, silently harbor this hidden sick cancer that enslaves us and pays us nothing but the wages of death.
In this very same spirit, I had treasured and nurtured my own secret sin(s), I had convinced myself that the Church (and my conscience) really didn't condemn what I knew was wrong; or that my precious sin was really just borderline behavior that fell shy of the border-line and not well over it.  I had even thought that I received confirmation of this rationalization in prayer.

But then the bottom fell out and I saw how sordid and selfish the whole thing was from the get-go - a truth I had known all along, but had been trying to compartmentalize away.

So here I am, not only a Holy Catholic Blogger, not only a Devout Catholic, but also Grand Eparch of the Church of the Kevin, and I've been as much of a hypocrite as all those other lousy Christians, especially those self-proclaimed ones.

***

I'm tempted to say that if you really want to ruin your life, spend some time with self-proclaimed "Christians", especially "Serious Christians" or "Devout Catholics".  Worse, work for a few "Devout Catholic Organizations" - either the Church or various lay apostolates. 

There's an organization I've been working for (for free, of course) for a long time, and it only recently became clear to me that the reason they've been treating me and my friends like crap, and the reason they're compromising the content of the supposedly Catholic material they provide, is simply that they're not really Catholic.

But is anyone really Catholic? 

Is anyone even merely Christian?

Are we just members of this club so that we can feel good about ourselves and use this same club to beat other people over the head with it? 

If Jesus Christ is not the center of our lives, then what the hell have we been doing and saying and blogging about for (in my case) fifteen years this coming Sunday?  And if we rationalize sin, make excuses for Lying and voyeurism and torture and bad music and art and various forms of unchastity and child abuse and usury and greed and on and on and on - then Jesus Christ is certainly not the center of our lives.

Notice I said "our" lives.

***

The story of all of Scripture, all of the Church, and all of our lives really comes down to this -

  • The Father's gift of grace and our rejection of it (see the Old Testament)
  • Christ offering to save us and us resisting that offer (see the New Testament)
  • the Holy Spirit showing us our sins so that He may lead us to repent, and us shutting our eyes that we might continue to be blind (see Church History ever since)

Of course, that's the tragic part of who we are.

The comic part - the True Part - runs deeper.

For the Good is real; and the evil just a twisting of it.  Love remains, even in the midst of sin, and God continues to be patient with us, and to write straight with our crooked lines.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Finally! Blogging Pays Off!

This discussion has developed in the comment box of my post Lessons of Morality from Shakespeare and Ferris Bueller ...



BRUTEFORCE said...

i have to take up for my boys phineas and ferb. i have heard these claims to their immorality on a number of occasions from as many judgmental parents, and i issue the P&F challenge: produce a single incident of immorality being celebrated that i cannot refute with context and Church teaching alone, and on my honor, i will send you a twenty dollar gift card to the local restaurant of your choice.

yeah now you know i mean business, huh?

seriously, i watch these shows with my babies (8,6,4,&10mos) as i do all the media they consume, and i see only a promotion of childhood wimsy and the idea that no accomplishment is outside the grasp of one's imagination.

trump me and i will pay up, BUT,,, if no one can, then i ask only for a humble retraction of the reference to their promulgation of evil by the author.

 
 
Kevin O'Brien said...
Ah, Brute Force, you owe me dinner!

First, I LOVE "Phineas and Ferb". It is one of my three favorite shows. The other two are "The Journey Home" and "Judge Judy". The head writer is a Chestertonian and a fan of "The Apostle of Common Sense". The songs are fantastic; the show is spectacular.

However, there are occasional problems. Leaving aside the peculiar agnosticism of their first Christmas special, when 16-year-old Vanessa Doofenschmirtz is about to go camping with her friends, her father objects, and even though she's going to be sleeping in the same tent overnight with teen-aged boys, the lesson of the episode is that old Dr. Doof needs to get over his hang-ups and let his daughter do her own thing. Don't want your teen sleeping in a tent in the woods with boys? You're being over-protective. That's the lesson.

To his credit, at least, old Doof won't let her get a tattoo!

Otherwise, we're in total agreement that it's the best show on the air.

So ... when will you pay up???!

 
 



Scratch a Catholic

Life Site News features a story today about a study on Catholic women's attitude toward contraception.  The most telling quotes are here [emphasis mine] ...

... church-going Catholics have been influenced far more by popular culture than by Catholic teaching on sex and reproduction. Fully 85 percent of all the women believe they can be “good Catholics” even if they do not accept some of this teaching, including the 37 percent who completely reject it. ...
The authors perceive two main dynamics shaping these views: the influence of a cultural mindset that divorces sex from procreation and promises “sexual pleasure without consequences”, and a deficit on the church side in presenting Church teaching.
The latter can be deduced from the fact that 72 per cent of women surveyed said they rely mainly on the homily at Sunday Mass for learning about the faith, and yet just 15 per cent of that group fully accept the Church’s teaching on sex and reproduction. The weekly Mass homily, the authors say, “seems to represent a lost opportunity when it comes to conscience formation on the contraception issue.”
 
You think???

Have you ever heard a homily that explained Church teaching on contraception?  Never in 12 years as a catholic, and some 650 Sunday homilies, have I heard anything resembling that. 

***

But this phenomenon speaks toward a larger problem in the Church today. 

Scratch a Catholic - even a Devout Catholic - and you'll typically find a Protestant or Secularist underneath.

I know many Devout Catholics - Catholics who never miss Sunday Mass, often attend daily Mass, pray regularly, make devotions, are actively pro-life - and yet even some of these most deliberately self-defined Catholics are very Protestant and Secular when their guard is down and they're just being themselves.

This shows up when they're off the clock, so to speak.   It's noticeable on this blog, when Devout Catholics advocate torture, usury, lying, teen sex, and so forth, but it's more pernicious day in and day out in unguarded moments.  Casual attitudes towards various forms of adultery, engaging in premarital sexual activity shy of fornication, compromising one's faith when the situation calls for it, relishing pop culture shows or songs that are far from wholesome, excitement over Protestantized liturgies and authors, and above all a matter-of-fact self-assurance for rationalizing sin - these things show the true character and the everyday life even of many Devout Catholics.

Well, we all sin, but it's that rationalization for sin that troubles me - especially how glib we've become at it. 

Yes, Devout Catholics have little blips and tics that reveal a troubled conscience over the compromises they make, but in general even Devout Catholics have imbued the secular attitude that We Have a Right to Do What We Want, and if What We Want contradicts Church teaching, well it's easy enough to explain away - we either expand the teaching to cover our behavior, or define our behavior in such a way that it fits Church teaching (for example, either the Catechism doesn't condemn lying in sting videos, or lying in sting videos isn't really lying).  After all, we've always got good intentions, don't we?

Every single rotten scoundrel and secret sinner on this earth has good intentions.  Even I have good intentions, except when I honestly examine them.

So this problem is across the board.  It's not just Christmas and Easter Catholics who use the pill and enjoy a little porn and bend all the rules when it comes to money - and who will admit they're not particularly religious if you ask them.  It's Every Day Catholics who cheat their neighbors, betray their friends, mess around a bit with their boyfriends or girlfriends in ways that aren't technically "sex" after all - but insist that they're very religious if you ask them.

Sometimes we all seem to be characters in a Dickens novel, odd parodies of actual people stretched out of shape by our singular devotions to our lives of comfortable sin.

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Catholic Media?

A commenter at Rod Dreher's blog makes a very interesting comment ...

If Catholics can’t trust the NY Times to report well on the sex abuse crisis, then Catholics should be doing it themselves. However, if a Catholic media reporter had investigated and published the story about Bishop Finn, Catholics would be calling for that reporter’s excommunication. Catholic media can report stories, but actually investigate and help root out evil from the hierarchy? I can’t imagine it, never mind that no Catholic source would publish it. Maybe there are papers out there I haven’t read.

Taking It Personally

About this time last year, I wrote about folks who Can't Care, Don't Care, or Won't Care, and I bragged about how I take my business ventures less personally than I used to.

Well, that was a hollow boast.

I take everything personally.

I don't think there's any other way to be an artist, a poet, an actor, a writer - or to live life in an engaged and engaging way.  I really don't think there's any other way to be an authentic Christian and to avoid the trap of Unreality in our daily lives and in our worship.

Thus, life usually hurts. 

And anything to do with the Church - or even with my fellow Catholics - really really hurts, because hypocrisy abounds, in my heart and in theirs.  For part of the sting is realizing how many people fit into the aforementioned DON'T CARE category - even when it comes to loving God and their neighbor. 

And so, it's the same old story.  There are lots of folks around who make a show of their faith, but who dump what the Church teaches the moment it becomes uncomfortable.  I mean, just look at the battles I've fought on this stupid little blog alone. 

I have defended ...

  • Honesty against Catholics who make excuses for Lying
  • Custody of the Eyes against Catholics who say it's OK to look at naked ladies that aren't your wife.
  • Humane Treatment against Catholics who make excuses for Torture.
  • Care for Children against Catholics who make excuses for Sex Abuse, and quote Canon Law to mitigate the wrongness of Statutory Rape.
  • Protecting Children from abusive priests, and Finding Competent Psychological Help for abusive priests, against Catholics who think it's more important to protect and defend Those in Power, who refuse to do either.
  • Loyalty to Jesus before loyalty to your political party, against Catholics who tell me I'm sinning when I criticize their heroes who shill for heartless pro-abortion anti-Catholic politicians (i.e. Romney and Obama).
  • The Catechism against Catholics who tell me it has, in general, no significant authority.

... and so forth.

Now these aren't just disagreements, they are heated battles. 

Most recently, the more I point out that Statutory Rape is indeed "legitimate rape", the more my opponents dig in their heels.  If they find talking points somewhere in a combox on a blog site that appears in a cursory way to defend their position, they copy it here with great glee.  Meanwhile, as I write this, there's a fifty-year-old businessman seducing a 14-year-old girl he met on Facebook.  There's a gym coach pressuring a middle school student to commit sodomy.  There's a priest telling a 12-year-old altar boy that sexual release in the confessional frees him of his sins, and not to tell his parents he said that.

So I do tend to take this personally.

I think you'd have to be a bit dead not to.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Old Wound

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse tend to have patterns of behavior in their adult life, regardless of whether or not they recall everything about their abuse.  Typical manifestations include ...


  • Finding it difficult to develop or maintain close personal relationships.
  • Having a strong desire to live in isolation or to “hide out” from life.
  • Enduring physical ailments like neck, back, stomach and gynecological problems that persist despite efforts at good self-care.
  • Experiencing feelings of sadness, fear and anger that often seem unmanageable or overwhelming.
  • Undergoing panics, rages, depressions, sleep disorders, or self-mutilation or having suicidal thoughts.
  • Finding themselves depending on alcohol, other drugs, or developing eating disorders to cover feelings of humiliation, shame and low self-esteem.
  • Experiencing problems like low self-esteem, avoidance of sex, promiscuity, or inability to experience orgasms or erections.
  • Exhibiting signs of trauma like panic attacks, numbing of body areas, and feeling of being disconnected from their bodies.


  • Now if a person exhibits these behaviors, does this mean he or she was sexually abused? No. We all have symptoms that match some items from the above list.  But abuse victims exhibit these behaviors in spades.  Some could check off every item on this list.

    What interests me about this is that even if the abuse occurred some 45 years in the past, adult survivors live their lives based upon a reality that is no longer temporally present, and no longer valid as a reality.

    In other words, even though someone can be a fully grown adult, he can manage his life as if he were still a three-year-old being abused and in order to shield himself from future abuse.  Intense fear of abandonment or loss of control can manifest itself in either his becoming manipulative and power-hungry and a control freak, or in his becoming submissive and a push-over, constantly desiring to please others for fear of losing them or losing control over an artificial relationship with them.

    This oscillation between two poles can even take place within the same person's life.  He can seem to be a bum, chronically under-employed and living a life of low-balling it so that he never has to deal with the engagement of his Eros in anything that challenges his real self; or he can become a workaholic, driving to succeed at whatever he throws himself into, to the exclusion of his family or his private life.  In both cases, the goal is control - for a disengaged man is in control by not being drawn into anything exciting, compelling or risky; and an over-engaged man is in control by forcing everything to go exactly the way he wants it - which takes a phenomenal amount of work.

    The point is - a person's entire life can be lived in order to avoid the horrors of an event or events in his or her past.  The fear, anger, loss of control, sense of abandonment and existential terror that a victimizer gives his victim can dictate an entire life's misery, without intervention of some sort.

    Thus the Old Wound from childhood continues to dictate the way fully grown adults live.

    ***

    In the same way, the Old Wound of Adam dictates the way we all live.  The damage done to our natures by that Original Sin continues to create a false reality in our hearts that we strive to compensate for.

    And in the same way that some survivors of sexual abuse don't recall clearly all the details of what they endured, so we as God's people don't know exactly what the first few chapters of Genesis really and fully tell us.  We know we had some sort of original set of parents who committed some original sin that corrupted our natures, creating an Old Wound that has dominated our thinking and acting ever since.  Was there really a garden?  Really a snake?  Really an apple?  Literally?

    Well, perhaps not - but for adults who ask, "Did this abuse really happen when I can't remember all of it clearly?" and yet while asking that, live all ten of the ten manifesting symptoms, the question is in some sense beside the point.

    The point is our healing.

    For more on this, check out Dawn Eden's book My Peace I Give You - Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    On Suffering

    If we did not have a God Who suffers, none of this would make any sense.

    Not the rape of children; not the justification of evil; not the helplessness and loneliness and fear of the victims. 

    The love of spouses, the love of true friends, the sacrifice of lives - it would all seem to be a mere sick joke in the face of ultimate evil.  We would hesitate to call it "evil", since the "good" would seem so impotent.  We would become nihilists, materialists, mute ciphers in a world that was meaningless but that hurt.  And we couldn't even rage against the hurt - what good would it do?  "What is good?" anyway, as Pilate might have said, with that sophisticated smirk of his, that educated sneer - Pilate, who condemned Him to death and had an elaborate explanation for why it Really Wasn't His Own Fault for doing so.

    But He hung there.  In full view, beaten, tortured, slowly dying.  Betrayed by a friend, abandoned by His Church, brutalized by His people and their occupiers alike.  Jew and Gentile, full of hatred for one another, united in that dark afternoon in their mutual hatred of Him.  How fun!  "Why can't we all just get along?"  Maybe we can, to tear apart and crucify the only purely Good man who ever lived.  Peace be with you.  And with your spirit.  Now let's kill Him.

    He did not turn from them when they spat upon Him.  He did not return curses for curses.  He did not reject our rejection of Him, our abuse, the worst we had to offer.  We gave it to Him, and we give it to one another. 

    We give it to one another but we tell ourselves we're justified, or we're not really sinning, or there are mitigating circumstances, and whatever we do, it's Never Really Our Own Fault for doing it.  We told ourselves that we were doing good that day we crucified Him, after all - the day the sun stopped shining.  Our intentions are good, we say, and we throw up whatever excuse suits us, and keep right on hurting and hating and hailing the Coming of the Kingdom of Hell.  And we're not that bad after all - we leave our home-made Calvary and go to Church and clap along to the guitars and listen to the preacher tell us how much God loves us and "Why can't we all just get along?"  Peace be with you.  Pass the remote.  I'm spiritual, not religious.  Gimme some Jesus, but get rid of that cross.  It tends to trouble my guilty conscience.

    There is a dark and awful thing inside of us.  On the one hand, it's an evil that makes us want to hurt people.  On the other, it's a terrible hurt, a suffering from the evil that's been done to us.  I don't think we have any clue about the depths of secret suffering in our fellow man.  If we saw the pain that our neighbor lives with every single day, and if we saw how that pain was, in some cases, deliberately inflicted, or inflicted out of simple to-hell-with-you negligence - with the best of intentions, of course - by people who were simply out for themselves, we'd go mad.

    In fact, the truth of human nature was never better revealed than on that day when the sun died and the earth gave up its breath in a terrible heave - that day when we all stood around jeering at Him.  There is no king but Caesar.  There is no god but Mammon.  There is no god but Nothing.  And to hell with You, savior!  To hell with You.

    Such is the tableau.  Such is the eternal picture, the archetype of Human Life.

    What we did.

    But in the midst of that, He redeems us.  It is not a senseless murder, a meaningless act of brutality. 

    It is a sacrifice. 

    And it is the Reality behind Life Itself.

    Lessons on Morality from Shakespeare and Ferris Bueller

    This is from a fan of our YouTube page.  He writes to me saying ...

    As man of theater yourself, I imagine that you have had the same moral questions from time to time. Should I take this part? Should I assist in this production? And so on. For me, these questions are more difficult to answer because they involve acting and simulation. Playing the part of the sinner is different from actually being the sinner.     
    I would like to know how a Catholic goes about finding principled answers to these kinds of questions. Have you found any helpful guides or resources?
     
    I get this question, and variations on it, all the time.  It troubles not only actors, but also movie fans and drama fans and literature fans.  Should I watch this movie or play?  Should I read this book?  Is it moral?  Is it sinful?

    Here's the answer - there is a difference between the depiction of sin and the endorsement of sin.

    If the depiction of sin were itself sinful, then we should never read the Holy Bible, which is filled with depictions of sinners and their sins.     But these sins appear in context.  They are not there for us to get a vicarious thrill or titillation out of them.  The point of showing sin in Scripture is to show the evil effects of sin, our enslavement to it, and our need to repent of it.

    The same is true in drama.  A tragedy like Macbeth is filled with sins and even horrors, but the entire point of that play is to show how committing such sins turn the sinners into people who are more and more miserable - more and more haunted and tormented.

    But forget Shakespeare for a minute.  Take Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  There's a movie that is filled with vulgar language and that revolves around the exploits of a student playing hooky.  But I personally think it's one of the most Christian movies ever made.  It's about how a father should love his son more than his car; it's about how the small minded indoctrination of compulsory education is a prison; it's about freedom of spirit; it's about overcoming jealousy; it's about loving your brother; it's about loving life.

    But maybe this can't quite be said for, say, Saturday Night Fever, a movie that my girlfriend Missy Tallman (cheerleader for the wrestling squad) and I saw maybe six or seven times in the theater when it first came out.  It's a movie that had a profound impact on me and my fashion sense to this day (as you can see in the photo of Missy and Kevin "Disco Dog" O'Brien at the height of my Travolta craze).  I thought it was a brilliant film, but my high school English teacher thought was scurrilous.

    "I don't think the scenes that showed the main character's sinful behavior were in the movie for any other reason than for the audience to exult in them," he said.  "Yes, Travolta's character gets sick of his sinful ways and turns from them in the end, but the movie lingered on them to the point of celebrating them, throwing in a final repentance as a sop for what had come before it - our secret vicarious delight in Travolta's unseemly acts."

    (He didn't use those exact words, but this was 1978, and I'm quoting him from memory.)

    At any rate, the point is what is the main message of the movie?  Or book or drama?  I've seen Disney movies - indeed even Phineas and Ferb episodes - that I took to be conveying a bad message, despite having no foul language, sexual content or even overtly sinful behavior depicted.

    Ferb (left) and Phineas, pondering great literature

    So use your own prudence, but look at the work of literary art as a whole and go from there.


    Sin and the Mind

    Two days ago a commenter here was defending Statutory Rape.  He was linking to anime and spanking sites, and he argued that 12-year-old girls were fully mature.  I banned him from the comboxes and began moderating comments.

    Since then many of you have commented and not made it past the censor - me. 

    Since Friday, all banned commenters - some of them regular readers of this blog - have had this in common: you have all picked up on the Canon Law Argument that was set forth somewhere on the internet.  The essence of that argument is that a cleric may witness a valid marriage between a boy as young as 16 and a girl as young as 14 (with or without parental consent is not addressed in the section quoted); which, my censored commenters are claiming, proves that Statutory Rape is a "legal fiction". 

    Is that all you need?  Some talking points?  Something to cling on to? 

    The same thing happened with the Lying Argument and with Christopher West.  Someone somewhere on a web site would float a balloon in defense of their position, and others would jump on it, copying and pasting, as a sudden and new-found talking point.  "Maybe this is the weapon that will give me a win!"

    But this intellectual grasping at straws does not help you; on the contrary, it stands as a witness against you.  You are still - much as you deny it - defending Child Abuse.

    ***

    However, since this argument has been advanced somewhere - and latched onto by folks eager to deny the Natural Law basis of Statutory Rape - I suppose I have to deal with it.

    Oddly, Canon Law supports my case entirely - the argument that puberty alone does not immediately give rise to maturity, nor do hormones magically produce the full rational capacity to consent, is implicit in the section sited, and all over Canon Law. 

    For example, regarding parties to a case in a canon law trial, the Code of Canon Law states -

    Can. 1478 §1. Minors and those who lack the use of reason can stand trial only through their parents, guardians, or curators, without prejudice to the prescript of §3. ...



    §3. Nevertheless, in spiritual cases and those connected with spiritual matters, if the minors have attained the use of reason, they can petition and respond without the consent of their parents or guardian. They can do so personally if they have completed their fourteenth year of age; otherwise, they do so through the curator appointed by the judge.
     
    Thus even Canon Law acknowledges the Natural Law at its core -  that minors do not have the use of reason. 

    Indeed, the Canon asserts that 14-year-olds do indeed have at least enough reason to participate in a Canon Law Trial.  And I would not deny that.  And yet deniers of Statutory Rape think that this is a mark in their favor.  But it's not.

    Clearly, 14-year-olds do have the use of reason, which is why Confirmation is typically received by children only when they attain to that age or thereabouts.  Again, the exact age at which bits and pieces of maturity develop over the course of a child's development is always somewhat arbitrary; what is not arbitrary is the reality that underlies the decision to assume a certain age for a certain capacity.

    Look at the way we do it in Civil Law in most states.

    • We realize that a minor of any age cannot be convicted of a crime unless examined and certified to stand trial as an adult.
    • We realize that children under the age of about seven do not have full capacity to receive communion.
    • We realize that before the age of 13, minors need adult accompaniment to see certain films.
    • We realize that before the age of 17, minors are not allowed to see any NC-17 (X-rated) films, with or without adult accompaniment.
    • We realize that a minor has attained the capacity to drive a car at about age 15 with an adult present, and at about age 16 alone, upon passing a driver's test.
    • Maturity proceeds apace in other areas - consenting to sex, voting, drinking, smoking, working, fighting at war - all of these are activities that humans grow into gradually as their capacity for them slowly develops.  Thus, the law sets ages for each of these activities, ages that are necessarily arbitrary, but that are based upon the fundamental Natural Law principle that underlies them - Rational development and maturity is a gradual thing.

    Also note that consent to marry is NOT the same as consent to fornicate.  And if Canon Law does not match Civil Law, which one is "arbitrary"?  Here in Missouri, children can not marry without parental consent until they are 18.  With parental consent they may marry at 15. 

    Why the distinction?  Because the law recognizes that children between the ages of 15 and 18 do not have the full mental capacity to enter into a civil marriage bond, without guidance by their fully mature parents or guardians. 

    Is there something magical about the age of 18?  About the age of 15?  Of course not; the ages set by statute are somewhat arbitrary (drawing any line is always somewhat arbitrary).  But the underlying principle remains - children do not have the full capacity to consent to a variety of acts, as do adults.   One of those acts is fornication; another is sodomy.

    That I am arguing this - that I am sitting at my computer typing these things patiently and calmly - is outrageous.  That this is not automatically recognized by people - especially by Catholics, who claim to care about defending the most innocent and vulnerable among us - is infuriating.

    ***

    To run with talking points - especially a so-called argument from Canon Law as poorly thought-out as this - to make a case with something somebody copied and pasted from a combox or blog somewhere shows what's really going on here.

    What's really going on here is an eagerness to explain away bad behavior.

    Now, I'm not "judging".  I do the same thing all the time.  We all doI recently broke away from a sinful situation that I rationalized away for many years, so I'm as guilty of this as you all are.

    And, since we're all guilty, we can spot this type of behavior - Rationalizing Away Sin - when we see it.

    ***

    And this all began innocently enough - or so it seemed - as an attempt to defend Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a holy and devout man, who, after saying some ill-advised things on the subject of child abuse, was eliminated from EWTN's rotation and apparently from their memory banks.  Fr. Groeschel deserves a better deal than he got, and this situation was not fair to him.  I concede that, and I'm glad there are people sticking up for him.

    I can also see that the motivation behind this is to defend Kansas City Bishop Finn, a man I have criticized severely and persistently.  That folks would spring to the defense of a Catholic bishop - even a bad Catholic bishop like Finn - speaks to the loyalty of heart that most of you have, and that is admirable, though counter-productive in Bishop Finn's case.

    I understand the original motivations behind the argument being made against Statutory Rape - the motivations were to defend Fr. Groeschel's misguided compassion for victimizers, and to defend the Church from the awful Scandal she's endured.

    I understand how this started.  What I don't understand is where this is going and where this has gone.

    When I said the following ...

    ***

    If the capacity to consent depends upon testicles and ovaries and not on the rational mind and will, then we must accept the inevitable conclusion. Since menstruation can begin in a girl as young as age 9 or so, and since the production of sperm can begin in boys as young as 12 or so, then these post-pubescent children should be understood to possess the capacity to consent to the following:

    9-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys should be allowed to

    1. Vote
    2. Drive cars
    3. Enter into contracts
    4. Be drafted
    5. Drink
    6. Attain independence from their parents
    7. Get married without parental consent
    8. Get abortions without parental consent
    9. Smoke
    10. Be elected to public office
    
    
     
    ***

    ... and when, after saying that, I get a commenter who agrees with the hypothetical I present and says, HELL YES, KIDS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DO ALL THOSE THINGS ONCE THE HORMONES KICK IN, ONLY I'D MAKE THE AGE OF CONSENT 12 FOR GIRLS - and then when I see the Legion of you picking up spurious talking points you found somewhere and running with them, that's when I get disturbed. 

    That's when I lose sleep. 

    That's when the cold breath of the Dark Angel creeps down my back.

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    False Friendships

    There is nothing that hurts more than discovering that a person you thought was a good friend was no friend at all, and apparently had never intended to be.

    Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
    Thou art not so unkind
    As man’s ingratitude.
    Thy tooth is not so keen,
    Because thou art not seen,
    Although thy breath be rude.
     
    Heigh-ho, sing heigh-ho, unto the green holly.
    Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
    Then heigh-ho, the holly.
    This life is most jolly.

    Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
    That dost not bite so nigh
    As benefits forgot.
    Though thou the waters warp,
    Thy sting is not so sharp
    As friend remembered not.

    Heigh-ho, sing heigh-ho, unto the green holly.
    Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
    Then heigh-ho, the holly.
    This life is most jolly.

     
    Well, Shakespeare's characters (this is from As You Like It) are always more cynical than the plays they're in.  It's all in a much wider context.  And our revels have not yet ended.

    Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

     

    The Stewardship of Love

    We had to go to the 7:00 am Sunday Mass in this small town in Kansas, for we had to make it all the way back to St. Louis for a Sunday evening performance that same night.  I had hoped there would be few people and no music - there often isn't at the early Sunday Mass in most parishes.  But the church was Standing Room Only and Haugen-Haas-Schutte was being played (badly) and sung (weakly) and ruining any chance at all for prayer or solemn worship.  The priest, looking resplendent in his Ordinary Green, was ad-libbing just enough of the new translation of the Liturgy to make it annoying.

    Then his homily began.  He gave a one sentence nod to the Gospel, summarizing what it was about.  Then he beamed, "Today we're going to celebrate STEWARDSHIP SUNDAY!  There are financial reports at the end of each pew.  You may share them and follow along as I read the entire thing to you and complain about how much more you need to give of your TIME, TALENT AND TREASURE!"

    Now, I celebrate many things. 

    I celebrate Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Thanksgiving - but I do NOT celebrate "Stewardship Sunday."

    But this brings me to a point, the main point of six weeks of spiritual struggle that have transpired inside my sinful little breast, culminating in a revelation of sorts that I now hope to share with you. 

    ***

    I have written on this blog at length about the Problem of Love.  How are we to engage our love in the world in a meaningful way - our love which includes Eros, Agape, Philia, Storge: four different faces of One Single Love?

    It is a problem that's particularly acute for actors, who, as the late Marvin Hamlisch described, can aptly sing, "What I Did for Love" - a song written about what actors and performers do "for love".  We give our all to a business that is often brutal to us.  We are taken advantage of by producers, directors and drama teachers.  We often live in poverty and on the emotional edge, simply because we love what we do so much that we're never smart about it.  We allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.  As Othello says of himself, after killing Desdemona, we are ones that love "not wisely but too well".

    Othello with Iago, lamenting that he hasn't quite learned good stewardship of love.
     
    But can you love well at all if you love not wisely? 

    And are we even called to love "wisely"?  Isn't the Christian Faith, indeed all of life, about giving it our all, loving with our whole selves and not counting the cost?  Are we supposed to be careful with our caritas?  Isn't love about just feeling or doing or expressing and not holding back?

    Well, yes and no. 

    Yes, we are not to keep our hearts uncircumcised.  We are to realize that love involves suffering; love will always hurt.  Staying away from love for fear of pain is always a sin.  We are to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and love our neighbors as ourselves; indeed we are to love one another as He loved us - by taking up our crosses and following Him.

    But no, we must not think that love can be love if we love ineffectively, without maturity, without prudence, without stewardship.

    ***

    In twelve years as a Catholic, I have never heard a homily about this.  I have never heard anybody in the Church speak on the Stewardship of Love - and that's not exactly "How do I budget my time, talent and treasure?"  It's about, "How do I love wisely SO THAT I may love well?"

    ***

    Let me give some examples, all from either events in my life or in the lives of people I know.

    • If you love an addict, you stop enabling his addiction.  You don't look the other way when he or she boozes up, you intervene and refuse to pretend the elephant in the living room isn't there.  This may cause rejection, anger, fighting, outbursts - but it's the proper stewardship of love.

    • If you love your kids, you don't let them do whatever they want whenever they want to.  You don't try to be their best friend.  You correct them when they're wrong and punish them when the situation warrants.  This may cause gigantic temper tantrums and some major effort on your part - but it's the proper stewardship of love.

    • If you love the poor, you don't give a homeless guy cash when he begs, as it will almost certainly go towards drugs or booze.  You give to the shelter, or someplace that can help him in a real way.  This requires effort and makes it harder to put a sop in your social consciousness - but it's the proper stewardship of love.

    • If you love your back-yard neighbor family, you don't let them come in and out of your house without knocking and spread the dysfunction of their household into yours (I speak from personal experience). This may require you to put your foot down, or to move - but it's the proper stewardship of love.

    • If you love your children, you don't let a bad bishop enable a child pornographer to victimize them; nor do you let this child pornographer slide by without competent psychological help, despite what the bishop intends.  This may make your fellow "conservative Catholics" hate you - but it's the proper stewardship of love.

    • And if you love your fellow man enough to evangelize to him, and he rejects you - are you to keep trying, to let your heart bleed for him, to stick around and try different tactics, like pop music or jumbo-trons or gay friendly Masses in the hopes of snagging his attention?  No, if you spread the Gospel and it is rejected, you are to wipe the dust off your feet as a witness against those who won't hear it and move on.  Our Lord Himself told us to do this - for this is the proper stewardship of love.

    ***

    It is very tempting as an old fart (again I speak from experience) to find yourself attracted to cute young things and to long for the false intimacy of your profligate youth.  But God has put a Law into our hearts - and that law speaks against adultery and even emotional unchastity - for keeping within these bounds is the proper stewardship of love

    It is very tempting as a young fart (I speak from very distant experience) to think that society's rules don't apply to you, and that you can do whatever - or whomever - you want.  But this is not the proper stewardship of love.

    It is very tempting in society today to excuse homosexual behavior, to wink at fornication, to make excuses for pedophilia, to be more loyal to your political party than to Christ and His teaching.  To do otherwise is painful and counter-cultural - but it is the proper stewardship of love

    ***

    Everything that God tells us in His Word and through His Church is about How to Love.  Let me repeat that.  Everything that God tells us in His Word and through His Church is about How to Love.

    In Genesis 38, the young lady Tamar is the victim of some very bad stewardship of love.  She is supposed to bear children to Onan, in the place of Onan's dead brother; in Jewish culture, she has a right to this, a claim on it - so that she might not be a forlorn and hapless and childless widow.  But Onan spills his seed (masturbation is the archetype for the bad stewardship of love) and Tamar suffers.  After God strikes Onan dead, her father-in-law Judah is supposed to make things right and send another of his sons to do the job, but Judah refuses, for selfish reasons, allowing Tamar to suffer some more and languish childless for his bad stewardship of love.  She eventually has to trick Judah himself into sleeping with her and siring a child, and Judah, thinking she's a road-side prostitute, is more concerned with paying his bill to a hooker than with doing justice to his daughter by marriage - more bad stewardship of love.   Finally, the children are born (twins), one of whom becomes a distant ancestor to Jesus Christ Himself.

    So we have, for quite a long time, we fallen creatures, practiced very bad stewardship of love.

    ***

    But by God's grace, this can change.  We can become like Christ, and our love can change the Church and change the world, by first changing our heats.  But not just our hearts - also our heads.  We are not merely to "luv" - we are to "love" - to love wisely so that we might love well.  And that takes the head and the heart - prudence and charity - sacrifice and wisdom.

    May we all learn and practice good stewardship of love.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    The New Racism and the Old Catholics

    Today, I spent lunch with my friend and Theater of the Word actor Dave Treadway of Steward Media and I was on a tear, complaining about many things, especially this.  "Dave," I said, "I used to think the liberals in the Church caused all the trouble, until I met the conservatives in the Church.  Now I'm getting used to rampant hypocrisy on both sides of the spectrum, from left to right - Catholics who are as bad as I am and worse, regardless of the number of devotions or novenas they pray.  I am hurt by, but used to, leftist Catholics who ignore Church teaching and right-wing Catholics who despise the Catechism.  I am used to, but hurt by, bad liberal bishops and bad conservative bishops.  I am used to, but hurt by, my own infernal sinfulness, which keeps rearing its ugly head again and again.

    "But what really bothers me at a fundamental level is how many conservative Catholics there are who are making excuses for rape and child abuse."

    ***

    To wit (from comboxes, blogs or other published material of the past two weeks) ...

    • In cases where priests molest children, Fr. Benedict Groeschel stated in an interview published in the National Catholic Register, "A lot of the cases, the youngster – 14, 16, 18 – is the seducer."

    • As a response to this comment, I posted what I thought was a simple explanation of What Rape Is , pointing out that a 14-year-old, for example, while he or she can act seductively toward an adult, can in no way seduce an adult; pointing out that statutory rape is indeed "rape", since a minor does not have the capacity to consent to a sex act; and after I did so, the dam burst in little trickles, including a Facebook friend who asserted, "Statutory rape is a legal fiction."  How little I suspected then that this is the attitude of many, if not most, Catholics.

    • For this was followed by Catholic writer Dena Hunt insisting publicly that the Church Sex Scandal, "was not 'child abuse.' Most victims were post-pubescent teenage boys."  Since most boys are sexually mature by age 12 or 13, apparently when Father molests the 12-year-old altar boy in the sacristy, this is not child abuse because he's post-pubescent.

    • Dena Hunt took offense that I said, in effect "child abuse is child abuse" and "rape is rape, including statutory rape."  On the contrary, she found my statement appallingly naive.  She said that 1. homosexual contact between an adult male and a post-pubescent boy is not an example of pedophilia; 2. statutory rape is not really rape; 3. post-pubescent children seduce grown men all the time I replied to all that nonsense here. 

    • Since then, comboxers here and at the Ink Desk have said the following ... It is a legal fiction that minors cannot consent to legally significant conduct.  [i.e., sexual activity with an adult, but apparently also entering into contracts (see below), which is an example of "legally significant conduct"]

    • Coming-of-age ceremonies historically took place at about 13, not at 21. [i.e., you're an adult at age 13, once you're Confirmed or Bar-mitzvahed, and therefore statutory rape laws are absurd and you're old enough to have sex with a middle aged man who finds your picture on Facebook.]

    • I am incapable of believing that statutory rape is distinct from fornication. That is nothing but modernist absurdity invented by busybodies.  If this man has a daughter who gets seduced by her Lesbian gym coach in a hotel room during a Middle-School varsity volley-ball field trip, I'll remind him that statutory rape is a modernist absurdity invented by busybodies.

    • Commenters have also argued that since people got married very young in the past, sex between an adult male and a post-pubescent child in 2012 is fine and dandy.

    Now I grant, and have granted from the beginning, that the age at which a minor is deemed competent to consent to sex varies from state to state and that there is a somewhat arbitrary nature to the age that is chosen.  But these folks are not arguing that 16 or 17 are "border ages"; they are arguing that consent is co-terminous with sexual maturity and that the law should reflect this.

    But if this is the case, if the capacity to consent depends upon testicles and ovaries and not on the rational mind and will, then we must accept the inevitable conclusion.  Since menstruation can begin in a girl as young as age 9 or so, and since the production of sperm can begin in boys as young as 12 or so, then these post-pubescent children should be understood to possess the capacity to consent to the following:

    9-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys should be allowed to

    1. Vote
    2. Drive cars
    3. Enter into contracts
    4. Be drafted
    5. Drink
    6. Attain independence from their parents
    7. Get married without parental consent
    8. Get abortions without parental consent
    9. Smoke
    10. Be elected to public office
    
    For society to insist otherwise, for the State to claim that maturity and consent is achieved only gradually, and at various stages of growth is merely a legal fiction, having no connection to Natural Law whatsoever.

    And if this is absurd, commenters, then at what should the age of consent be set?  16, 17, 18?  Or are 15-year-olds capable of consent?  Are 14-year-olds?  When is a child a child and an adult an adult?  When can I , a 51-year-old man, have the luxury being seduced by a 15-year-old high school cheerleader and tell my wife it's the girl's fault?


    Again, of the commenters who have argued in this manner, I know none that are parents.  Some of the commenters are anonymous, but of those I know, none are parents.

    ***

    But getting back to my lunch with Dave.

    He looked at me and asked simply, "Kevin, why do you think this is?  Why do so many Catholics believe this?"

    And the only answer I could come up with was this ...

    Dave, it's like racism.  When I was growing up, people used the "N word" all the time.  It was simply assumed (in white living rooms and dining rooms in Missouri, at least) that black people were inferior to whites.  They might be allowed a certain political equality, but it was, for example, very wrong of a white woman to date a black man. 
    Likewise, when my mother was in the work force, it was understood that if you were a secretary in a corporate environment, the middle-aged bosses would hit on you and say suggestive things to you.  Sometimes it was all in fun, but it was always a bit more than that.  And the casting couch - gay and straight - has been a mainstay of show business, and still is.
    Now we've come a long way regarding race relations in this country, but it was only twenty years ago, with the Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill hearings that any serious attention was focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, which until then was considered a "legal fiction".  (And before I'm called a liberal commie, I was utterly on Clarence Thomas' side in that debacle, as it appeared he was not guilty of the charges Hill brought against him at the hearings).  We used to think "sexual harassment" was no big deal; now we tend to realize that an employer has an unfair advantage over any employee, so that an employer's sexual advances are indeed a form of harassment - whether welcome or not - given the inequity of the relationship.
    But these things take a long time to change.  I suspect that the sex abuse scandal in the Church took hold not so much because priests were perverts and bishops were enablers (which they both were), but because the laity in the pews said, "Oh, kids bounce back from this sort of thing.  And Father gives great homilies.  This is blown all out of proportion.  And anyway, that boy or girl wanted it and probably seduced him.  He's under such stress, after all."  Add to that, hysteria ginned up over the Church-hating media and put in a pinch of folks like Fr. Z, who defends enabling bishops and refuses to allow comments that tell the truth, and you get what we've got - Catholics defending Child Abuse and Statutory Rape.

    Good Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all.