Thursday, February 05, 2004

From Our "Sticking Your Nose Where It Doesn't Belong" Department

I see that And Then is replying to El Camino Real's invitations to worry about the theology of the body. It looks like fun. I think I'll stick my neo-Catholic nose into it . . . El Camino Real's words in blue, mine in black.

In reply to the question, "Does the theology of the body consider the unitive aspect of marriage to be equal or superior to the procreative?", Michelle states that "the procreative aspect of marriage has never been separated from the unitive aspect of marriage." That isn't helpful. No one mentioned a separation of ends . . . .

But I think a separation is implied whenever it's said that one end of marriage has a quality or degree thereof which isn't continually and necessarily involved with another end of marriage. The extent to which one end is thought of as "primary," for example, when "primary" is also thought to express the possession of something not common to the other ends of marriage, would be the extent of the postulated difference. To the extent such an interpretation of "primary" postulates that difference, it is unavoidably implied that the ends of marriage are independent.

but only the perennial teaching of the Church with respect to priorities. According to the 1917 code of Canon Law:
Canon 1013.1 The primary end of marriage is the procreation and nurture of children; its secondary end is mutual help and the remedying of concupiscence.
Likewise, Casti Connubii:
Since, however, We have spoken fully elsewhere on the Christian education of youth, let Us sum it all up by quoting once more the words of St. Augustine: "As regards the offspring it is provided that they should be begotten lovingly and educated religiously," - and this is also expressed succinctly in the Code of Canon Law - "The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children."
I grant that the perennial teaching of the Church uses the word "primary" to refer to the purpose of procreation and nurturing of children. I deny that the Church intends the word to signify the separability of marriage's ends in the way necessarily envisioned by El Camino Real's concern about upholding a "primary" end of marriage in such a way that it can overrule "secondary" ends. I don't think pre-Vatican II Church teaching allows that a married couple can, by following Church teaching about the unitive end of their marriage, somehow contravene Church teaching about their marriage's procreative purpose. I don't think the theology of the body says that, either. What I see, rather, is the theology of the body being subjected to criticism which in itself envisions the ends of marriage as being separable and independent, thereby allowing for a conflict of ends, and then (wrongly) holding the theology of the body responsible for that conflict.

According to some sources, the priorities of marriage were declared de fide by the Holy Office in 1944:
To the question: "Whether the views of certain recent writers can be admitted, who either deny that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children, or teach that the secondary ends are not necessarily subordinate to the primary end, but are equally principal and independent" the reply was: "In the negative" (Quoted in Bouscaren & Ellis, Canon Law, p.400).
I have to find it just a little fun that the "source" referred to here isn't the Holy Office, but the Angelus, a publication of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X. The Society's attitude toward the Holy Office, like its attitude toward the magisterium and papacy in general is, shall we say, a little unstable. For example, the weight given this 1944 statement's ability to rebuke the "theology of the body" probably isn't matched by the weight the Society gives to the Holy Office's 1949 rebuke of Fr. Feeney's "theology of baptism." Consequently I'm not prepared to accept the Society's glossy as a source that can inform me about what is, or is not, de fide.

That's particularly the case when the Holy Office as quoted declares that the purpose of procreation always and inseparably involves all the other purposes of marriage, thus contradicting the interpretation of "primary" which underlies El Camino Real's worrying about the theology of the body. What the Holy Office did in 1944 is rebuff the view that the purposes of marriage are independent and can conflict with each other. In order to say that "secondary end X" of marriage can be pursued so as to conflict with the procreative purpose of marriage, one must in the first place to envision "secondary end X" as possessing something which doesn't operate within the procreative purpose of marriage. In other words, one has to accept the independence of the ends of marriage that underlies El Camino Real's intepretation of the word "primary" before one can start imagining situations in which one end must be called on to nullify or overrule the others.

How, then, might the new theology give the impression that the ends of marriage are reversed in priority?

I must quarrel with the unfortunate terminology used here. I'm not interested in the "impressions" that may or may not be held by people who are already invested in their own agendas. There are people (not Jeff Culbreath of El Camino Real) whose agenda demands an increasingly "deviant" magisterium. There are people whose agenda demands an increasingly "enlightened" magisterium. They come from every walk of life, every politico-theological orientation, and they all have one thing in common. They expect the Church to grant their own wishes for Catholicism; they all naturally think they wish only for what is right; and so they all show up with rhetorical ice hatchets to whittle a coherent block of teaching down into an elegant and conservative swan, a jumping and liberal trout, or whatever other shape would best serve as a centerpiece for the occasion.

They have one other thing in common. Each of them pays tribute to the absolute authority of the magisterium. This tribute may be motivated by a sincere belief, or by the political need to acknowledge a magisterial presence even as one deviates from its particular teachings. The degree to which cynicism or charity may be appropriate isn't my concern here. My aim is to point out that in each case a license is granted to ignore or transgress the teachings of the Church via the idea of hypnotism. The teaching of the magisterium, which is properly thought of as a living dialogue between the Bridegroom and the Bride, is instead objectified into a dead object, a totem, a shiny pendulum whose mysterious properties somehow provoke heterodoxy in anyone who stares at them for very long. Thus we end up with frightful talk about heterodox "impressions" and sinful "suggestions" which immediately invites us to ignore the pendulum that, it is conveniently claimed, has nothing to do with the magisterium since the magisterium obviously doesn't intend its teaching to serve such a malignant function.

The Dossier recently commented on some Chicago priests' villification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's ruling out the idea of gay marriage. One sees the same "hypnotic" language in their statement: "We respect the teaching authority of the Church. Because of this, we find particularly troubling the increase in the use of violent and abusive language directed at any human person." It's not the magisterium they're quarreling with, you see, they have no problems with the teaching authority of the Church. No, they're only complaining about an inauthentic "toxic pendulum" which will hypnotically provoke the faithful into violating the perennial teaching of the Church by holding anti-homosexual pogroms: "Examples from the most recent Vatican document show all too clearly the demonization of these children of God . . . Does anyone consider this vile and toxic language invitational?" The Chicago priests aren't writing in favor of heterodoxy, quite the contrary: They're up in arms about the "hypnotic impression" that will be created by the CDF's vile, toxic, and homophobic pendulum.

One of the first reasons these priests are wrong in their approach is that the orthodoxy of the Church is not to be guaged by the subjective experience that happens when a "thing one hasn't thought of" suddenly appears in what had been a comfortably-familiar theological map. No one ought to view Evangelium Vitae according to the "suggestions" Antonin Scalia found in it, and no one ought to view Humanae Vitae in light of the "suggestions" Olympia Snow or John Kerry find in it. If one were to do so, one would only hear Antonin Scalia tell us about his mental lapse in thinking that Evangelium Vitae "suggests" executing criminals is always wrong. One would only hear Olympia Snowe or John Kerry tell us about the embolisms which kept them from realizing that Humanae Vitae doesn't just address the confessional discipline of Catholics but also describes the moral fact of unborn human life. We're dealing with the magisterium, folks, we don't have the luxury of being that sloppy:
"Neither by Augustus, nor by all the clergy, nor by religious, nor by the people will the judge be judged . . . . The first seat will not be judged by anyone."
-- Pope St. Nicholas I, Epistle Proposueramus quidem to Michael the Emperor, 865 A.D. Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, trans., Roy J. Deferrari and published as Sources of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1955), Paragraphs 330-333, pp. 132-134.
If the magisterium says something "counterintuitive," it's us who need to stop being "counter" and "intuitive." We ought to refrain from dark muttering about contrary appearances and heterodox suggestions. If we simply must look for heterodoxy under every rock, then when the magisterium says something disagreeable we ought to be more ready to start looking into ourselves rather than into the magisterium. Truly heterodox suggestions may indeed be present, but they always end up being our own and not the magisterium's. The alternative approach is not orthodoxy, but schism.

Hence my lament over El Camino Real terminology, becuase it's the same terminology used by people who want to begin by comparing what the magisterium says to what we "rightly" expect the magisterium to say. That approach only works if we posit ourselves as perfect knowers of Catholic theology in the first place, rather than men who suffer from the Fall's consequences in our minds and hearts even after baptism and confession has rescued us from the clutches of its guilty depravity. Familiarity with "perennial Catholic theology" is not enough; sedevacantists are familiar with it, and they still end up saying that the Pope's not Christian. The Society of St. Pius X's familiar with it, and the Society's members have still ended up saying they're not under an obligation to obey the Pope. We think of Catholic theology, as a whole, as though it were a progressive movement toward increasing orthodoxy in understanding and expressing the Gospel. We're right to think of it that way. But we go amiss when we leave our own living interaction with the magisterium unexamined, and begin evaluating the Church's teaching as though the point of exemplified perfection has already been reached, or as though it were men and not God who actually direct that upward movement.

The statements of the magisterium are to be evaluated positively within a sincere attempt to uphold and affirm their orthodoxy. In this attempt, we are to focus primarily on the statements of the magisterium taken as honestly and favorably as we can possibly see them. We can't do that if we evaluate the magisterium on the theory that what it says is irrelevant, and that the "hypnotic effect" of its teaching exemplified in the writings and doings of Catholics is the only sure way to determine the meaning of Catholicism. Not only does that stand Christ's hierarchical constitution for the Church on its head in a sort of bizarre populist twist (we find out what our superiors have said by asking one another what they meant to say), but it also suffers from the same flaw noted above -- if Antonin Scalia, Olympia Snowe, and ourselves can't be posited as perfect knowers of Catholicism, then neither can all the other demographically-categorized Catholics be posited as perfect knowers. Consequently I'm never interested in judging Church teaching by whatever "impressions" or "suggestions" people might want to note existing among some, most, or even all, Catholics. I don't judge the cult of the saints by the presence of Santeria; I won't judge the Church's theology about Isarel and Judaism by the words and actions of Catholic Nazis; and I won't judge the theology of the body by whatever heterodox "impressions" it may end up generating among the unlearned and unstable. I shall let the Protestants do that. They, at least, can get something useful out of the approach.

I think it does so by exalting the body, which is more closely associated with the unitive end of marriage. . . .

I'm not sure how I can reasonably agree with El Camino Real that the body is somehow less associated with the procreative end of marriage than with the unitive purpose of marriage. My experience has always been that those things happen simultaneously. I realize that not every marriage is the same, but still I don't think El Camino Real has given me cause to hesitate before eating another cabbage . . . :))

Seriously, however, I see the truth of El Camino Real's surmise. It is that many misled people, thier minds having been subdued by modern culture, think of the body's role only in terms of "unitive" activity and don't think much at all about the fast and sure connection God has created between that and children. I think we could even venture to say that such people, when they are Catholics, are doing exactly what I described above, joining Radical Traditionalists and the John Kerry crowd in their project of filtering the Church's statements through what they want to hear rather than forcing themselves to want to hear what the Church has to say. But in any event, any "exalting" going on in this miseducation can be blamed on many things, but not on the Church's theology per se.

. . . . to an unprecedented and preposterous degree.

Again I refer to what I said above. God is always doing things which are, depending on one's favored standpoint, "unprecedented." The Pharisees were made aware of that fact, and also the Jews being marched off to Babylon. Better, I think, to say that we often make ourselves preposterous by our selection of precedents. Certainly the Pharisees, the men who ignored Jeremiah, and Marcel Lefebvre ended up in that position.

Consider the following from Christopher West:
This is to say that everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become "one body" in marriage ...

The Holy Father challenges us to see that the human body possesses a "language" which enables it to proclaim and make present the eternal plan and mystery of God ...

Let's pause just for a moment to drink in what the Pope is saying here. If we live according to the truth of our sexuality, we discover and fulfill the very reason for our existence (Who's looking for the meaning of life? Well, here it is!) This is so because, as the Second Vatican Council taught, "man can only find himself by making a sincere gift of himself" (Gaudium et Spes n. 24). It is precisely in and through our bodies, in and through our sexuality, that we realize we are called to make this sincere gift of self. Thus, John Paul can say, "we are convinced of the fact that the awareness of the [nuptial] meaning of the body is the fundamental element of human existence in the world" (General Audience 1/16/80).

The Holy Father challenges us to see that the human body possesses a "language" which enables it to proclaim and make present the eternal plan and mystery of God ...

Again, we must pause to take this in. Our Holy Father is saying that the truth of our sexuality is the most basic, essential element of our existence in the world. Could our sexuality possibly be any more important than this?
OK. Thanks for providing the link to the whole article. (You'll have to go to El Camino Real for that. And you should anyway, El Camino Real is good reading).

The most charitable spin is that the above statements are either reckless hyperbole or academic gibberish. The alternative is to take them at face value, in which case they are obviously false and heretical.

Now this is where adjectives in addition to explanation might be well received. Instead we just have the adjectives, so I ask for patience if I haven't picked up on the "obviousness" of it. St. Thomas tells us that the soul is the form of the body, and the Church tells us that God doesn't change His mind, but instead wills us into being from eternity. It could be said, then, that God has willed men and women into existence in their very souls, from all eternity. He does this for many glorious reasons, and most of them touch on our sexuality. A priest, for example, in the Order of Melchizedek was created a man so that he might be the proper matter for the sacrament of orders. A woman, for example, was created as such so that she might be the proper matter for the sacrament of marriage or a person fit to take solemn vows. In both cases, the vocation depends on the sexuality given to the person. God Himself became flesh as a man, with a man's sexuality. He was born of a woman, the Great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, who has a woman's sexuality.

To quote Mr. West, "Could our sexuality possibly be any more important than this?" I don't really see how. Nor can I really see in these thoughts anything that might fit MTV's agenda. To the contrary, this theology makes Christina Aquilera and Janet Jackson seem far more shabby and tragic than a simple recitation of the Commandments would do -- particularly before an audience trained from birth to ignore any commandment, but to be fascinated by visions of happiness. The commandments set forth the law transgressed; the theology of the body explains why in transgressing it these women are literally wasting their lives. To quote Christopher West, "Who's looking for the meaning of life? Well, here it is!"[1] Quite so.

To her credit, Michelle does seem to be admitting that the new theology has shifted the emphasis in marital priorities.

There are several ways to "shift an emphasis in priorities." Only one of them involves reordering them or setting them in opposition to one another. One can also "shift an emphasis in priorities" by, for example, bringing one's understanding of all the priorities up to a proper level in relationship with each other.

Are the reasons she gives legitimate? She says that the procreative aspect of marriage was emphasized in the past "almost but not quite to the point of excluding the unitive." This is news to anyone who has ever read the epistles of Saint Paul, or Saint John Chrysostom, or Arcanum Divinae, or Casti Connubii -- all decidedly pre-TOB sources that forcefully stress the unitive aspect of marriage while upholding the primary end.

I can sympathize with El Camino Real's discomfort about the "revolutionary" depiction that's sometimes given to the theology of the body -- the theology of the body doesn't involve throwing off the shackles of the past. At the same time, however, I have to wonder why it's automatically assumed that Scripture, the Church Fathers, and papal encyclicals written before the Second Vatican Council represent an antithetical theology. Seems to me that's as "revolutionary" an approach, inasmuch as it's also trying to throw off imaginary shackles.

But at the same time I think there's merit in what Michelle has to say. It's worth noting that the devil never intends to attack strength, he only attacks where he sees (rightly or wrongly) weakness. The modern assault on Christian sexual ethics was not launched against procreation. It was launched against the unitive aspect of marriage. The pro-death Protestant Churches, Margaret Sanger, the Supreme Court -- their language was largely directed at the happiness and "quality of life" issues which procreation raises for married parents. Roe did not emerge like Venus from the mind of William Brennan. It was the culmination of a long campaign whose first legal shots were fired by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

That case, decided eight years before Roe hit the bench, was the first time the Court referred to the "penumbral rights of privacy" which eventually ended up with the right to slaughter millions. These rights, said the Court, applied first and above all within marriage and prohibited the government from criminalizing contraception because, to the contrary, happiness within marriage demands the freedom to use birth control. "Marriage," wrote Mr. Justice Douglas, is the "coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects." The Court said this harmony ought not be subjected to laws against contraception, which would inflict "maximum destructive impact" on the happy unity married couples needed to express in their choices about sexual and reproductive matters.

I submit that Griswold's satanic reasoning can sound plausible only to people who've come to take the unitive aspect of marriage for granted. It isn't granted. It exists by dint of a lot of hard work, personal sacrifice, and continual openness to God's will. All of that has to be founded first and foremost on a celebration of and respect for God's will in creating the sexuality that's involved with marriage -- sexuality, BTW, conceived of as an entire expression of God's goodness in the whole being of one's person, and not as the ability to make the springs squeak. Arguing as though pregnancy alone (which is not by any stretch of the imagination always identical to God's will) is the be-all and end-all of marriage overlooks all that, because its sheer focus on progeny ends up ignoring the unitive health of the parents thereby allowing the devil to whisper sweetly about a counterfiet unity. That's not what the Church has ever said, but it's still there in any complaint that takes enthusiastic talk about God's call to beauty and holiness for married persons as though it was a "threat" to the occurrence of pregnancy.

Michelle claims that, unlike our spiritual ancestors, we no longer take the unitive aspect of marriage for granted and therefore need to have it "hammered into us". I would argue that the very opposite is the case -- that we moderns give very little consideration to the procreative end of marriage (as evidenced by our low birthrates), and that we give the unitive end of marriage a disproportionate emphasis and a burden that it cannot possibly support.

I'm not so sure about the invalidity of Michelle's point. I note that as Roe was preceded by Griswold, Griswold coincided with an enormous change in American divorce law. Prior to 1960, almost every state refused to allow divorce "on demand." There had to be some showing by evidence that one party had violated the marital "contract" by adultery, nonsupport, cruelty or abuse, etc. By 1970, virtually every state allowed "no fault" divorces in which a marriage can be ended, as it can be in my state, merely by declaring that "the marriage has deteriorated to such an extent that the parties can no longer live together as husband and wife." That's it -- no explanations, no proof required, no obligation to reform or amend, you just have to say it once in open court. In 1916, one of every nine American marriages ended in divorce.[2] Today, of course, it's one in two marriages, and we have "no fault murder" laws on top of that.

I submit again that the satanic attack was launched against the unitive aspect of marriage, not the procreative aspect of marriage, and that no-fault divorce laws can only be enacted by a society that has lost all conception of what a unitive purpose of marriage really requires. I agree that there is today much false praise of marriage, and a lot of hype about its miraculous wonder, in pagan mouths. It's the same sort of hygenic transferrence that has them enacting laws against smoking while allowing abortuaries to run 24/7. The theology of the body does not give that kind of false praise. It is instead a call to men and women to look at themselves in ways which make no-fault divorce laws look like what they are -- expressions of personal infantilism and moral cowardice.

They are expressions of infantilism and moral cowardice because, as Christopher West says in the article El Camino Real quotes: "Marriage is the intimate, exclusive, indissoluble communion of life and love entered by man and woman at the design of the Creator for the purpose of their own good and the procreation and education of children; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." If El Camino Real could explain how this is refuted (expressly or impliedly) by everything else Mr. West says, then I would better take the point. Instead, Mr. West's statement seems to be the reasonable conclusion of a theology which, like the theology of the body, says that the expression of sexuality by marriage is (like all sacraments) a human participation in the divine.

When the unitive end of marriage, distorted by pop romanticism and sentimentality and exciting new "theologies",

El Camino Real just said that it was fit and meet to "stress" the unitive aspect of marriage when St. Paul, St. John Chrysostom, and the Popes before Vatican II did it. False romanticism and sentimentality are not 20th-century inventions; people were inappropriately romanticizing and sentimentalizing amorous relationships before and after St. John Chrysostom's day. For proof I'd refer to Apuleius' Golden Ass, the story of Aeneas and Dido, the legend of Don Juan, the Decameron, Gone with the Wind . . . . By what rule, then, should we suddenly judge John Paul II's "stress" on the unitive end of marriage a distortion on par with the witless and infantile antics of Nick and Jess on the MTV show "Newlyweds"? This is a connection El Camino Real doesn't even attempt to make, so I won't let it pass as though it's been argued, let alone proved.

. . . . seems to be struggling or breaking down, moderns conclude that the marriage is a failure and do not persevere in the primary end of marriage (which, not surprisingly, often enhances the unitive component).

That's because they don't understand the unitive aspect of marriage any more than they do the procreative aspect of marriage. If we separate them, as El Camino Real does with its interpretation of the word "primary," we just add to their confusion by implicitly suggesting that a good marriage may not be a unitive marriage so long as it's a procreative marriage. Better, I think to say that a good marriage must be a unitive and a procreative marriage, because without one you can't have the other, and without both you're going to be as shallow and useless in this life as the Osbornes show themselves to be every week. That's what the theology of the body says, I think, and shall think so until El Camino Real gives me more than adjectives and a confusion between Church teaching and its misuse by people who are at liberty to misuse it.

[1] Originally this was mis-attributed to El Camino Real. Jeff corrected me on it, and I thank him for it.

[2] The Reader's Companion to American History: DIVORCE.

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