October 24, 2013 § 23 Comments
In a recent discussion it struck me how pervasive the ‘special snowflake’ phenomenon is in the post-protestant West. For anyone unfamiliar, the term “special snowflake” refers to the human tendency to view one’s own self as somehow uniquely positioned to … well, to whatever happens to be the subject matter: win the hunky handyman millionaire that God intended her to have, emancipate sodomites as a basic existential category of humanity, pronounce on what the book of Revelation really really means for ecclesiology — the list of subjects is as long as the list of possible subjects. It involves seeing the rest of humanity in the present and throughout history as benighted and ignorant and unspecial, whereas our special snowflake occupies a unique place at the center of the universe.
In the particular discussion a man was claiming that Scripture sanctions polygyny: that despite thousands of years of contrary Christian tradition and praxis, this special snowflake of a man was able to see what the Scriptures really mean. “Right here right now, watching the world wake up from history”, sang Jesus Jones in the now ironically anachronistic 1980’s. This now is the age of Progress, of Revolution, of universal freedom and equality, of immanentized eschaton: the age in which the priesthood of all believers takes off its mask and reveals itself as the priesthood of special snowflakes.
October 23, 2013 § 12 Comments
The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children. It must be social, economic, physiological: – physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family.
This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.
October 22, 2013 § 36 Comments
Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children. Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith.
October 21, 2013 § 29 Comments
Intrinsically immoral acts take place when an acting subject deliberately chooses an objectively immoral kind of behaviour. Behaviours are objective, and many can be observed by a third party.
To a third party observer an objectively immoral action can be the result of a defect of the acting subject’s knowledge, or it can be the result of a defect in his will. It is a moral evil when the defect resides in his will.
Consider a married man who sleeps with a woman who is not his wife.
Suppose he suffers from a defect of knowledge: that is, he really thinks that she is his wife. In this case he is not guilty of moral evil. But he has still chosen an objectively evil action: he made a mistake. Legitimate mistakes are always accompanied by regret upon their discovery and never take on the status of a morally good act. They at best remain, in the words of the Catholic magisterium, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. It is not a sin strictly speaking but it is still accompanied by regret and remorse.
If the man does know that the woman he is sleeping with is not his wife, then his choice of action suffers from a defect of will not of knowledge: his choice of action is sinful.
In order to know if the choice of an objectively immoral action is deliberate, we have to place ourselves into the perspective of the acting subject. Otherwise we can’t tell if the action was the result of a defect of knowledge or a defect of will.
But we can still categorize adultery as an objectively immoral behaviour, which no person can deliberately choose in full knowledge without committing moral wrong.
October 20, 2013 § 19 Comments
A lot of our Christian separated brethren over the years have expressed a fear of becoming Catholic not because of any development of doctrine the successors of the Apostles have actually taught and affirmed over the last two thousand years[*]; but because of what they fear the Church might teach and affirm in the future.
Isn’t that a lot like a daughter refusing to obey her father because she fears he might become abusive?
[*] Once our particular Protestant friend has become familiar with what the Church actually does and does not teach, and with what authority. This of course does not encompass all Protestants, many of whom actually do reject Catholic doctrines with a clear understanding of the doctrines they reject.
October 18, 2013 § 27 Comments
I was musing on Pope Benedict’s resignation recently and had a few “what if I was in his shoes” thoughts. They are worth what you paid for them, but I thought I’d blog them anyway because, well, why not?
The first thing to understand is that the conclave that elects the Pope doesn’t have the capacity to confer super powers on the new Pope. Popes put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. Infallible proclamations are extraordinarily rare, and even invocations of fallible magisterial authority on matters of doctrine are not all that common. Denzinger isn’t the fattest book on my bookshelf, and it covers magisterial documents over the entire history of the Church over a huge range of topics.
My impression of Benedict is that his primary concern, above all others, was liturgical reform and in particular reconciliation with the SSPX. For those who don’t know, the SSPX is a traditionalist group which broke off from the Church over the changes to the Mass that happened in 1969. Benedict was, clearly, very sympathetic to their concerns.
However, in the end, the SSPX refused to re-enter into full communion with the Church. They got a Pope who was willing to work with them, but they ultimately just couldn’t bring themselves to submit to the authority of the Roman Pontiff — not even an extremely conciliatory Pontiff with deep sympathy for their cause. Too much time in the wilderness had taken its toll, and now the SSPX had become just a different kind of Protestant. I can only imagine how discouraging this was to Benedict, already an elderly and frail man with failing health.
So now we have a different kind of Pope. He is human too.
Salvation history tends to work that way. God is always offering us gifts we don’t deserve; and when we refuse there are consequences.
October 16, 2013 § 119 Comments
Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition.[…]One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.
The natural law tradition which Humanae Vitae sought to uphold was right in upholding the traditional principle that coitus should not be privated but wrong in its understanding of what constituted a privation. In asking men to conform to the laws of nature they were asking men to conform to the understanding of the laws of nature as understood in the medieval period, not the laws of nature as understood by modern science. The document has the remarkable distinction of being right in principle but wrong in application due to an error of fact.