Tuesday, July 05, 2016

On the idea that celibate clergy with no experience of marriage or sex are incompetent to advise laity on sexual morals

Joseph Selling of the Catholic University of Louvain composed and edited a document, entitled "Catholic Scholars' Statement on Marriage and the Family," in preparation for the Synods of 2014 and 2015. It offers a premier example of the now regnant conceits of self-styled 'progressive' dissenters in the Catholic Church.

Several ideas Prof. Selling is trying his hand at selling his audience are extracted for examination and analysed by David Mills in "While We're At It - Pt. XVIII" (First Things, February 2014): 
• “The vast majority of official teaching of the church on marriage and the family has been prepared and promulgated by men who have no direct, personal experience of married life in the contemporary world. They have made promises of celibacy which exclude any form of sexual relationship. As a result, relatively little of the teaching in this area clearly speaks to persons who are attempting to come to terms with their sexuality, to find and enter into meaningful relationships, and to prepare for a life of committed, mutual love that may involve the challenges of parenthood.”
So claims the Catholic Scholars’ Statement on Marriage and the Family issued by a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain and signed by a variety of dissenting Catholic theologians, though apparently none of the writer’s colleagues at Louvain, and good for them. About a third were listed as emeritus or retired. Sr. Jeannine Grammick and Georgetown’s Peter Phan appear.
Some priests and bishops may not convey the teaching very well, but the Church has the laity for that. If all old Fr. Tortellini can do is recite the rules, Mr. and Mrs. Antonelli can explain how those rules work out for good in practice.
Of all people capable of rational analysis of sex and human sexuality, celibates are the most likely to examine the matter dispassionately and disinterestedly. The fact that they don’t have a dog in the fight (other than their concern for the lives and eternal destinies of their people) helps them see more clearly what’s what. But of course what the statement means by “clearly speaks” is not “explains the teaching in a way people can understand and live” but “says what we think it should say.”
• It’s a contentious claim, that celibates are the most likely to examine the matter dispassionately and disinterestedly, writes Anna Sutherland, until last May one of our junior fellows. “The fact that it’s so contentious exposes what seems to be a common but false assumption: that you can’t really understand a sin if you haven’t committed it yourself, when in fact sin has a blinding, not an enlightening, effect.”
We may be better able to relate to someone like St. Augustine who sinned and repented, she continues, “but Jesus and the saints were more insightful, not less so, because of their holiness.” This we find hard to believe, so deeply have most of us ­absorbed the idea that experience brings ­knowledge.
 This recalls, as one reader writes, some Frank Sheed:
"Serving God does not give us the same kind of here-and-now pleasure that sin gives.  To eyes as little trained to reality as ours, there is a color and energy in sin, by comparison with which virtues look pallid and half-alive."
 Caveat emptor!

[Hat tip to JM]


Dad29 said...

Serendipity exists! Found this essay today, and pertinent to Sheed's "Serving God does not give us the same kind of here-and-now pleasure that sin gives. To eyes as little trained to reality as ours, there is a color and energy in sin, by comparison with which virtues look pallid and half-alive."...

we have this:

...The philosopher Marcello Veneziani says it very well: “The trouble is that beauty just is, while ugliness advances, moves, speaks, acts. Beauty is inert, passive, defenseless, while ugliness advances, infiltrates, agitates. Beauty is a legacy, a lineage, sometimes a ruin, in any case declined toward the past or lost in antiquity; while ugliness is a language, a mode of doing, of understanding and of willing, between the technique and the administration. This is our economical and metaphysical, aesthetic and social, urbanistic and literary tragedy. The beautiful attains the sphere of being, but not that of the eternal and immutable. The ugly, on the other hand, attains the sphere of doing and of becoming, and is viral, expansive, progressive”...

Read the rest here: http://uk.paix-liturgique.org/aff_lettre.asp?LET_N_ID=2470&force=1

Pertinacious Papist said...

Thanks for the tip, Dad29 !!

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church has lay men and lay women who can speak from personal experience, but the hierarchy and, honestly, the vast majority of CINO ignore truth and find it offensive.

Hence, we have been blessed with Jorge.

Hopefully, it gets much worse because even this disgrace of animated hydrocarbons is not enough to scare CINO's straight; or at least celibate, solitary and faithful, much less repentant and seeking forgiveness.


bill bannon said...

The problem is that such liberals actually have a case but don't bother to research the historcal problem of saints being incorrect. In the early centuries the chief quotes I see on the internet by saints espouse a position that Rome now rejects...ie that sex is only...only for procreation. Were that true, NFP would not be allowed and its Vatican acceptance began in 1852. Next was the Augustine/ Aquinas error of it being venial sin to ask for the debt without willing procreation. Again ths is rejected in the acceptance of e.g. NFP.
1st period

St. Clement of Alexandria (2nd-3rd century): ” To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature” ” The Instructor of Children” 2:10:95:3.
Lactantius (3rd-4th century): ” the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring” (Divine Institutes, 6:23:18).
St. Jerome (4th-5th century): ” Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]).
St. Epiphanius (4th-5th century) voices the Stoic view also: ” There are those who when they have intercourse deliberately prevent having children. They indulge in pleasure not for the sake of offspring but to satisfy their passion.” (Adversus Haereses Panarium, PG 41, 339). Either procreation or passion is a binary refuted by Humanae Vitae.

Where did they get this idea? It seems from a first century Stoic...
" Men who are not wantons or immoral are bound to consider
sexual intercourse justified only when it occurs in marriage and is
indulged in for the purpose of begetting children, since that is
lawful, but unjust and unlawful when it is mere pleasure-seeking, even
in marriage."
'Musonius Rufus "The Roman Socrates"' by Cora Lutz
Discourse XII: "On Sexual Indulgence" 1st century

2nd period

Augustine. On Marriage and Concupiscence
Chapter 16 [XIV.]— A Certain Degree of Intemperance is to Be Tolerated in the Case of Married Persons; The Use of Matrimony for the Mere Pleasure of Lust is Not Without Sin, But Because of the Nuptial Relation the Sin is Venial.
....To escape this evil, even such embraces of husband and wife as have not procreation for their object, but serve an overbearing concupiscence, are permitted, so far as to be within range of forgiveness….
Aquinas. Summa T. Supplement question 49 art.5 Reply to Objection 2.
“If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins.”

Aquinas. Supplement question 49, art.6, on the contrary…
“If, however, he seek pleasure within the bounds of marriage, so that it would not be sought in another than his wife, it is a venial sin.”

Supplement...question 49 art 5 “I answer that”:
“Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt, otherwise it is always at least a venial sin.”

Again these two sants are refuted by Rome's documents on e.g. NFP and related means.

So yes...celibates were off the track for centuries....but Rome correcting them was also largely celibates though Dietrich von Hildebrand played a part.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Bill, you make some good points about the historical views of Catholic saints differing in substance from some views being entertained today. That may not be the same thing, however, as having shown that the earlier saints were always 'erroneous.'

Certainly St. Augustine's distortedly negative view of sex was colored by his own experience of temptations and vices, as well as his pre-Christian indulgence in Plato's writings, which regard the body as the source of all evils, it seems (as in Plato's Phaedo). But he later retracted some of his views; and even where he didn't, this can hardly be taken as normative for the views of historical saints.

In fact, the shoe could be on the other foot. The very term NFP (Natural Family Planning) suggests the erroneous idea that NFP is simply a 'natural' alternative to 'artificial' birth control for Catholics. This is far from the truth. What would more accurately be called "periodic continence" is a practice that ought to be taken up by Catholics only where there are grave reasons for spacing children, not as a ready-made substitute form of birth control that can be implemented as a regular means for preventing conception. The 'contraceptive mindset' is what is sinful in any form of birth control, whether it is artificial or natural.

Furthermore, the recognition that sexual intercourse has other ends besides procreation, most of which can be summed up under terms like 'bonding' and 'intimacy,' does not mean that even today procreation is not the primary end of sexual intercourse. Simple understanding of anatomical function shows us that.

Hence, I would be no less reluctant to say that erstwhile saints have consistently erred in these matters as to suggest that contemporary Catholics who have used JP2's 'Theology of the Body' as a means of reinforcing a more positive, contemporaneous view of sex have 'corrected' distortions of the past. If anything, I think the evidence of recent history shows that many modern Catholics have severely underestimated the temptations and dangers involved in a recreational view of sex.

In any event, I don't think any of the discussion I've seen so far refutes the idea that a sexually continent person (or a chaste celibate) lacks the expertise or authority to advise the married and non-consecrated faithful on matters of sex and marriage. To suggest otherwise would be to insist that God had no business forbidding Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit of sin, since He Himself never has had any personal experience of having sinned.

bill bannon said...

Find the source of your word " grave" in "grave reasons for spacing". I believe it's the address to the midwives by Pius XII under the heading " Birth Control"
" The reason is that marriage obliges the partners to a state of life, which even as it confers certain rights so it also imposes the accomplishment of a positive work concerning the state itself. In such a case, the general principle may be applied that a positive action may be omitted if grave motives, independent of the good will of those who are obliged to perform it, show that its performance is inopportune, or prove that it may not be claimed with equal right by the petitioner—in this case, mankind."
But in a higher venue document..HV...Pope Paul VI writes in a less scarey manner:
" With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time."

Grave reasons in the address...serious reasons in the encyclcal.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for writing. I agree there's a difference between the tenor of the statements by Pius XII and Paul VI.

My own view of the matter would be much like my view of liberal assumption of "invincible ignorance" in the case of those who die outside the Church or even outside the Christian Faith. How helpful is the emphasis on this notion that we really don't have much to fear if someone goes into eternity outside of the Church and without having been evangelized? John Lamont wrote a piece saying that one of the failings of Vatican II is having neglected to offer a clear rationale for evangelization and the mission of the Church. In other words, there was no clear and consistent witness to the reality of hell and damnation; and today we have a complete collapse of Catholic missions throughout the world. One finds pockets of Catholics here and there who will share the Gospel and necessity of submission to Holy Mother Church as conditions for salvation, but the exception proves the rule. Where is our compassion for the lost if we don't warn the lost of their fate and offer them the bread of life, the way of salvation, Christ and the Church?

How does this relate to contraception? Simply that the default position of married sexual intercourse should be openness to new life. Any sort of 'contraceptive mentality' is anathema for Catholics, even if in principle there may be 'grave' or 'serious' reasons for periodic abstention. But the shoe should be on the other foot: what would be those reasons why Catholics should permit themselves in good conscience from abstaining from sex for the sake of avoiding procreation? There may be some good reasons; but what are they? And how common are they? And nobody should be so thick as to suggest that being too poor is a sufficiently 'grave' or 'serious' reason to avoid procreation. Look at the Holy Family!

Thanks again for your interesting observations.

Anonymous said...

St Augustine teaches that procreation is the goal of marriage but that mutual fidelity is its essence, and that this essence is better exemplified in sexless marriage such that of St Joseph and the BVM.

bill bannon said...

The Holy Family had one child and adopted none or Christ would not have consigned Mary to John as her new son in old age. The Hutterites and Amish average the number of children that you are thinking of but they have actual not imaginary community and their farm work rarely has the danger of cooperation in sin. Catholic nurses and public school teachers and lawyers in the modern world for example have to worry about being pressured into cooperation in sin situations and that makes having large families and multiple education bills an actual contributor toward a near occasion of sin...caving in on morals to keep one's job. Ditto for all sales jobs....from cars to medical sales.
St. Joseph like the Amish had a job that was not fraught with temptations and had an education bill for Christ that was not the price of a home. Catholicism has never begun a realistic discussion of this area to include the reality of cooperation in sin problems. The Popes do know that a couple with one child with severe autism will owe therapy bills til death unlike St. Joseph.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Hello Bill,

What are you saying? These matters are discussed FREQUENTLY and in detail by Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Mark Latkovic in their classes in theological ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. There are books on these issues. It's not as if people in our modern world were the first to have autistic or Down Syndrom or children with other handicaps. The difference is that they had fewer resources of medical help than we do today. And nothing like the safety net of Social Services if one were destitute.

I'm not sure what your point is about temptations. My parents retired in an area in close proximity to one of the larger U.S. Amish communities, and they heard tell (actually there were books published by ex-Amish) about the sorts of temptations and sins they witnessed in the Amish community. The near occasions of sexual temptation may not have been as overt, but there are plenty of other kinds of sin found in the Amish community. Same in St. Joseph's time. Wherever there are human beings, there is the possibility of sin and its temptations.

But I'm still not sure what your point is. I had a colleague in NC who was a lapsed Jesuit, married, who claimed that Church teaching on contraception was based on the needs of an agrarian society for farm hands. It's a reasonable inference if you buy into Durkheimian functionalism, where you reject the 'manifest' meaning of what the Church teaches in favor of some 'latent', 'hidden' REAL meaning, which is a function of its social matrix. I don't buy any of that. Not for a single moment. But I doubt THAT'S what you're suggesting.

bill bannon said...

I'm saying once Pope Paul VI ( whose HV was introduced by Msgr. Lambrushini twice as non infallible but binding at the Press conference at the Vatican) and his successor St.JPII saw that 96% of Catholics were not obeying Humanae Vitae and two periti from Vatican II, Frs. Karl Rahner and Bernard Haring, were both urging Catholics to pray, study and seek counsel prior to dissenting but to dissent if need be after that process...and said periti were not censured by any Pope after Humanae Vitae and their dissent...in their writing. Then said Popes should have called another Ecumenical Council just on the sexual phenomenon as a totality...a Council which would look at each century's treatment of the issue. Janet Smith writing to 1% of 1% of 1% of 1.2 billion Catholics is not a discussion. It's a person writing with a relatively tiny audience who discuss nothing to her in return for reading. Lol....we just had a Synod that spent more time trying to get remarrieds back to Communion than the magisterium spent meeting on a 96% non compliance rate on HV.. The Catholic Church is the true Church but it is administrated like a company headed for backruptcy. And that is because all recent Popes liked turning the papacy into a retirement vocation of writer in residence...and if each did 5 hours of tough administration a week, I'd faint but they should have been doing 8 hours a day tough admin work but none of them did so. Go to the Newman Society site and learn about all that your favorite Popes made possible by not doing admin work worldwide when Bishops failed....8 lavender gradations in Catholic colleges this year, 90% of Catholic colleges with inter gender night dorm visits...while Benedict wrote about the saints every freaking day of the week...large percent of " hook ups" in Catholic colleges while Popes author this and author that. It's an insane ostrich head in the book writing pattern. Every freakin Pope now is an author instead of making hard decisions on the phone to college heads,,,shape up or ship out. But no....Peter is an author now....if the Bishops don't close offending colleges...then normally in real life, it's the ruler's job to trim their sails. Not with us. The Popes are authoring...admin work is terribly hard by comparison.

Pertinacious Papist said...


LOL, yes, I have to laugh with you about the recent Synod's priorities in light of the specified issue. No kidding.

Also agree on the problem of the lavender mafia and the havoc it's wrought in the Church over the years.

Not sure, however, about the importance of having discussions about this or that. Nearly every ecumenical council, by my reckoning, was called to address a major heresy and protect the faithful from it. I'm still not sure why Vatican II was called or why it was necessary, although everyone seems sure it was the greatest council ever. In fact it seems to serve more as a Rorschach blot for people who wish to read into it their own desires.

That's the trouble I see with 'discussions' like that of the recent Synod, or Paul VI's Commission called to study the issue of contraception, or any proposal that we 'discuss' the possibility of married clergy or women priestesses, or same-sex cohabitation, or whatever.

The problem isn't that Church teaching is unclear. The resources are there to call to witness teachings from the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church all the way back through the Angelic Doctor to Scripture itself. The problem is that people find it hard to obey and therefore try to either get Holy Mother Church to bend her teaching or bail out.

What was it Chesterton said? "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

Cheers, PP

bill bannon said...