Thursday, February 04, 2016

Fr. Perrone on the commodification of human beings in porn and abortion, as reflected in the McDonaldization of death

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, January 31, 2016):
Funeral customs are fast a-changing in our time. Speaking recently with a local funeral director, I was shocked to learn about the new thinking of how we bid adieux to the dead, viz. with increased indifference and quick dismissal. It’s so very inconvenient to have someone’s death interfere with whatever one happens to be busy about. The old obsequies of making visits to the funeral home to “pay one’s respects,” of comforting the mourners, of praying for the happy repose of the departed, of taking time off from other demanding necessities in order to perform these corporal works of mercy–all that is fast vanishing from American life. In its place, according to my funeral director friend, is something like this. No funeral home visitation; no flowers or Mass offerings; the quickview scan of the online bio of the deceased with its ready-at-hand link to register a brief word of sympathy; cremation for the corpse; and, often, no funeral service or requiem Mass. Moreover, the strictly forbidden retention of the deceased’s cremains or, worse, their scattering to the four winds, is becoming more prevalent. In short, we’re making rapid disposal of the dead, just as we had avoided contact with them as living persons in their last years of life, allowing them to rot in a nursing home or hospice facility. (Even that fate is now become accounted as fortunate since the administration of painkilling drugs in high doses can speed along the death processes so as to avoid all the inconveniences of what we had been accustomed to call one’s “final illness.”)  
What’s caused these new customs, these new ways of thinking about the dead and the process of dying? For one thing, we’re all on life’s fast track. We have now no time to be bothered by the death (or even the life) of anybody else when we’re so busy getting done whatever we must do–or even–whatever we think advantageous to ourselves–even our own pleasures and idle leisure. And what’s behind that selfish preoccupation? A number of things. The indoctrination of Selfism has long been forming our attitudes, succeeded to convince us that only the Great I am worthy of myself, my time, my deeds; only my goals are important; only what I want–morally good or bad–is what I must have; and whatever may interfere with these ‘goals’–God and religion included–must be set aside. And how did we arrive at this?  
Among the contributing causes to this attitude and way of living is the ever increasing use of porn which reduces the human person to so many body parts for exploitation and titillation of the senses. The fact that the “models” who so shamelessly expose themselves for public viewing are real people with minds and consciences, with souls that have human feelings–these facts have been put out of mind with porn use. Other people are toys. They can be bought, used, abused and are disposable. This contributes to estimate that the bodies of the deceased are as so much useless trash. 

Another thing that has shaped our thinking about the body is our relative unconcern over the hideousness of crushing and dismembering babies in the womb. Killing babies or–worse yet–selling its surviving parts as ‘spares’ for the living or as ingredients for cosmetics–is regarded as a social good. But it’s an old heresy which regards the human body this way where it was said that only a person’s spirit, (soul) counts. The body is unimportant. This specious premise, which at first glance may seem an ascetical, spiritual perspective, is in fact a way of so denigrating the body as to make utilitarian use of it without a care to any moral considerations of it or even to consider the meaning of the human person as a unity, a totality, of spirit and body.  
Our world is changing fast, and with it our thinking about who (or what) we are. Necessarily we will think about God and the Catholic faith differently (and not for the better). We are transhumanizing, becoming something else. Monsters, I would say, caricatures of what we were made to be–the image of God–and of what we were privileged to become as Christians–children of God and Christs-in-miniature.  While we may not be able at large to stop these horrible denigrating ways of inhumanity, we can retain the consciousness of our human dignity and our Christian vocation to holiness and refuse to go with the flow. Keeping ourselves unsullied by all the filth this fallen world offers and by the devout practice of the Catholic life is a goal within the reach of all of us. 
Fr. Perrone


Sandpiper said...

Thank you for this beautiful essay. I refused to go to a scattering of a Catholic family member's ashes in a park where dogs defacate. The deceased herself wanted a scattering. I tried to explain the proscription but she wouldn't hear of it. I did all in my power to have the ashes buried.

Clear Waters said...

Certainly along with our lack of respect for the living which is endemic to Modernity, we often overlook the even more profound lack of respect for the dead. Signs of the end of the cycle, most certainly.

Unknown said...

Well said. The rapid and efficient disposal of what is euphemistically labeled “remains” is, in our contemporary fast action environment, a logical culmination of, or latest variation on, our non-believers determination to deny death. As Fr. Perrone wrote last year, no one dies, we are told that they”passed.” Read Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, 1948. Visiting from England, Waugh saw how the wealthy residents of southern California were grooming their “loved ones” for burial prior to having them presented not in coffins but “doing” their favorite activities. So one lady was viewed making her leave-taking holding a telephone. A commonly accepted option was being viewed while “relaxing” in a chaise-lounge. A sub-plot delineating similar elaborate and expensive disposing of animals at a nearby pet cemetery highlighted the foolishness of contemporary non-believers. Waugh's firm Catholicism and his vicious sense of humor made the story one of the best Catholic novels of the 20th century.

Pertinacious Papist said...

The product of Waugh's visit to California, The Loved One, is amazing irony indeed -- a brilliant commentary on the original Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Appreciate the comment!