Recently, the Theology of the Body Institute conducted its first national congress, during which the triumphal march of the new chastity catechesis pressed forward–in spite of the fact that the movement’s avatar, Christopher West, was absent, presumably to reflect upon his method of presenting the Theology of the Body. Perhaps I was naïve, but I thought West’s sabbatical meant that his critics had made some headway. Such progress, unfortunately, did not seem to be reflected at the congress. Dr. Janet Smith, for example, stated the following:
The 1st thing we need to know is God is chasing us down like a lover. Every lover is a pathological stalker. God is a stalker.
Am I quoting out of context? I would like to know in what context the comparison of God to a pathological sexual deviant would be appropriate. Please note that the above statement was published as a tweet by the congress organizers themselves. So this is what they themselves decided to feed the public.
Shock Treatment on Rails
The continuing shock treatment approach to Theology of the Body continues the tradition instituted by Christopher West. Criticisms are persistently met with accusations of personal attack [this link has been updated, as the author, Christina King, changed the name of her post from “Witch Hunt Part 2” to “Theology of the Body Part 2”], the exigencies of popular catechesis and the evolutionary quality of West’s work. The flamboyant, embarrassing and irreverent presentation of the Holy Father’s work has become the sacred cow of this movement in the United States.
So what is Christopher West up to, if he is not in the process of modifying his presentation? Well, apparently he is preparing to speak again on September 11, which will be a premature end to his six-month sabbatical.
So, the Theology of the Body Institute, steaming forward undaunted by opposition:
TOB is a locomotive: Lead, Follow or Get out of the way!
Meriting particular caution is that locomotive force by the name of Fr. Thomas J. Loya, one of the premier speakers of the Theology of the Body International Alliance, an organization which was honored by the TOB Institute at the congress. I wish we could say that the following statements of Father Loya at the conference were just hyperbole, or were taken out of context—after all they were recorded on Twitter:
TOB is not a big idea. It is THE big idea
For the last 500 yrs, we’ve been looking through a veil of unreality.
We have not really seen what the world looks like through true Catholic vision. JPII took away the veil to help us see!
But no, these remarks were not taken out of context. On the contrary, this is classic Fr. Loya. I was just watching one of his videos in which he remarked:
You cannot escape the Theology of the Body. It is everywhere. It is the answer to all of life’s questions.
I guess there is no use trying to get out of the way of the TOB runaway train. But I will try anyway.
With Faces and Bodies Unveiled
So what are we supposed to see when we put on the indispensible TOB lenses provided by the Theology of the Body Institute? When we shed the “veil of unreality,” in the light of the “mystical text” of the Theology of the Body, what are we to see?
To answer this question we need look no further than Father Loya’s stunning website. And yes, I mean stunning. It is a real eye opener. But I do not recommend you look: us old-school types—you know, the one’s living behind the veil of unreality—would call it an occasion of sin. Anyone who happens upon Taborlife.org will get a whole memory full for their imagination to play with: a naked woman and a couple having intercourse (along with bizarre images of tattooed bodies, sacred images of Jesus and Mary, a woman with a crystal ball and another covered in mud). No, it is not hardcore pornography and Father Loya has designed his animated banner so the viewer only gets fleeting glimpses of images superimposed with text (for example: “naked without shame,” “sexuality,” “truth,” “mysticism,” “nudity,” “hate,” “womb tabernacle”). But I am not sure the speed at which the images appear and disappear mitigates the experience. It is rather creepy, actually: agitated, subliminal and looped to play over and over again.
Then there is Father Loya’s radio show, A Body of Truth. Several slices of the body, in particular, a woman’s breasts, become the focus of attention of several of his shows. One is entitled “Breasts,” in which the said body part is displayed in the web page’s thumbnail without the woman’s face. The other is called “Less is More,” which contains in the thumbnail the Hooter’s restaurant logo, which caricatures a woman’s breasts.
In his show on “breasts,” Father Loya announces a “Vatican” initiative to have the Blessed Virgin Mary represented anew by artists with exposed breasts, feeding the infant Jesus. This is a traditional image that was quite popular before the Council of Trent, which attempted to regulate liturgical images more strictly. Images of Maria Lactans (Mary Breastfeeding) were never forbidden, and have remained in use in many places in Europe. In fact, the modern church of Maria delle Grazie (1956) in San Giovianni Rotundo, which was built to accommodate all the penitents who came to see Padre Pio has a very large image of Our Lady with Our Lord reaching for her exposed breast.
Actually, the so-called “Vatican” initiative is really the inspiration of certain editorial writers for the L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican. Such opinion pieces do not represent the work of the dicasteries of the Holy See, nor are they any necessary indication of the will of the Holy Father.
What interests me in this regard is not the fact that these images are being defended in the Vatican newspaper. Rather it is the fact that their production is being proposed as a remedy for prudery and propaganda for breastfeeding. These purposes really have nothing to do with the goals of liturgical art.
In his show “Less is More,” Father Loya excoriates the Hooters restaurant chain for exploiting women by marketing their stores on the basis of men’s desire to gawk at women’s breasts. He makes it very clear that he totally disapproves of this exploitation.
A similar theme runs throughout both shows. It is not the exposition of naked breasts for all to see that concerns Father Loya, but the context and intentionality, or what he describes as “the sacramental world view.” He claims that we have a hang up, an obsession with women’s breasts because we have dissociated their beauty from their function. He suggests that the best cure for this obsession is for women to breastfeed in public. He actually believes this plan with clear up the whole problem men’s obsession with a woman’s breasts.
In the show on “breasts,” Father Loya suggests that the advent of science led man to devalue created things because they could be more easily manipulated and controlled. This undermined the sacramental worldview and cultivated in us an unhealthy dualism, which holds spiritual things to be good and physical things to be bad. In this context a woman’s breasts, allegedly, came to be looked upon as evil.
I find this analysis breathtaking. I would suggest Father Loya is creating a mythology to support what he misnames a “sacramental worldview,” which could be more properly described as a “magical worldview.” Does he really believe that the obsession of men with women’s bodies began in the 16th century?
What is totally overlooked in all this is the question of concupiscence and the wholesomeness of modesty. Of course, the body must be considered in the light of a sacramental worldview, and from the point of sexuality the sacrament that informs the worldview is Holy Matrimony. A man’s regard for his wife’s body is unique. Such regard is misplaced when men are encouraged to look any and all woman up and down and pretend it is a true sacramentalized perspective.
So Father Loya wants us to believe that reality is looking at naked people through the specs provided by the Theology of the Body Institute.
In a way, I suppose it is. Only in our age would a well-known Catholic speaker compare God to a pathological sexual deviant. Only in our age would the Catholic intelligentsia distinguish between pornography and “holy” preoccupation with the body with hair-splitting nuance (pornography vs. theo-graphy, according to West).
But apparently Father Loya is up for the task. The good father recently gave a conference at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago during which he used a slide presentation to help the attendees distinguish between good nudity and bad nudity. According to Catholic columnist Matthew C. Abbott, who was there, Father Loya displayed “nude models (who were shown in, er, strategic positions so as to not reveal everything),” as well as
“soft-porn” ads, i.e. Hooters ads and other provocative photos, where he described, by pointing to various spots on the photographs, why those were the “bad/suggestive images” as opposed to the “good/innocent images” of, say, nudity on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (E-mail, August 4, 2010, quoted with permission.).
In fact, Father Loya, who was an artist at one time and admits to having spent several hours everyday for several years looking at naked people while rendering the human figure in art, guarantees that when anyone who is “sincerely searching to perceive the limitless principles of beauty in the human body and is furthermore ‘co-creating,’” there is “no room for lust.”
A true freedom in the Spirit, a true, lasting and integrated purity of heart comes not from “looking away” from the human body. Rather it is in learning to look “at” the human body with the eyes of God, with the deep soul of true Catholicism and the sacramental worldview.
We must never, ever look at pornography. But since we are immersed in a pornified world and surrounded by various degrees of soft porn our only way out is to fight fire with fire. We have to learn to see through the lens of the theology of the body. In terms of some practical advice I suggest a three part technique that I call, “see–pray–and pass on.”
Father Loya has also recommended, in more practical terms, how to implement this magical “three part” technique, with particular emphasis on the “see” part:
“Alright Look at her!! That’s right, look at her!! Look at her butt, her breasts, but don’t stop there. Look at every aspect of her magnificent femininity! Take her in completely and say, “How many are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have made them all!” (Psalm 103).
Okay, ladies, are you now feeling uncomfortable riding the TOB train? Gentlemen, the chivalrous thing to do is to pull the emergency stop and then escort the ladies and yourselves off this ride to hell.
Both Alice Von Hildebrand and Dawn Eden have shown this approach to the question of concupiscence and modesty is foreign to Catholic tradition. In particular, Dawn Eden in her thesis shows how Christopher West and Father Loya have cloaked their own imaginative approach to modesty with the authority of John Paul II.
In order to explain himself, Father Loya, makes an appeal to mysticism, an appeal which is more mystifying than it is enlightening. Father Loya claims that the Theology of the Body is “John Paul II reaching into the mystical foundation of reality.” Father Loya claims that mystical “means the most real.”
It means seeing things as they truly are as greater than the some of there parts as pointing to something beyond themselves. That’s reality people! Not what we live—until this weekend. We all become mystics.
Now, if this was being applied simply to our understanding of the nuptial meaning of the body, and to the exalted vision of the human person, of marriage and sexuality that is enshrined in the corpus of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, then I would be right at Father Loya’s side. But in the above quote, he implies that the immersion of his listeners in his explanation of Theology of the Body is going to give them new eyes to see and with that new vision there will be “no room for lust.” It would seem to me that Father Loya is applying the mysticism of the Theology of the Body to the esoteric nature of the texts themselves. Elsewhere he writes:
The TOB, like all of John Paul’s thought, is dense and intellectual. But it is primarily mystical. And it’s this element that brings us to the “problem” of Christopher West and even the “problem” of the TOB itself.
This is precisely where popularizers like Christopher West and Father Loya have the average Catholic at a disadvantage. The highly intellectualized presentation of John Paul II is being sloughed off as mysticism. We are supposed to believe that because we have connected to these charismatic personalities who have become our channel to Theology of the Body—are they channeling John Paul II, perhaps?—that we have entered into the magical power of lust control. For five hundred years, according to Father Loya, we have been living in unreality. Now with the magical text of Theology of the Body, and with a wave of the hand of Father Loya over the rune covered pages, we see visions of holy naked bodies. Blessed be!
As this question continues to be discussed I hope the defenders of Christopher West take Alice Von Hildebrand’s remarks concerning the use of analogy very seriously. It is one thing to see in human sexuality a sign of things to come. That is a truly mystical approach. It is another thing for fallen men to rest in the beauty of the human body as though it were a mystical experience of God. That idea is not much different than the sex magic of Dan Brown, Aleister Crowley and Anton La Vey.
In any case, these popularizers simply are not clearly representing John Paul’s teaching. They are using his impenetrable philosophical language to push their own pet ideas.
Principle of Decency
The presentation of Father Loya at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago was a Theology on Tap event, sponsored by the church’s young adults group. Unfortunately, the magisterium’s instructions on the passing on of sexual information to young people states that it should exclude all “material of an erotic nature.” This goes for information passed on to “children,” as well as to “young people of any age, individually or in a group.”
But it seems to me the principle of decency applies to all:
This principle of decency must safeguard the virtue of Christian chastity.
I don’t think this principle makes an exception for those who believe in magic.
In a particular way, the principle of decency applies to images, especially photographs and motion pictures. John Paul II indicates in the text of Theology of the Body that in photographs and film the image of the body is not “the model transfigured,” as it would be in the case of “the plastic arts, sculpture or painting,” but the “reproduction of the living man, minus his or her identity. Christopher West, unlike Father Loya, recognizes this:
A real danger exists of objectifying the naked body through artistic portrayal. John Paul describes this as the danger of anonymity, which is a way of “veiling” or “hiding” the identity of the person reproduced. Through photography in particular, the Pope observes that the body very often becomes an “anonymous” object, especially when the images of a person’s body are diffused on the screens of the whole world.
Perhaps Mr. West needs to speak to Father Loya about his website and travelling show and tell.
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
The Theology of the Body Institute is engaged in mystagogery disguised as orthodoxy and sentimental enthusiasm disguised as orthopraxy. According to “Katherine Blanchard, the Theology of the Body Institute’s director of development, the disagreement between the Institute and its critics
is really on a philosophical level, and we’re focusing on the practical application of the theology. We’ll let the academics work out the details and respect their conclusions. This is such an original message that there are always better ways to learn and teach about it. That’s what we’re here to do.
This is an obfuscation. This radically new approach to chastity formation, which suggests, as it does, that one may and should play fast and loose with the occasion of sin is based on doctrinal sleight of hand. I am not sure which came first: playing fast and loose or the sleight of hand. My guess is that difficulties with concupiscence and conscience has lead some to use the Holy Father’s writings in a rationalistic way, in ways he never intended. Perhaps the “Spirit” of the Theology of the Body needs a good exorcism.
Off topic, Father: I found the following location for the upcoming release of Arn – The Knight Templar here (release date 10/12/10). Best/blessings
Father, I do have a question. I understand your point about breastfeeding in public to be that just because woman do that doesn’t mean that men will stop being attracted to breasts. I agree!
However, in my experience, it is those who have no qualms whatsoever with exposing themselves in highly revealing clothing (or men who admire women who do so) who have the most “issues” with nursing. It seems to be the “idea” that bothers them more than “exposure.” I can only imagine that they are somehow offended by the DEsexualization of the breast??! If I am wearing appropriately modest clothing to begin with, I find most people are unaware that I am even nursing my babies, but it is just “knowing” that it is happening that disturbs some, and this seems very disordered and unhealthy to me.
Anyway, I am very disturbed by the views of Fr. Loya, and I always enjoy reading your thoughts on this subject, but I did wonder if you could comment on this point. I’m pretty stubborn in my opinion on this, and I can’t promise I would change my mind, but I would appreciate hearing your insights all the same.
Fr. this is so right on, so clear – thank you so much. Oh how careful one must be these days – a friend sent me a hand out written by Loya to post on my site from the Courage Conference – some souned pretty good, the parts I did not print carry the same eroded principles you point out as regards Loya’s mysticism and theology here. Thanks for your clear teaching here. I’m just afraid the train has left the station and there is no stopping it now without some intervention from the CDF or something. Unfortunately that will only happen after real abuses begin to be uncovered.
Thanks, everyone for the kind remarks.
I have seen some clips of that movie. It looks interesting. Thanks for the heads-up
I don’t think we have any disagreement.
In my experience, I have met very unchaste men are repulsed by the sight of a pregnant woman. For many men, women are good for only one thing, so yes they do not want to see a woman’s body de-sexualized, or what the perceive to be so.
But I have also met women who have a hard time with other women breastfeeding, that is, with the very idea of it, regardless of the modesty issue.
In any hyper-sexualized society, the beauty and function of the human body is going to be separated, but I do not believe for one second that the separation came first. Unchastity is a diabolically orchestrated temptation, the root of which is lodged in fallen nature. It has always been around.
I have the same fear. It seems the controversy over the past year has changed nothing in the TOB USA camp.
Fortunately, more people are aware of the problem and now are questioning the credibility of the accepted oracles.
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Thank you, Father. I didn’t think we were in disagreement. Your response helps me wrap my mind succinctly around the distinction.
And yes, it is women with whom I have personally witnessed the most illogical aversions to nursing in public.
Thanks for the clear analysis, Father, and thanks for making available all of the background discussion on this subject as well as access to Alice Von Hildebrand’s article and Dawn Eden’s thesis and blog. I wish that our bishops and other leading church leaders had taken more care to determine just where this train was going before they jumped on board; I fear that many casualties will result from the wreck, which seems to me to be inevitable. I want to share a response to your blog, Father, which I read just before going to Mass. Today is the Transfiguration — Glory revealed in Our Blessed Savior. It occured to me that the experience of the Glory of our humanity, as revealed in Christ in the Transfiguration, may be the moment that Peter wants to enshrine on the holy mountain. Does the TOB want to enshrine that honeymoon event of marital embrace as a life-time goal? Peter said, “It’s good,Lord, to be here.” And so it is, yet Jesus forbade this enshirement of the Glory to take place. The suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection were just ahead; they could not stay. Weddings show, and are meant to show, the glory of man and woman in the Sacrament — similar in shared glory to the Transfiguration. But there is another side to the Theology of the Body — the suffering of married life, the trials that are ahead as the couple moves deeper into the sacrament and life. What about aging, disease, death? Will the TOB philosophy not make aging women feel useless — just fat and ugly — because they no longer image receptivity/fecundity? Or will men justify their taste for porn because some TOB authority declare that it is in man’s nature to gawk? (“Nature, Mr. Olner, is what we are put upon this earth to overcome”) Marriage is a long journey, and there can be joy in Christ, but not without suffering, too, which I do not see taught in the TOBI. Those long-married report that there can be respect, love and dignity, but the glory of the honeymoon gives way to reality, taking a much lower rank to the Corporeal Works of Mercy, which are also part of the Love that is intended to be lived out in the Body. I can testify that there is nothing erotic about the self-giving of twelve years of cancer care or of having your beloved husband die in your arms, but it can be beautiful, if united with Christ. Is it possible that real appeal of TOBI is that it seems to promise glory without suffering? Redemption without repentence? And so without forgiveness? What do you think, Father? I deeply appreciate your excellent insights here. Thank you and bless you, Father! And thank God for his patience with us.
Another excellent essay. Most appreciated.
I taught “Theology of the Body” at a very solid seminary several years ago.
I refused to use C. West’s material.
Instead, I used M. Shavandin’s book on this topic.
St. John of the Cross is one of the sources for JPII’s discourses; esp. the “spousal” meaning of the soul/body.
These folks would do well to make her contribution here a foundation for their work.
This sensualist garbage is not helping to further the authentic meaning of the Holy Father, JPII’s discourses.
Thank you, Fr. Angelo. God bless and keep you!
Thank you for your clear and well-reasoned critique. I would argue that there is a certain “veiledness” that must be present even between husband and wife. That is, how lovely it is for a man to not simply “barge in” on his wife as she dresses, but knocks and is received by her. Not prudery, but a beautiful resepect of her body and her person, and an opportunity for her to entrust herself to him. Similarly, a spouse would not just walk into the bathroom as their beloved is “on the throne.” This isn’t prudery, either! Not *everything* must be revealed!
Finally, thanks for addressing this very esoteric element being introduced into TOB. I have a diploma from the JP II Institute on my wall, and yet I feel as if somehow the “secret information” still escapes me because I am not on the TOB train. Our late Holy Father would not approve.
Thanks for your critique.
It seems to me that in our culture, we have grown accustomed to being sold on that which is neatly packaged and cleverly marketed. Westian TOB has serious flaws; yet many, even those who are critical thinkers, are so enthusiastic about solving, in one fell swoop, (that’s the American way!) the problem of concupiscence that they are willing to ignore these flaws even when they are large and looming.
The truth of concupiscence was brushed aside by previous generations who became deeply imbedded in a culture which was increasingly acceptant of Godless ideologies; they lost sight of the fact that Catholics have always and necessarily been countercultural. After all, our leader, Jesus Christ was countercultural. We, as Catholics, needed to fight the good fight during that crucial period, and many in the recent past did not do so.
Enter Westian Theology of the Body and its fans and promoters. Its proponents’ denial of the existence of concupiscence and its resulting downward pull presents those of us who are trying to cling to Jesus with another side of the same coin. Now, instead of concupiscence being ignored, it is being glorified! This is clearly not what was in the mind of Pope John Paul II when he addressed his flock in St. Peter’s Square on those wonderful Wednesday afternoons.
And Fr. Loya’s pitiful attestations to his dubious version of chastity are pitifully woeful and in need of honest exposition.
Fr. Angelo, thanks for your fearless defense of the truth in this ongoing debate. We are all burdened with this thorn in the flesh – this triple concupiscence – and no amount of wishing it away will make it go away entirely. We must live with it – we must keep it at bay; thus, we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling. This is the truth – that none of us want this concupiscence – but all of us are infected with it.
Do you agree that a simple and honest acknowledgment of this fact might have saved Martin Luther from spending so much time and effort on those 95 theses?; and Westian TOBers from staying on board that runaway train?; and Fr. Loya from making a mockery of the Holy Priesthood with his soft porn website? I hate to think of how many souls have been led astray by these leaders who use their gift of leadership for their own self-aggrandizement and not for the salvation of their flock.
As for me, I can personally see the value of concupiscence. It keeps us humble and connected to the Sacraments and to the Rosary for help in this battle. To know your weakness is an invaluable defense against the enemy. Many of us would be less likely to keep going to the Source of our Salvation if we felt inclined to easily intellectualize our plight by buying a ticket and getting on the TOB train.
I heartily agree that the “spirit” of the TOB needs to be exorcized.
Thank you, Father, for your insights and I appreciate the alternative suggestions to learning and teaching TOB. My husband Tom and I use Steve Kellmeyer’s Sex and the Sacred City to teach TOB concepts. We like it because it uses basic RCIA concepts–who is God, who we are, The Fall, Incarnation, Sacraments, Vocations: Marriage & Priesthood, Family Life– and integrates it with TOB. We think of it as the “Baltimore” TOB catechism… it is simple, less than 100 pages, inexpensive, and easy to teach. We dislike all this “woo-woo” application of TOB that’s being promoted. However, we do recognize the validity to meet for solidarity–as this conference did, with people worshiping at Mass. So some things were good. I wish we had some “grounded” people in this movement, and people who were not afraid of discourse….
I have finally had the chance to read through this. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, Satan puts a little truth into every lie. And, that’s sort of what I see here. Some of what Fr. Loya and West say are the truth and without people like Father Angelo, Dawn Eden and Alice Von Hildebrand, I might have scanned quickly through the teachings and bought the lie for the sake of the nuggets of truth in them. For instance, the comments about breastfeeding being the cure to the fixation on breasts: well, I do think that a desensitization can take place in certain cultures where this is the norm. Granted, I suppose one would have to ask men who have lived in such a culture from birth to ascertain if this is indeed the case. I certainly don’t think if women started to openly (and un-modestly) breastfeed their babes starting tomorrow that the American men who are NOT desensitized wouldn’t be having a mighty tough time with this. But, with time, they’d become desensitized. His discussion of having spent hours drawing nude people is a case in point … similar to probably a doctor who examines bodies day in and day out. You place that image into a different ‘box’ in your brain than, say, a Playboy image. It’s more the provocative images that are truly an issue. So, in this, I do see a bit of truth. Culturally, we are just not USED to some of these images. I am always amazed when I see pictures of, say, some Aborigines (or other such tribes) who are barely clothed at all … wondering how on earth they walk around like that. I’d be HORRIFIED. But, the fact is, they know no other way. They are desensitized to it all and we are not. Correct me if I’m wrong.
However, when Fr. Loya goes on to make statements about getting it out of your system and literally examining every inch of a woman’s body and then praying and passing on, that’s just ridiculous. What’s his definition of then ‘passing on’ when the images are continuing to possibly haunt some men for the next few days? So, in reality, he’s not talking about the ‘working’ body that people can become desensitized to at all. Plus, he must be careful … perhaps he CAN just pass on, but he’s a fool to think most men can. It’s like a recovered alcoholic saying to go to the bar and SMELL the beer, watch people DRINK the beer, but then walk out. I know some recovered alcoholics who can do this … but most I know avoid the bar! And I don’t know any who would suggest this to a fellow recovered alcoholic. He/she knows better. If viewing women in this way is an occasion of sin for you, DON”T DO IT. My, oh my.
I also find it almost pathetically amusing that these people think that they have found the ‘cure’ to the lust issue. Just imagine how lucky we all are … .people have been struggling with lust for 2 million years or more but we are now the lucky ones to be saved from it!! Hot diggetty.
“And how become they one flesh? As if you should take the purest part of gold, and mingle it with the other gold; so in truth here also the women as it were receiving the richest part fused by pleasure, nourishes it and cherishes it, and throughout contributing her own share, restores it back to the man. And the child is a sort of bridge so that the three become one flesh, the child connecting, on either side, each to each… What then? When there is not child, will they not be two? Not so, for their coming together has this effect; it diffuses and commingles the bodies of both. And as one who has poured ointment into oil has made the whole one; so in truth is it also here” (St. John Chrysostom, On Marriage and Family Life).
Excellent and prescient analysis of precisely where these efforts at times run out of bounds. The “magical” aspect running through these efforts may also have its roots in some elements of the NFP world, because it is a somewhat-related effort to “sell” a chaste way of life at times by appealilng a bit too much to reason and “wonder” alone, as if one is akiing the question “who is it who wouldn’t be converted upon gazing at the beauty of created nature adn created sexual nature?” This is a mistake, and a fundamental one. Yes creted nature is intrinsically good and beautiful, but conversion requires more (though maybe not less) than an appeal to the good and beautiful. Most contraceptore have through chronic habit impaired their ability to see the beauty of procreation, and even after conversion away from dishoonest sexuality almost have an ongoing need to rehabilitate this precious sensibility of the appetites.
Father, have you attempted to talk to Fr. Loya and get his explanation and clarification on these issues along with the Janet Smith’s clarification on her comment? Or do you just attempt to do a hit and run commentary with little effort to convert those involved in the TOB institute to better themselves in presenting JPII lectures? Keep in mind that we are human and will make mistakes in both letter and action. Let us approach this problem more like Saint Francis and less like Martin Luther.
When I post on this blog or anywhere else, I expose myself to criticism. Some of it will be well founded, some perhaps not so. Some of it I might find hurtful. There is a comment section here, just as there is where Father Loya posted his Youtube videos and elsewhere he has written. It goes with the territory.
As for clarification of his ideas. Have you made a broad sampling of them?
I am criticizing a habit of mind that has been verified over a long period of time, even before the Night Line controversy.
As for hit, perhaps, but run, no.
And you are right. I could learn much from St. Francis. I have been trying for years, and I have not given up yet.
Interesting Points Sam,
Theology of the Body people run around slamming the Church claiming the Mystical Body of Christ was in absolute blindness on sexuality for the last 500 years and yet Father Angelo is like Martin Luther?
In the process not only do they insult the Church hierarchy but the number of married Saints (some of who were mystics) and many of whom had childern as being incomplete in there sexuality.
If they are preaching to look at womens bodies to conquer lust I imagine they might be successful at easing a conscience to pursue vice.
Except the people who follow this advice will have their hearts hardened, their innocence tainted and the imperfections fortified. If your eye causes you to sin then TEAR IT OUT was the message of the gospel. THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE.
God told St Francis to go rebuild the Church. If it wasn’t for some articles condemning the way TOB was being taught I would personally be convinced that the Theology of the Body in its entirety was complete trash. A person would learn more about sexuality if they pursued absolute perfect chastity.
Furthermore the great Franciscan saints of old were known for austerity and preaching. I am in full support of Father Angelo going to a TOB conference and having a good old fashion vanity fire (except we burn inmodest pictures, certain power point presentations and forms of “art”) then he can preach hellfire on the sins of the flesh and encourage everyone to do severe penance. (Just like the good ole days).
This is not just about converting West of Father Loya it is about reminding the members of the body of Christ of the true Gospel and that nothing impure will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thank you so much for your excellent article. It is a consolation that there are priests, such as yourself, refuting the errors of the misinterpretation of Theology of the Body.
God bless you.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I would like to invite anyone to take a more thorough look at our taborlife.org website. You will see page headings with Byzantine iconography, articles in both English and Spanish and one minute meditations.
The iconography that you will see is from the murals that I painted in my Church. You can view more of these by going to http://www.byzantinecatholic.com.
I am not sure why these aspects of our web site were not mentioned. What was mentioned by Fr. Angelo is simply the flash images on our home page which is a very, tiny part of our site. Our flash images are very purposeful for both a message that we wish to send especially to viewers that we hope might stop by the site but who might not ordinarily bother with faith based sites. At least this is our hope.
The flash images communicate Christ and Truth coming into a ‘pornified’ world of darkness. An honest peek at the flash images will show how in the end it is the image of Christ that prevails. The words used also represent this contrast and some of these words are from the theology of the body.
If for some viewers our flash images are “freaky,” then in a certain sense it is mission accomplished for us. However, we are considering a modification of some of these images while still preserving the integrity of our vision and mission at Tabor which is to help transform hearts, even those hearts who may not be members of the “choir” so to speak.
We do appreciate feedback but it is most welcome, productive and charitable when it is done in a wholistic context rather than in the partial representation, selective emphasis and soundbite style that is a favorite of the secular world.
–Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB.,MA.
Sorry, Father Loya, but porn is porn. Looks like a duck… Those images are pornographic that you are using to catch “non-spiritual” people. Anothe shock-artist might have used photos of road-kill to attract attention; both have the same dark and salacious fascination. You point to the religious icons that you’re proud to have created, but that is no different than Flannery O’Connor’s itinerant salesman who peddles Bibles and condoms, out of the same pack. There is a disconnect in your artistic justification of “awakening to images” that is depressingly familiar. Not all images are to be called holy, even if stuck right next to a fairly passable representation of religious art.
You are using “selective emphasis and soundbite style” in the service of the sensational. Just what is it that you want to transform hearts into becoming? I do not see in your mission the the Glory of God shown on Mt Tabor, but the flesh-pots of Egypt, instead.
A different perspective on this issue which I thought you might find interesting:
What’s a Good Baptist Preacher’s Kid Like You Doing Listening to the Teachings of a Catholic Pope??
By Pastor Ed Martin
Loretta, his story is evidence of what Fr. Angelo has said in the past: CW is a gifted apologist! I do hope that he will take to heart the criticisms of his work so that he can continue to use his gifts without misrepresenting the traditions of our faith.
Lindsay, might it not be possible that Mr. West is not misrepresenting the faith so much as re-presenting it?
I think that one major problem we are having here is what Cardinal George stated some years ago. He said that everyone in the U.S. thinks as a Protestant–even the Catholics have a Protestant worldview. Along with that Protestant thinking comes a misunderstanding of the physical, particularly in the area of the human body and sexuality.
One very quick but telling example would be a culture’s view of breast-feeding. In cultures where there has been little Protestant influence, breast-feeding in public is not a big deal. I have read where people from other cultures laugh at US men’s sexualization of the breast. That is not normal!
Many are saying that Mr. West is distorting TOB but I have to wonder if that is true. After all, Pope John Paul II, when he had the Sistine Chapel restored, requested that all of the loin cloths painted over the nudes be removed. Is that not a way of saying that those who painted them on had a distorted view of the human body? I’m sure that was not an easy task to restore those paintings in that way. We might want to think about what the Holy Father was trying to say in that act.
I also find it interesting that this “distorted” teaching is healing so many people of their sexual dysfunctions. If it were as perverse as so many say, wouldn’t it lead to more vice, not virtue? The people we have worked with, after hearing Mr. West, have a much more exalted view of sexuality than they had in the past. I mean that they understand much more its holiness and the place God has in marriage.
I believe that the minister has it right–if the heart is not open, people are not going to hear the message. My husband and I saw very clearly that the struggles we went through in our marriage were a preparation for the message of TOB. It has been nothing but good for us.
Thank you everyone for participating in this discussion. Special thanks to Fr. Loya.
I will reply to some of the comments later today.
I would like to have the the link to the article you posted in the comment. I cannot find it through google. I would prefer to have the link in the comment section rather than the whole piece, especially since it does not bear directly on the topic being discussed.
It is not accurate to suggest that critics of Mr. West condemn his work without qualification. I am not sure what else would be the point of your inserting that whole article here. Please stay on topic. And please provide me with the link. Thank you.
I am impressed by the approach of Monica Ashour of TOBET, who carefully tailors her talks to her audience and de-emphasizes the marital embrace. She stresses the point that the body reveals who we are–our pure hearts will be revealed by our pure actions.
I think we would all do well to acknowledge that John Paul II gave us much food for thought and meditation with his Wednesday catecheses, and it is good for us to study it. But it cannot be taken apart form the whole Tradition, not can it be seen as a kind of panecea for teh world’s problems. Theology of the body IS NOT the answer to the world’s problems. JESUS CHRIST IS!! This fact, unfortunately, is often forgotten when we get so caught up in “what TOB has done for me.” If study of TOB – or the writings of Thomas, or the Fathers, or any of the saints – do not lead us to a deeper friendship with Christ, they are worthless. I hear very little about Jesus, but lots about “TOB” and “JP II said.” Without a deep conversion of heart, no amount of teaching, reading, or studying will do us any good. Some “popular” formulations of TOB simply allow the world’s categories to be preserved with a kind of “Catholic veneer;” thus, I can look at a naked person as long as I “see” him/her with the eyes of Christ. This isn’t the peace of the interior gaze the Holy Father talked about; it’s a near occasion of sin. St. Moses the Black fled to the desert to atone for his sins and avoid temptation; St. Mary of Egypt was troubled by lust and threw herself facedown on the ground, often for hours, until the temptation passed; the Bishop Nonnus, captivated by Pelagia’s beauty, accepted her into the Church, but then refused to be her confessor and sent her away to a monastery, so as not to be tempted. We are not better than these great saints. We all know what porn is – it’s around us everywhere. We certainly don’t need to have it juxtaposed with the faces of our Lord and the Theotokos. I think here needs to be much more emphasis on Christ as the center of our lives (von Balthasar calls Him “the concrete categorical imperative…the formally universal norm of ethical action…”) – and not hang our hats on a teaching (as wonderful as it is) as the answer to everything. JP II *lived* for Jesus Christ, and TOB is absolutely Christological. A little more talk about Him would quite refreshing!!
Here’s the link Father:
Also, a comment from the CCC:
In para. 2518 and 2519, the Catechism states, The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Pure in heart refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: Charity, chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith…
The pure in heart are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him. Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. EVEN NOW it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as neighbors; it lets us perceive the human body–ours and our neighbor’s–as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.
Beautiful iconography Father Loya!
I mention only your homepage banner because it is the first impression that a visitor receives and because it typifies your presentation of TOB, which is very explicit and in which you go to great pains to show that looking at nudity with “new eyes” is to be preferred to looking away out of a sense of modesty.
One of the concerns I have raised for a long time is the way in which this particular interpretation of TOB argues from two mutually exclusive points of departure, depending on what sort of objection is raised. On the one hand, it is argued that such an approach is necessary in order to meet “those hearts who may not be members of the ‘choir,’” but on the other hand, when those who are more serious about practicing chastity are approached with the message, their reticence to countenance such an approach is met with the suggestion that they have not yet experienced the full message of redemption of the body. So which is it?
I do not think the broad sampling of your work that I linked to in this post misrepresents a habit of mind that belongs to many associated with the Theology of the Body Institute, namely, that modesty is relative and mostly a virtue to be practiced by those who have not yet been fully indoctrinated into this new “theory of everything,” namely, the Theology of the Body, isolated by this interpretation from the rest of Catholic Tradition.
Your extensive quotes beg the question as to whether West, Father Loya and others are accurately interpreting TOB. No one disagrees with the catechism, or with the fact that many have been helped by those who have popularized TOB. But that does not put them beyond criticism.
I have been at this long enough to know that this interpretation does not include the idea that sexual values ought to remain veiled because it is fitting to do so. That kind of rejection is not a development of doctrine. It is a true revolution and for that reason it is false.
Father, I have not heard anyone say that the body ought not to be veiled since it possesses great dignity and should not be used as an object for others’ disordered desires.
What I believe is being said is that we need to learn to see the dignity of the other no matter how they are clothed. In the world today, we will be totally incapacitated if we find it necessary to turn away from every inappropriately dressed person. Many are those who have to work side by side someone who is very immodestly dressed–and often behaving immodestly. Think of teachers. Almost all teen-aged and young adult women dress quite inappropriately. How is a teacher to teach if he has to look away from half of his class? He will be totally ineffective. We cannot force others to dress the way in which we want them to dress. Therefore, we have to learn to function in this culture as it is.
I believe that the custody of the eyes which means looking away every time one sees someone that draws their attention does several things. It pronounces guilt upon the person looking, resulting in shame and culminating in a cycle that never ends. Not to mention that it keeps the person seen as an object and never allows the two people to see each other as persons with great dignity.
What I have heard Mr. West say is that if someone draws your attention, don’t look away but prayerfully ask God to allow you to see that individual as He sees them. To purify your heart so that you can see that person as someone with great dignity who does not deserve to be used as an object for my lusts. One could also have sorrow for the fact that the person does not understand her great dignity and dresses in a way that is unsuitable for that fact.
Too many are the wives who are used as objects to satisfy their husbands’ disordered desires that are fanned into life by the many immodestly dressed women on the street. Pope John Paul II was quite clear that lusting after one’s spouse is committing adultery with her. What kind of tension will be in the home if a married couple cannot deal with seeing each other less than fully clothed. We must learn to see each other as persons created in the image of God possessing great dignity no matter what the circumstances.
It seems that a blogpost, linked early in your article – “accusations of personal attacks” – is no longer available.
What was this?
“Therefore, we have to learn to function in this culture as it is.”
That is true, but we also need to change this culture from what it is to one of modesty, and I don’t see how exhorting men to look at immodestly-dressed women does that.
“Pope John Paul II was quite clear that lusting after one’s spouse is committing adultery with her.”
It must be correctly deduced that this lustful look, if addressed to his own wife, is not adultery “in his heart.” This is precisely because the man’s interior act refers to the woman who is his wife, with regard to whom adultery cannot take place. The conjugal act as an exterior act, in which “they become one flesh,” is lawful in the relationship of the man in question with the woman who is his wife. In like manner, the interior act in the same relationship is in conformity with morality. -Pope John Paul II, General Audience, April 23, 1980 (http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tb24.htm)
Yes, the Pope does say in his October 8 General Audience that it is possible for the husband to commit adultery of the heart with his wife, but this is in the context of how Christ fulfills the law in abolishing polygamy and elevating marriage to a sacrament. It seems to me that the Pope is saying that Our Lord is challenging the polygamists and serial monogamists to give up their lustful ways and truly become “one flesh” with their wives.
It appears that Christina King has changed the name of her post from “Witch Hunt Part 2,” to “Theology of the Body Part 2.” By so doing, the link was broken. The post is the same, and the original name was appropriate enough. Thus also the assertion in my post was also correct. I have updated the link in the post and provided it here also.
@Fr. Angelo Mary,
I wondered if that was the case on the URL. Blogger no longer changes the url when the post name changes, but I know other programs do.
I’ve only been able to read part of your post thus far. When I get time to finish, I’ll come back with some thoughts.
I have noticed that it seems that any critique, no matter how charitable it is put, is considered an “attack”.
I just don’t believe that some of the imagery in your site header, which can trigger lust in some, is a good thing. I don’t think there was a question about the religious art, rather it was a point about the provocative shots that are flashed in between.
It goes right to what is being said by critics, that avoiding the occasion of sin, or the near occasion of sin, has gone out the window with the wave of enthusiasm over ToB.
In addition to my comment above to Fr. Loya, I would like to ask him a question if he is still reading:
Do you accept full responsiblity for the feelings of lust that may arise in someone as a result of those provocative images flashing about in your website header?
Can I give testimony about this topic?
I am a protestant. I am the son of a protestant pastor. I was raised in a consistent and godly Christian home. I myself committed my life to ministry for the Lord. I attended Bible college and entered the ministry myself. I have been on the pastoral staff of a number of protestant churches for most of my career.
Yet… in spite of all of that, pornography had gained a foothold in my life, and I struggled in secret against its allure, periodically giving in to its temptations. I tried memorizing Scripture. I tried prayer. I tried accountability and confession.
I tried just about everything that you’ve ever heard to try, but for 30+ years, I never ever escaped porn’s claim on my life for very long. Even those times when I “successfully” avoided indulging in it, porn’s allure *never* left me. I always knew I’d be back.
Then one day, I did a Bible study on the true nature of who we are as human beings. I looked into God’s Word and discovered that He had made our bodies in His own image. Physically, we are His “self-portrait.”
What an astounding truth! Imagine the honor of bearing the Divine resemblance in my body! I know that “image” and “likeness” (Gen 1:24-25) mean much more than a physical resemblance, but the physicality of it was the brand new insight for me, and – it turns out – the truth that ended up transforming my life.
You see, I not only realized that I had a wrong view of my own body, but I also had a very pornographic view of women’s bodies. Women are made in God’s image every bit as much as men are. Rather than sexually objectifying women’s various body parts, I needed to see a visible representation of my Heavenly Father there instead.
Imagine how you might feel if every time someone viewed your picture, they spouted vile profanities? Indeed, this is how we have learned to respond to God’s image on display in the unclothed human form… male or female: we treat it as always and only about our unrestrained sexual appetites.
The more “righteous” among us perhaps refuse to indulge our own sexual appetites, choosing instead to shun the beauty of God’s image, declaring it obscene and sinful.
Either way, by indulging or shunning it, all we have allowed ourselves to see in the human form is its impact on our own libido. Consequently, pornographers and Christians have shared the exact same core understanding of the unclothed human body. They only differ in the recommended response.
As I began to realize this truth in my own life – greatly to my surprise – the allure of porn melted out of my life. Trust me, after 30 years of living with that allure, I knew something real had changed.
In gratitude for what God had done in my life, I joined forces with several brothers who had learned the same truths, and shared what we had learned and experienced on a website: http://mychainsaregone.org.
Now… back to the issue of Father Loya’s teaching and the Theology of the Body… When I first heard some of Christopher West’s teaching, I recognized immediately that the TOB was the logical and biblical expansion of what God had already shown me and changed my life with. It is, without a doubt, a body of life-changing truth.
Father Angelo, you have indeed done the Kingdom of God a great service by raising these issues… but not as you imagine. Because of your article, you have highlighted the teaching of TOB to many who have never dug into it before. Some, to be sure, are praising your insights, but many others will see them for the weak and unfair criticisms that they are, and genuinely consider the teaching of TOB for the first time. They will take note of the fact that you are throwing stones of criticism which only protect the dysfunctional status quo that characterizes our world and a church that has heretofore offered no real hope for lasting freedom from sexual bondage. They will find it embarrassingly obvious that you have no real answers for our world today… and they will find true freedom in a biblical understanding of our embodiment as man and female… in God’s image.
Father Loya, carry on, my brother! God is using you in mighty ways to speak truth.
Pastor Ed Martin
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I guess what goes around come around, eh?
The only difference is that I actually provide reasons for my position.
In any case, thank you for voicing your concerns.
God bless you.
oops… that was suppose to be Gen. 1:26-27
Diane, if a man responds with lust, even to “provocative” images, it is still his sin and his alone.
Jesus declared very clearly in Mark 7:14-23 that nothing outside a man produces lust. Such sin springs from what is already within him.
Obviously, Jesus’ desire for us is not that we simply avoid an outward expression of lust, but that we root out the sinfulness in our hearts from which that lust springs.
For the one who is free from the pornified view of our bodies, such images do not incite lust, but rather sadness for the woman who believes that such a presentation of herself gives her value. Or perhaps anger at how God’s image is being besmirched with lies about its true meaning.
I remember a pastor friend of mine who ministered to people on the streets. One prostitute actually lifted her blouse in front of him on the street. But, he did not respond with lust *at all* because his heart was pure. The sight of that woman’s breasts were not what mattered… what was in his heart was what mattered.
Therefore, if anyone responds with lust to Father Loya’s site, it only reveals the lust that already exists in his heart. Father Loya cannot be held responsible for that.
(Was our Lord Jesus responsible for the sinful/hateful reactions of the Pharisees to the Lord’s activities which they judged to be sin? Of course not!)
Father Loya’s intent, I believe, is to highlight how saturated our culture is with the pornified view of the human body… and how it can be fully overcome by hearing and embracing the full teaching of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Ed Martin
Regarding Pastor Ed Martin, if he’s been so heavily and positively influenced by Christopher West (and even Father Loya), as he claims, I can’t help but wonder why he’s still Protestant?
Good post, Father Angelo!
Unfortunately, Pastor Ed, John Paul II did not teach that one who is free of the “pornified view,” will be immune to such images. And such has never been the teaching of the Catholic Church.
This is precisely the problem. And come what may in terms of defenses from the popularizers of TOB, this is exactly what the students are are thinking, and have been thinking all along.
We, the critics, have been saying this for a long time. Now it is time for those responsible for this misconception face up to it.
Thank you Matt.
For a fabulously sensible non-Christian (but not “anti”-Christian) presentation of our culture’s dysfunctional sexual obsession with breasts, I would recommend this site:
[Rest of Comment Deleted]
I never said that I was “heavily and positively influenced by Christopher West,” I said that when I heard his teaching on TOB, I recognized it as the natural expansion of what I had already learned from my own Biblical study.
Trust me, I have a number of points that I would take issue with Christopher West’s presentation (which I will take to him personally rather than in a public forum such as this). However, the power of the ideas taught by the Pope are still quite evident.
If we can’t learn from people with whom we hold ideological/theological differences, we will find that there’s no one on the planet that we can learn from.
And I am still very protestant in all my theology. But the truth is that protestant theology has absolutely no answer for how we physically bear God’s image or what that means in within the nuptial embrace. I have been more challenged by the Pope’s theology in this realm than any other body of theological teaching I’ve ever been exposed to in my life.
Pastor Ed Martin
If you think that it is impossible for a man to see a woman’s body without lust or even without a sexual response, then (in my opinion) you either do not understand the TOB as taught by the Pope, or you are outright denying its truth.
TOB teaches that “the body reveals the person.” Therefore, if we see the body any other way, we are not seeing it according to truth. If we objectify what we see, the problem is not in what our eyes behold, but in how we perceive and respond to what we see.
Can Jesus today see an unclothed woman without lust? He was and is still fully man. As God, He can and does see every woman on earth at all times, even when completely naked.
If Jesus can see an unclothed woman and only see her as a person, and if Jesus wants to live His life through you and me today, and if living the life of Christ is actually possible by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, then it must be possible for a man to see a fully naked woman and respond with love rather than lust.
If this is not possible, then TOB is false.
Consequently, an accurate measure of how completely a man is embracing and living out the truths of TOB is whether he can see even an unclothed woman and see her as a person rather than an object of lust.
I hope you read that article by Pastor David (My view of nakedness) which I linked above. It seems that (like most everyone in our culture) you have assumed that lustful responses are actually part of the male makeup… as if God made us that way. Pastor David’s experience and the essentially universal experience of healthcare professionals who work with nudity on a daily basis demonstrate how wrong that assumption is.
If I may be perfectly blunt with you, Father Angelo, what you are really revealing to us all is that the “pornified view” still reigns unchallenged in your own heart. Instead of recognizing it, confessing it, and seeking to replace its lies with truth, you are defending it as normal, natural, automatic, unchangeable, and—evidently—God’s will for us (If it is not God’s will, why defend it?). It would seem that you are assuming that if it reigns in your own heart, that it must reign in all men’s hearts.
But that simply is not true. It is not true in the heart of Christ, and it needn’t be in ours, either.
And it’s a very good thing that it is not true… for there would be no hope for true and lasting freedom from sexual bondage if it were.
Pastor Ed Martin
“…If I may be perfectly blunt with you, Father Angelo, what you are really revealing to us all is that the ‘pornified view’ still reigns unchallenged in your own heart. Instead of recognizing it, confessing it, and seeking to replace its lies with truth, you are defending it as normal, natural, automatic, unchangeable, and—evidently—God’s will for us (If it is not God’s will, why defend it?). It would seem that you are assuming that if it reigns in your own heart, that it must reign in all men’s hearts….”
Pastor Ed, your “criticism” of Father Angelo is terribly misguided and, quite frankly, appalling.
I give Father Angelo credit for still allowing you to insult him on his blog, for if it were my blog, you’d be banned.
Father Angelo set the tone for this blog by his rather insulting treatment of Father Loya. This he did without ever approaching his brother privately first.
If I have spoken my critique falsely, however, write to reveal my falsehood. Simply declaring it so does not make it so.
For the record, I intend no malice. However, I will not shrink from speaking the truth as I see it, especially to one so willing to assert his own understanding of the truth as Father Angelo.
Pastor Ed Martin
God bless you, Father Angelo! I, for one, am grateful for your witness.
It’s 3:00 AM and I have just deleted part of Pastor Ed’s comment above. The one with the link to the breastfeeding site.
Pastor, we all know the point you are trying to make. You have made it.
Do not even think of hijacking this comments section. This is your one and only warning. I will deal with the rest of what you have said at a more godly hour.
Having been around the block many times, with a large family and many years of marriage behind me, I have a brief comment for the “brotherhood” of Ed Martin, Fr. Loya, Chris West and all those who have grabbed part of the Catholic teaching on sexuality: you are justifying your taste for pornography. Give yourselves all the congratulations you wish for your “mature purity,” your stance is proud. When a man says, “It isn’t the money, it’s the principle that matters,” we all know that it’s the money. You are promoting a principle of elitism that has no place for repentance and amendment of life — and avoiding the near occasions of sin. And, no, this is not based on bad theology of the utter depravity of man — but does recognize that we are fallen.
Matt and Pastor Ed and Ruth,
I really want to presume the best. Aside from what might be the underlying cause of Pastor Ed’s vehemence, I believe that what he has to say is a confirmation of what we the critics have been trying to get across for the past year (years). What Pastor Ed assumes about me is more or less what West has been saying all along—with not much more tact—that anyone who objects to this ideology must be spiritually immature and a slave to lust.
This is an extraordinarily dangerous and self-absorbed point of view. These “evangelists” are largely preaching on the basis of their own experience with pornography and have adopted a mythology relative to Theology of the Body that fits their experience. Anyone who objects must become a antagonist and apostate in their secondary world.
I don’t think Pastor Ed has any malice, I only think that he has built up a world view that forces him to fit us all into little boxes. This is a major problem with what has become The Ideology of the Body.
I have been a priest for nearly twenty years. I assure you the Roman Catholic Church has never taught that those who adopt a truly Christian view of marriage and sexuality will be delivered from lustful temptations. The question of what John Paul II taught on this matter is dealt with by Dawn Eden in her thesis (pp. 32 ff.). Please read it.
To the readers of this blog: Please read Christina Strafici’s response to Fr. Loya. Excellent!
Your presumption to know the motivations of my heart or anyone else’s does not make a cogent argument.
Yes, we are fallen, but (to apply it to a different sin) that doesn’t mean I can defend sinful anger towards my wife or friend. Nor does it mean that I should never even try to live above that anger. It can never mean that anger in my life cannot be eradicated by the power of Jesus’ work in my heart. I can – and should – learn to respond with grace rather than anger even to the most personally hurtful actions of others (remember Christ’s response to his tormentors in His passion).
So it is with lust. We CAN live free of it… even in a society saturated with sexually charged images.
Perhaps the most effective way that Satan keeps people bound to sexual lust addictions is to convince them that their lust response is actually “natural” and “the way God made them.” If someone believes that, they’ll never even try to have a different response.
I testify to you today that a different response IS possible. And if I read Father Loya correctly, that is his assertion, too.
I’m sorry that you felt the need to censure the sites that I linked. They spoke truth directly relative to your claims in the blog post and subsequent comments that you made. They showed that the dysfunctional view of women’s bodies that prevail in our culture is not normal, natural, nor healthy.
It was not an attempt to hijack this comment section.
Consider my writings here as those of one who is willing to stand up for truth which has been maligned, and a friend who has been slandered.
An apt quotation:
“When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.” -William Blake
Pastor Ed Martin
Pastor Ed to Father Angelo:
Pastor Ed to Ruth:
“Yes, the Pope does say in his October 8 General Audience that it is possible for the husband to commit adultery of the heart with his wife, but this is in the context of how Christ fulfills the law in abolishing polygamy and elevating marriage to a sacrament. It seems to me that the Pope is saying that Our Lord is challenging the polygamists and serial monogamists to give up their lustful ways and truly become “one flesh” with their wives.”
I read several audiences before and after the October 8 quote and saw absolutely nothing about abolishing polygamy. Can you reference that for me? What I read was the Holy Father emphasizing that lust is never the fault of the body but of what is in the heart of the person lusting. To attribute culpability to the body, he stated, was to engage in Manichaeism. He also spoke about liberation from lust, victory over lust, etc.
To continue along these lines of modesty being necessary for controlling concupiscence, we should be able to look at the various cultures around us to see if this is true. For example, contrast the Muslims with the aboriginal peoples in Africa. Are women treated much better in the Muslim culture since they are fully veiled than in the African culture since they are mostly naked? From what I have heard, there are numerous cases in the Muslim world of wives being raped by their husbands. I am not familiar with the African situation. Does anyone know how things are there? But again this line of thinking seems to go against what I read in the Pope’s audiences about this topic. He seemed quite adamant that lust stems from within the person and blame should NEVER be placed upon the body, no matter how it is clothed.
No one ever suggested that blame is to be put on the body! You proponents of Westian theology assume the most outlandish things. Of course lust is a matter of moral weakness. It is called concupiscence. Please stop suggesting that because we disagree with you that we think the body is evil. This has been going on for a year and we have stated clearly what we hold and cited magisterial sources every time. We are not Manichaeans.
Where are you people coming from? Really? It is like you have not paid attention to anything that has been said.
AIDS is an epidemic in Africa.
“I have been a priest for nearly twenty years. I assure you the Roman Catholic Church has never taught that those who adopt a truly Christian view of marriage and sexuality will be delivered from lustful temptations.”
I can say that I’ve been in the protestant church since I was in diapers, and my protestant tradition has NEVER taught that those who adopt a truly Christian view of marriage and sexuality will be delivered from lustful temptations.
What I observe in our society is that, sure enough, nobody is delivered from lustful temptations.
My contention is not that the Catholic church or the Protestant church either one has gotten it “right” but that all of modern Christendom has gotten it wrong!
When I began my own personal study of the Imago Dei (completely apart from ANY exposure to TOB), I was very surprised that its truths transformed my weakness for porn into a hatred of it. I was so startled that I had to do lots of thinking/praying/studying to discern why it had happened. the MyChainsAreGone.org site (MCAG) was the fruit of that search.
It was tremendously disconcerting that the message of MCAG was so totally at odds with what everyone else seems to believe about how we need to battle porn addictions. Yet at the same time, other more “popular” strategies for porn never offered any hope for the kind of freedom that I was already living!
Rather than leading their practitioners to real freedom, the very concept of “freedom” is redefined to mean, “how many days you stay away from it.” That’s not freedom!
It was in this vacuum of consenting voices that the teachings of TOB came to my attention, perhaps a full year after MCAG’s launch. Finally, I realized, someone else was giving the same message!
That does not mean at all that I have swallowed everything that its most visible proponents say, but the core truth is there, and it is life-changing.
But what you and your supports evidently believe is that what I have experienced first hand is not even possible. Rather than ponder the possibility that we have falsely yet systematically trained generations of men to think that the sight of a woman’s body is an automatic sexual turn-on, you all have assumed it to be as God made us. And it is principally on the basis of that assumption that you criticize Father Loya’s words, or Ruth presumes illicit motives in my heart.
But what if that assumption is false?
What if what we have experienced and proclaim is actually true? What if God never intended men to be “visually aroused”? What if (as TOB articulates so well) God made men AND women to approach sexual union *relationally* rather than visually?
What if our focus on the visual is actually one of the tools Satan uses to keep generations of men (and women) bound to sexual dysfunction and sin?
This, I believe, is exactly what has happened.
Claiming the “traditional teaching” of the church (Catholic OR Protestant) is no excuse for failing to reexamine what we’ve really received culturally from our forebears or what we’re now passing on to our children.
Another apt quotation:
“The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.” – Pope John Paul II
Pastor Ed Martin
“My contention is not that the Catholic church or the Protestant church either one has gotten it ‘right’ but that all of modern Christendom has gotten it wrong!”
Please clarify what you mean by “all of modern Christendom has gotten it wrong!”
Are you suggesting that the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality and lust is wrong? What do you mean by “modern Christendom”?
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I read several audiences before and after the October 8 quote and saw absolutely nothing about abolishing polygamy.
The October 8 audience is concerned with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in which Our Lord raises marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament and abolishes the Old Testament practice of polygamy and divorce (Matt 5:27ff). So either the Holy Father is restricting himself to interpreting that passage or he contradicted himself within six months, since he explicitly says that a husband does not commit “adultery in his heart” with his wife in his audience of April 23, 1980.
I would also like to know the answer to Matt’s question.
Your own experience is not the experience of the entire Church. Men have been kicking pornography for good without TOB or MCAG. It is simply not true at all that only your vision offers complete liberty from pornography. You offer a false dichotomy when you suggest that either a person is completely delivered from temptation or his is still a slave to lust.
Why don’t I believe that you are a prophet in this matter? Because Our Lord entrusted his work to his apostles. Our Lord gave us everything.
It is very clear that you treat TOB as a new doctrine. Exactly what we have been saying about the TOB catechesis going on today.
I don’t think Pastor Ed is helping your cause.
Matt, by saying that “all modern Christendom has gotten it wrong,” I’m saying that the way we (protestants and Catholics) have applied the biblical teachings of chastity and the meaning of sexuality has been wrong.
The Bible has never been wrong. Our understanding of Biblical teaching within cultural contexts has been wrong many times. In this case, I believe that our cultural understanding of our bodies has colored our biblical understanding of our bodies rather than the other way around.
This is why the Popes TOB is such a significant work… it flies so utterly in the face of our culture’s misconceptions of Biblical teaching.
As an example of what I’m thinking, take the idea of “modesty” as we have applied it in our culture. The simple reading of 1 Tim. 2:8-15 make it clear the “modesty” that Saint Paul is talking about is the modesty of not calling attention to one’s wealth. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much skin is exposed or not.
Yet there are entire “ministries” (in the Protestant world, at least) built around the notion that a woman has to keep her _______ and ________ and ______ covered (fill in the blanks with your favorite “indecent” body part) in order to keep men from lusting after her body. Presumably, if she doesn’t, SHE will be responsible for the man’s lust!
This is utterly unbiblical and it is the overt objectification of women.
Yet it is promoted and generally believed (perhaps not always in this extreme) by just about every formal expression of Christendom in the western world today.
Oddly enough, the Bible NEVER tells a woman to keep her breasts covered. Why is that? Did God simply forget to include it?
God never told men that they must keep their genitals covered at all times. Again… was that a simple oversight of the divine inspiration?
Are we so sure that the the western church today has enough wisdom that we can correct these “obvious omissions”? Or is it possible that we have added to God’s Word “commands” that He never intended… even if we have been motivated by a sincere desire to please God and walk in righteousness before Him?
Could it be that our assumptions about the sight of nakedness causing lust are simply mistaken? Perhaps God simple didn’t *need* to include instructions in His word to tell us to avoid nakedness… because avoiding nakedness doesn’t really prevent lust anyway.
The notion that nakedness must be covered to abate lust is relatively new within the history of Christian thought and Practice. It’s only been in the last 3-400 years that nudity in Sacred art has been essentially non-existent. Prior to that, commissioned works for the church could and did include nudity.
Add to that the fact that for the first 3-400 years after Pentecost, the official mode of baptism for the early church required complete nudity for all being baptized, regardless of gender. They actually attached theological significance to the nudity (I’m not making this up… do your own research on it).
Consequently, the “tradition” of the church – if you go back far enough – does NOT agree with our current view of the unclothed human body as taught and practiced within our culture today.
I hope that clarifies what I was thinking.
Pastor Ed Martin
Pastor Ed to Ruth:
Let me approach that again… perhaps a definition of the “pornified view” needs to be stated.
To me, the pornified view is that which considers the sexual impact of the sight of the unclothed body to be its most significant and unavoidable feature. It believes that the avoidance of lustful responses can only be achieved by avoiding exposure.
What I said about you was a reflection of the fact that your very words as posted here in this blog display that perspective. Consequently, I was not “guessing” at what you believe, I was simply labeling it.
Ruth was guessing about me. And she guessed wrong.
Pastor Ed Martin
Au contraire… this doctrine is as old as Gen. 1.
It is there that we are told that man and woman are created in God’s image.
The absolutely astonishing thing is that (speaking for my own experience, at least) that profound truth has been essentially ignored in church teaching. Or—as it was in my tradition—watered down so much (“it has nothing to do with our bodies because God is ‘spirit’ and a body can’t be fashioned to look like a spirit…”) that it had no real application to real life, and absolutely NO impact on our understanding of our sexuality.
But an honest look at Gen. 1 shows that it IS about our physical embodiment and it IS about our masculinity and femininity. It IS about the one flesh union. Those elements are all right there in the text.
I have asked several protestant friends of mine the following question:
The answer that I have received which confirms my own answer is this: Nothing.
So… this is not a “new” teaching as you suggest, it is a very ancient teaching that has been almost completely excised from our theological understanding. By whom and why are questions for debate, but that it is missing from our theology today is undeniable.
At least the Catholic church has JPII who has stepped in and filled that hole. That gaping hole still persists in protestant theology.
Pastor Ed Martin
Your interpretation is certainly new, and the interpretation of TOB to which you cling along with other Westians reflects a new interpretation of the Christian religion.
Modesty according to John Paul II is a spontaneous and wholesome reaction. Not something necessarily imposed by culture. See this. You are creating your own mythology.
Oddly enough, the Bible NEVER tells a woman to keep her breasts covered. Why is that? Did God simply forget to include it?
God never told men that they must keep their genitals covered at all times. Again… was that a simple oversight of the divine inspiration?
And yet it was God Himself Who gave Adam and Eve clothes (Gen 3:21). What parts do you think the clothes that God made for our first parents covered? Do you think the breasts and genitals were left uncovered? If God intends us to be “naked without shame” (as some might say), then why didn’t He simply tell Adam not to be ashamed of his nakedness? Instead, He gave them animal skins rather than the aprons they had made themselves out of fig leaves.
Also, Pope John Paul II pointed out that as a culture progresses, so does its sense of modesty:
If culture shows an explicit tendency to cover the nakedness of the human body, it certainly does so not only for climatic reasons, but also in relation to the process of growth of man’s personal sensitivity. The anonymous nakedness of the man-object contrasts with the progress of the truly human culture of morals. It is probably possible to confirm this also in the life of so-called primitive populations. The process of refining personal human sensitivity is certainly a factor and fruit of culture. (General Audience of April 22, 1981 – http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tb60.htm) [Hat tip to Dawn Eden for uncovering this quote in the course of her research]
If, then, a culture has a tendency toward immodesty, this is not progress but decay.
You ask if West is “representing” instead of “misrepresenting.”
On several issues (the two Bishops, the understanding of Sirach and the “shapely woman”, his understanding of continence, and his talk about “mature purity”) he flat out gets it wrong from a biblical standpoint, a historical standpoint, and even an exegetical point.
The fact that he gets many things right I think is irrelevant.
JPII wanted them restored primarily because art is a very delicate craft. What happens in art is not what happens in everyday life. Furthermore, when it comes to great masterpieces, changing the slightest bit can change the entire painting. JPII wanted to restore it. Nor was Michaelangelo focused on painting “abundant breasts” or telling people to focus on the nude body parts he was painting. It’s the difference between a true artist, and someone who is just obsessed with sex.
As far as West’s ability to heal, I know Protestant’s who used to be drug addicts, and now work drug counseling centers talking about the graces of the Spirit transforming their lives. My Catholic faith tells me they are in error. Yet they have elements of truth, and those elements of truth have produced an amazing effect in the darkened soul.
The same with how West portrays TOB. Nobody says (or at least they shouldn’t) that West is a heretic. When one hears the truth contained in his take on TOB, one can walk away changed. Yet that doesn’t mean we excuse the more problematic areas.
“What I have heard Dr. West say is that if someone draws your attention, don’t look away but prayerfully ask God to see them as He sees them.”
The Scriptures don’t teach this. On the contrary, they teach the best way to know God’s voice is through solitude and isolation from that which vexes the soul. Once you receive that divine knowledge, one can become emboldened with the truth of God’s word and heavenly wisdom.
The best way to overcome lust isn’t to spend all day pondering breasts or a naked female body. matter of fact, it might be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.
As I answer this here now, I do not at all speak from what TOB teaches or even how I understand it. Nor do I present this as the standard Protestant position. These remarks are solely based upon my own study of God’s Word alone.
The garments of skin, based upon the word used to describe them (“coats” – Hebrew “kĕthoneth”) were most likely long enough to cover shoulders to knees.
But you will find in the Scripture passage no command to wear clothes or any indication of what context they must be worn in. God’s purpose for the clothing is not mentioned, nor is there any indication at all what body parts God was aiming to make sure stayed covered.
If we assume that this narrative constitutes a command, then we also have to assume that the command applies in the context in which the command was given… in other words, this would mean that husbands and wives must not be naked around one another.
Yet, without any Scriptural evidence at all, we have presumed today that 1. it IS a command, 2. It does NOT apply to husband/wife or parent/child, 3. the purpose is to control lust, and 4. the parts to be covered are the loins of both genders, and the breasts of women.
None of those 4 points find any corroboration anywhere in the Bible, Old or New Testaments.
So… is this a command?
No, it’s narrative.
If God wants to add a command to the narrative, He does so as He did in Gen. 2:21-23 describing the creation of Eve. The very next verse (v24) is a command: “Leave… Cleave… become one flesh.”
Are you suggesting that God affirms Adam’s sense of fear and shame as a good and appropriate response? …or that God changed His mind about the clearly articulated ideal of “naked without shame”?
Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24 in His response to the Pharisees: “in the beginning it was not so…” (Matt 19:12) to tell them that the pre-Fall reality is still the post-Fall ideal. Would Jesus have affirmed Gen. 2:24 as the ideal today, but rejected Gen. 2:25 (naked without shame) as a post-Fall ideal? I don’t think so.
And since the reversal of that ideal is never given in Scripture, then how can we conclude that it is no longer God’s ideal for humanity?
The burden of proof lies with those who claim that it is not.
Obviously, God has no problem with clothing (Gen. 3:21), but just as obviously, He also has no problem with nakedness (Gen. 2:25). The introduction of sin into the human race did not change our changeless God.
In my opinion, shame is never a virtue… in any of its expressions. Where there is shame, something is wrong (“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten…?” – Gen. 3:11).
Shame’s ultimate source (I believe) is Demonic. In the Scriptural text, only 3 words after the word “shame” appears (Gen. 2:25), we are introduced to the “serpent” (Gen. 3:1). And wouldn’t the fallen angel who was not made in God’s image be jealous of the man and woman who were? Would not God’s enemy seek to cause the man and woman to insult God at the very point that they had been most highly honored: bearing God’s divine image in their bodies?
Whatever God’s unstated purpose was for given Adam and Eve coats of skin, it is a mistake to surmise that He was affirming and codifying their sense of shame.
On these points I know that I may differ from TOB proponents and probably the Pope himself. But my conclusions are drawn from the Word of God alone.
Pastor Ed Martin
It’s almost horrifying to see John Paul II’s teachings misrepresented in such a grotesque fashion, particularly by a Protestant who doesn’t even believe the Catholic Church is the one, true Church established by Christ on Peter and his successors.
I’ll take the traditional teaching of the Church over Pastor Ed’s “theology” any day, and I hope other well-intentioned Catholics will not fall prey to the likes of Pastor Ed.
Just as one should not tear asunder what God has joined together, neither should one uncover what God Himself has covered.
God bless and Mary keep.
I’m not sure, but you may fall into a category of ignorance (meaning simply lack of knowledge) about Catholic teaching on the human condition that many Catholics also share. I mean a lack of knowledge of the subtle, yet very key distinction between concupiscence (which in itself is not sinful, but is an inclination to sin present in every human soul because of original sin; it is present in every soul until bodily death), and lust. Lust, properly speaking, is a sin. Concupiscence can be the doorway to lust, but it need not be.
When you speak of being free from lust, I believe you. But please understand, from a Catholic point of view, this is not the same as being free from concupiscence. Being free from lust is possible with the help of grace. Being free from concupiscence (all tendencies to want to lust) is not possible in this life. However, one can, also through grace and the acquisition of virtue, grow to a point where one is able to experience concupiscence in a much more calm, less frenzied (for lack of a better term at the moment) way.
So, in other words, while one is never free from concupiscence in this life, one can become free from the “domination of concupiscence”; the way one reacts to its effects in one’s own soul can become more virtuous.
For a short primer on this subject of concupiscence vs. lust and Catholic teaching thereon, please see two entries on my own blog. I think a misunderstanding about this is why you are tempted to accuse Fr. Geiger of being too occupied with pornification.
Part I: http://tinyurl.com/o6c4jb
Part II: http://tinyurl.com/q4t3ff
I think you’ve missed the point entirely… even your very question is still objectifying women’s bodies.
They are not made up of “breasts” or a bunch of naked skin. If someone is thinking of them that way, then sure, it’s not going to help! Objectified thinking will never help someone overcome objectified responses.
Women are persons. The beauty of their bodies reflect God’s Divine life-giving and life-sustaining beauty.
The shapeliness of their hips are not there to attract the sexual attention of men, they are shaped that way because their skeletal structure is actually designed to bear new life.
Their breasts are not given as sexual turn-ons for men, they are given to sustain that new life.
In God’s providence and creative aesthetic, He has used His very life-given nature to grace the woman with loveliness.
Ponder a woman’s body this way, and yes, it will free you from lust. Her beauty is not there for your enticement; it’s there to point you to God.
Pastor Ed Martin
I’m familiar with the first statement, but I’ve never seen the second one in the Bible.
Don’t you ever take a shower?
I’m all for permanence in marriage… but nobody on earth has *ever* lived by what you’ve suggested about covering.
Pastor Ed Martin
I concur heartily with Matt Abbott above – God bless you, and all you have and are doing in your witness!
Words cannot express how strongly I agree with you on the matter of modesty and veiling, as the Catholic Church has always traditionally taught them.
My understanding, most of which comes from what I have read by Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand, is that the human body MUST be properly covered/veiled, NOT because the body is itself bad/evil (the Manichean heresy), but that it is done to RESERVE the revealing of the beauty to the person (and the singular IS the key) for whom God intended it. That reservation is what is deemed as modesty and/or veiling.
What do I mean?
Since we are all fallen creatures, God’s intent for the naked human body is for it to be revealed in a personal way ONLY to one’s spouse. God does NOT intend for the naked human body to be revealed to ANYONE else.
So, it is MOST inappropriate for anyone to advocate that I “should have no hangup” with seeing a naked or immodestly dressed woman who is not my wife. Even if I am to the point spiritually where I CAN look at another immodestly dressed or naked woman without lust, I STILL should turn my gaze from her – for the very reason that SH
Sorry for my prior, incomplete, post. Unfortunately, my mouse clicked on the Submit Comment button prematurely. If you can delete my prior post, what follows completes my thoughts.
I concur heartily with Matt Abbott above – God bless you, Father Angelo, and all you have and are doing in your witness!
Words cannot express how strongly I agree with you on the matter of modesty and veiling, as the Catholic Church has ALWAYS traditionally taught them.
My understanding, most of which comes from what I have read by Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand (and those who advocate his writings – which by the way inspired the TOB by Pope John Paul II), is that the human body MUST be properly covered/veiled, NOT because the body is itself bad/evil (the Manichean heresy), but that it is done to RESERVE the revealing of that beauty to the ONE person (and the singular IS the key) for whom God intended it. That reservation is what is deemed as modesty and/or veiling.
What do I mean?
Since we are all fallen creatures, God’s intent for the naked human body is that it is to be revealed in a personal way ONLY to one’s spouse. God does NOT intend for the naked human body to be revealed to ANYONE else. Naked images in art are moral only of “anonymous” persons – so they not apply here, and why JPII gave them an exception when the naked subjects are revealed “anonymously”.
So, it is MOST inappropriate for anyone to advocate that I “should have no hangup” with seeing a naked or immodestly dressed woman who is not my wife. Even if I am to the point spiritually where I CAN look at another immodestly dressed or naked woman without lust, I STILL should turn my gaze from her – for the very reason that I am NOT the man to whom she should be revealing herself.
We’re not members of a nudist camp, and our Christian beliefs have NO basis for leading us to enter or create one either. Once the “Westian” TOB advocates can admit that, perhaps they will finally “see the light” about what Dawn Eden, Drs. Dietrich & Alice von Hildebrand, you yourself Fr. Angelo, and the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church have been trying to convey all along wrt modesty and veiling.
Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,
“The shapeliness of their hips are not there to attract the sexual attention of men, they are shaped that way because their skeletal structure is actually designed to bear new life. . . Ponder a woman’s body this way, and yes, it will free you from lust. Her beauty is not there for your enticement; it’s there to point you to God.”
Pastor Ed, I don’t want to put thoughts in your head. Do you mean to suggest that there is no such thing as a pure–as in free from lust–sexual (i.e. erotic) attraction? Isn’t it a good thing for a man to be sexually attracted to the beauty of his wife’s body, in a pure way, without objectifying her, but seeing her as a whole person even as he recognizes her sexual attractiveness? Your remarks above might suggest that you don’t have room in your approach for a holy eros between husband and wife. But I don’t want to misread you.
Thank you for your kind words.
You are absolutely correct in assessing that I am unfamiliar with Catholic terminology and nomenclature.
Consequently, I’m trying to speak conceptually, although I may very well be using terms in ways that I myself understand them and not as Catholics would.
I believe that I agree with what you’ve said about the propensity to sin (which you’ve called concupiscence). And if I understand you correctly, I agree that it is possible to experience life complete with its normal God-given desires without giving in to the sinful expression of those desires.
Here’s where I believe the distinction in how my thinking (and Father Loya’s, I believe) differs from Father Angelo’s…
Stated simply, I do not believe that God made men to have a sexual arousal response to the sight of a woman’s body.
To be sure, that’s the norm in our society today, but I believe that it is a conditioned response, not the God-designed or God-intended response.
Men are, to be sure, sexual creatures by God’s design. They have a drive for sexual expression by God’s design. But the switch to turn that all on for a man can be just about anything… and in our culture, we have cultivated it so as to be the visual stimulus.
God’s design — and I believe the TOB’s teaching — is that it be relational, not visual.
One man believes and practices the *visual* approach to sexual enticement and arousal.
Another man believes and practices the *relational* approach to sexual enticement and arousal.
Both men are quite normal and with normal urges and married. And in the course of time, they both sense the God-given physical need for sexual expression or release.
The first man will face at this moment increased temptation towards the myriad sources of visual sexual stimulus… from female coworkers to billboards to TV images to Internet porn. All of these are visual and so they play to his cultivated approach to sexual enticement. What’s more, his wife’s natural sexual beauty may be waning as the years pass. Yes, he can and should keep his heart for his wife, but the battle is very real.
The second man, when he feels these desires will have his thoughts turn fully to the only person with whom he has the kind of relationship which sexually entices and arouses him. Coworkers don’t have it; billboards, TV and Internet images don’t have it. His own wife’s sexual beauty is immaterial because it is his relationship with her that matters.
When God told us through Solomon to “rejoice [sexually] in the wife of your youth” (Prov. 15:18) it is meant to last a lifetime. For that to happen, a man *must* become the second man above. His wife will never be able to remain as visually stimulating to her husband as she was while young, but she can sustain and deepen her relationship with him for the rest of her life.
If the second man above can be a reality for an old man, it can be a reality for a young man. I would argue that it’s God’s will for us all, no matter our age.
My take on Father Angelo’s writings as well as those that have supported him here (and, quite frankly, almost everyone I know from my own tradition) is that they believe the second man I described is not possible; that it’s not how God made us.
Consequently, they utterly reject the notion that Father Loya has suggested that it is possible to be fully exposed to women’s breasts being used for their God-given purpose without any lustful response at all. In fact, the frank exposure to them in that utterly non-sexual context can be a very powerful antidote to the conditioned response men have been taught by our culture.
This does not in any way discount the reality of sexual drives in a man. Nor does it deny the very real possibility of sinful lust even in one who does not respond to visual sexual stimuli. We are still human, of course.
But the “see nakedness = sexual stimulus” notion is just that… a notion. It’s one that has been systematically conditioned into just about every man in our world today, but it is not God’s design nor God’s will for the man of God.
I’d better stop… I do not want to hijack this comment thread any more than I have.
My apologies to you Father Angelo on that score. I will now keep my peace.
Pastor Ed Martin
What you’ve described is relational first and visual second. The visual is subject to the relational, not the other way around. So… yes, what you’ve described is absolutely appropriate and good.
I don’t think Proverbs 5:18 says what you think it says, since it is followed up with Proverbs 5:19:
“Let her be thy dearest hind, and most agreeable fawn: let her breasts inebriate thee at all times; be thou delighted continually with her love.” [my emphasis]
If it’s the “relationship” that matters, then why ought one be inebriated by his wife’s breasts?
As far as your response to me (“don’t you take a shower?”) is concerned, Steve B. puts it better than I could, and, as a matter of fact, Our Lord’s mother and his foster father lived just this way.
I’ll just add that the disordered inclination to sin, i.e. concupiscence, is not part of God’s original plan for man. It is disordered, even though it is not in itself personally sinful.
I would imagine that before the fall, Adam experienced a pure, free from all lust and sin, sexual attraction to Eve (“At last, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh”), as well as recognizing a companion and helpmate. But, in proper context, taking her in the context of her entire person, and in the context of their covenant relationship to each other as designed by God, to be fruitful and multiply.
So, the original desire placed in man before sin entered the world, for union with one’s spouse and for children, I would think, included a pure sexual attraction contextualized by their committed spousal relationship.
After the fall, what we have is a mix of disordered desires (concupiscence and lust, related but not the same), along with the possibility of still having a purified desire (by grace-suffused growth in virtue; not lustful, and not dominated by concupiscence), even as concupiscence remains.
I just wanted to suggest that a sinless erotic desire was a part of God’s original plan (though as I understand it this is debated among the fathers of the Church). And to mention that now, after the fall, our desires are tainted by concupiscence, and the concupiscence component of desire is not part of God’s original plan, even though we are all effected by it, and God permits it to remain as a consequence of original sin. In this life we can’t get back even with grace to the state of a pure desire only, without concupiscence. But we can be greatly purified so as to desire without lust, and to desire in such a way that concupiscence, while still a reality, does not have the power to plunge us inevitably into sin.
I am hesitant to jump into this conversation since it seems to have become a male only site but since a few of you addressed my comments directly, I would like to respond.
Kevin, you totally distorted what I said about looking at a woman’s body. I did not state that you were to look at her breasts or other attributes “all day”. I said that you should, if drawn to notice someone’s attractiveness, ask God to allow you to see her as He sees her. See her in her totality as a PERSON created in the image of God and possessing great dignity. Your statements just objectified her again and once again stripped her of her dignity because you refused to hear what I was saying and put your disordered thoughts into my statement. Shame on you!
Pastor Ed and Scott, thank you very much for your comments. They are beautiful and true. I believe that what you are trying to say about one’s spouse, Pastor Ed, is what Pope John Paul II referred to as one’s unrepeatability(I hope that is the right term). Each person is unique in the world and it is that uniqueness that should be drawing us to another. If we, according to Mr. West’s explanation of TOB, are attracted to certain attributes, particularly physical but I’m sure even other attributes, another person will always come into one’s life who possesses to a higher degree those attributes to which you are attracted. Then one could cease to be attracted to his spouse and seek the one with those more perfect attributes.
I have been pondering this discussion all afternoon and some aspects of it have quite raised my ire. I am going to begin what may be called a rant and some of you I am sure will not want to read it. So be it, I am going to say it anyway, in defense of all women.
I am going to state quite emphatically that modesty has nothing whatsoever to do with lust. I am a 55 year old woman raised in a blue collar world who has been the object of men’s disordered desires since I was 12 years old. I defy any of you to say that when I was 12 I was dressing immodestly. That is totally laughable if you knew me then–I had barely come to grips with the fact that I was a girl at that time–I was very much a tomboy.
I have had men come on to me when I have been dressed quite modestly, have watched men ogle women who were very tastefully dressed and here is the best story of all: my daughter was working in a book store and had a man come into the store basically stalking her because he was so attracted to her—-feet! Guess wearing sandals is immodest for some men.
Having been objectified by men’s disordered desires for well over 30 years, I have a lot of passion about this subject and I will not cease to speak out about this. I married a man who had serious issues with lust and lived under this cloud for many years. He is a wonderful man but was very disordered in this area. After years of this causing a wall between us, he was able to admit that he did have a problem and desired to change.
At first he struggled with the manner in which women dressed that drew his attention. He longed for women to be more modest so they would not catch his eye–in other words, he was placing the blame for his problem on someone else.
Then he heard Mr. West and began to understand how he might overcome this problem. He did as Mr. West suggested and, when drawn to look at a women, made a conscious effort to see her as a person, a person with dignity imaging God in her femininity. He prayerfully went to God and asked for help and within no time his battle with disordered desires was conquered.
By conquered do I mean that they no longer exist? No, just as when one army conquers another it does not mean that the defeated group ceases to exist. What it does mean is that the desires no longer control him, he now has the tools to defuse any disordered thoughts that come into his mind to the point that they leave and do not affect his future actions.
Is Mr. West absolutely correct about every sentence that he says? I don’t know, but I do know that he is 100% correct about the grace of God being able to correct a man’s disordered lusts. I am sorry that many of you are so distrustful of God, and yourself, that you will not even try to overcome your lusts. You, and everyone of the opposite sex that you are in contact with, are much impoverished because of it.
Also, have any of you ever apologized to a woman for your disordered desires? Mr. West has–for his own guilt and for all men who have stripped women of their dignity. He understands the wounds that we women experience from men’s objectification of us and the depth to which those wounds penetrate.
This is a subject that is of vital importance to all of mankind and we need to keep debating it until we come to a unity about it and speak with one voice to the world. So, let’s keep the lines open and fight this disagreement through to the end!
@ Pastor Ed
This is not Catholic folks. It just isn’t. This TOB stuff is turning into another religion.
These arguments are full of false dichotomies.
A woman’s body is functional in terms of childbearing. It is also the direct cause of arousal in men.
JP II teaches that modesty is both objective and subjective, external and internal.
First, out of respect, how are you to be addressed? Pastor Martin, Mr. Martin, etc?
I would certainly agree with what you said in describing the female body. My only concern is this:
For those struggling with lust and impurity when it comes to objectifying a woman’s flesh, does pondering that flesh until you get it really the wisest of ways?
When Sirach said “turn your eyes not towards a shapely woman” why is that counsel so bad? He simply meant do not focus on the shapely woman in and of itself. Don’t look at her as just a body.
Same as above here. I agree we should “see her as God sees her.” Yet if one feels drawn to just the flesh, how is looking at just the flesh going to fix anything? That is the argument of Fr. Loya and Dr. West. I get what they are saying. That eventually, you should see her as God intended her to be, a full person, not just a body.
I just question the prudence of telling someone who is sexually disordered that the best way to do it is to continue focusing on that, rather than taking a time out and really assessing why you are looking at the person the way you are. One should not go seeking occasions of sin to turn them into occasions of grace. If they cannot be avoided, one turns to the Cross and implores God’s mercy, and He will bestow it. Yet we shouldn’t go jumping into the lions den expecting to be rescued.
A perfect example. Tonight at the bowling alley, someone was talking about a date he went on, where she was dressed up all nice, and speaking of the body in very lewd terms I have no desire to repeat in front of a family audience. Is the best advice for him to keep looking at her until he sees the truth? Or should one say “you are looking at her completely wrong, step back, get to know her as a person, not as a body?”
I did not “put my disordered thoughts” into the statement. I simply remarked (with admitted hyperbole) how imprudent I find such an approach.
To say modesty has nothing to do with lust, I’m not really sure what to say about that. While modesty should never be solely focused on avoiding inciting people to lust, there’s no doubt this still exists. Why do many women wear bikinis? They like having that “bikini body” and the attention it draws.
I had a roomate once who did it for precisely that reason. I finally asked her “if you’re getting attention from guys who just want to look at the smokin hot body, are these really the kind of guys you want? Even if the guy is a good guy, wouldn’t you want to be showing him that which is inside, rather than just flaunting your body?” She found that beautiful, and really took what I said to heart.
Modesty exists in the “negative” (making a reasonable effort to not incite to lust) and a “positive” (showcasing, through your clothing, your ultimate dignity as a human person, mind, body, and soul.) Some people will always have disordered passions and lust no matter what. Yet, as brothers and sisters in the common human family, we should make our best effort not to cause that trouble.
This is what irks a lot of us. That if we disagree with something being a prudent way, we somehow “deny the grace of God’s ability to conquer lust.” Like everything else with God, we must use that grace intelligently, to illuminate our reason. If one has a problem with objectifying the flesh, reason dictates you get them out of that situation, then look at the issue.
Sorry, Father, I should have qualified that–modesty of dress. Is that better?
Kevin, I agree with your comments and Mr. West states the same thing. He has said in several of his talks that if you need to look away at a particular time, to do that but do not stop there. He says that we need to continue to seek the healing that is possible through grace. The reason, Kevin, that this is so important is because any man who does not master this is going to treat his wife as an object. No woman deserves to be used as an outlet for a man’s disordered desires toward someone else and this happens all the time in marriage.
I truly don’t care if this doesn’t sound exactly like Catholic teaching of the past. What I care about is people and their dignity.
As far as why women wear bikinis, yes, many wear them to get attention but this is because of something lacking in them and we should, as you did, strive to make them aware of their dignity. Some women, however, wear bikinis because that is what is in fashion and they want to be like everyone else!
Thank you, Matt and Steve B.
Well I have been following this but have remained speechless through most of it. Truly speechless.
I think something that people are missing (or at least this is my take) is that no one is saying that Christoper West has it all wrong! But, if there are enough people (men) in the Catholic community claiming that West’s prescription for ridding men of lust doesn’t work for a lot of men … then LISTEN UP. Maybe, indeed, it worked for West and Fr. Loya. But, quite honestly, I’m not sure most women would be happy at how these men might choose to gawk at the woman to get past their lust. It’s a bit AWKWARD. Ugh.
And, as my husband often says, women can come off as ‘sexy’ just by their demeanor so modesty isn’t just about how one dresses. But, alas, in this culture I simply cannot imagine modesty in anything being something that we grasp onto all too readily. And, I sometimes get shocked when I look back on ‘old’ movies in an era that I presume to be more modest only to see quite seductive stuff. I also get shocked looking at other cultures from 100plus years ago to see women with cleavage, etc. So, this has been a lifelong battle I’m afraid. We will never be able to rid ourselves of it. For some of these TOB people to imply that if one just does A and B he will get C … hogwash.
Something else that people keep missing, perhaps, is that everyone’s libido is different and the libido can change as we age. So, perhaps this ‘tactic’ that now works for West, Fr. Loya and Lauretta’s husband would not have worked for them when they were in their younger years. Yet, people cannot make a one-size statement that all men who reach age X will now have less of a libido … some yes, some probably no.
I can just imagine my wife’s reaction if she catches me gawking at an immodestly-dressed young lady on the street and I say, “Hey baby, I’m just trying to see her as God sees her”!
Dear Fr. Angelo,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Detraction is the unjust damaging of another’s good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.” – New Advent
Did you pick up the phone and call Dr. Janet Smith and Fr. Loya before writing this broadside? If not, why not?
Isn’t that the Christian standard of charity: To go to your brother whom is sinning (or at least being perceived so by you) and admonish him, and if he doesn’t repent, then go to him with members of the Church, etc.?
Why did you forgo this elementary standard of Christian behavior?
Do you really think that Dr. Janet Smith, the champion of Humanae Vitae, really thinks God is a “a pathological sexual deviant”?
How much weight would you advise one of your spiritual children to place on hearsay? Would you encourage one of your “little children” to detract from another’s good name based on hearsay? Isn’t that what this Tweet was – a 3rd party’s claim to the words of another?
Even if Dr. Janet Smith’s comments were more inappropriate than you present them (and even if you heard them first hand), does that give you license to issue a public detraction?
Considering your extensive critique of a website header, did you offer to Fr. Loya the considerable website design skills of your community to help him better use this new media? Did you contact him with your expert feedback and offer to help? Clearly in the medium of egg tempura paint and icon writing, Fr. Loya is a master, might he need better help in the medium of website communications? Or did you just attack it as a sign of his supposed skewed vision of the TOB, without considering that the site might be less than he had hoped for?
Did you do a even a cursory investigation of Fr. Loya to discover his tremendous accomplishments as an icon writer? Clearly not if you wrote, “In fact, Father Loya, who was an artist at one time.” Past tense?
The point is that as Christians we are personalists and love is our organizing principle. We care about people.
Fr. Loya’s response in the comments is addressed to your readers, interestingly, he doesn’t address you. Why is that?
Have you risen to the basic Christian standard for dialogue with a fellow Christian, never mind a fellow brother of the cloth? Could it be, Fr. Angelo, that he is sending you a subtle message by addressing your readers and not you?
Fr. Angelo when leaders in the Church attack other leaders in the Church, it is a wound to the body, a sin against charity and unity.
Is there a time and place for public attacks, yes, but only as the very last resort, never the first reactive move. First we reach out, we discover the person of Dr. Janet Smith and Fr. Loya.
I’m sure that if you had done this, with humility, purity of heart and good will, you would have a greater understanding of these good people and what they really think and believe.
But instead there is a wound to the body, just read the comments to your post.
Oh good grief. Do you not understand the distinction between accusing others of sin and addressing their public errors?
That breasts play a role in the sexual intimacy between husband and wife is not in dispute. This verse is certainly an acknowledgment of that.
However, the attempt to use this verse to “prove” that breasts are designed to be a sexual turn-on for men is not valid. Remember that this is poetry. If the writer had used the word “lips” instead of “breasts,” there would be very little difference in the overall meaning of the passage. It so happens that breasts are one of the obvious marks of womanhood and poetically, it works very well as a euphemism for her entire femininity.
Most of the translations I’ve seen use “satisfied” instead of “inebriated.” I believe that the picture there is that for a baby, breasts literally “satisfy” their hunger. Obviously, the writer is not suggesting that the husband drink his wife’s milk, but rather he is using it as a metaphor for a man’s total sexual satisfaction in her total femininity. Remember that biologically, it is not her breasts that provide his sexual satisfaction anyway.
The overall meaning of the entire passage is that a must must limit his sexual activities to his wife alone, for his and her entire life. It is NOT at all the singling out of breasts as sexual enticements.
Do a word study on breasts throughout the Scriptures. You will find that only rarely (as in this passage) are they referenced in a sexual context. Overwhelmingly, they are used in reference to the nurture of children. Even in the Song of Solomon, the breasts, while mentioned, are not given any more sexual significance than her thighs or even her navel.
Pastor Ed Martin
And you responded:
Herein is the very crux of our disagreement.
Obviously, you have assumed that you are correct without offering any biblical or even biological proof that my statement is wrong.
If you never even consider that your belief about my assertion may be mistaken, then nothing that Father Loya or I have said will ever make any sense at all. Any exegesis of the Pope’s TOB teaching which leans toward my assertion will sound like distortions or worse.
Consider this one argument… If God created men to be visually aroused, then the original pre-Fall reality of Eden would have had a fatal flaw, for if sin had not entered the world, “naked and unashamed” would have persisted as the norm for human society. Men would have had to face the struggle of sexual arousal at the continual sight of women that were not their own wives.
God’s original design did NOT have a fatal flaw. God did NOT “curse” men with visual arousal after the Fall. And if God did neither of these things, then it can only be an expression of our sinfulness. Consequently, it cannot be God’s will for us today. Furthermore, the defense of it as being “natural” or “automatic” is a lie about our Creator. That is a very serious error.
Pastor Ed Martin
Two people now have used the term gawking to express what some are trying to say about learning to see others with dignity. I cannot imagine a much worse term to describe what is being explained. How can you use that term when what has been described is a deep heartfelt cry to God to purify your heart and help you to see rightly?
And, Jen, I asked my husband and he said that his libido is quite fine–that the only time he ever noticed a decline was during ten months of chemo for cancer. I don’t know what you mean by older but I believe the Fr. Loya and Mr. West were both under 30 when they experienced this change of heart. Also, can you not understand that to expect another person or culture to change so that someone else is not tempted is quite unrealistic? Not to mention that Scripture says that we are made unclean(sin) by what is inside us, not that which is outside us.
dcs, are you the person I was discussing this quite some time ago who believes that modesty in dress for a woman means clothing below the knees therefore classifying Dr. von Hildebrand as immodest since her knees have been seen several times in public? And are you the one who said that a woman must submit to a husband’s request for the marital debt to be honored even if she is on her deathbed? If so, I imagine you “gawking” at another woman is one of the least of your wife’s problems.
Lauretta, I would like to suggest that helping men to turn away from lust and become chaste is something that both men and women should want to do. Of course, every individual man is primarily responsible for his own lusts. Indeed, it comes from the interior of the person. But, unless a man is totally out of control, lust is a response to something outside. The lust itself is present within the soul, but it looks for things outside as an incitement and trigger (and “outside” here could include thoughts about others). It is simply a fact that immodest attire that deliberately emphasizes in an excessive way the sexual features of a woman’s body makes it much harder for a man to be chaste, especially a man who struggles with lust.
In the case of sexually provocative attire, it is not primarily the woman’s fault if a man lusts (though this might be debatable if she is deliberately trying to make men lust) after her. However, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have an obligation in charity to help each other proceed on the path of holiness. Hopefully, we are concerned about how our own behavior might be a problem for others. We are expected to try as best we can within reason not to be a stumbling block for others.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. As you point out, some men are so enslaved by lust that the smallest things can set them off. Such men do not need, nor should they expect, that women should cover themselves in burqas. They need grace and the help of other men.
But in the case of a man who is not totally enslaved by lust, but struggles like many do, trying to grow in sanctity and desiring to treat women as his sisters in Christ, as unique and precious images of God, such a man is more likely to succeed if his sisters in Christ want to help him. And modesty (both in attire and in manner) is a great help.
I am talking about reasonable modesty, not some fanatic overreaction, but modesty that is reasonable and prudent, not prudish.
Why would a Christian woman not be interested in wanting to help her brothers in Christ grow in Christ-like virtue? Please note, I am not saying it is women’s responsibility for the chastity of men. Not at all. I am saying that I hope that women want to help men become chaste, though it always remains primarily each man’s responsibility in himself to become chaste with the help of grace. Of course there will always be those for whom prudent and reasonable measures of modesty do not help, because they are too far ensnared by the clutches of lust. But, there are many, many men, for whom a reasonable and prudent modesty is a great help in their own ongoing endeavor to become pure.
Is the modesty of women absolutely necessary for men to become chaste? No. Is it, however, a help? Yes. Simply admitting this and hoping that society acts in accord with this is not to say that women must be fanatic about modesty (they should not) nor is it to remove primary responsibility from men in the growth of their own individual virtue.
Lauretta, you wouldn’t say that women should not want to help men–in a reasonable way–to become more chaste, would you? Just because one man can’t handle the sight of exposed feet does not therefore mean that any concern for modesty in dress by women is pointless in relation to male chastity. That seems to be your implication. Most men are not so ensnared. Dressing with reasonable modesty will help many men as they strive for chastity; it will not be the cause of their chastity, but will help them on the journey to grow in it, even though in regard to the foot-fetish guy, probably not.
And a last point on this. A man has to want to grow in chastity before the way women dress can be of significant help. A man who lusts even after women who are modestly dressed, at some level may have decided in his heart he does not care about chastity/being pure in his vision. Women cannot do much about such men by their choice of clothing. But, women can by the way they dress help those men who want to be pure and who are not already greatly disordered in their impurity. Realistically speaking, this is probably a minority of men out there (sadly, probably a small minority). But perhaps, even though a minority, they are worth at least some measure of concern when choosing one’s wardrobe.
@ Matt C. Abbott
I am sufficiently horrified now. I allowed this to go on in order to illustrate to what extent the TOB train has gone off the rails. Perhaps I let it go on to long.
I would also, like Matt, hope that no unsuspecting soul happens upon this thread and is scandalized.
The fact is that neither the scriptures nor the Church in Christ makes the promise that those who receive His grace and are transformed by Him are going to be free of temptations of lust. This is not to deny the redemption of the body. Yes, there is a difference between someone who falls into sins of lust and one who practices mature purity, just as there is a difference between one who is a prude and one who is modest. I have gone over these issues many times.
But also the Church does teach that modesty is, in part, a matter of dress. It is not the whole story, but it is part of it. And as I have pointed out JP II does teach that veiling sexual values is appropriate, and not only a matter for the spiritually immature. It is not sufficient to say that the contrary “doesn’t sound exactly like Catholic teaching of the past.” No, it contradicts the perennial teaching of the Church and is false.
I am not going to have any more of this, Pastor Ed, and Lauretta. You are not thinking with the Church. I don’t care what Christopher West or Father Loya say, or what you think they mean by what they say. You do not understand JP II’s teaching and you are misrepresenting it. If you wish to question me any further on these particular points you may do so by email.
I hope the discussion continues, but I will not tolerate any further denial of what the Church actually teaches about the practice of chastity. Keep it to the content of my post, please.
Perhaps you should follow your own exhortation. But that is okay.
Like Father Loya, I know that when you say things that you absolutely know many people are going to disagree with—vehemently—and you do it over and over again, for a long time in spite of many people discussing the problem with you, you are going to take some heat. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. So why should I complain?
I don’t think you should either.
I do indeed think that modesty means that one’s knees ought to be covered in most situations. And I did not “classify” Dr. von Hildebrand as immodest, I suggested that if she wore a skirt that did not cover her knees that her clothing was immodest.
I don’t believe I ever said that a wife must honor a request for the marriage debt while on her deathbed. You, on the other hand, denied the very existence of the marriage debt (in contradiction to Holy Scripture and the moral teaching of the Church, but citing West who claimed to cite Pope John Paul II) and suggested that marital relations should only take place by mutual consent. I did not mention our previous conversation for two reasons: (1) it did not take place on this web site, and (2) I did not want to embarrass you by showing how you did not think with the Church.
Both spouses are bound to honor any reasonable request for the marriage debt. It is the one area in marriage where each spouse is bound to submit to the other.
That may well be the case, but I think the problems between husband and wife, especially in the sphere of intimacy, are yet another thing that ought to remain veiled.
What Fr. Loya describes is gawking:
If I look at a woman long enough to look at her backside (which Fr. Loya vulgarly calls her “butt” — I can’t see how this word helps us to see women with dignity), her breasts, and “every aspect of her magnificent femininity,” then I am gawking.
Pastor Ed (whose latest comment I just deleted),
You have taken up plenty of real estate in this post. You have nothing to complain about. Not a thing.
I do find myself wondering when the great panacea of thought will come along that will “give me the freedom” to never be tempted by *my* pet sins. Then, I’ll never have to deny myself an extra handful of nuts or a second dessert–I’ll simply cease to desire them. I’d never have to pull myself away from the computer and clean my kitchen even though I’m tired, I’ll LOVE to do the dishes. I’m not holding my breath, though.
Scott, I agree very much that women should dress in accord with their dignity. One of the points I have been trying to make, however, is that, just like any other subject, the only thing we can control is our own selves. We cannot control how those around us dress or behave and if we think that we cannot master something until others change, we will never grow. Also, we cannot expect the many non-believers to behave the way we want them to–and non-believers are probably the majority in our culture now.
Also, other women dressing modestly in public is not going to help a married couple in the intimacy of their home. Just as one man we know said, “None of this would be a big deal if I didn’t have to sleep next to my wife.” I could tell you many stories of how this plays out in marriages and how often the wives are used as objects of their husbands’ disordered passions.
Many Christian women think that it is their duty to submit to these disordered desires–resulting in women who are physically and emotionally exhausted from having more children than they could healthily handle. This was very prevalent in the generation older than myself and was an injustice to them and even more importantly to their children. Children deserve to grow up in a home where they are loved and appreciated and came into existence as the fruit of love, not lust. As an aside, how are we parents going to feel if our children one day in heaven have the knowledge of exactly the circumstances of their conception? I would be so ashamed to have to acknowledge that my child was the fruit of fantasizing about some anonymous other man while using my spouse as an object of my lust.
Many Catholic women of my parents’ generation quietly encouraged their daughters to have smaller families because they experienced the burden of having children they were not ready for. So, you see, the picture is much larger than just the man’s issues. He is having a profound effect on the future of many people because of this very issue. It is imperative that we learn to love each other rightly and we cannot wait around for those in the culture around us to make that easier. We have to take up our crosses, die to self, open our hearts to God’s grace and be redeemed.
Do you or do you not accept that modesty in dress is a real part of the practice of modesty and chastity, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church?
Do you or do you not accept that both spouses are obliged, according to the teaching of the Church, to render the marriage debt when reasonably requested?
Yes or no to both questions.
Of course, it could be that these passions are not always disordered and the husband simply has a greater desire for relations than his wife. A greater desire is not “disordered” — there is a reason that confessors were advised to remind men to be moderate in requesting the debt and to remind women to be generous in honoring it. St. Paul himself exhorts spouses to be generous in fulfilling the debt (1 Cor 7:5): “Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.“
What an excellent point! What exactly is different about lust that one can be liberated from it, but not the other sins to which one might be tempted?
I honestly think you let a West enthusiast speak long enough, they provide enough rope to hang themselves.
This thread is reasoin 5489789457849574895748957894 i have of that conclusion.
That is all.
Yes, Father I agree with both of those statements. I believe that I stated fairly clearly in my last post that modesty is not going to solve anything within marriage, however. And in your second statement, reasonably is the key word and I know from many years of marriage and talking with many other marriage couples that term is understood in quite different ways between the sexes.
Great point, Lindsay. Do you keep all food out of your house so that you are not tempted? I assume your computer must be down the street somewhere so you don’t have to look at it? Or are those things right in plain sight and you have to look at them and spend every moment with them and yet have the mastery over yourself to say no when tempted to misuse them? That is what liberation from lust is–the temptation is right there in front of you but you have the mastery of self to say no.
Yet it is not a subjective term. Examples of unreasonable requests are those that are those that are made when one is intoxicated, when one is sexually diseased, or when one partner would suffer physical harm from the act, etc. For example, if a man comes home drunk and requests the debt, his wife is not obligated to fulfill it. She can fulfill it but she is not obligated. Similarly, if a wife becomes infected with HIV through a blood transfusion, her husband is not obligated to fulfill her requests for the debt. He can, but there is no obligation.
But the mere fact that one spouse might not “feel like it” does not render the other spouse’s request unreasonable. In other situations the obligation remains, and it is a grave one, especially if the spouse who makes the request is in danger of incontinence.
It might well be the case that someone would have to remove a computer or television or food product from the house so as not to be tempted by it any more, especially if the sin has become habitual. Then perhaps some healing can take place after one has been away from these things for a while, and it becomes safe to see them again. When people are in AA we don’t tell them that they should go into bars, do we? When we know people in are in recovery, do we drink in their presence? NO. So in the case of men who are addicted to pornography or other sins of unchastity, we should be recommending that they keep custody of their eyes. Maybe at some point in the future it will be safe for them to observe this rule less strictly (or maybe not — we never know what kind of cross someone else might be carrying). But we should not recommend, as a matter of course, that they do more of the thing that got them into trouble in the first place.
As a matter of fact, I do avoid buying the snacks that are the greatest temptation to me except on special occasion, and I did get rid of my television years ago (and have not missed it nearly as much as I feared). And should I happen to have a bag of potato chips in the house, I will sometimes hide them out of sight so as to avoid the temptation that an open bag on the counter brings. I know I am weak, and I see no need to keep temptation around in order to prove my strength of will.
I have found that simply removing myself from junk food or junk entertainment decreased my desensitization and makes me more able to look at such things with distaste (though not entirely removing the temptation). I can’t see why lust would work in an opposite manner.
You are fortunate, Lindsay, that only certain foods are a temptation for you. For me, it is all food. I am particularly fond of sweets but if they are not available, I am quite content with almost anything else. Even saltine crackers if that is all that is available!
Imagine how it would be, however, if every time you were tempted to eat when it was not appropriate, you took the time to prayerfully ask God to heal your heart so that you desired only to use food in the manner for which it is intended. And, if you took the time to reflect on why you might be using food improperly. Imagine how freeing that might be.
I was quite addicted to soap operas in my younger years–watched them for hours. My husband was concerned about their effect on our young daughter and encouraged me to give them up for her sake. I did that with never having to remove the television. I’m sure a lot of it was because of my love for my daughter and the support of my husband.
Also, you have control over what you expose yourself to. That is not the case with exposure to other people and how they dress and act. I guess men could go up to women on the street and at work and tell them that they need to dress more appropriately but they might want to make sure that their insurance covers emergency room visits!
dcs, your comparison to AA is a good one. For one thing, AA does no one any good until they admit that they have a problem. Then they must seek help and be open to what they are told. There is then a process to be gone through to help them gain mastery over their addiction, with the ultimate goal to be able to function fully in society again. This means being able to attend social functions with alcohol present and either abstain or drink in moderation. And maybe someday they will be able to have alcohol in their house for their spouse or others to partake of and they won’t succumb to the temptation to get drunk. Some may never reach this point of healing but that does not mean that we should withhold the method from everyone because some are not capable of it.
The TOB presenters are doing the same thing. They are taking people who already have an interest in this topic–shown by their attendance at the talk–and giving them the tools to begin to order their hearts rightly. One has to examine oneself to see what they are capable of attempting at that point. For many it is going to be just establishing a relationship with God as the first step. But there is a progression that, if followed, can do much to heal the heart and help one to love others as God does–with a sacrificial gift of self.
Your response to me is distressing. I asked you questions that arise from our shared belief in Jesus and His Body the Church, I didn’t issue any exhortation to you. I did not tell you to change any of your behavior, I ask you questions. Your response to me didn’t address any of the serious questions that I’ve asked you. So I have some more questions to ask . . .
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”85 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.86
Father Angelo, in your role as priest, do you have a greater or lesser duty to live by the basic, elementary standards of our faith?
If a priest were to lead an attack upon another priest in a public forum (even if technically correct in his attack) would that lead others to do the same against that priest?
Has there been others in this forum who have attacked Fr. Loya without speaking with him, or reaching out to him in Christian charity (the basic standard of Christian behavior)? Has this post been re-posted to other blogs where the evil inspiration to detract from a priest’s good name and character has grown by a multiplying factor?
How have your words radiated the call to respect the dignity of others and shown a respect for the souls of others? If you are really concerned about the “little ones” wouldn’t you make a double effort to reach out to Fr. Loya and seek to understand before issuing a public detraction? Wouldn’t a rush to detract have the opposite effect by inspiring “the little ones” to follow their leader into that mire of sin?
Fr. Angelo, do you have the courage to answer these questions?
Really? Do TOB’ers recommend custody of the eyes to men who habitually commit sins of unchastity? I understand that the ultimate goal should be for such men to be able to function normally in society again, and to be around women who are immodestly-dressed without lusting after them. However, it seems to me that by telling men to look at such women is the wrong approach, the opposite of the approach that AA uses.
Would you mind elaborating upon how Fr. Loya has been attacked? Where do you see public detraction? Would you agree that the following article from the Catholic Encyclopedia gives a good definition of detraction?
And if so, could you give an example of how Fr. Angelo has committed detraction against Fr. Loya?
The standard of Christian charity to which you refer is stated by Our Lord in Matthew 18:15-17 (“But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone”). How does this apply to those who err publicly?
Meanwhile, did you email Fr. Angelo Mary privately or pick up a phone to call him before publicly accusing him of committing detraction?
I have done the same thing you have done. I have critiqued a man’s ideas. Yes, I have used his name; anyone who speaks in the public forum, especially on controversial subjects or in a controversial way open’s himself up to public scrutiny.
I have not attacked him personally, in spite of what you infer without basis. Nor have I questioned his intentions. I disagree with his ideas because I believe them to be a gross caricature of the faith.
No one is obliged to give public conferences. No one is obliged to create a public website. No one is obliged to make videos and post them to Youtube, where there is a comment section. If one does, he knows, as I know, but as apparently you don’t, that his ideas may be criticized.
If one speaks to shock, provoke or otherwise stir people up, which obviously, Fr. Loya does (take for example his “Breasts” radio show,” where he sarcastically speaks of the scandal the vatican is causing), then he cannot be surprised or hurt when someone else speaks out against his ideas.
Perhaps you ought to think as much as you suggest I should about causing scandal and committing detraction.
I actually am not the least offended by you. I know as well as Fr. Loya does, that if one speaks vehemently about something, or disagrees with people’s ideas you are going to hear about it.
dcs, this is a quote from Mr. West’s book, Theology of the Body Explained, page 198:
When a person struggling with lust seeks guidance, he will often hear from spiritual directors, confessors, and even otherwise sound chastity educators something like: “Just try to distract yourself from lustful thoughts. Try to ignore them. Do something constructive. Take a walk. Take a bike ride. If need be, take a cold shower.” While such advice may offer a helpful starting point–indeed, in the heat of a powerful temptation an immediate distraction is often essential—this approach offers only a temporary solution at best. Even when a person successfully distracts himself, that lust still lies “within” him. It will come back, and probably with more intensity. The Pope’s anthropology of redemption offers us a way of getting to the root of the problem. If we surrender our lustful desires to Christ, he can transform them by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism proclaims that in the Sermon on the Mount “the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives. Jesus teaches us this new life by his words; he teaches us to ask for it by prayer. The rightness of our life in him will depend on the rightness of our prayer.” As I wrote in my previous book, “When sexual feelings, desires, and temptations present themselves, as they inevitably do, instead of trying to ignore then or stuff them by pushing them down and under, we need to bring them up and out. Not up and out in the sense of indulging them, but up and our and into the hands of Christ our Redeemer. You might simply say a prayer like this: “Lord Jesus, I give to you my sexual desires. Please undo in me what sin has done, so that I might know freedom in this area and experience sexual desire as you intend. Amen.”
I realize that you quoted the Catholic Catechism when you stated: “The rightness of our life in him will depend on the rightness of our prayer.” I suppose I need to find it and read the surrounding passages but initially I must admit to struggling with these words as you seem to be using them. An immediate biblical story comes to mind. We all recall how St. Paul had a ‘thorn in his side’ for which he prayed and prayed to have it removed. Now, much speculation has been made over the years as to what this thorn was … was it a physical ailment? Was it sexual temptation? Some even say he struggled with homosexual tendencies. I don’t know and, in the end, it really doesn’t matter because the point was that the thorn was never removed! Now, are we to believe that St. Paul didn’t therefore have an adequate prayer life? I sure hope not because if his prayer life was questionable, then mine must be in utter shambles! The point is that St. Paul was forced to rejoice in his thorn and learned to live and glory in the Lord in SPITE of the thorn. As far as we all know, that thorn remained with him until his last breath. Now, sadly for me, I have more than one thorn and I’ve tried over the years (albeit, many times unsuccessfully) to glory in the Lord and not let the thorns distract me from Him and His ultimate goals for me. This story of St. Paul has been something to which I must remind myself often … if someone like St. Paul couldn’t have his thorn removed given his level of prayer and sacrificial living, well then …. who am I to think I will be free from mine? It is the thorn, after all, that continually reminds us how human we are and how desperately we need to be saved.
[quote}Also, you have control over what you expose yourself to. That is not the case with exposure to other people and how they dress and act. I guess men could go up to women on the street and at work and tell them that they need to dress more appropriately but they might want to make sure that their insurance covers emergency room visits![/quote]
Or when a man sees such a woman, he could avert his eyes somewhere else? Stare at his own feet if that were his only option in a crowd? He could change seats to avoid exposure to a particular advertisement? There are many disciplines that a man striving for holiness can acquire to help himself avoid an occasion of sin. I’ve done those things merely because they offend me and not because I’m tempted to lust. And often, I will offer a prayer for the scantily clad, but I don’t have to stare at their nakedness to prove I love them. We are instructed to “clothe the naked” and if not looking at their nakedness is the best I can do, at least I’m affording them some amount of dignity that they don’t recognize for themselves.
I would also encourage you that if you are going to engage so actively in Father’s combox, it would be polite to respond to him. After all, he is our host here.
Yes, Lindsay, one can do all of those things but if one remains at that level, just as an alcoholic who never attains the ability to be near alcohol without imbibing, one is cut off from much of society. How sad that so many people would not be able to have relationships with one another because the one finds the other an occasion of sin. I don’t think many realize how little it takes to arouse some men–for some just the least hint of femininity is enough to begin the process. That would mean avoiding a huge percentage of the population. I truly don’t think that is what God wants of us.
Also, when did I not respond to Father? I checked back and cannot see where I failed to answer him. Please show me where I have not responded.
You can shift the emphasis to me, but I have not critiqued any of your ideas, I have only asked questions of you. Questions arising from our shared standards as Catholics, not as secular bloggers or some imagined “fair-game” street code of the public forum. We are called to conversion, communion and solidarity through our encounter with Christ. That calls us to a higher standard, and that standard is even greater among the fraternity of priests. Would you agree as a Knight of Lepanto?
The question isn’t whether one is offended by your critiques, the question is whether one is surrendering to charity and the elementary ways of respecting the dignity of others, or not, in which case one is offensive.
If indeed (as you believe) Fr. Loya’s ideas are a “gross caricature of the faith”, then Father Loya is in need of help because he is endangering the lives of his parish and the many souls he is daily in the trenches ministering to. Did you offer your help to him?
In charity, do you realize that Fr. Loya as the sole priest and pastor of a church community, as a radio host of two syndicated programs (one on Byzantine Catholicism, the other on the TOB), and as the head of a ministry of healing people through the message of the TOB, Fr. Loya is far too busy helping people every day in the trenches to be sitting in front of a computer responding to your critiques of his ideas?
Don’t you think that if God has given you the gifts of realizing Fr. Loya’s errors, then He is also calling you to help Fr. Loya in Christian charity?
Which do you love more, Fr. Loya or being right in a critique?
What would Maximillian Kolbe do?
Would he follow the pattern you have set, or would he make of himself a gift to Fr. Loya that is at once personal and radiates with truth in charity so that it transforms him?
St. Kolbe is the prophet of the civilization of love, let me ask you Fr. Angelo, do you think your modality of idea critiquing will be the norm in this new civilization being born forth, or something that will eventually die with the culture of death as more and more people learn to truly love others?
What would St. Kolbe do?
While one has to take care of the individual, there is also the fact that others might be exposed to those ideas. Even if one approaches someone and they say “let me think about it” the problems still exist, and they need to be countered.
Nowhere does the Catholic Church state the person, much less the opinions of an individual priest are sacrosanct. A public statement can warrant a public rebuke, albeit make sure you are doing it out of charity and not to score points, increase your name, “win”, etc.
In this case, Fr. Loya’s opinions run the risk of deceiving many. Since this is an issue that many people want to know more about, there’s nothing wrong with having a spirited dispute in public on it.
When people see statements like yours, they interpret it as circling the wagons, and instantly writing any critque someone makes as persona non grata.
I am sure Fr. Loya would not be so bold as to declare his personal opinions the Magesterium, upon which nobody can dispute. Since he doesn’t do this, what’s the big deal?
I apologize, Lauretta. I’m afraid I was vain enough to see only my own name in that post.
“Yes, Lindsay, one can do all of those things but if one remains at that level, just as an alcoholic who never attains the ability to be near alcohol without imbibing”
So, in order to conquer his alcoholism, a recovering alcoholic should frequent bars, order drinks, stare at them, smell them, and practice doing all that without drinking them? Seems foolish. God’s grace is abundant, and I should beg for it more often, but it doesn’t preclude common sense. That’s a gift from God as well.
I will tell you what, Columcille,
Father Loya gets rid of his nudie pictures and stops using such things as part of his presentation; stops promoting TOB as a theory of everything; stops suggesting that men stare at the bodies of women to deal with their temptations; and starts teaching modesty as important to the promotion of chastity and I will make it up to him.
We all know what this is really about. Father Loya is one of C. Wests most ardent defenders and was thanked by West in his long awaited response. God bless them both.
They are both big boys and they got themselves into this controversy, as did I, and as did you. You are not being intellectually honest when you say that you are not critiquing my ideas. I have no problem with you doing so. None whatever. So far your comments have been welcome here, regardless of what opinion they express. But don’t deliver high minded lectures about virtue and charity and then put on pretenses about your being so far above the fray.
You don’t like my style. That’s fine. You have had your opportunity to express your opinion and to offer your fraternal correction. But I am concerned with the good of souls and this is not about winning an argument. I have plenty to do with my time. I don’t need the trouble. It is time for the popularizers of TOB like Father Loya to face a bit of public scrutiny. It is not about negotiating a settlement. It is about the resolution to a dispute upon which the salvation of souls depends.
I am not saying I am above critique, not at all. But get off your high horse.
I will quote here Christina Strafici:
First, I thank you for allowing my rather verbose postings. You’re right… on that score, I have nothing to complain about.
Second, I apologize for the rather sarcastic post which you deleted. It was inappropriate and I’m glad it’s gone.
Thirdly, my real “complaint” (or more accurately, my “disappointment”) in this forum is that I have offered many biblical and logical arguments within my posts, but I have seen nothing of substance from you in direct response to my assertion. All I have seen in your responses have been claims that what I have said is NOT what the Catholic Church has taught, or the simple presumption that I am mistaken without offering any supporting Scriptural or logical evidence contradicting my claims.
When I finally stated succinctly the defining difference between our positions and offered a compelling biblical and logical argument in support of my perspective, you simply dismissed me and my argument without any attempt to discount my words intellectually and biblically.
Would you at very least offer a response to my last post?
Thank you. And again, I am grateful that you’ve allowed me to contribute to the discussion.
Pastor Ed Martin
“We cannot control how those around us dress or behave and if we think that we cannot master something until others change, we will never grow.” [Lauretta, 10:14am]
Earlier in the comments, at 3:55am, I had written,
“Why would a Christian woman not be interested in wanting to help her brothers in Christ grow in Christ-like virtue? Please note, I am not saying it is women’s responsibility for the chastity of men. Not at all. I am saying that I hope that women want to help men become chaste, though it always remains primarily each man’s responsibility in himself to become chaste with the help of grace.”
Lauretta, your comment which I quoted suggests to me that you did not carefully consider what I had written earlier in my comment at 3:55 above. Please reread that comment in full. I went out of my way to emphasize the point that the primary responsibility for taming male lust is upon the individual man with the help of grace. I never suggested the idea that it is impossible for men to control their lusts unless women change, and I do not hold this. Can you point out where I wrote something that would make you think I believe this? I don’t think anything I have written here would suggest this at all.
It’s not about who is primarily responsible. If a man lusts, he is primarily responsible. And the path to wholeness is a work that is also primarily something the a man must engage in himself with God’s help.
I thought I was being clear on the following point. Even though it is not, strictly speaking, necessary for women to dress and act modestly in order for men to be healed of lust. It is, nonetheless, very helpful for men if women do so. Shouldn’t we desire, as Christians, to want to do what we can to help others pursue sanctity?
Even if you don’t have to do anything in particular to help any other person become closer to Jesus, don’t you want to, out of charity, do what you can to help?
I read your insistence that there is no connection between the modesty of women and the lusts of men, as, basically, an admission that you don’t want to help men become pure (even though they can do so without your help), or, that you simply don’t believe us when we tell you that modest dress is indeed helpful.
Immodesty is not the source of lust. But it inflames it and makes it harder to deal with. I don’t understand why a Christian woman would not seem to care about this if she cares about the souls of men as her brothers in Christ.
Consider an analogy with a physical wound. Say I have a big gash in my arm. You didn’t cause the gash. But, you have a choice of ways to help me (or not) to deal with the gash. You could find some salt, add some dirt for good measure, and sprinkle this over the wound, thereby making it more painful and probably making the healing process take longer. Or, you could help to clean and bandage the wound, thereby helping the pain to be reduced and probably making the healing process occur more quickly. Now, perhaps you have no obligation to help clean and bandage the wound. But why, if you care about me, would you not stop yourself from doing something that might slow down and make the healing process more painful?
And just for emphasis, I would like to repeat again as I said already above, I’m not talking here about a fanatic modesty, which is not truly healing or helpful in the long run. But, a reasonable modesty that is prudent and still enables freedom for contemporary fashion and style.
Truly, on some level, it seems to me that a woman telling a man that modesty in dress has nothing to do with the exacerbation of lust is a bit like a man telling a woman that there is no such thing as a certain kind of labor pain. How in the world does he know? Indeed, likewise, how in the world does she know? Some human experiences are played out in human persons in such a way as to be inseparable from the gender of the person experiencing it. Lust is one of those experiences. And if we are to help each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to win the battle (always with grace) with those particular sins and vices that we experience in a gender-colored way, we must be able to have some measure of trust in what our brother or sister tells us about his or her struggles.
Pastor Ed made the following argument at 12:43 AM:
“Consider this one argument… If God created men to be visually aroused, then the original pre-Fall reality of Eden would have had a fatal flaw, for if sin had not entered the world, “naked and unashamed” would have persisted as the norm for human society. Men would have had to face the struggle of sexual arousal at the continual sight of women that were not their own wives.”
And then recently, Ed chastised Fr. Geiger for not responding to this line of argument. I would like to make a (probably too) brief and meager attempt. There are others whom I’m sure could do much better. But I would like to at least make some small contribution.
This argument, though I think it ultimately fails, is quite interesting and ingenious. Indeed, I do not believe, and as your argument implies Pastor Ed, neither do you, that God created Adam and Eve in their original state with a fatal flaw.
Let me try to explain why this train of thought does not work, at least from my point of view (and which I think is a faithful expression of a Catholic approach).
First, this term, “arousal.” Ed, you seem to write as though “arousal” (i.e. sexual arousal in this context) is in itself sinful. Or at least that arousal, when it occurs, always happens along with lust (which is always sinful). But, of course, if we are talking about the original condition of mankind before the fall, this is not possible, because until the the original sin happened, there could not have been lust, for there was not yet any sin.
But, indeed, Adam and Eve were, even before they sinned against God, supposed to be fruitful and multiply. God wanted them to have babies and populate the earth. Now, I must presume that if they were to do this, it must have been the case that they indeed could become sexually aroused. And this arousal would have been a reaction, each one to the other–to the goodness and desirability of the other as a whole person. So, it must be the case that they could be aroused, yet in a pure way, without sin.
So, considering the human condition for a moment as it is now, after sin has entered the world, we might admit that it is still possible (though perhaps all-too-infrequent) for arousal to take place without sin. I’m not saying without concupiscence–rather, without sin (i.e. in this context, lust). However, since arousal now takes place under the taint of concupiscence, it can quickly (though it doesn’t have to) lead into lust.
Now, going back to Adam and Eve before the fall. . . Here are two (integrally linked) factors that have not yet been mentioned: love and marriage (they go together like a . . .)! [Please note, a friend of mine in conversation who has been following this discussion pointed this out to me, however, he has not commented himself and I don’t know if he would want his name mentioned so I’ll refrain from doing so at this time; I thank my friend for his insights which I may not be doing justice to here.] Before sin entered the world, any discussion of arousal has to acknowledge its integral connectedness in God’s plan to spousal love.
And this holds the key to seeing how it is possible that before the fall of the human race, men would have been aroused by the bodies of their wives, yet not (in a spousal way) by the bodies of other women.
Before the fall, mankind had what is referred to in a shorthand way as “integrity.” This means that, while they certainly had a full range of human emotions, feelings, passions–the whole panoply of human emotion was always experienced in such a way as to be in harmony with the true and best good of the human person. Emotions, in other words, would not have tended to move people to act in ways contrary to what is truly the very best thing in every situation. Now, put this together with our subjects of arousal, love, and marriage.
In God’s original plan for mankind, the proper context for sexual union (as it still is) was that it should only take place between a husband and wife–in marriage. And, in God’s plan, spouses are to love each other. And, in God’s plan, love, and sex, must always go together. And if sex is to be only in marriage, this means that sex must always take place in the context of a certain kind of love–spousal love. Arousal is something that, if the setting and time, etc., is appropriate, might culminate in sexual union–a union which in the world before original sin, would have been only between men and women who were committed to each other in an unbreakable covenant bond of marriage. Now, recall the integrity of persons before the fall. See where this is going?
I return now to arousal. After the fall, in our current sinful condition, we can be aroused by persons not our spouse. Keep in mind, arousal itself (an awareness of a basic sexual attraction) is not sin. But, before the fall, arousal, I suggest, would have been under the umbrella of integrity that I mentioned. While it would have been the case that a woman’s body could be a source of arousal for men before the fall, nonetheless because of the inner harmony of the gift of integrity and the fact that sex (and the arousal that might lead to it) was to take place only within the stability and commitment and mutual love relationship of marriage, the only women whose bodies would have (even though, let’s say, everyone was physically naked) caused arousal in men would have been the bodies of their own wives.
So, I would suggest, that in human society, had sin not entered the world, the bodies of naked women, though able to be appreciated by men as beautiful reflections of the beauty of God, would not have aroused men in a sexual way–except for the body of a man’s own wife.
This is not the same as saying that women’s bodies were not a cause of arousal before the fall. Yes, they would have been. But, because of integrity, and the fact that sexual union was only appropriate in the context of spousal love, arousal in a sexual sense would have come to conscious flowering, so to speak, only when the relationship had become transformed by the seal of the special covenant bond of marriage.
In other words, there was a new and precious vision of a man of a woman, and a woman of a man–a new way of seeing the other–that would have been opened up into full bloom by the special love that would have existed in a pure and untainted way within marriage. And this is the context in which arousal would have been a reality in human society before the fall of mankind–as a sort of special “secret” of spousal love. In this way, it could have been both true that 1) women’s bodies could produce arousal in men AND YET 2) sexual arousal in fact would have been a reality only in marriage.
Thus, nakedness would not have been a source of struggle for men. The arousal-producing aspect of women’s beauty remaining latent, only being awakened in the special union of marriage. Integrity would have been the factor keeping the specifically sexually (erotically, if you will) arousing response in men to the beauty of women in some way filtered out, until released by the new reality of spousal love, which is directed to one person and one only.
And may I say that in this meager and deficient attempt at an answer to Pastor Ed’s intriguing argument, I do not imply in any way that women’s beauty, their bodies, or any aspect of their entire person, is (or was) in any way tainted or bad or any such thing. Before the fall, with no sin in the world, the reason that women’s bodies other than that of a man’s wife would not have been sexually arousing is not because arousal in itself would have been bad or evil. No. The reason is because this sort of arousal was only to take place in God’s plan between husband and wife. Arousal, mutual spousal love and commitment, and sexual union, would have been all integrally and inseparably linked in human life before sin entered the world and pulled them apart. Thanks again to conversation with a friend. I apologize for any repetition which sometimes comes out in an overzealous and vain effort to be clear.
Lauretta & Scott Johnston,
I think you both might be saying the same thing! I think you both agree that Christian women should absolutely dress modestly and yet, of course, there are many women who simply will not do so. Because of this, men are forced to find a means to control their eyes.
Scripturally, St Paul discusses that if our actions, even if in and of themselves seem innocent or petty, cause another to sin … then we are to stop! When I first read these words in my 20’s, I very much thought of modesty in dress. It is VERY MUCH a woman’s Christian responsibility to dress in a way that doesn’t cause her fellow brothers to trip more than they have to. Yet, of course, as Lauretta points out, as individuals, we can only control our own closets! Immodestly dressed women have probably been around since time immemorial.
I’m rather surprised at how this keeps going around in circles. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think people are trying to lump everyone into a small little compartment .. the compartment that they themselves are in!!
You keep demanding for biblical backing for Father Angelo’s TOB criticisms … perhaps he has some, but maybe not!! He’s been hearing confessions for some 20 yrs now, he’s been in a friary of all men for the same amount of time and, of course, he’s been a male his whole life. He is speaking from EXPERIENCE. Yes, I know that you’ve been a male your whole life, too.
Since I am a woman, I can only speak from a woman’s pov but perhaps that will help nonetheless. Example: I don’t always find much scripture to support all of the female ailments, but I can surely tell you from experience a whole lot! And, from experience, I’ve come to realize that if you take a room of 200 women, you will be able to divide them into very different groups. For instance, some women really have never had much in the way of PMS, other women literally vomit every single month. Others don’t vomit at all, but are doubled over in such pain that it’s crippling. Most of these women who have severe PMS symptoms have tried EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN to alleviate it but have possibly never been entirely freed from it. We simply cannot lump all women into the same category nor can we belittle what one woman is claiming a group of them go through each month simply because it’s not found in Scripture or because another woman claims that she has the cure from this! There’s nothing worse than having another woman tell you that “It’s all in your head” or “Just do x, y and z … it worked for me!” Or, “You lack the faith because if you prayed to God, He would relieve you of this.” Glad it worked for you, but I can name hundreds for which it didn’t.
Is that not the same thing? (Granted, I realize that female PMS is not a sin! But, it’s not all mentioned in scripture and each woman struggles with it differently.) Perhaps you can think of a few men for whom this ‘method’ worked to relieve you from the sin of lusting. But, I bet it’s not a one-size-fits all prescription. Plus, in this case, the prescription can actually cause some men to lust even moreso, unless I’m misunderstanding. In addition, if I’m comprehending all of this correctly, what Father Angelo and those who struggle with West’s approach are saying is that to actually ENCOURAGE men to gawk (yes gawk) and to display immodest pictures on the front of your web-page in order to draw others in is in itself VERY sinful … even if you get a good result. The end doesn’t justify the means.
I really do understand that West’s approach is different than AVH’s. They have a different style and they are going to attract a different audience. This is absolutely fine to me! I’m not as offended by some of West’s terminology because I grew up with it … it doesn’t phase me. But, I don’t think that’s the crux of this problem. The problem isn’t about West’s style and I think others could possibly ignore some of the vocabulary he selects …. but it’s some of his content that is the issue. My perhaps very simplistic, non-theologian understanding of all of this: West/Loya/etc needs to remove the offending content! He needs to also remove the idea that everything has a somehow sexual connection … like the Baptismal candle being a phallic symbol. To me, that is just childishness really. Fr. Loya needs to remove the smut off of his front page. Period. He also needs to rethink the advice he gives to have men “Look, pass and pray” since looking, to him, seems to have a very different implication than many of us would imagine.
I will be perfectly honest in saying that I have not read all of the material mentioned by Father Angelo. I’ve just begun to sink my teeth into Dawn Eden’s thesis, I’ve only briefly looked at Fr. Loya’s website and I’ve only heard a few of West’s tapes on TOB. I’ve never read/listened to our late Pope’s teaching on this … but I sure hope to one day. So, perhaps my thoughts on all of this really show my lack of the facts. But, I do feel I somewhat understand the main gist of stuff. And, I think that if enough heavy-weights, such as AVH (and Father A, Dawn Eden and many other priests and theologians) are finding some problems with West’s approach, then it would behoove those who are in the West-camp to really LISTEN and ADDRESS these issues. It seems to have come down to pride at this point and that rarely has a Godly end result.
I hope you will agree that Our Lord does not teach things unnecessarily. I suggest you read Matthew 25:34ff (to which Lindsay had alluded above — thanks for the reminder, btw!) in which He lists covering the naked among the works of mercy that are the duty of all Christians.
It may not be necessary for that reason, but it certainly is necessary. Immodesty is a sin against the Ninth Commandment.
Here is a good article (actually more than an article — it is a pastoral letter from a bishop) with many citations from the current Catechism:
Scott, it is always such a pleasure to read your comments. They are always so thoughtful, polite and informative. Thanks so much.
In response to your comments to me, I believe that Jen answered many of my own thoughts. I will only add that I know from my own experience with men, that it takes often only the presence of a woman to bring them to lust–their attire or behavior has nothing to do with it. I earlier gave the example of myself at 12 years old.
The main reason I keep pursuing this issue, particularly of concupiscence, or lust really, is that I care about women, children, and, yes, men, and marriage. Until men can master themselves and learn how to defuse lust, all of the above-mentioned are going to suffer.
I am so insistent on Mr. West’s, Fr. Loya’s and companions ideas on it because I saw how effective it was in my own husband. He struggled with sexual impurity from the time he was 7 years old–yes, seven! It was a continual wall that came between us for many years in our marriage. He had finally come to understand, primarily from my research in Church teaching on this, that it was a disorder, and desired to change. He was making SLOW progress at the time we began to hear about Mr. West’s teaching but was beginning to blame the way women were dressing as the cause of much of his difficulty. He heard and took to heart what Mr. West said was a way to master the issue of lust, and, within a very short time, attained that mastery. He was a new man and rejoiced in the fact himself and certainly I did too. I love the story by C.S. Lewis about lust in The Great Divorce because it is so true. Man, free of lust, is capable of so much more than he is when he is bound by those chains.
Another person who seems to think that the repressive method of dealing with lust is unhealthy from a psychological point is Dr. Conrad Baars. He sites many cases of primarily priests and religious who had deep psychological problems from repressing their sexuality. I wish that people, both men and women, since a lot of women seem to doubt this as well, could trust themselves and God enough to give this a try. I wish that men would just try to begin to see, with God’s help, the person behind the body that has caught their eye. And, one thing that was VERY helpful for my husband was to understand that to just notice that a woman was attractive was not wrong in and of itself. We are designed by God to see what is beautiful in all of creation and mankind of course is the crown of His creation. The trick is to see that beauty, not as something to be coveted, but as a manifestation of God’s glory.
A quote from the Catechism to express what I am trying to say:
In para. 2518 and 2519, the Catechism states, The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Pure in heart refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: Charity, chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith…
The pure in heart are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him. Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. EVEN NOW it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as neighbors; it lets us perceive the human body–ours and our neighbor’s–as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.”
One last thing. I have it it my memory from many years ago reading the Holy Father’s writing, The Dignity and Vocation of Woman(but it could have been somewhere else), that, because of Original Sin, men have an almost built in misogyny. This would be something else that could be prayerfully reflected on as a possible factor in this issue. Plus, as C.S. Lewis expressed so well, many men often equate lust and masculinity to the point that they think if they do not lust, they cease to be men. Just throwing out some thoughts to ponder that may have relevance to this topic.
I know that I have been put in the camp of West/Loya defenders, but that is not the impetus for my discussing this topic. My passion is to help restore the right relationship between man and woman since, as Pope John Paul II states, the course of humanity depends on who man is for woman and who woman is for man.
Scott, one more thought. Concerning your reflection on Pastor Ed’s comments, which are wonderful. I don’t know if before the Fall it would have been able to separate the body from the person. In other words, could Pastor Ed be trying to say that arousal for man would have occurred for the person of the woman in her unrepeatability? Therefore, I would think that there would not have been arousal for anyone except one’s spouse since she/he is unrepeatable. What do you think?
Speaking from my own experience, I know that this is just plain wrong. Do you earnestly believe that women whose attire and behavior are modest attract less lustful attention from men than those who are immodest?
I must admit that I am troubled by what you say about repression. Our sinful thoughts and desires should be repressed.
Your reference to Mark 7:14-23 has no immediate relation to lust, but to that food which might, according to the Mosaic law, cause ritual uncleanness. See especially vv. 18-19:
This has nothing to do with lust, nor with the effects of original sin. Concerning these matters nothing is either affirmed or denied.
As for your commentary on Genesis, you imply that a lack of command from God to veil sexual values means that God intended man, post-fall, to expose them. Does that mean, then, also that man and wife should engage in the conjugal embrace publically or should heed the other calls of nature in public, as the animals do, because there was no specific command to do otherwise?
Everything that I have read concerning the shame of Adam and Eve as it is related to the fig leaves and furs, including JPII, is asserted relative to the shielding of sexual values. Your interpretation is interesting, but far from apodictic. The burden of proof lies on you, not on those who maintain the obvious.
You say that God never intended man to be aroused visually by the body of a woman, but that His intent was that arousal was to take place strictly by means of relational causality, experienced only between husband and wife. In this you imply that the beauty of a woman has no real God-given relation to sexual desire, but that the relation is strictly a matter of lust and human defect.
Again you have proven nothing and what you suggest is contradicted by a virtual unanimity of scriptural interpretation—not to mention universal human experience and common sense. The burden of proof is on you.
Part of the problem here is that we are tempted to draw firm conclusions from our speculation about what Adam and Eve experienced before fall, when we have no point of reference, save scripture, which does not give us a detailed description of their psychological experience. The Catholic Church teaches that before the fall, Adam and Eve had complete control over their passions and desires, so the schoolmen say that before the fall Adam and Eve only emoted or desired what they perceived to be in accord with reason and which, consequently, they chose to feel.
What would it have been like for unfallen man to choose to feel sexual desire toward his wife, and not toward a woman who was not his wife, and what would have been the interplay between the physical beauty of a woman and the relational experience between husband and wife, as opposed to that between a man and a woman not his wife? One thing obvious to note is that both before the fall and after both the physical beauty of the woman and the relational experience between the man and woman would have been, and are, factors.
You say that God never intended the physical beauty of a woman to have any causal relation to the man’s sexual desire and arousal. I suppose that would also mean that physical danger would have no relation to unfallen man’s fear, because he only felt fear when it was reasonably or relationally appropriate. But this is absurd. And now that we are living in a fallen world, but called to live according to God’s original intention, and there is no relation to the visual appearance of a woman’s body and sexual desire, does that also mean that there is no relation to the visual appearance of an oncoming runaway car and fear?
The fact is, neither you nor I know what it was like for Adam and Even to experience an unfallen nature, and more specifically to experience sexual desire in an unfallen state.
No pastor, the burden of proof is on you. Furthermore, I believe you would be hard pressed to have even Father Loya support you on this. In any case, It is a whole other question as to whether John Paul II taught this, and one will have to do more than throw out a few catch phrases from TOB to show it.
Pastor, this is so far afield from Catholic doctrine, that I cannot devote anymore time to it. My involvement in this TOB debate is mostly an intramural dispute in which the things you are suggesting are beyond the pale.
dcs, I have been discussing this with my husband during breakfast and one thing occurred to me. When I have been speaking about men, I have been referring to men who have no desire to be virtuous but are living according to the flesh as St. Paul says. That may be one reason why we have such divergent opinions.
Back to your comments about modest dress. I asked my husband about it. He said that it really didn’t make a lot of difference about the woman’s dress or demeanor because when you spend most of your time fantasizing about sexual matters, the lust is so at the forefront of your thinking that just a female body with the proper attributes no matter how they are clothed can flare it into action.
I asked if a woman’s hair or face could bring these thoughts into mind and he said yes. He gave the example of a young woman that we saw last night. She is a very naturally attractive person, particularly her face. She was dressed very modestly and behaving quite mildly as well but just the fact that her face was so attractive, without makeup I might add, that my husband said that he would have, in the past, quite possibly fantasized about her even though her body did not have the attributes he is most attracted to.
About the issue of repression. I will quote a section of Love and Responsibility which might be helpful. If you have access to a copy of the book it would be very good to read the whole section since I am drawing this quote from a much more extensive discussion. This is from pages 170-171:
To be chaste means to have a ‘transparent’ attitude to a person of the other sex–chastity means just that–the interior transparency without which love is not itself, for it cannot be itself until the desire to enjoy is subordinated to a readiness to show loving kindness in every situation.
This ‘transparency’ in one’s attitude to questions of the other sex does not mean artificially banishing the values of the ‘body’ or more generally the values of sex to the subconscious, of pretending that they do not exist or at any rate have no effect. Chastity is very often understood as a ‘blind’ inhibition of sensuality and of physical impulses such that the values of the ‘body’ and of sex are pushed down into the subconscious, where they await an opportunity to explode. This is an obviously erroneous conception of the virtue of chastity, which, if it is practised only in this way, does indeed create the danger of such ‘explosions.’ This (mistaken) view of chastity explains the common inference that it is a purely negative virtue. Chastity, in this view, is one long ‘no’. Whereas it is above all the ‘yes’ of which certain ‘no’s’ are the consequence. The virtue of chastity is underdeveloped in anyone who is slow to affirm the value of the person and allows the values of sex to reign supreme: these, once they take possession of the will distort one’s whole attitude to a person of the other sex. The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex’. This requires a special interior, spiritual effort, for affirmation of the value of the person can only be the product of the spirit, but this effort is above all positive and not a matter of summarily ‘annihilating’ the value ‘body and sex’ in the conscious mind by pushing reactions to them down into the subconscious, but of sustained long term integration; the value ‘body and sex’ must be grounded and implanted in the value of the person.
Hope this helps.
In this summary of your post, you have affirmed exactly what I have been trying to say… God’s design was never that a man’s sexual desires or expression be triggered by sight, but by the spousal relationship.
It was sin that distorted that and supplanted “relationship” with “visual.”
On the vigil of St. Maximillian Kolbe’s feast, the prophet of the Civilization of Love, I ask you, do you think that you are demonstrating the foundation level of charity in your crusade to purge error from presenters of the Theology of the Body? If so how, if not, then how is it possible to realize a civilization of love if we do not live the spirituality of communion?
I’m not addressing style, or critiquing ideas, I’m asking you to reflect on your ends and means in light of the high standards to which we are called and to which you have a special duty to uphold as a priest and as a spiritual son of St. Maximillian Kolbe.
Google, “Fr. Loya” and the fist hit is Dawn Eden’s link to your post. Does it give you a thrill to know that? Have you considered the impact that this will have on the hundreds of families in Fr. Loya’s parish and his ministry?
What if you are mistaken in your critique of Fr. Loya? Is it at all possible? Are you so infallible that there is not possibility that you might be completely wrong in your portrayal of Fr. Loya?
Do you think it is prudent to publicly malign the teaching and ministry of another priest, to cast dispersions amongst his flock, and impute his priesthood if there is even the most remote possibility that you could be in error? Of course it isn’t prudent, because if you are wrong, then you have committed an injustice to him, to his reputation, to his parish community and injured the communion of the Church.
What does the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith do in such cases of suspected error? Do they issue a public broadside as the first response?
They contact the priest/theologian directly and invite his clarification of the issues in dispute. They invite a personal meeting. The give opportunities for the person to give an answer and to clarify his position in person and in writing. After this process, if the person is found to be in error and does not modify, ONLY THEN is there a public statement of his error and a call to reform.
Do you see the wisdom in Mother Church’s means towards the ends of protecting the doctrine of the church, and the “little ones”? Any other way would lack charity in the search for truth.
Fr. Angelo in each of your responses to my posts you have turned your spirit of criticism towards me rather than address the serious questions I’m posing you.
Have I refuted your criticisms of Fr. Loya and Janet Smith? Have I taken issue with the content of your ideas? No. That’s not the point.
I have asked questions of you which call you to reflect on the ends and means of what you are doing in charity and truth.
What does Pope Benedict say about truth that lacks charity in his most recent encyclical?
You are a gifted priest doing wonderful work, don’t malign that work by failing to respond to the call of Christian charity.
Is is possible that you have perpetrated an injustice towards a brother priest?
What standard would you use to make that judgement?
I’m sorry but I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to … are you suggesting that there is no difference in the effect on men (who live according to the flesh) between women who wear modest clothing (and conduct themselves modestly) and those who don’t? I spent the first 25 years of my life living according to the flesh and I can aver that this is not the case. Or are you saying that there is no difference in the effect on men who are trying to live virtuously? Once again, I can assure you that this is not the case. That there is something attractive about a woman who conducts herself with modesty is undeniable, but it is not the sort of attraction that is inflamed by lust.
I can’t speak for your husband, of course, but I don’t think that most men have the same experience. It is true that temptations aren’t limited to those who are dressed immodestly but they are much less likely.
Honestly, if a woman’s dress or demeanor don’t matter, then why is pornography so popular?
I have had enough charity to tell the truth and to let those who disagree with me post their opinions and their fraternal corrections on my site. Most people in my position would have blocked you from commenting a long time ago. And they would have been perfectly justified in doing so.
If I am wrong on any particular point of my critique of Father Loya’s ideas, I will retract it or them. My critique was of his ideas and not his person. You disagree with that and think I attacked his person. You have stated so, more than once—at greath length—and I have allowed you to do so on my own blog. Let the readers decide. It is time for you to move on.
At this point your critique has descended into brow-beating. Take your guilt trip somewhere else.
It is time for those who publicly present themselves as experts on TOB and make money doing so, or at least produce material that does make money, and who market themselves and their presentation as an authentic representation of JP II’s TOB, to welcome public criticism. As you can see, I have no problem with public criticism, even when my own virtue is questioned. (Which is exactly what you are doing. Your questions are rhetorical. Everyone else seems to know what is going on. Why don’t you?)
This is not personal. As I already said, those who say controversial things in public, even to the point of promoting them in various forms of media, consent thereby to public criticism. I can’t imagine why anyone who engages in that kind of ministry would do so without being prepared and eager to answer objections and criticisms, especially, when they are offered in public. If one has no answer to criticisms or are unwilling to deliver them, or are going to be offended by criticisms when they are registered, then why in the world would one be engaged in this kind of business?
I responded politely to Father Loya’s one and only comment to this post. He chose not to answer my question. He is in no way obliged to. But if he is unwilling to defend his controversial ideas delivered in public, or retract them, that is not my responsibility.
I did write C. West at one point (after I had criticized him publicly), about a certain matter that I objected to. He was clearly wrong. He wrote back and thanked me for finally contacting him privately and said that he benefits much from the insights of his critics. But he did not answer specifically any of the problems I raised, and to this date he has not publicly addressed the problems or retracted the positions. Would Father Loya have acted differently? I don’t know. But we are all big boys now. If we have the courage to say things in public that we know many people disagree with, then we have the courage to stand up and meet criticism.
I, for one, am tired of professional public speakers blowing off criticism and then whining about being criticized in public—or allowing others to whine for them, while they maintain radio silence. Do you think that is uncharitable? Then pray for me.
I hope that while you have been spending all this time publicly pricking my conscience about charity, you have been privately urging Fr. Loya, and hopeful C. West, to either defend their ideas or retract them.
There is no more space here for your sanctimonious questions, Columcille. Have a blessed Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe and God bless you.
I’ve been lurking on this discussion for a while, and I wanted to break silence to thank Fr. Angelo for his intelligent commentary on the TOB controversy. Of all writers on this subject, I find your comments, research, and analysis most helpful. Thank you very much, Father.
I am shocked and appalled a priest would show erotic images/pornography to others. There is no possible justification for this. While I cannot comment as to Fr. Loya’s culpability and intentions, these act are objectively sins against the ninth commandment. We should remember the admonition Christ gave to those who cause scandal with young people, and pray for those, such as Fr. Loyal, who perpetrate this scandal.
As I read this discussion, it seems clearer and clearer to me that West and Co’s presentation of TOB is appealing to men and women for different reasons. It appeals to men because it tells them they don’t have to do all of those “negative” things that are a part of true chastity. There is no need for struggle, mortification of the flesh, or custody of the eyes. All you have to do is say some sort of prayer and gawk (yes, gawk, which is clear from how Fr. Loya has described it) all you want, as long as you appreciating that woman’s “true personhood.” Baloney. If a man appreciates a woman’s true personhood, he would not trespass on her privacy by looking at and thinking about what he has no right to look at or think about in relation to her. I get angry when I hear people such as West call true Christian chastity, which includes mortification and custody of the eyes as well as the more positive aspects, immaturely pure. A man who is a master of himself to do these things possesses a high level of maturity, much more than someone who cannot control his eyes or thoughts, and finds “virtue” in staring at a woman’s backside at Mass. Furthermore, it is only when a man has gained control of his eyes and thoughts through prayer and mortification that he can appreciate a woman’s true personhood and beauty. Without this foundation, he is fooling himself.
It seems women like West’s presentation of TOB because it lets us off the hook for our duties towards our neighbor. We have no need to practice the mortification of vanity that modesty requires, since it is all a guy’s problem, and as long as he has heard West, he can stare at us all he wants without sin, no matter what we’re doing or wearing. Since modesty is a challenge and sometimes a royal pain, I can see how that would be appealing, but ultimately it rings hollow.
Being a woman, I have not struggled much with chastity, but I have struggled a lot with another sin against temperance, anger. Thank heaven for good priests who gave advice such as prayer, mortification, and the necessity of avoiding occasions of sin and distracting oneself when temptations to excessive anger arose. It would be absurd for someone to say they had conquered their tempers by voluntarily and constantly thinking about, experiencing, and overanalyzing all of those things that make them angry, while faced with the temptation towards temper, because they have figured out how to appreciate the beauty and personhood of the man or woman who made them angry while still indulging their emotions of anger. That is not self-mastery; it is a surrender to our baser passions.
A priest publicly displays nude and soft-porn images at a cathedral, and you’re scolding the priest who calls him on it? I think you need to rethink your definition of charity and get your priorities straight.
Jen, thank you for referencing St. Paul! I was thinking of that very verse: 1 Cor 8:9. It is very relevant to this discussion. We should all be concerned that our legitimate liberty does not produce a stumbling block for others (without being fanatic about this, as you can’t be 100 percent certain that nothing one does could cause obstacles for others). I’m not sure that what Lauretta and I are saying are the same, though.
Thank you for the direct response.
Here, you are mistaken. Here’s how I know.
If Jesus was only referring things taken into the body by eating, then the sins which he listed in these verses would have all been sins which could come from eating. Yet the list includes the following:
* evil thoughts
* deeds of coveting and wickedness
These are not all associated with eating. At very best, only 2-3 could be logically connected to our appetites for food. The ones I’ve highlighted are all sins that we could or do associate directly with lust and other sexual sins.
So, any attempt to limit Jesus’ meaning to only food is simply in error. Jesus is saying that all such sins have their source within a person rather than without.
Therefore, these sexual sins are not caused from what we take in by sight any more than they are caused by what we take in by mouth. Either way, it’s something outside of us entering into us.
Jesus’ exact words were, “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him.” (Mark 7:15 NASB, emphasis mine). This is a complete sentence and it applies to light and images as absolutely as it does to food.
For anyone to claim that a man is defiled by viewing an unclothed woman other than his wife is also claiming that Jesus’ words are false.
Wouldn’t you agree that God does not want me to become sexually aroused at the sight of any woman besides my wife?
I cannot nor should I try to change or hide the beauty of every other woman that I ever see. That beauty that God gave her is not there for my temptation, it is there for my admiration… not for the indulging of disordered passions, but to reveal the glory of God.
A flower is beautiful and worthy of my admiration whether it grows in my own garden or my neighbor’s. Both reveal God’s glory. Likewise, a woman is God’s handiwork whether she is my wife or other man’s wife. Both reveal God’s Glory.
If I covet my neighbor’s flower instead of simply admiring it, I am in sin. But the problem is not that I saw his flower. If I covet my neighbor’s wife instead of simply admiring her, I am in sin. But the problem is not that I saw her.
In this, of course, you are absolutely correct. To draw firm conclusions from such speculation is not dependable biblical interpretation.
In like manner, of course, it is sheer speculation that claims to know why God gave coats of skin to Adam and Eve.
There’s much more I could say, but I’d rather not give a point by point response to all that you’ve said.
Everything that we disagree upon still boils down to the question of if it is possible for a man to see any amount of a woman’s body not his wife’s and respond without lust or sexual arousal, and if it is possible, is it God’s will and design.
My answer is yes. It is God’s answer to lust. Your answer seems to be no. And that God expects us to consider something He made beautiful to be a danger to our spiritual wholeness.
God does not tempt us to sin. He did not make women beautiful so that we would struggle forever with lust. Quite frankly, that’s Satan’s agenda to turn what God has created beautiful and holy into a source of lust for us. So long as we assume that arousal is how God made us to respond to that beauty, we are playing right into Satan’s plans. And our culture’s deep bondage to sexual sin is the result.
Again, thanks for listening and thanks for the opportunity to respond.
Pastor Ed Martin
Revolutionary Gentlemen, where are your mothers, daughters and wives? Wouldn’t your daughters be embarrassed to hear you go on like this, Pastor Ed and Columcille? Didn’t you ever hear: It is not polite to stare. Or: You should be ASHAMED of yourself. Or: You cannot go out dressed like THAT. Why do we SAY things like this to our children? To make them feel guilty? No. Because a diabolic spirit has seized us? Pastor Ed said so somewhere earlier. I don’t think so. Mothers say things like this because we know that sin exists and that there are marauders. And they know that thier own children are going to cause hurt to others, if they are not checked and taught respect from an early age. And modesty, too. Please remember how modest children are, naturally. By the time they are toddlers, they have a love of pretty clothing and by the time they are 5 they are modest by their own choice. Would you REALLY want your own daughters to run around naked, so they can point the way to God? Or your wives to wear skanky clothing so that they can help other men find the True Way. Amazing! Come on and get real!
No, he isn’t. Our Lord explains that it is sin that defiles the soul, rather than failing to observe the traditions of the Pharisees.
The difference between your neighbor’s wife and your neighbor’s flower is that the latter is put on display so that it can be admired. The former is not.
Ruth, your characterization of what I believe is sheer imagination.
Shame is not God’s will for us, ever. If a person is doing something shameful, they should repent and find God’s grace. Inside God’s grace, there is no room at all for shame. Can you point to any instance in all of the scriptures where God affirmed shame as pleasing to Him?
Please do not imagine for a moment that “marauders” or any others who have designs to hurt our children will be deterred in the least by how much clothing our children are wearing.
And my observation is that children are NOT naturally “modest.” By the time they are 5, they are plenty aware enough to know that if they were to go around naked, they would incur the wrath of Mom.
They learn to like “pretty clothing” for no other reason than the fact that they get all sorts of accolades and affirmation from adults when they wear them. They love affirmation more than they love clothes. How dare we as parents withhold our affirmation (or worse) when they are clothes-free, but shower it upon them when they conform to our man-made norms and standards for attire.
Do you see that in your efforts to discount my words, that you can only appeal to cultural norms?
Even “modesty” is a culturally determined standard. It is only mentioned by name in the Bible one time (1 Tim 2:9) and even there it is clearly a DE-emphasis on clothing (what NOT to wear), and there’s absolutely NO Scriptural statement of what body parts are to be considered offensive when exposed.
I’m not alone in this perspective… C.S.Lewis in Mere Christianity clearly states that “modesty” is not the same as “chastity.” Chastity is an universal absolute for all people. Modesty is determined culturally.
A direct quote from that chapter is this:
(I found the chapter quoted in its entirety here:
Pastor Ed Martin
Pastor Ed: I do not agree with anything that you have said about children and childraising. Peace.
You completely missed the point. Go back and read what I wrote again… only this time skip over everything that I said, and read only what Jesus said. Then tell Him that seeing a woman unclothed will defile you. You’re contradicting Christ, not me.
There is no beauty in the universe that God did not put here to be admired. That includes every woman on the planet.
There is no beauty on the planet that God put here for us to indulge our sin with. That includes every woman, flower, mountain or bird.
It is *absolutely* possible to genuinely admire the beauty of a woman (any woman) without lust. We are NOT supposed to turn our eyes away in fear of sin. And we are NOT expected to lust! True beauty always points us to the ultimate source of true beauty. If we’ve somehow gotten wired so that some of that beauty triggers lust in our hearts… the fault is NOT with the beauty we see, but within us.
That takes us right back to Jesus’ words. If lust comes out of us, regardless of what triggered it, that lust was already there. It is *never* the fault of the sight that we’ve just seen.
Pastor Ed Martin
I kind of hesitate to wade into this morass, so I’ll just dip my toe in: With all due respect, Pastor Ed, you got into this discussion to defend Fr. Loya’s and Christopher West’s teaching/interpretation of Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday catecheses (theology of the body). Now you’ve just said that “Shame is not God’s will for us, ever.” So then, do you disagree with the Holy Father’s discussion of shame as a “boundary experience,” as well as both the negative *and* positive senses of shame? This is a significant part of his treatment of the post-lapsarian state, and I think it’s key to this thread. I have not heard Fr. Loya discuss shame at all – particularly with regard to the text of TOB. So if this is all about defending a particular interpretation (or interpretations) of the theology of the body, then we should do so on the text’s terms.
I’m going to jump in with just a quick comment. I believe that in the Catholic Church the bishops are the official teachers in charge of what is taught in their dioceses. Does anyone know how many bishops have banned Mr. West or Fr. Loya from speaking or teaching in their dioceses? I have read several endorsements from bishops concerning Mr. West. Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Rhoade(?), as well as other bishops who have asked him to teach classes in their seminaries. The one time I met him was at a seminar for priests in our neighboring diocese. Do they know something we don’t or are they being negligent in allowing this dangerous man free rein in this country. Just something to think about.
With all due respect to John Paul II, you, and everyone else on this Catholic forum… no, I do not agree with his teaching on shame.
As a protestant who is just now in his life beginning to appreciate and learn from Catholic theology, I do not believe that any man (or church) is infallible in his understanding of Scripture.
While I respect the Pope tremendously, I would not consider his words to be “the final word” any more than I would consider any other man’s (or my own) to be. His extensive thought, prayer and study have made him eminently worth listening to and his words worth pondering. And at this point in my life, I could not be more thankful to have been exposed to them. (I’m just starting to try wading through the actual TOB text!) But I will weigh his words against the Scripture text as I would any other man’s.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of semantics or nomenclature (that does trip me up sometimes within Catholic theology), but at this point, I still hold out that shame is never a virtue. Appropriate relational boundaries, sure. But those boundaries are appropriate not because of shame, but because of chastity and charity.
I hope that makes sense. And I truly mean no disrespect.
One more thing… I do not presume to fully understand or accurately represent TOB. I believe as I do because of my own studies of the Bible. I have found, however, that what I learned independent of TOB has found great confirmation in much of what I have been able to learn of TOB. Consequently, when I speak, I speak my own beliefs. When I defend TOB, it’s because on the points I’m defending, I agree. I have stood up for Father Loya because we have—while coming from drastically different directions—reached very similar biblical understandings of our human embodiment.
Pastor Ed Martin
Lauretta, thank you for your kind words. A couple things.
It occurs to me that all occasions of a man looking upon a woman in a sexual way that is inappropriate or sinful, might not all come under the heading of “lust” as we have been considering it here. I don’t know whether this would be relevant to your own personal experience when you were young. But there is such a thing, which I have seen, where a man (and this seems to happen in groups more than by lone individuals) is in the habit of regarding women (especially if it is one young woman in the midst of a group of men of which he is a part) in a lewd way, in a manner that is sexually vulgar and perverse, but yet I question whether he is actually feeling sexual desire for her at that moment. In other words, some men, sadly, are in a habit of acting in a vile way in regard to women. But I would claim that sometimes they are doing this because they have a vile habit of acting lewdly especially when around other men. It’s a vulgar show for the other guys. This, of course, is horrible and sinful and depersonalizes the woman. But, it’s not necessarily the same as what I think we have been meaning when we say “lust” in the TOB context.
So, I’ll try to make a definition of sorts. Lust, in the more specific sense that I think is meant when the Church uses the term in reference to sexual sin and when JPII speaks of it in TOB, involves a sinful response to sexual desire within a person. Sexual attraction is not inherently sinful, as you pointed out to your husband. But, when the sexual attraction is indulged in in such a way, held on to and fostered in a manner that isolates the desire for sexual pleasure from the whole woman as a person and what is best for her as a person, and also separates the desire for pleasure from the appropriateness of context (spousal or not), then there is lust. In other words, as I understand it, with lust, properly speaking, we are dealing with a real sexual desire that has become twisted and sinful in some way. But there is desire for sexual pleasure included there in the mix.
Sometimes, I suspect, lewd and perverse behavior (which can be very abusive and horrid) can be engaged in by men even as they are not actually experiencing true sexual desire. They want to revel in the mud for some perverse reason.
I only mention this because I think sometimes the term lust is used very broadly for any sexually related sinful attitude. But, I think that when the Church and JPII speak of lust (unless it is clearly meant in a general sense or to simply stand as a synonym for any sort of sinful desire), they mean a desire for sexual pleasure that is sinful in nature.
I wonder if sometimes those who find it hard to seriously and openly consider criticisms of aspects of West’s/Loya’s approach to dealing with lust, might be misunderstanding the term lust to be overly encompassing, to include sexual lewdness that actually is not lust because sexual desire is not truly present within the offender. So, I would simply offer an exhortation to question ourselves, that when we think about ways of combating lust with the help of grace, we are truly dealing with lust (disordered, sinful sexual desire) and not something else that involves sexual sin but is not lust.
For example, a group of vile men, in the presence of a woman, might tell a sexual joke. They might gawk at her in a lewd way that is meant to be noticed. They might gesture lewdly. Yet all of this can happen without any of them actually in themselves experiencing genuine sexual desire. If such were the case, though they were gravely sinning, they would not be lusting. And, of course, they may very well be lusting as well, in addition to such lewd sexually-related behavior.
This difference is significant for this discussion because I think that dealing with lust vs. lewd behavior require different approaches. Lewd behavior such as mentioned above, contains a certain deliberate component of wanting the one being abused to sense a threat. A man who struggles with lust, but who is not vile or lewd, even as he struggles not to see women in a lustful way, never intends his lusting to project an element of threat. He does not intend to abuse women, even if they do sense his lust. He despises his own lustfulness, and wants to be rid of it. The vile and lewd man who behaves in a sexually abusive way does not care about the women he is abusing by his behavior. In fact, he intends to abuse her and to threaten her.
The lustful man who wants to be healed can be helped on his journey to purity by modest dress. Modest attire cannot cause him to be chaste, but it can assist his own interior work of purification by lessening the stumbling blocks. However, modest dress will do nothing whatsoever for the intentionally lewd and abusive man, for he is not struggling to control his desires. He is so vile that he does not care. Modesty or the lack of it is rather irrelevant for him, except perhaps as a way to identify his next victim.
So, there may be times when a woman senses (correctly) that sexually abusive behavior toward her by vile men would not be much affected by how she is dressed. But, I would point out that in such situations, this might be the case because it is not really lust that is the predominant sin taking place, but something else.
Lauretta (10:37am) asked,
“could Pastor Ed be trying to say that arousal for man would have occurred for the person of the woman in her unrepeatability? Therefore, I would think that there would not have been arousal for anyone except one’s spouse since she/he is unrepeatable. What do you think?”
I don’t know if this is fully in line with Pastor Ed’s thinking. I do agree that the unrepeatability, the singular uniqueness, of every person, is very much part of the whole picture here. Indeed, when people fall in love in a way that is in keeping with God’s plan for human life, they don’t fall in love with one aspect of the other person, or merely with the person’s body, they fall in love with the whole person, in all his or her ineffable and incommunicable uniqueness. This is why using the person’s name is the most appropriate way to express this: e.g., “I love Sue.” The name best represents the totality of the person as a uniquely precious child of God.
But, I would caution that we not speak about human beings as though we were disembodied spirits. We have bodies, and our attractions to each other are mediated in very crucial ways, through our bodies. This too is God’s plan. This is true in so many ways. We know a person is happy because we experience it through their body (whether by the smile on their face, or the joy in their tone of voice). Same thing for any emotions. Our potentially spousal attraction to a person does not skip over their body to get to the real person underneath. Rather, our chaste attraction to a potential spouse (or to our spouse) should include their body because their body is an integral and inseparable part of who they are as a human person. And our bodies are so united to our souls that our bodies express our souls. So, if we love, and if we are married and thus have the proper context for the bodily fulfillment of sexual desire for the other, we love the whole, body-person. If we love the person, we love their body as well, for these (body and person) are united as one.
I wonder a bit if some of the talk about sexual desire not having anything to do inherently with being aroused by the body of one’s beloved, is rather a bit too dualistic, putting up too much of a split between body and soul in the human person.
“have been referring to men who have no desire to be virtuous but are living according to the flesh as St. Paul says. That may be one reason why we have such divergent opinions.” [Lauretta, 12:33PM]
This, indeed, is an extremely crucial factor. Modest dress cannot mean much for a man who does not want to be chaste. If a woman chooses her wardrobe with consideration for how her attire might be an occasion for lust, she does so with those men in mind who desire to be chaste. It is for the sake of these men that she cares to ponder the relationship between immodesty and lust.
Please forgive me for another post! I’m trying to look through what has been discussed since yesterday and contribute at one time in ways I hope are relevant. I just want to give one quick response for Pastor Ed.
“God’s design was never that a man’s sexual desires or expression be triggered by sight, but by the spousal relationship.” [Ed Martin, 1:09PM]
Pastor Ed, can you tell me, how were men and women before the fall supposed to grow in their spousal relationship, except through their bodies? How did Adam know Eve in as complete a way as possible without looking at her? You almost seem to suggest that men and women who love each other in chaste marital love can grow in their love without relating to each other through their bodies. I would like to point out that we humans can’t get to know each other at all, except through our bodies. Person-to-person relationship building is only possible because we have bodies through which we relate to each other. Only angels have personal relationships that do not require bodies. But we are not angels.
In other words because it is our nature that we are embodied persons, without our bodies, of which our eyes are the most crucial of the senses through which we know others, we would have no ability to develop spousal relationships in the first place. You speak as though there were this thing called “spousal relationship” that has nothing to do with looking at each other. I think that seems a little strange.
Father had an excellent post last year on the distinct forms of shame (as commentary on DvH’s In Defense of Purity) which I found extremely helpful at the time: https://maryvictrix.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/in-defense-of-purity-1/
@ Pastor Ed
You have ripped Mark 7:14-23 out of context. The whole point of Our Lord’s discussion is that the Pharisees were always so fastidious about ritual purity—about not eating or touching anything unclean—but morally they were full of dead men’s bones. They did not see the point of ritual purity, but made of it an end in itself, neglecting their own interior life. Again, the passage says nothing about whether external causes can be a source of temptation.
Your question as to whether God wants a man to become aroused by a woman not his wife, asks nothing about the relation of a woman’s body to man’s sexual desire. Does God want man to have control over that desire? Of course He does. Did man have that control before the fall? Yes. Do those facts prove that the beauty of a woman’s body by God’s design has no relation to sexual desire? No. This is your pet theory and it is a mental construct. . . and in the face of common sense it is absurd.
To summarize your theory: Sexual desire, even in its most pure form, arises simply and strictly from relational aspects of husband and wife, and not from the experience of each other’s bodies You are living in a dream world. All you can do with that theory is proof text is with selective and out of context verses as you have with Mark 7.
Ruth, as a mother, manifests complete common sense. The modesty of children is spontaneous even when it has not been taught.
That has been tried before, and I am surprised that you would bring it up here.
Episcopal approval does not put an individual theologian or speaker beyond the scope of critical thinking. The work of those praised or sponsored by bishops does not suddenly become canonized or magisterial.
I would assume you know that Archbishop Chaput has taken his name off the TOB Institute list of episcopal advisors. West was his golden boy, and now . . . maybe not as golden as some of us would have us believe.
Thank you Ann.
Your comment and Pastor Ed’s response makes it pretty clear that all this is really not about TOB or even Fr. Loya’s presentation but about the good pastor’s pet theory.
Scott, I am not denying our nature as visual creatures nor the significance of our embodiment as how we interact with each other and our world.
What I am denying is the idea that there’s an automatic (God-intended) sexual response in a man to the simple sight of a woman’s body… any woman’s body.
I catch my breath when I see *my wife’s* unclothed body not because she’s naked, but because she is my wife, and all that she is is her gift to me. Part of my experience of her entire being is our sexual experience, and so even that is part of the relationship we share.
But I would be objectifying even my wife is every time I saw her unclothed, I felt like I had to “do it,” here and now. She does not automatically become a “sex object” as soon as she sheds her clothes. We spend a fair amount of time together unclothed, just chatting or sharing or cuddling… without it leading to sexual union. When we’re both “in the mood,” then that element of our relationship plays out naturally.
But in contrast to that, when I am in close proximity to a woman who may be wearing a low-cut blouse and the beauty of bosoms are evident to the eye, that sight, pleasant as it may be, need not (and doesn’t) engender sexual arousal nor sexual thoughts in me. She’s simply not my wife. I don’t have that kind of relationship with her.
My visual experience of my wife is part of whole of our relationship, which includes our sexual relationship. My visual experience of another woman is not by itself a sexual experience.
Pastor Ed Martin
My personal style is to read the technical writings and then funnel it down to the everyday language … it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, but it at least helps me to understand what is truly being said in theological challenging debates such as this. I guess I’m simple … hopefully that doesn’t offend anyone. plus as a female, I must further interpret things that men mostly struggle with .. and try to see them through their eyes, and not my own. Not easy.
I really liked your thoughts on how as mothers, we teach our children how to respect one another. In all things, part of parenting is to train our children in the way they should go … not to reinforce the way that they are naturally INCLINED to go. Let’s face it, as an example, some children have an inclination towards serious anger which can be extremely destructive to other members of the family and society. We work hard as parents to help that child find other ways to relieve his frustration … ways that are healthy and considerate of others. We are ALL inclined towards things that are sinful … I believe that in times past, people aspired to have self-control. We no longer do. We seem to feel we have a RIGHT to eat all we want, curse all we want, lust all we want … hey, we’re made that way so we tell everyone else to live with it. How incredibly selfish. In the end, that’s what lust is … it’s selfish. That’s what anger is …. it’s selfish. That’s what gluttony is … it’s selfish. Period.
I liked CS Lewis’ quote that was mentioned above by Pastor Ed.
“A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest’, proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). ”
That has helped me considerably!! You see, modesty really is a cultural thing. But, Lewis isn’t stating that we women here in the U.S. can start to dress as, say, some women in Brazil might dress and figure that men just need to get over it!! No, we respect the culture in which we live. That’s the UNselfish thing to do.
So, as Christians, we do our best not to tempt others where their weakness lies. As a woman, I agree with another woman (cannot find it now) who stated that it’s a royal pain to try and shop for modest (yet practical yet comfortable) clothing. But .. too bad! It’s even harder with girls and teens … darn near next to impossible. Who said life was easy? Who said being unselfish was easy?
Pastor Ed … I will pray for you for I think you are earnestly trying to live a Godly life and trying to help others in their struggles with lust. But, as with all of us, we sometimes cannot see past the ends of our little noses. I think your thoughts on a number of things are right on, personally … but you are missing some of the obvious stuff on plain old concupiscence. Lust is a thorn in many a man’s side and, pray as they may, like St. Paul they will unlikely ever have the thorn removed. God does this on purpose, no? It requires that we remain humble, diligent and totally dependent upon His mercy.
Yes, that is the context which prompted Jesus’ teaching, but that is *not* the only context to which Jesus’ teaching applies!
Let’s look at the passage itself…
First of all, notice that while his interaction with the Pharisees prompted the teaching, He called a crowd around him (who likely were not all aware of his previous conversation with the Pharisees) in order to make this declaration to them.
In this statement, full and complete all by itself, there is no mention of food. It stands as a statement of truth… a principle of life that applies in any number of areas of a person’s life.
To the crowd, He offered no more explanation than that. They could and should (as we can and should) apply that principle to anything in their lives.
It was only to the disciples who were so “lacking in understanding” (Jesus’ words) that He further explained what He meant. Only at this point did He illustrate the principle using food as the example. Of course it applies to food, but that’s not the only area of life to which the principle applies!
If that were in doubt, Jesus lists a bunch of sins that he says come from within. Among them, evil thoughts, fornications, adulteries, and sensuality. Consequently, we can never claim that any of these lust-related sins are caused from without. This is the word of the Lord.
Finally, I did not say that external sources could not be sources of “temptation.” I said we could not be defiled by simply seeing a woman’s unclothed body. The temptation may indeed be presented from without, but the sin is sourced entirely from within.
Some people are tempted towards gluttony by the sight of food. But the same sight of food would have zero temptation on another person. The food is not the problem… their covetous heart is.
When we place ANY blame for our sin on an outside source, or even the temptation, we are failing to focus on where the real problem is… in our hearts. This is the clear teaching of the Lord.
As they say, if you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. The external pressures (like temptations) only reveal what is already inside. We can never blame the juice press for the lemon juice inside a lemon.
Pastor Ed Martin
Scott, lots of great comments. I know what you are talking about with some men just making lewd comments who are not really sexually aroused. One of my husband’s uncles was very much that way and we younger women had to put up with that every time we had a family get-together. Still an offense against the dignity of women but not lust, I agree. But these are not the men I have been referring to.
I’m going to do another small soapbox commentary about the subject of modesty. I agree that modesty is necessary for the person being modest to protect her dignity, especially in this world today. A warning, though, there are men who will actually seek out a modestly dressed and acting woman to see if they can score–particularly if they know she is a virgin. They are not the average but they are certainly out there and a special threat to those women who are trying to do the right thing. And can be very dangerous since they are very disarming and masters at manipulation and deceit.
However, to go into long discussions about it being necessary for women to dress modestly to help men who are struggling is a waste of breath. Why? Because even if every Catholic woman did such a thing, it would be a drop in the bucket of all the exposure to immodest women in a man’s life. We are no longer in Catholic ghettos where people pretty much think the same and will basically do what Father says and most of the people we are exposed to go to our church. The world in which we live is totally different than when those norms were somewhat effective.
In the past women were primarily in their parents’ homes, married as teenagers and went to live in their husband’s homes and stayed there. Today we are delaying marriage until much later, women and men are working together in very intimate settings day after day, women are constantly out on the street and in stores, not to mention the media use of the woman’s body to entice men as well as the instant availability of pornography. Can’t imagine being a man and trying to be in this world and keeping custody of my eyes!
I believe our statistics are showing that this is not working. Look at the divorce rate, abortion rate, STD rate, etc. Men are falling apart in this culture because of all of this exposure. I say men because the media promotion, pornography, etc. are all focused on them. Chastity speakers have commented that when they go to good Catholic colleges and start talking with the men there, they discover that they are struggling mightily with unchastity, pornography, masturbation, etc. etc. Something is definitely not working here.
Maybe we have to teach these men how to see without sinning because to try to not see would be so crippling to their lives. And, I will go back to my constant theme, even if they keep custody of their eyes as well as is possible, all those instant images are still in their minds and will be available to recall in the future and could, if they have not mastered themselves, cause them to use their spouses in an unjust manner. The problem of lust does not end at your front door. You have to live with your spouse and if you do not have self-mastery you are going to be incapable of loving your spouse rightly. That comes from the document, The Truth and Meaning of Sexuality, not my opinion. Anyhow, just a few thoughts.
Modesty is cultural in many ways, but Western culture specifically was born out of spread of Christianity and the Catholic church. Even if we were to move to Brazil, that doesn’t make it okay to dress more immodestly. Not all cultural norms are equally moral. In the course of reading about this, I came across this quote of JPII (it is in Dawn Eden’s thesis, though I haven’t read it all). If its been shared here, I apologize for repeating, but I think it responds directly to the CS Lewis quote:
“If culture shows an explicit tendency to cover the nakedness of the human body, it certainly does so not only for climatic reasons, but also in relation to the process of growth of man’s personal sensitivity. The anonymous nakedness of the man-object contrasts with the progress of the truly human culture of morals. It is probably possible to confirm this also in the life of so-called primitive populations. The process of refining personal human sensitivity is certainly a factor and fruit of culture. ”
Pastor Ed, no one is suggesting that we not pray for the grace to be made new in Christ. We are saying that the answer for such lies not in staring at women’s bodies, which is wrong unless she is your wife, but in “staring” at Our Lord and Savior. It is first and foremost by meditating on His life and His passion that will bring about a change of heart.
What you have so blithely dismissed as a “pet theory” is actually the testimony of my life.
What do you expect me to think about the fact that I was raised to think about our bodies like just about everyone else was… “Don’t look at women’s bodies,” “Men are aroused visually,” “Nudity is only for the marriage bedroom,” “Women’s breasts are sexual,” “Our bodies are impediments to righteousness,” “Keeping nudity out of sight will abate lust,” etc, etc. yet without staying pure?
As I said before, I was raised in a consistent, faithful, and godly Christian home. I never even went through the “teen rebellion” stage. I was a good Christian kid who pursued the Lord in high school, through college, and into full-time ministry.
I couldn’t have had a more perfect moral climate to grow up in according to the kind of view of our bodies that you are defending. So, why did I get sucked into a porn problem??
For 30 years, I tried hard to be faithful to the Lord. I served Him vocationally and trust me, it was not for lack of desire to have victory, nor the lack of effort in trying all sorts of different strategies to overcome it. Nothing worked permanently.
But… when I challenged all those statements I mentioned above as a result of my biblical study of our physical embodiment (the Imago Dei), without really even trying and – quite frankly – to my surprise, the bondage to porn melted out of my life.
At first I didn’t believe it was real or lasting. But even the ever-present (30 years non-stop) allure of it was gone. And it stayed away. I knew something seminal had changed within me.
It turns out that all those statements in quotes above are false. They did nothing to protect me from bondage to lust. But rejecting them as lies set me free from 30 years of bondage.
No, it’s not a “pet theory.” It’s a living reality in my life.
No, it’s not a “pet theory.” It’s a message of hope to others who have been similarly bound and see no way to true freedom.
No, it’s not a “pet theory.” It’s truth that God has given me a deep desire to share.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) 2 verses later, Jesus clarifies that he’s talking about freedom from sin.
If someone is abiding in sin bondage, they have a truth problem, not an external stimulus problem. This is the word of the Lord.
I “stumbled upon” the biblical truth about our physical embodiment, and was set free from a sin bondage having to do with my physical embodiment. In light of Jesus’ words, this should not at all be a surprise, it’s really just “par for the course” when sin bondage meets its relevant truth.
Pastor Ed Martin
First of all, thank you for the supportive comments.
In protestant theology (I’m figuring out here), we use the term, “sin nature” to describe what Catholics call, “concupiscence.”
And I’m quite aware that as humans, we will have that “sin nature,” (the simple propensity to sin) with us until our bodies are transformed and glorified like our Lord’s body.
That reality means that we will never perfectly be sinless in the here and now.
However, it does *not* mean that there are certain sins we must simply “live with.” It does not mean that certain scriptural ideals are simply beyond our reach to fully attain, so that we must not even try to get there.
Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (which JPII uses to launch the entire TOB teaching) in Matt 19 teach us that the pre-Fall reality is still the post-Fall ideal.
1. Relationship with God. Perfect obedience, walking with God.
2. Relationship with Spouse. Perfect mutual submission and relational harmony.
3. Relationship with Self. Naked and without shame.
All three of these relationship were shattered at the Fall. In this life, none of them will we ever be able to fully recover.
Jesus’ work on the cross for us, however, has formally defeated the effects of the Fall. His empowering Spirit within us enables us to pursue the pre-Fall ideal and actually experience a taste of it.
1. Relationship with God… We will always be hampered by concupiscence, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot experience genuine fellowship with our Heavenly Father. And the reality of our concupiscence certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t even try.
2. Relationship with Spouse… We will always be hampered by concupiscence, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot experience or express genuine self-giving love with our spouses. And the reality of our concupiscence certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t even try.
3. Relationship with Self… We will always be hampered by concupiscence, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot experience or express genuine freedom from shame even while naked. It doesn’t mean that we can never have a godly pre-Fall view of others’ naked bodies. And the reality of our concupiscence certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t even try.
Concupiscence can never mean that we cannot have renewed minds and thereby experience continual and lasting transformation (“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind” – Romans 12:2).
Even while reading the second three points above, I suspect that many people likely began to anticipate and resist the implications before I even got to point 3. No one argues with points 1 & 2… how can we limit the power or impact of the work of Christ in reference to point 3? On what Scriptural basis would we be able to say, “God doesn’t WANT us to pursue #3”? or “Point 3 is never possible here and now, so we shouldn’t even try.”?
I don’t believe that posture is logically or biblically defensible.
However, culturally, that posture is simply assumed…
It’s also pretty much assumed by most people in the church today. I know that. But that doesn’t make it true.
Jesus Christ came to defeat the effects of my sin nature/concupiscence. Not just in one area of my life, but in all areas. Let us not abdicate ground to concupiscence in *any* area of our lives.
I’m not ignoring concupiscence, but God’s will for us all is that we live in active victory over concupiscence, not hold ourselves back from godly ideals in fear of it.
Pastor Ed Martin
Pastor Ed, my husband experienced a very similar freeing. One thing that amazed us was that “physical” problems he used to have resulting from lust totally disappeared after hearing the truth and making a decision to follow it. We were amazed at the rapidity with which this happened after years of wanting it to go away. It seems to me that the core was in recognizing the dignity of the person and her right to be looked at properly, no matter how she may be dressed. It does make someone rather a zealot, doesn’t it?
I want to mention, however, that the temptation to lust has not left my husband. He now, however, has the tools to choose to not lust–his conscious mind and will now have control over his subconscious reactions. That was not the case in the past. That, to me is what mastery, liberation, freedom, whatever term you want to use, over lust and concupiscence means. It is not that the possibility, the tendency to sin which is concupiscence, is gone but rather that you can consistently choose to not go there. And since this has become a consistent habit, I presume it is then what is called a virtue. My husband now has the virtue of chastity, in thought and action, which he did not have before.
“[T]o go into long discussions about it being necessary for women to dress modestly to help men who are struggling is a waste of breath.”
Good, because I have not been doing that. Wow, this is a bit frustrating. I have nowhere said that it is necessary for women to dress modestly for the purpose of men being able to grow in chastity. I did say that in fact, for those men who want to be chaste, it is helpful if women dress modestly. Why is it so hard to admit that it is a good thing to want to help someone else, even though it may not be strictly necessary? Helpfulness and a strict obligation are not the same thing.
Lauretta, I am wondering if whether you are using your husband’s personal experience alone to generalize to all men. And I wonder whether this is giving you a somewhat skewed notion of what the typical man experiences. I can’t say this with confidence, since I don’t know your husband. But from what I am picking up through you, I wonder if the experience of your husband has a certain quality to it that may not quite serve as a reliable indicator of a “typical” man’s struggles. Just an idea.
But when things are boiled down just to a practical level, it seems to me that when it comes to modesty, you are basically saying to any man that tells you based on his own personal experience that modesty helps him to be chaste (though it is not necessary, strictly speaking), your response to him is, “you don’t know what you are talking about. I know about modesty, and I’m telling you that modesty as practiced by women only helps women. It doesn’t help you, even though you say it does.” And I consider this apparent situation and I just go, “huh?” I just don’t get why any woman who cares about the well being of men as much as she cares about women and girls would insist that she embraces modesty not for the sake of men, but only for the sake of herself. Very perplexing.
I’m trying not to post anything now except in response to people’s comments directly to me.
However, without making any comment of my own on this post, I’d like to pose an issue to you and see what your take on it is.
In Papua, New Guinea, on May 8, 1984, Pope John Paul II conducted mass for the many indigenous people there who have embraced Catholicism.
Evidently, he made no attempt to require western standards of dress for attendance at mass or even the partaking of the Eucharist.
1. How do his actions there reflect on his own understanding of TOB?
2. What implications do they have regarding the true meaning of “modesty” as it has been discussed on this blog?
Pastor Ed Martin
Indeed it does.
Jesus said, the truth would MAKE us free…
* He didn’t say it would “help” us be free.
* He didn’t say it would “empower” us to be free.
* He didn’t say it would “point” us towards freedom.
* He didn’t say it would “eventually” free us.
* He didn’t say it would give us “hope” for freedom.
He said it “…the truth will MAKE your free.”
After 30 years of “trying” to be free… finally, I understood the truth and I was MADE free!
I can’t even say that at the time I was even working on overcoming my struggle. I had simply gotten to the place where I was just trying to “manage” it… not too much, not too often. The truth made me free, without any real cooperation on my part.
I’ve experienced a beautiful additional benefit of transforming my view of the unclothed human form… now that I no longer think or live like sexual arousal is accomplished by seeing a naked woman, all the memories of the thousands of images of naked women I viewed over the years have lost their power, too. Even if they flash into my conscious memory, they no longer incite lust.
I have lots of reasons to be a “zealot!”
Praise to Jesus Christ!
Pastor Ed Martin
“And since this has become a consistent habit, I presume it is then what is called a virtue. My husband now has the virtue of chastity, in thought and action, which he did not have before.”
Awesome! Thanks be go God! That’s great; and I sincerely mean it. Lauretta, this remark of yours calls to mind for me another aspect of this whole dynamic that might also contribute to what I receive as very perplexing about your approach to modesty.
The man “on the way” to virtue struggles more than the man who already possesses the virtue. Men who want to be chaste, but who are not truly chaste yet, struggle more with immodest attire as a stumbling block. Once a man (with God’s grace) has truly reached a certain stable level of chastity, he will not be as phased by immodest attire. He can “deal with it” much more easily in his own reaction to it than a man who is still “on the way.”
Your remark about your husband implicitly acknowledges this, in that you say he now has a consistent habit that he did not have before. It’s the men in the “before” stage of pursuing the virtue of chastity that I mostly have in mind, because this is where most men who even care about holiness are at–they are on the way, but not there yet. I would say that the number of men who care about sanctity who have actually reached a stage of virtue that you describe your husband as having is quite small, comparatively speaking. There are many more men who want to be pure, but know that they have a long way to go and still struggle. It is these men that I always have in mind in discussing modesty on this thread, because I think this is the status of most men who want to be chaste.
And so, more specifically, it is most especially for those men who want to be chaste but are not chaste yet that I hope women consider in their heart in regard to how they practice modesty, in addition to their very appropriate concern for their own dignity as women.
Scott, I’m sorry if I am distressing you but I thought my paragraph containing the sentence you quoted explained what I meant quite clearly. Yes, I dress modestly, you would be impressed, I’m sure!, but my influence on any man’s life except for my husband’s is minuscule compared to the totality of their day. Unless one lives in a very rarefied atmosphere, a man’s contact with modestly dressed Catholic women is a negligible part of his sense exposure to feminine images. That is why I am saying it is a waste of breathe–because it is such a small portion of a man’s experience, not because it is not helpful in that one interaction.
Also, as far as my basing my understanding on just my husband’s experience, no, that is not the case. We have been discussing these sorts of things with married couples for many, many years. Most of our conversations, however, are with non-Catholics so that may skew our understanding somewhat. However, even among the Catholics, we see many similar problems. It was a Catholic I quoted earlier that said that none of this would be a big deal if he didn’t have to sleep next to his wife. Think about that statement for a minute. That means he was struggling with lust toward his wife and the temptation to use her in an unjust manner. This is common, almost a universal experience from what we have heard. I can only think of a few isolated cases where this was not true.
I can also give an example from my feminine perspective. For years I watched soap operas and read romance novels all the time. Not even the racy ones, just the romantic ones. It would bring out in me “romantic” thoughts which would then follow me to bed at night, causing me to desire to be intimate supposedly with my husband. One day, however, I realized that I was engaging in this act, not because of my love for my husband, but because of the arousal I experienced from the TV programs and the books. I stopped, sensing it as an injustice to my husband–even though he probably could have cared less at the time! We deserve to be loved for ourselves, not as a response to external sense experiences or fantasies in our minds about other people.
I cannot believe that there are not many other people who are have also experienced what I have. That is, they have taken the messages of the Theology of the Body to some of the most disenfranchised members of our Church (and society for that matter), and used what they learned specifically from Christopher West and others like him to help transform hearts in Christ’s Name.
First, our young men and women- 15-17 year-olds, the ones who only go to Mass if made to go. They are much more inclined to embrace their sexuality when invited to “see one another rightly”, with neither lust nor disgust. SO MANY of them have terrible body images, and this does not just apply to the young women. Looking in the mirror and learning to behold the truth and beauty of that which is represented by that two-dimensional reflection is a very important part of bringing them to Christ, in wholeness-to reconcile with their created, glorious bodies, the very same ones they are often taught by society to disdain.
The second group of people are those who are already being taken down by the pornified culture, who are mired in despair. I am learning that they also experience great hope by embracing the teachings of the Theology of the Body. When I use the language and images I have learned from Christopher (having taken all his week-long courses and seen many day-long presentations), I find that they are much more inclined to listen and respond. Praise God !!
“Dr. Janet Smith, for example, stated the following: ‘The 1st thing we need to know is God is chasing us down like a lover. Every lover is a pathological stalker. God is a stalker.’ Am I quoting out of context? I would like to know in what context the comparison of God to a pathological sexual deviant would be appropriate. ”
The definition of stalker that I found in the dictionary is this:
STALK: TO PURSUE BY TRACKING STEALTHILY
This definition is the one I immediately thought relevant when I heard Dr. Smith’s statement…I want my Lord to track me stealthily ! I believe He is doing this ! The term in this context means to me that He does not intervene overtly but is there at all times such that I might eventually see and respond to that love !
Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT featured Father Raniero Cantamalessa as the author of the “Meditation of the Day”.
He quoted the following: “Eternal Father….[You] set your eyes on the beauty of your creature with whom you fell in love like a fool or one drunk with love…”
He was quoting St. Catherine of Siena.
Pastor Ed, your remarks at 11:49 above are remarkable in how Catholic you actually sound (with important caveats). I wonder if you realize how very Catholic your approach is in many ways.
The bulk of your remarks at 11:49 could be summed up from a Catholic point of view as something like this: holiness in this life is a real possibility, and the salvation Jesus won for us is intended by God not merely to get us to heaven, but to transform us in this life and to make us able, by grace, to be more like Christ here on this earth.
You are so close to Catholic thought here. The very idea of the interior, ongoing transformation of the human person by the grace of Christ, is implicitly but loudly shown as ever-present in a Catholic view of life by the fact of the Church’s canonization of Saints all through the ages. The crux of what a canonized Saint is, is a person who has been especially open in their lives to allow, and to cooperate with, this beautiful transforming grace that reshapes the human person more and more into who God wants us to be as images of His Son. This is possible for everyone, but is attained by some (again, impossible without grace) to a much higher degree than others.
The aspect where I think you might still be a bit fuzzy, or still somewhat apart from a Catholic understanding, is in regard to the details of concupiscence. It’s great that you acknowledge that we cannot be rid of it, and that it is different from personal sin.
It’s certainly helpful to recognize the term, “sin nature,” as very similar to the Catholic term, “concupiscence.” Thanks for pointing this out. Before I say more, please, if you didn’t before, take a look at my blog post on concupiscence,
Please also read the few comments under this post, as they are directly relevant to your remarks above.
As I explain in my blog post, it is very helpful to realize the metaphysical difference between concupiscence and lust. This must include an understanding of the origin of concupiscence as compared with lust (and any other personal sin). Without an understanding of the ontological/metaphysical difference between concupiscence on the one hand and all personal sin (which concupiscence or, “sin nature,” is not) on the other, it is very easy to blur these two into each other and lose their distinctiveness in one’s mind while considering real life in the fallen state.
Concupiscence is a result of the loss of the preternatural gifts which we had before original sin. When Jesus Christ made the grace of salvation (that grace which when present in the human soul enables man to live in the presence of God in eternity) available to mankind, he restored supernatural gifts to man. But, Christ did not restore the preternatural gifts to man. This is why concupiscence–because it is a defect due to the loss of preternatural gifts–is a different metaphysical reality than personal sin (such as lust).
“It [presence of concupiscence] doesn’t mean that we can never have a godly pre-Fall view of others’ naked bodies. And the reality of our concupiscence certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t even try.”
So, Ed, one aspect in which your thinking might be a little vague is in regard to being able to attain a pre-fallen view of each other. This is impossible, because no amount of becoming free from personal sin (which is what happens as one becomes holy–even to the point of being canonized a Saint after one’s death) has an impact on the ongoing reality of concupiscence. We can never truly view one another in this life without any taint of concupiscence being present. In the exquisite reality of heaven, we will see each other completely without any taint of concupiscence, but not here in the fallen world.
But (and your remarks are very similar to this, perhaps this is what you really mean), the impossibility of becoming free of concupiscence and thus the impossibility of regaining in this life a pre-fallen vision, does not mean that the way concupiscence effects us in this life cannot be greatly diminished as we grow in virtue and sanctity.
In other words, I think it is very helpful and important to insist on the following distinction. We cannot be free of concupiscence in this life. But, we can, in an increasing way throughout our lives, be ever more free of the domination of concupiscence. To be free of the domination of concupiscence means that when we are tempted to sin, this temptation (which is not itself the same as sin, but an inclination or tendency) has less and less power to dominate us and push us into sin itself.
For more on this key distinction between concupiscence outright, and being dominated by concupiscence (which pertains to how we deal with it with the help of grace), please see also my blog post here
Pastor Ed, do you realize you disagree with Martin Luther about the possibility of the human person becoming genuinely less and less sinful, truly on the interior of one’s person, in this life, by the transforming effects of grace? A crucial obstacle for him, as you may know, was that he saw no clear distinction between concupiscence and personal sin (one example of which is lust). Because he realized (correctly) that there is no complete freedom from concupiscence, he became hopeless about the possibility of any real interior transformation by grace. Thus, he held to salvation by grace (as a kind of application of an external label, “saved”) but did not believe this grace brought about any true interior transformation of the soul. He identified concupiscence, the pull toward sin, as itself personally sinful. He did not see that this pull toward committing sins is a different thing from actual personal sin itself.
The Catholic explanation of this difference that I summarized more fully on my blog provides a foundation for affirming that one can indeed, by grace, become ever more free from sin (can become holy) in this life. And this is exactly what you too seem to believe.
Would you agree, according to my above remarks, that we cannot truly return to a pre-fall view in this life, even though we can, all through our lives, become ever more free from the domination of concupiscence?
As far as shame goes, thank you for being clear that you do not agree with Pope John Paul II on this. I would humbly suggest that as you study more of what JPII said about shame (especially in Love and Responsibility), you might find that what you call “shame” and what he calls “shame” are different in important ways.
Thank you, Lauretta, for your remarks at 12:51! This is very clarifying! I especially thank you for the first paragraph, and I totally agree with you.
Absolutely, a brief encounter with one woman during the day, not one’s spouse, is a very small part of the total picture of the way in which the world effects a man who is striving to grow in chastity. No disagreement with you there. Many things have an impact, not the least of which involves things other than the live presence of persons, such as advertisements in all their various forms, music, images from the past, fantasies, etc., etc.
I don’t mean to sound like I believe the only, or the most, even, important thing to help a man on his own journey of pursuing chastity is the way women dress. But, I do want to suggest that the human person is so important, so precious in value to God, that it should be worth it to women to have consideration for men in how they dress, even if it means in reality that they will only be helping one man in only a very small way over the course of a given day. The soul–not merely its salvation but its progress in closeness to Christ–of just one person is worth it. Even if the aid rendered to this one soul is small in the overall picture of his life.
I consider the issue of priests wearing their clerical attire in public in a similar way. And I say this, knowing and being friends with excellent priests who do not always wear their collar in public. Because of the value of even one soul, isn’t it worth the extra inconvenience to wear clerical attire, simply for the reason that there is a chance, however small, that one person might be reminded of God and His love for them? And for Catholic priests, even more, that one person might be moved to ask for confession and so be reconciled to God. Modesty is not on this same level of weightiness, but, it still has to do with the tremendous value of the human soul. And I hope that we should all, men and women, be very reticent (without being fanatic) to do something that might cause serious trouble for even one person who is sincerely trying to grow in holiness. I am trying to capture here an ideal of charity toward all, of loving concern for every individual one encounters, while still being balanced and not fastidious or scrupulous.
Thanks, Bernadette for your comments. We have experienced similar things using Mr. West’s videos for marriage prep. The couples are so grateful to begin to learn to love one another in healthier ways and the actual beauty and appeal of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.
Scott, another reason that I tend to not like to promote the idea of external modesty as a solution to overcoming disordered desires is that we are then waiting for and expecting a whole culture–the world really–to change so that I can stop sinning. I believe that is totally unrealistic.
I think if you ask all of these men who are talking about this change, they will tell you that this was accomplished while fully living in the world with all of its immodesty and deliberate provocation to lust.
Neither do I suggest (have I anywhere?) that external modesty is the solution to overcoming disordered desires! Would you please realize this? Good heavens. How many times do I have to repeat this? Do you not recognize the difference between on the one hand helping another, even in a small way, to do something that remains primarily their own responsibility and, on the other hand thinking that you can do their work for them? Helping vs. doing-for. Modesty can be the former, not the latter. I have been completely consistent in this, and yet you write as if you are completely oblivious to this.
You don’t oppose promoting modesty as a help to chastity (as opposed to a solution), do you?
I have never here expressed the idea that we should pursue chastity as a culture primarily by changing outward behavior. Of course this is unrealistic and that’s why I have never supported it, here or elsewhere. Any growth in virtue is first and foremost in interior phenomenon, not exterior–interior to the individual persons who are pursing virtue. But with this acknowledged (as I have done repeatedly), external factors, though not primary, are important secondary helps toward the pursuit of virtue which is primarily interior to each person.
Even if that exterior help is small in the overall big picture of the world, is that therefore a reason to completely ignore it? You seem to actually support a callous indifference to the help (however small) that modesty can give to others in their primarily interior pursuit of virtue.
Aren’t we supposed to care about how our actions affect others, even though it is true that our actions cannot be the primary cause of virtue in others? We are not called to try to change the whole world by our virtue. But we are called to care equally about every single person we actually encounter each day. And isn’t rendering secondary assistance toward even one man pursuing chastity, by dressing modestly, worth caring about? Doesn’t the soul of even one man count as worth thinking about in this way even though it’s not going to change the world?
Your attitude comes across to me as very close to, “well, most everyone’s doing it, and the whole world is plunged into darkness, so why should I care how my actions impact the world?” This is disturbingly unChristian, I would suggest. Like Mother Theresa, we should be mainly concerned not for how we as one person can or cannot change the whole culture. We should be concerned for how we effect the individual people we encounter today. Each soul is a universe of worth and value, and helping one single soul is far more important than making excuses about not being able to change all of society so therefore who cares?
This is still going on? :p
Some people have WAY too much free time on their hands.
Let’s give a general review:
1.) Yes, West, Fr. Loya, Dr. Smith, et al have helped people.
2.) No, this does not mean their opinions or persons are sacrosanct.
3.) Did I mention you children have way too much time on your hands?
Can’t you all see what’s going on here? The devil is delighting at an in-fighting that he himself likely started. The theology of the body is an extraordinary teaching. The fact that some are now jumping of this train. I’ve seen West twice. Both times he was excellent. I see him more as one called to introduce the world to a new way of seeing sexuality, and life. He spoke for more than an hour each time, and it didn’t look like he used a single note. To think that someone would get every word perfect, on the spot, is preposterous. But the implication here is that he is not on our side…is simply preposterous. I’m sure this is the case for Loya, although I have not heard him.
I logged on to your site for the first time in a week and noticed it was a bit busy. The girls and I will stop and pray for you now. It is pretty obvious that you have hit a nerve by speaking the truth with love.
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I have not waded through all these comments, but I have spent three days wading through Theology of the Body. Has anyone noticed that John Paul II never, and I mean NEVER once alludes to the fact that sins against chastity are punished in hell when they are unrepented of?
The closest he comes is to say that:
“Nevertheless in the sphere of the ethos of redemption the possibility always remains of passing from error to the truth, as also the possibility of returning, that is, of conversion, from sin to chastity, as an expression of a life according to the Spirit: (cf. Gal 5:16).
This is at #108 on the EWTN site.
But he never, and I mean NEVER, gives any compelling reason why anyone should turn from sin to chastity.
I have never read anything like this in Church history. It is so one-sided, only the positive is presented, that it is no wonder that many in the culture have taken the so-called beauty side and have run with it, exploiting sex for all they can. The only consequences are that one violates the nuptial meaning of the body or some such verbiage. In the big picture, that is little potatoes compared to worms that never die and fires that are not extinguished.
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And yet it was God Himself Who gave Adam and Eve clothes (Gen 3:21). What parts do you think the clothes that God made for our first parents covered? Do you think the breasts and genitals were left uncovered? If God intends us to be “naked without shame” (as some might say), then why didn’t He simply tell Adam not to be ashamed of his nakedness? Instead, He gave them animal skins rather than the aprons they had made themselves out of fig leaves.
Furthermore, in Genesis 9 we find Shem and Japheth taking care to walk backwards towards their father Noah, who had been uncovered in his tent while in a drunken stupor. And in Exodus 20:26, God commands the Israelites not to make an altar with steps approaching it, in order to prevent priests from accidentally exposing their genital regions while climbing the steps.
If I may, I’d like to address the three passages you cited. I’m not sure exactly what you were responding to or to whom, so I’m not sure exactly what you intended to communicate, but many people have cited those same passages in reference to what they mean about our bodies or clothing, so it deserves a response.
Gen. 3:21… this is what the Bible says:
“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”
That’s it. That’s all it says. There’s no command. There’s no explanation. There’s no indication that this was to be a requirement for all people at all times. 15 word (in English) that relate a historical event.
If this is to be taken as a command anyway, then there should be no exposure of the body even to one’s spouse, for that is the context where the “command” is given.
This is a narrative; it is historical, and it only tells what happened. It does not tell you or me what to do. It does not reveal “God’s will” for mankind. When God wants to communicate a command or His will, He knows how to make it clear… this isn’t one of those times.
Are were to surmise that it is a sin to be naked even within your own tent?
Again, however, in the story of Noah, God never issues any sort of command or describes any sort of example that we are to follow or avoid. It’s a story.
If anything, it *illustrates* the breaking (by one son) and fulfilling (by 2 sons) of the 5th Commandment. But even that command is not *given* here… we find it in Exodus 20.
In contrast to your first two examples (which are not commands), Exodus 20:26 contains a command. God was giving a very specific command regarding ritual worship practices, not about dress in general.
Why is it that God would provide a command about steps to an altar (so as not to accidentally expose one’s genitals) yet completely omit any commands about ensuring that those very same genitals would never be seen while relieving oneself, bathing, or changing clothes?
Before indoor plumbing, two of these activities had to be done outside. Bathing could only be carried out at open (and public) bodies of water, which would be exposed to others (who also needed to bathe). At the time this command was given, the people actually lived by families in tents… so even changing clothes would not have been a private matter.
Exodus 20:26 is given specifically in reference to worship… and it was given to contrast the worship of the true God with the orgiastic worship of the people whose land they were preparing to possess.
It is an error to presuppose that any of these three passages indicate that God actually intends to communicate that the unclothed body is somehow sinful in His sight. None of them rise to the level of general “command” regarding clothing.
No, God never *commands* “naked and unashamed*, but neither does He ever *require* “clothed and ashamed.”
And, as JP2 points out in TOB, Jesus points to the pre-Fall state of marriage in Gen 2:21-24 as the model for post-Fall marriage. Are we to believe that Jesus affirmed the post-Fall relevance of verse 24, but would have rejected the very next verse, describing the first couple as “naked and unashamed”?
TOB is about affirming the goodness of the human body, male and female. That goodness needs no raiment of any sort before God to be true. If we as humans feel that we need that raiment in order to see the human body as God does, then we still do not see it as He does.
The logical tendency of your thought is nudism, Ed.
Your focus on explicit commands is also a not uncommon legalistic Protestant focus. We don’t discern moral truth merely by noting what God has explicitly commanded or forbidden in Holy Scripture. The Hebrews did not need Moses to tell them to maintain modesty in public and in private, because it had always been their culture. Your suggestions that the Hebrews relieved themselves not only outdoors (where else would they relieve themselves?) but in full public view (even though the Law of Moses commanded them to do it privately, alone, far from the camp and to take along a spade to cover it with dirt when they were done), and that Hebrew men and woman completely disrobed in front of each other, or performed their commanded ritual baths without due regard for safeguarding modesty, all show that you haven’t any knowledge or understanding of the ancient Hebrew standards of modesty.
It is an error to presuppose that any of these three passages indicate that God actually intends to communicate that the unclothed body is somehow sinful in His sight.
It’s a straw man to characterise the Christian teaching to which you object as “the unclothed body is sinful in God’s sight.”
I recommend you re-read Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body discourses. You talk about them as if you understand them, but you don’t.
Even better, go further than his Theology of the Body discourses and accept the whole Catholic faith. Any Protestant minister who sees value in TOB ought to be able to see the truth of the Catholic religion and accept everything that Chris has revealed. It’s inconsistent to select one thing like the Theology of the Body without accepting the overarching superstructure of Catholic doctrine and Thomist theology in its integrity, without which the Theology of the Body cannot be understood or coherently applied.
You chide me for limiting my assertion of moral right or wrong to “Thus saith the Lord”??
Should I add to that, “Thus saith Jordanes”? Or “Thus saith Ancient Hebrew Standards of Modesty”?
I’m sorry, but I cannot accept such notions as authoritative. If God did not expressly say that something is wrong, who am I, and who are you, and (even) who are the Ancient Hebrews to declare moral right and wrong which God chose to be silent about? I will not do it, nor will I accept your assertions that such ideas stand alongside God’s revealed word with equal authority.
God told people not to sit where a menstruating woman sat. He told them to take a spade to bury their feces. But he never told them to segregate their bathing or change clothes in private. God knew how to write laws. The Bible is full of their minute details. Yet you would have us believe that there were some that were just so “obvious” that He didn’t need to write them down? That is simply not credible. In truth, its an insult to the Author of the Scriptures, Himself.
God was plenty capable to tell us all that we needed to know to live a godly life. He did not tell us to follow the lifestyle patterns of the Hebrew people… especially without even specifying what those patterns were!
What we read in His Word instead are these words:
Deut. 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
Deut. 12:32 “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”
Prov. 30:6 “Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
You are on very dangerous grounds presupposing that you understand His mind on matters where He has chosen to be silent!
Regarding the TOB…
I have seen great truth and wisdom in the teachings of JP2. I am very thankful for it. But its truths are valid not because it comes from the Catholic church… and not even because the Pope said it… his words are true because the arise from the words of Scripture.
There is no church (Catholic or Protestant) that is everything correct. Every church’s (and every man’s) teaching must be measured by its fidelity to Scripture alone… not adding, and not taking away.
I am Catholic myself and a faithful to the Pope, unto death if necessary, for love of Christ and His church. I apologize for all these people that have taken on you, rather than to discuss and “HASH out things” with you, they have take it upon themselves to demean and insult just “because YOU are protestant” and “you are wrong” and “protestants are known for twisting scripture for their own purpose”….Shoot! “CATHOLICS” are know for that too! I would say EVEN MORE SHAMEFUL FOR US!So much that some “catholics” have no problem supporting legislation which has no problem killing an innocent baby. Some “catholics” have no problem refuting church teaching…I admit these people may mean good, as many do, but most have been DUPED by this culture…Some just allow pride to guide them, rather than humble acquire of knowledge. I figured TOB would cause such a commotion, discourse, and confusion within the Christian realm….This is truly what satan wants, because The Holy Father, JPII, WAS in fact guided by the Holy Spirit to FREE us from the slavery of lust, through the Sacrificial NAKED death of Christ. This does not deny modesty, bur rather affirms a BIGGER need for it, but people don’t GET IT!!! All Christopher West is doing is trying to show what’s on the other side. We can disagree with him and he might sound out of context with few things, but it’s not what West is about, but rather the essence of what he says…of what GOD has to offer us. Thank you for your courage, and for the clarity that even “Us catholics that know it all” don’t have. I pray for you and your quest for Divine truth, since being a Pastor is not your end, but just your beginning…and it truly will set us free!
Also these Catholics forget or don’t know, that St. Francis was not ashamed to make himself NAKED in front of his WHOLE town, when he denied his father’s name and gave his life to Christ by espousing “Sister Poverty”…He did not hesitate in displaying himself NUDE in front of a prostitute, so that he would preach to her “with his body” by walking into flames and coming out of them unharmed (one of his miracles, thank God). The prostitute converted to a life of purity, not so much from this miracle, but because of God’s purity within St. Francis of Assisi.
He was not a pervert or an exhibitionist, but a man who SAW the body for what it was…The language of God for us creatures who dwell on the senses.
“Preach the gospel always, If necessary use words.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Thank GOD for our bodies!….our other way of communicating with God! Praise to Him forever.
Nakedness will not cease to exist, in this world. Outlawing porn will not do ANYTHING to fix the world of lust. We must fight it and oppose it strongly instead. These strip clubs and porn sites and magazines will cease to exist once the human heart finds no need for them, and finds the objectification of the body a repulsive behavior…then all these “businesses” will dissapear and nakedness will remain where it should. in the intimacy of the marital bed, with one naked man and one naked woman, and God.
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Too bad Diego joined this thread so late in the game. I’d like another exchange with Catholics advocating Christian naturism – they closed comments on the Simons article at Catholic Exchange.
You chide me for limiting my assertion of moral right or wrong to “Thus saith the Lord”?? Should I add to that, “Thus saith Jordanes”? Or “Thus saith Ancient Hebrew Standards of Modesty”?
No, you should accept the whole Word of God as revealed by Jesus through His Apostles and through His Catholic Church.
I’m sorry, but I cannot accept such notions as authoritative.
Apparently you prefer, “Thus saith the Lord according to Pastor Ed”?
If God did not expressly say that something is wrong, who am I, and who are you, and (even) who are the Ancient Hebrews to declare moral right and wrong which God chose to be silent about?
The underlying problem here is that you believe the entirety of God’s self-revelation is expressed in, and only in, Holy Scripture — whereas Holy Scripture says it is expressed in Jesus and the Church, and never says the Scripture alone is the Word of God.
I will not do it, nor will I accept your assertions that such ideas stand alongside God’s revealed word with equal authority.
Truth is truth regardless of whether we accept it.
God told people not to sit where a menstruating woman sat. He told them to take a spade to bury their feces. But he never told them to segregate their bathing or change clothes in private.
How do you know that?
Yet you would have us believe that there were some that were just so “obvious” that He didn’t need to write them down? That is simply not credible.
In truth, its an insult to the Author of the Scriptures, Himself.
In what way?
God was plenty capable to tell us all that we needed to know to live a godly life.
There is no dispute that He did just that. Where we disagree is in the manner and modes of His telling us.
He did not tell us to follow the lifestyle patterns of the Hebrew people… especially without even specifying what those patterns were!
He did, however, tell His disciples, “The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.”
Looky there — extrabiblical divine authority.
What we read in His written Word are these words:
Deut. 17:8-13 “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, [being] matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, [to] the right hand, nor [to] the left. And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.”
You are on very dangerous grounds presupposing that you understand His mind on matters where you have not considered all that He has revealed to us.
I have seen great truth and wisdom in the teachings of JP2. I am very thankful for it. But its truths are valid not because it comes from the Catholic church… and not even because the Pope said it… his words are true because the arise from the words of Scripture.
By St. Paul told St. Timothy that the Church is the very pillar and ground of the Truth, the foundation on which revealed truth rests. The Bible makes no such claim for itself.
Every church’s (and every man’s) teaching must be measured by its fidelity to Scripture alone… not adding, and not taking away.
The Bible, however, does not teach us that every church’s and every man’s teaching must be measured by its fidelity to Scripture alone. So you accept an extrabiblical authority.
It is hardly self-evident that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body truly and accurately arises from the words of Scripture (though I agree that it does).
“Do you think it is prudent to publicly malign the teaching and ministry of another priest, to cast dispersions amongst his flock, and impute his priesthood if there is even the most remote possibility that you could be in error? Of course it isn’t prudent, because if you are wrong, then you have committed an injustice to him, to his reputation, to his parish community and injured the communion of the Church.”
You’re not getting it. Fr. Loya’s teaching is causing scandal and leading others into error. It would be UNCHARITABLE for Fr. Angelo to stay silent and do nothing. Fr. Kolbe, whom you love to cite as an example, printed tracts publicly criticizing the Nazis—-but according to your standards, this act would have been an offense against charity because he didn’t personally befriend the Nazis and privately discuss their actions with them. Nonsense!
Remember, Fr. Loya’s ministry is PUBLIC–he is therefore going to be held accountable in the public sphere for his public statements and teachings at variance with Church teaching–as he should be. Fr. Angelo’s public critique is an act of CHARITY to both Fr. Loya and those led astray by his teachings.
Also, you’ve publicly criticized Fr. Angelo for his so-called faults in his approach to Fr. Loya–did you pick up the phone and try to talk with Fr. Angelo privately first? No, I didn’t think so. Stop sounding so sanctimonious while violating the very standards you’ve set.
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