Lost in the Archives

Well, not totally lost.  I am just reading most of the time that I don’t have other duties to which I must attend.  I hope to soon have a post on an interesting aspect of the occult pertaining to the difference between Christian mysticism and neopagan, magical consciousness.  The attraction of “alternative religion,” is that it promises “supernatural” or transcendent consciousness, the experience of unity, integration and joy without dogma.  It is a big temptation.

Please pray that I get this book on Harry Potter and the occult done soon.

I am uploading here a very cogent list of 10 non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should not be legalized for your consideration.  (I am not the author of the list.  I neglected to mention this.  The author is anonymous.) BTW, did you know that 85% of all abortions, according to Planned Parenthood research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, are obtained by unmarried women.  My understanding is that the latest statistic has it up to 87%, but I have not been able to verify that.  Either way, it is a tremendous statistic.  The erosion of marriage is directly related to the incidence of abortion, and the elimination of children from the culture of marriage is obliterating the most fundamental social institution of our race.  If we want to stop abortion we have to address the problem with marriage.

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That for Which We Fight

Over the last week or so my attention has been drawn to two articles that touch upon the subject of the “feminine genius.” Both of them tend to underscore, in different ways, the problem I mentioned in my recent post, “War in Paradise.” To reiterate what I wrote there: The feminist narrative has dictated our presentation of sex relations in such a way that fatherhood has been left to hang out to dry.

The Thinking Housewife has rejected John Paul II’s use of the feminine narrative outright, in particular, where he seems to overcompensate for historical discrimination against women by asserting that every woman, by the “simple fact of being a woman,” makes the world a better place.
The Thinking Housewife responds.

This is not true. Every women [sic] is not good, nor is any woman entirely good. All women do not enrich the world’s understanding by their sheer existence. John Paul II was a holy man fulfilling a complex role. These words are grave missteps on his political journey. It is no exaggeration to say that these particular words are anti-Christian. No human being is to be exalted for the sheer fact of being human. We are born in sin and error.

On the other hand, Bill Donaghy from the Theology of the Body Institute, sets up a hypothetical dichotomy between the Petrine and Marian principles of the Church, which he never entirely resolves. Mr. Donaghy uses the familiar caricature of St. Peter as the archetype of the masculine side of Catholic spirituality: plodding “impetuous, lovable, ‘open mouth, insert foot.’” And on the feminine side the spectrum he posits Our Lady as the “the primordial way, the first way, the fundamental posture for those who thirst for the Holy Spirit.”

I believe these two very different perspectives highlight the extent which gender confusion has made a mess of sex relations.

In fact John Paul II did ascribe a certain primacy to the Marian principle over the Petrine:

This Marian profile is also—even perhaps more so— fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united. In this vision of the Church Mary precedes the People of God who are still pilgrims. . . .

Mr. Donaghy rightly points out that

The Marian Way is receptive, it waits, receives and is still. It listens to words and contemplates the Word. By no means, incidentally, is it to be confused with passivity.

Unfortunately, he goes no further with his rejection of passivity as to affirm “active listening and eager expectation.” From here he proceeds to the familiar “impregnation” analogy typical of the school of Christopher West. There is more to active receptivity than listening and expectation and it has nothing to do with being “impregnated.”

Without question, the Marian principle enjoys a certain priority over the Petrine on the basis on the consent of Our Lady upon which our salvation was conditioned. However, it is necessary that this be stated precisely.

First off, John Paul II states that Mary is the “archetype of the Church” on the basis of the “divine maternity,” because the Church is called to be both “mother and virgin.”

For this reason, I believe the hyper-eroticism of the school of Christopher West is fundamentally misguided. God did not impregnate Mary. She conceived virginally by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The analogy to be used is not sexual reproduction. Mr. Donaghy says to men that the Marian dimension is “NOT an affront to our manhood,” but then goes on to suggest that in the spiritual life we are all impregnated by God. Personally, I am not particularly interested in being impregnated, and I am quite convinced that the vast majority of men feel the same way—for good reason.

Incidentally, Dawn Eden has shown in her thesis that the phallic interpretation of the Easter Candle is completely misguided, confirming much of what I have written on the subject. She has shown by means of more extensive research that is certainly no patristic basis for asserting any phallic interpretation, and that, on the contrary, it is of modern origin and connected to pagan interpretations of the liturgy. Furthermore, Dawn has shown that when the Easter liturgy was revised as mandated by Vatican II, those responsible deliberately undertook the work so that the triple immersion of the candle would not be construed to be symbolizing the sexual act.

The insistence on using the sexual analogy to represent the bridal aspect of spirituality has the curious effect of exalting male eroticism on the one hand and of making female submissiveness the definitive archetype of spirituality on the other. This promotes the worst kind of chivalry. One extreme of historical chivalry idealizes sex by way of the worship of the goddess. Another—not entirely unrelated to the first—reduces the noble behavior of men to purpose of serving women.

But if all this is problematic, in what sense dose the Marian principle hold primacy over the Petrine? Or in what way do we begin our journey in receptivity without being purely passive?

I believe that the answer lies in understanding that adult faith is expressed in a particular way by that virtue and—more importantly—gift of the Holy Spirit known as fortitude. Confirmation is the Sacrament that strengthens us to become soldiers for Christ, and this is principally a matter of fortitude. In the first place, it is constituted by a kind of receptivity, which is endurance in the face of fear. Hence, fortitude helps us to overcome fear of death on the battlefield and even to count it as our greatest honor, as in the case of the martyrs. However, fortitude also concerns, secondarily, a moderate assertion of daring in order to overcome the aggressor. Spiritually, the aggressor is Satan, but in the social order, there are temporal evils that must be opposed.

Hence, “receptive but not passive,” means that grace is always primary and is first of all a matter of resisting a spiritual enemy through endurance. But it also means that we will have to actively oppose what is dishonorable and contrary to the common good.

This is true for both men and women, but, in a particular way, fathers will be called upon—not to be impregnated, but to fight the good fight. It is, therefore, telling that Mr. Donaghy uses the caricature of St. Peter to represent the masculine and never once mentions fatherhood in connection with the Petrine principle.

It is also understandable, then, that The Thinking Housewife has had enough of the feminist narrative and has tired of the “feminine genius” being construed as the supreme archetype. On the other hand, all women do represent something by means of their femininity, even if they do not realize it in their persons.

Bob Hope was right in what he used to say to the fighting men when he visited them on his USO tours. He would bring a starlet out on stage and say: “I just wanted to remind you what you are fighting for.” While there is much to criticize about this, there is also a grain of truth to it. Sorting it all out is never easy.

The most fundamental archetypes of the Christian life are not Peter and Mary, but Jesus and Mary. Our Lord was a fighting man and ultimately answered only to His Father. But He also condescended to become the Child of Mary and asks us to have the humility to do the same.  By reflecting on this, we may learn to redeem the relationship between man and woman, but it is unlikely that we will ever redeem feminism.  Or as Dawn Eden has written:

The Word who saves us was, like the woman who brought Him forth, immaculately conceived. Not so with the word feminism — which is why it cannot save, and should not be saved.

The real mysticism of the Church is not eroticism or worship of the goddess, but the heroism that unites authority and power with the willingness to die in battle for those one loves.  Instead of advocating a new feminism and asking men to imagine themselves as being spiritually impregnated we need to examine more closely what I have called Marian Chivalry.

War in Paradise: Tonight’s Discussion Group Topic

Update: Post on Tonight’s subject matter added below.

The somewhat adventurous,tumultuous, perilous and thrilling relations between men and women will be the topic of tonight’s discussion. Later in the day I will update this post with my profound insights into the matter.  (It should be a very short post.)

Send me an email so I can hook you electronically in to the discussion beginning at 8:10 pm tonight, or better yet, come to the friary in Griswold for the holy hour at 7:00 Pm, followed by the discussion.  Don’t be discouraged if I don’t email you right back.  I promise you will have the login information in advance of the meeting time.

Should be interesting.  Look forward to seeing you.

(BTW, I will have the next Templar video up tomorrow.)

Update:

Patristic interpretation of sacred scripture, especially in St. Irenaeus, establishes the Garden of Paradise as a kind of paradigm for the whole of human history.  The story of creation, of sin and the promise of redemption is recapitulated and re-circulated over and over at different levels, from type to fulfillment to final consummation and completion.  At the heart of the paradigm is the relationship between man and woman.

There is much to unpack in that paragraph, but for our purpose it is sufficient to point out that all this is summarized in the idea that Christ and Our Lady are the New Adam and Eve, who by means of a parallel but antithetical action undo the disobedience of our first parents by their obedience.

The first paradise was a fortress in which peace reigned until Eve opened the gate to the dragon and, seeing the danger, Adam ran and hid.  That pretty much summarizes it.  Ever since then, the enemy has wrought havoc in the City of God and often seems to be the Lord of the World.

In the first paradise, peace reigned because there was harmony between God and man, between man and woman and between the faculties of man within himself.  In attacking man and overturning his internal integrity and harmony of soul, the serpent assaulted above all man’s relationship with God, but also the human relationships and, most specifically, the relationship between man and woman.  And even while the most extreme effects of the disorder that entered into mankind is witnessed in global dissention and war, our most common and profoundly painful experience is found within marriage and the family.

But this cosmic war, as we know, did not really begin in the Garden.  It began, rather, in the “heavens,” before the creation of man.  The symbolism of Apocalypse chapter 12 concerning the Woman clothed with the sun in battle with the red dragon has been interpreted as a primordial revelation to the angels before any had fallen of God’s plan to send his Son into the world born of a woman.  Thus, Jesus and Mary were the predestined archetypes for all humanity, and when Lucifer’s pride drove him to reject the heavenly King and Queen in anticipation of their coming, he prepared himself to make war on the rest of the Woman’s seed (Apoc 12:17).

We are under attack.  That is the history of our race and while religious persons recognize this truth in respect to their relationship with God and in regard to their own personal integrity, I am not so sure that men and women, husband and wives, realize that their private wars have the Father of Lies as the instigator.

I have touched upon the relations between men and women a number of times before on this blog, in particular, in the posts “Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases.”  I put a great deal of thought into both of these pieces.  Each time I finished writing, I had learned something myself, but I also had a real experience of dissatisfaction.

It is hard to put a finger on it.  I often perceive myself as being ambivalent in speech and writing on the matter, taking men to task when I speak to them, and women separately, but always saying that it takes two to tango and finally qualifying everything by saying a special burden is placed on men because women are the weaker sex.

A certain narrative has developed because of feminism.  Historical memory, vocabulary, what we choose to talk about and what we choose not to talk about: the narrative of feminists has influenced it all.  The Church has developed an apologetic that speaks to the zeitgeist and is based on an acceptance the assumptions of the feminists if not their conclusions.  And apologetics is always limited in its scope of understanding.  As a method of teaching, apologetics does not seek the deeper meaning of the subject it treats, it only adapts a difficult argument or one that is at odds with the zeitgeist so that it can be more easily accepted.  Inevitably, it involves making generalizations, oversimplifying, avoiding the cans of worms, and accepting the assumptions of the interlocutor whenever possible.  This is called “speaking the language of the people,” or “meeting people where they are at.”  I have no argument with the method, insofar is it is necessary for apologetics.  My problem is that probably most Catholics do not recognize its limitations.

I think many men, even if they want to restore the dignity and importance of fatherhood do not believe the pastors of the Church are wholeheartedly supporting their efforts.  (This is even the experience of many pastors themselves.)  Let’s just say it is a common experience.

Most of the time, it seems that what we hear from pastors is the feminist narrative: that women have been maligned throughout history at the hands of men; that the good men (males) do is due to the support of women, for which women have not been fairly recognized, while  the sins that women commit are often due to the failures of men, for which women suffer unjustly; when speaking of the vocation of women, it is exclusive to women, but when speaking of the vocation of men (males), it is swallowed up in the general vocation of all humanity, i.e. there is no particular vocation of men (males) that does not also include women in the broad umbrella of all humanity.

(This is not my formulation, but one I have heard from another man.  I agree with it and would be interested in knowing the opinion of others.)

This insight is important, because while many of us have woken up to the problem men confront, we are not always sure where the assumptions of feminists are correct and where they are exaggerated.  And in any case, one takes one’s intellectual life into one’s hands if he or she questions any of it.

The fact is that women have a tremendous amount of power, even without ostensible authority.  Men virtually always lose the argument when the battle is fought on the field of the personal and emotional, and of course, this is where women hold their ground, and it is where they insist on fighting.

Rick Varieur, a Catholic psychologist and speaker in Rhode Island, once said that men are like desert fighters and women are like jungle fighters.  Women will step for a moment out of the jungle and taunt the man, and then run back into the jungle.  The worst mistake a man can make is to follow them back into the jungle, which is just exactly what they are tempted to do.  And when men make that mistake, they always get their throats slit.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that is given validation by the feminist narrative.  I do believe that in societies in which women were expected to be obedient, and in which they had (and have) a real reason to fear abandonment, adultery or abuse, emotional and sexual blackmail are their weapons of choice.  Men, and specifically husbands and those in authority become the whipping boys, whether they deserve it or not.  Women develop the habit of never being satisfied with anything a man does, or reserve their approval until he proves himself to be Prince Charming.

When culture at large accepts the feminist narrative as the only legitimate point of view, then the vice of feminine crabbiness becomes the ingrained habit of an entire culture, indeed the very zeitgeist, the lens through which everything is analyzed.

I really don’t know what the solution is.  Almost anything that is said needs to be qualified by a contrary or at least complementary consideration.  Women belong to the weaker sex and they do need to be protected.  However, unless they learn to accept what they find to be the more impersonal and harder aspects of a man’s character, then they will always something to complain about, either because the man is not sensitive enough, or because he is not a good enough leader.

To the extent that feminist empowerment breeds contempt of men, even among non-feminists, is the extent to which their narrative will define the value of men in the eyes of the culture, and therefore will make it impossible for masculine authority, labor and protectiveness to be accepted without a spirit of hyper-criticalness and cynicism.

All of this is a bit of thinking out loud.  This conundrum brings me back to the original war in paradise and to the cosmic time before when the conflict between the Woman and Her Seed and the Dragon and his seed began.  I really do not have the answers I am looking for, at least not directly.  But the prophetic grace of our age has to do with the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, and this will be a triumph also within the heart of man, male and female.

This is a war we cannot afford to lose, but we cannot win it if we do not proclaim the Mother of Jesus as Queen.  For some this will seem far off course from the subject, but it is at the heart of Marian Chivalry or any kind of chivalry that can be termed Christian, whether it is practiced by men or women.

For anyone who may think I am being too hard on women, I would recommend you read the two posts I mentioned above (“Damsels in Distress” and “Ditching the Marital Biases”), if you have not already.  I think I give both credit and blame where it is due on both sides.

Ditching the Marital Biases

I recently posted a video under the title “Male Buffoonery from the Christian Media.”  The comedic vignette portrayed in the video humorously critiques men’s lack of appreciation for their wives in terms of the amount of work involved in running a household.  As humor operates by way of exaggeration, the husband in the video comes off as a consummate jerk.

I facetiously commented that such things never happen.  What set me off is that the video is just another example of media stereotype against men, and in this case it comes from a Christian source.  I know there are two sides to this.  I was just trying to make a point.

The reason I am posting about it again is that the video generated an interesting discussion in the comments that I think needs to be addressed.  I don’t mean to single anyone out, but to address erroneous ideas that are very commonly held.

Holy Baloney

The first is that somehow the exercise of legitimate authority is contingent on the personal holiness of the one who presumes to wield authority.  So it often happens that one who is subject to authority thinks they are only obliged to obey if their superior is, in their estimation, worthy of exercising authority.  Another way of putting this notion is “only the one who shows himself to be above the average man is worthy of being superior,” or “the one who is worthy to lead is only that one who morally, intellectually, or by way of popular acclaim, rises above the rest.”

The teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter of authority is that anyone who possesses an office of authority, as long as they act within their competence, and not beyond it, and do not command something contrary to the law of God, exercises authority legitimately regardless of their personal merit, talent, intelligence, holiness, etc.  It is not true, for instance, that a superior must be in the state of grace to legitimately command.  Our Lord Himself, while publically correcting the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, defends their right to command.  He tells the apostles: All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not (Mt 23:3).

All of this applies with respect to the obligation of a wife to obey her husband.  So says the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

[L]et wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience (“Holy Matrimony”).

Later on, I will explain the phrase “yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety,” but first I want to deal with an issue, about which my silence on the matter has been criticized.

Seeing Scarlet

I have dealt with at length the question of women as the weaker sex and their need to be protected, and have emphasized the singular responsibility of men to perform this task, that is, to make sure that women are treated according to their proper dignity.  My blog is about Marian Chivalry, so my emphasis should be understandable.  Yet, as we all know, it takes two to tango. Unquestionably, those who hold authority have a special obligation to avoid its abuse.  However, each of the sexes within marriage is prone to its own particular vices.  Pride and selfishness have their own specifically masculine and feminine dimensions.  If men must not abuse their authority, women, in a particular way, must not use their weakness as an excuse to cultivate the habit of emotional and sexual blackmail.

One of the problems with feminism and the emasculization of men is that the abuse of authority, especially within the family, has given credence to the idea that only those who are holy can exercise authority legitimately.  In fact, men have been emasculated precisely because they have bought into this lie.  They have willingly abdicated their authority because others, most notably their wives, have convinced them that they are not worthy to command.

Without underestimating the problem of the abuse of authority, one cannot neglect to condemn in the most strident terms this pernicious notion that a man must prove himself to be free of his faults (so obvious to his family) before he can be taken seriously.  This notion, quite frankly, is so bogus and destructive that it defies sufficient condemnation.  It is an excuse for willfulness.  It is the ruin of the unity of the family.

A man’s wife is his most brutal critic.  This almost universally true and not altogether a bad thing.  The principle contribution of women to the tradition of Christian chivalry has been the high standard to which women were expected to hold men.  The ever-present cultural and moral influence of Mary on the development of Christian civilization was in fact Her humanizing influence on the male sex.  But the ladies should not forget that most men who love a woman desire to be her hero, even if they know that, more often than not, they fall short.  Traditional women talk all the time about how much they want to have their husbands lead, but then they subject his every choice to microscopic scrutiny, and nag and complain about all his shortcomings.  Emotional and sexual blackmail become tools of the weaker sex to maintain a safe independence, that is, a way of maintaining control, while indulging all her feminine weaknesses.

Mutual Submission

It seems to me that the comment section of the post to which I referred above tended to be one-sided, either asserting that authority is only legitimate where the husband shows himself worthy, or on the other hand, is virtually always exercised legitimately, regardless of what he commands, or at least that the woman should just shut her mouth and do what she is told without question.  And this is the second error that I must address.  Indeed, the Catechism of the Council of Trent affirms that wives are obliged to

love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience.

That phrase is specific, and does not suggest that a woman, who is the “helpmate,” and not slave, of her husband must yield in a mindless and servile obedience to her husband.  Ancient cultures, and some of them Christian, though not thoroughly Christianized, have regarded women as virtually the property of their husbands to be disposed of in an arbitrary way.  However, the famous passage of St. Paul, invoked by traditionalists to put women in their place does not affirm the wife-as-chattel mentality.  In Ephesians 5, St. Paul does indeed mandate the obedience of a wife to her husband, but he also states that husbands and wives are to be subject one to another, in the fear of Christ (22).  St. Paul goes on to explain this mutual subjection in terms of a wife’s obedience to her husband and the husband’s sacrificial love for his wife.  The next chapter (6) goes on in parallel manner to reaffirm the obligation of children to obey their parents, while at the same time, commanding fathers not to provoke their children to anger (1-4).  This makes it pretty clear that an arbitrary or abusive execution of authority within the family finds no mandate in sacred scripture.  No man may presume that his wife and children must swallow the consequences of his capricious will without question.

In fact, Ephesians 5 compares marriage to the love of Christ and His Bride, the Church, and the paradigm for husbandly love is Christ on the Cross.  The abuse of authority within the family is not going to be solved by feminism.  Emasculated men are a plague upon society and the family.  But neither is the problem of feminism and effeminacy going to be solved by ignoring abuses of authority or by absolutizing the rights of husbands.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and John Paul II placed a great emphasis on the dignity of the human person and the obligations of those in authority to respect that dignity and to command according to the demands of the common good.  The Church regards as particularly pernicious the abuse of authority, because human authority is never absolute but entrusted to individuals specifically for the care of the persons, created in the image and likeness of God.  For this reason John Paul II placed a particular emphasis on the obligation of men toward women, while not at all dispensing from the obligation of obedience of wives to their husbands.  One would think that the need to address the problem of the abuse of authority, as well as the unwillingness to exercise it with legitimate forcefulness for the common good, would be obvious in the light of various modern forms of totalitarianism, fascism and fanaticism.

The Unspoken Issue

Worthy of particular note is a matter that goes largely unuttered when the topic of authority within marriage is discussed but which certainly underlies much of what is said, namely, the marriage debt.  It is a matter of grave obligation for men and women to yield to the reasonable request of their spouse and offer their bodies freely for the conjugal act.  This request is made legitimately where there is no serious reason to refuse (For particulars ask your confessor, and when in doubt, by all means seek counsel.)  In a particular way, this responsibility lies heavily on the shoulders of the woman for obvious reasons.

Again, it takes two to tango:  the man has the power to physically or emotional intimidate the woman into an unreasonable use of marriage, but the woman has the feminine power of turning her sexuality into a tool or into a weapon.  And we all know exactly what I am talking about.  There can be no one-sidedness here.

All this being said, the position of authority of the man and his superior strength and power places a special obligation on the man to respect and protect his wife from his own lusts.   Only women get pregnant and men generally do not have to worry about being abandoned with a child.  One of the greatest fears of women around the world is abandonment by the father of her children.   Women are vulnerable in this matter in way in which there is no comparison in men.  They are also expected to satisfy their husband, and unfortunately, culture has left many men under the delusion that their masculinity is defined by their libido and specifically by their need to have their sexual desires satisfied whenever they want, on demand.  This is to a large extent what many men mean by their expectation of the unquestioning obedience of their wives.

Here is a special notice to men (if the shoe fits, wear it):  Wake up!  Do you wonder why you wife has lost interest in intimacy with you and why you are less and less satisfied with your relationship with her?  It is because you act like a pig, and you keep justifying it because in reality you are insecure in your own masculinity.  Grow up and stop acting like a teenager.

I am particularly irritated by Christopher West’s ambiguity on the question of imperfect sodomy, precisely because it has certainly become an excuse on the part of “demanding” husbands to subject their wives to behavior that is demeaning and sinful.  One of West’s followers in Poland, a priest, asserts that

Attempts to set limits to the expression of love as well as arbitrary exclusion of some ways of experiencing pleasure inhibit spouses and introduce doubt, fear and moral anxiety into their sexual life. This attitude may result in frigidity and lead to serious marital problems.

In spite of the fact that the writer of these words qualifies his statement by the assertion that mutual consent must be part of the decision making, he is foisting a bill of goods on women, who generally are more passive and are expected to consent without argument.  Needless to say, many men will take words like this as justification for subjecting their wives to sins against nature and other demeaning behavior.

I have always considered the Westian interpretation of Theology of the Body to be the lustful man’s boon, notwithstanding all the exalted views of sexuality and the dignity of women.  If men truly wish to find satisfaction within their intimate relations with their wives and to maintain their moral authority, then they had better learn to behave themselves.  That means not only do they need to have a more exalted view of women and sexuality, it also means that they need to be a good deal less attached to eroticism and more willing to love selflessly, by being satisfied with less.  (A lack of sacrifice and generosity on the part of both men and women in this regard can lead to dire consequences within a marriage.)

While it is true that legitimate authority has nothing to do with whether one is holy or not, it is also true that it is better and more effective to lead by example. Such is the example of Christ, who died for his Bride.

Saving Marriage

It takes two to tango.  One-sided answers will get us nowhere.  I have favored the position of women here, because they belong to the weaker sex, but that is no excuse for the ladies to invoke what I say like a club to wield against their husbands.  I know there are really situations in which men are grossly abusive, but there are also many situations in which women can be little manipulative monsters.  Everyone clean your own house.

Christian marriage is about self-donation and self-forgetfulness.  Husbands and wives must bear each other’s burdens.  There is no way around this.  There are no pat answers.  Finger pointing is useless unless we are willing to point the finger at ourselves first.  My purpose here is not to provide the solutions to individual problems, but to point out that if we do not get the theoretical side of the argument right, then our efforts at providing practical solutions are hopelessly wrecked.

We have the whole two millennia of Christian history as our moral experience and if we find ourselves unable to learn from our mistakes the institution of marriage will continue to erode until it becomes something unrecognizable. Effeminate and homosexual men are a plague upon a structured society.  Self-centered and crabby women only exacerbate the problem.  But neither does the restoration of masculine authority involve the institutionalization of the arbitrary exercise of authority by men or the legitimization of husbands treating their wives like prostitutes.

The Art of Feminine Chivalry

eowyn-fighting

A woman should be able to drive a stick shift, fire a Springfield Arms XD accurately, do the family tax return, throw a football 20 yards, and barbecue steaks. However, when men are around, she should allow men to do things for her, even if she can do them better herself. Men should always be asked to do dangerous tasks (shoveling snow, killing spiders, etc.), and they should never be criticized about their performance in front of other people, only in private.

Great post on the art of feminine chivalry.

Click of the heels to Dawn Eden.

Compendium of TOB Posts

The following list provides links to all the posts that I have written either here or on Dawn Patrol about the Theology of the Body. I will update the list if I have missed any, or if, God forbid, I add others.

Update: Missed posts added to compendium (dates in red text).

Further Update:  Added posts (dates in green text).

  • “Hope of the World” (November 11, 2008):  The first reference I made to the “new chastity movement” on this blog shortly after the national election in the context of our lack of will to elect a pro-life president in the United States.
  • “Thinking Like a Man” (April, 16, 2009):  Why it is necessary for men to fight the good fight of chastity, rather than hope to be delivered from temptation by a new and holy fascination with the body, as is suggested in West’s presentation.
  • John Paul the Great and Hugh Hefner the Magnificent” (May 8th, 2009):  My original reaction to Chris West’s Nightline interview with a focus on the problem of prudery.
  • “Christopher West’s blind spot:  TOB has to be seen through Church’s historical teachings” (May 14, 2009):  A response to those who say that the critique is an attack on Christopher West and a closer look at the question of “original innocence” and its relation to the effect TOB can have on our redemption.
  • “Schindler’s list: Sparks fly as JP2 Institute dean raps Christopher West for errors” (May 29, 2009):  An analysis of the responses of Professors Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein to the critique of West by Professor David Schindler.
  • “Virgo redacta:  Christopher West and the dangers of overanalogizing Mary” (June 18, 2009):  An attempt to answer the defenders of Christopher West, by addressing some of the specific problems with his presentation, namely,  the phallic symbolism of the paschal candle  and the way that the Blessed Virgin is eroticized by his presentation.  More generally, I touch upon his problematic use of analogy. (See, notation on new information contained in this post).
  • “To Chris West: Enough Already. How about a Response?” (June 24, 2009):  A critique of the methodology by which critics of West are dealt with by implying prudery or animus as a motivation for the disagreement, or that disagreement with West constitutes disagreement with John Paul II.
  • “St. Agustine and the Theology of the Body” (June 27, 2009):  Comments on and several quotations from Msgr. Cormac Burke’s defense of St. Augustine’s views on marriage.  Another critique of seeing prudery where it isn’t.
  • “The Theology of the Body and Courage: Fighting the Real Fight” (July 14, 2009):  Why it is important for men to focus on agape rather than eros.
  • “Martyrs, Mystics and Rhetoricians” (July 31, 2009):  A response to Father Thomas Loya’s defense of Christopher West, with a focus on the hermeneutic of discontinuity manifested by the new “holy fascination” with the body advocated by Christopher West and his followers.
  • Shame on You.  Amen. (September 1, 2009):  Thoughts inspired by a discussion on The Linde regarding the nature of shame and its relation to modesty, with an emphasis on the cultivation of prudence in the face of the American TOB crusade against prudery.
  • Cardinal and Bishop Support Christopher West (September 8, 2009): Text of Cardinal Rigali’s and Bishop Kevin Rhoades letter of support of Christopher West and his work.
  • In Defense of Purity (September 20, 2009):  Introductory post to my commentary on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s work In Defense of Purity, proposed as a sure way of coming to understand the true meaning of the Theology of the Body.
  • In Defense of Purity I (September 29, 2009):  Commentary on the first chapter of von Hildebrand’s book, focusing on the meaning of shame, particularly in its positive aspect, and distinguished from that shame which seeks to protect the person from use, with a particular reference to its correlation in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
  • A Response to Christopher West (October 30, 2009):  My reply to the response to Christopher West, in which he finally breaks his silence regarding the controversy surrounding his presentation of the Theology of the Body.
  • Theology of the Tango? (November 1, 2009):  An example of the American version of Theology of the Body gone off the rails.
  • Christopher West:  Sexualizing Christianity (February 8, 2010):  A commentary on a 2001/2002 between Dr. Mark Lowery and Christopher West, indicating that the recent objections to West are nothing new, and have gone unanswered for years.
  • Sexing Up Canon Law (February 12, 2010): A response to a commenter’s objection to my previous post on the sexualization of Christianity by Christopher West.  Specifically, I focus on the meaning of the canons governing the dissolution of a ratified but non-consummated marriage and what that means in terms of when sacramental grace is conferred in marriage.
  • Father Peter Damian Fehlner on Ratified, Non-Consummated Marriages (February 13, 2010):  The magisterial and theological tradition concerning this question from a professor of dogmatic theology.
  • Theology of the Body:  Of Sign and Fulfilment (March 4th, 2010):  An explanation of the Churches use of theological analogy and the reason why  Christopher West’s use of analogy is theologically incorrect.
  • Christopher West Takes Sabbatical (April 13, 2010):  The announcement from TOB Institute that Christopher West is taking time off to “reflect more deeply on fraternal and spiritual guidance he has received in order to continue developing his methodology and praxis as it relates to the promulgation of the Theology of the Body.”
  • Toward a Climate of Chastity E-Book (April 20, 2010):  Announcement of Dawn Eden’s publication of her master’s thesis on Christopher West’s work as an ebook.  Links provided.
  • Dawn Eden’s Thesis and Defense (June 15, 2010):  Announcement of Dawn Eden’s re-publication of her master’s thesis on Christopher West’s work as an ebook, and the text of the defense of  her thesis.  Links provided.
  • That for Which We Fight (July 2, 2010):  A commentary on two opposing views of feminism with a special reference to Theology of the Body and a recommendation for a balanced approach.
  • Alice Von Hildebrand’s New Essay on Her Husband and Christopher West (July 21, 2010):  A brief announcement and acknowledgement of this blog author’s contribution to the essay.
  • Good Reason Why Not to Have Someone Live-Tweet a Conference. (August 1, 2010):  Some of the sensational and eyebrow-raising tweets from the TOB conference.
  • Theology of the Body and the Mystical, Magical Train (August 5, 2010):  An analysis of remarks and practices of Father Thomas Loya’s pastoral approach to TOB, including his use questionable images and theories concerning admiration for the naked body.
  • Father Loya: Peer Reviewed:  (August 1o, 2010) A guest post from Christina Strafaci concerning the legitimacy of public critique of the pastoral approach of certain TOB evangelizers.
  • More TOB Discussion (August 11, 2010):   A highlight from a discussion between Genevieve Kineke and Heidi Saxton.
  • Where I am at Right Now with Theology of the Body (September 24, 2010):  An assessment of the Theology of the Body debate impasse.
  • Christopher West’s Translation of John Paul II’s Body Language (October 10, 2010):  A response to Christopher West’s assessment of his critics in the light of his charism to popularize the Theology of the Body.
  • The Way of Ugliness (November 6, 2010):  A critique of an aspect of Christopher West’s multi-media event, “Fill These Hearts,” specifically his use of an anti-Catholic movie to illustrate his point that the Church has been filled with prudery prior to the Theology of the Body.
  • Alternate States of Unreality (February 9, 2011):  A reflection on Christian Occultism and its similarities with the current attempt at popularizing the Theology of the Body in the United States.

Mystics, Martyrs and Rhetoricians

Soap BoxOr the Theology of the Soapbox

What follows in another one of my long expositions on the Theology of the Body.  I have to give a loud content warning at the outset.  There is some frank talk here about sexuality, or rather, my complaints that there is too much frank talk about such matters.  I would have asked Dawn Eden to publish this one, but she has very courageously retired from blogging.  I have to commend her on her decision; however, it is not without regret on my part.

I again want to let those I disagree with know that my intentions are honorable and I do not question their integrity or commitment to the faith.  I can take my lumps if I deserve them.

In a recent apologia for Christopher West, Father Thomas Loya makes grand assertions:

Christopher West is a bit of a mystic—in the best sense of the word. His work, which seems strange to some, is actually that of a pioneer. And like all pioneers, West is taking a lot of arrows for his courage. In the face of much resistance, West is courageous enough to invite all of us to do just what John Paul II invited us to do: to think and talk in spousal categories. Continue reading

Losing Neverland

Mary Martin1

Yesterday I happened upon a YouTube video of the inimitable Danny Kaye in the role of Captain Hook, singing of pirate philosophy in the TV production of Peter Pan with Mia Farrow in the title role and score by Anthony Newley (1975).  Hook, who personifies a kind of anti-chivalry, is the nemesis of Peter Pan, the perpetual boy who refuses to become a man.  Peter Pan, though he represents an opposite extreme from Hook, cannot be considered chivalrous either.  Neither Hook nor Pan are real men.  Captain Hook has indulged his brutality and Peter Pan his puerile fantasies.

I have been reflecting a great deal lately on the virtues of prowess and courtesy.  One of the classic summaries of chivalric virtues is a fivefold division:  fidelity, honesty, courtesy, prowess and largess.  In my opinion perhaps the most common extremes to which men go in terms of masculinity runs along the line that extends between prowess and courtesy.

Prowess is not only courage, but also the magnificence by which a man invests himself into a great work without counting the cost.  Prowess makes a man truly prepared for battle; however, where it is not balanced against courtesy, men simply become brutal and are committed to win “by hook or by crook,” as the pirate says:

Hit him with a hammer when his noggin is turned.
Kick his teeth in.
This is the philosophy I have learned.
And never be concerned about how you win.
Just delight that you’re winning at all.

Always fight somebody frail and small.
At first you charm or flatter him
And gently chitter-chatter him,
Then suddenly you batter him on the chin
And simply shatter him;
It doesn’t matter how you win.

On the other hand, courtesy is a high-minded regard for the person, no matter who he or she is.  It is the unbending standard of fair play, by which we rule every engagement of love or war, and everything in between.  It is not merely manners, but includes them, for it begins in the mind and heart and flows from there into a man’s every word and deed. However, if it is not balanced against prowess it becomes misguided compassion or self-serving suavité.

And it is precisely for this reason that, while Captain Hook personifies prowess gone awry, Peter Pan does not represent a kind of misplaced compassion.  No, the intransigent boy is too narcissistic to be guilty of maternal sentimentality.  On the contrary, when Wendy wants to take the boys of Neverland to her home in London, Peter obstinately refuses to go with them and gives everyone a self-justifying lecture:

I’ve got no time for growing up.
When you’ve got time don’t waste it.
Taste it, each and any way you chose.
Use each lovely moment.
Youth is too good to lose.
Raise your voice and make your choice.
If you’ve got youth, rejoice!

Peter Pan is a cocky adolescent with a self-serving idealism.  If there is misplaced compassion here, it is directed entirely inward, where Peter lives.  Neverland is a state of mind, where one indulges the fantasy of being the center of the universe.  Neverland is ever the land of our age.

Even the presence of evil in Neverland only serves to focus Pan’s ego on himself.  One wonders if Captain Hook is a dragon of Pan’s own making, the archetypical villain devised for the adventures of Neverland, much like the villains created by college-age zealots who since the sixties have prided themselves on being radical when, in fact, their rebellion is so much a pose, like the fashions that go along with “activism,” such as perennially in-style Che T-shirt.

Isn’t that the lie of so much activist pacifism?  In reality it’s just another form of fascism, where men are threatened—not with guns but with adjectives like “lowbrow” and “narrow-minded,” and are silenced—not by force but by public opinion.

The perennial teenager desires neither war nor peace.  He wants tolerance at all costs, especially of everything he believes in and desires.  He shouts down opposition in the name of tolerance as long as it is politically correct to do so.  Opponents of same-sex marriage, for instance, are said to be bigots and have to pay for answering honestly a direct question put to them.

Peter Pan adventures are controlled scenarios, where the only possible peril is a threat to the ego.  Hence, so many controversies today are conflated well beyond their concrete significance because of injured teenage sensibilities.

We live in an age of manufactured outrage. Teenage snottiness is often self-righteous anger against the curtailing of one’s narcissism in the name of personal rights, as when activists engage in civil disobedience, provoke law enforcement officers and then are outraged when they get arrested.

In our entertainment culture, where we are encouraged to indulge our puerile fantasies, danger is experienced vicariously through video game avatars and special effects enhanced movie characters.  People become dull to the real peril waiting for them at the dinner table and are incapable of addressing the threats to their families and future, and then shake their fists at the ethereal dragons of Neverland.

And this is the real difference between the misplaced compassion of a woman and the puerile self-absorption of the perpetual teenager.  A boy who refuses to become a man is neither an immature child nor a sentimental woman, but an androgynous, effete and undefined entity.  It is at least significant, then, that actresses have generally been employed to play the role of Peter Pan. The look is androgynous, but worse yet, so is the spirit.

We have even coined terms to define the new hip infantilism:  twixters and parasite singles.  They are unable to decide whether or when they want to grow up, meanwhile they return home after college to live off mommy and daddy and entertain themselves while they contemplate whether they should get a job.  Once upon a time, only one in a million, like Hugh Hefner, could afford not to grow up.  Now with the hyper-management of everything by bureaucracy, we expect someone to always be coddling us.

In this moral climate, men who have never learned to fight in ordinary human conflicts have been so numbed by the artificiality of it all that they join fight clubs just to feel alive.  Feminine and effeminate culture is suffocating them, and getting punched is one of the only solid realities they experience.  Nevertheless, they would rather get a knee to the face than reclaim the even more solid and infinitely more dangerous realities of family life.

The opposite of wanton brutality, derailed prowess, is not always misplaced compassion.  Sometimes it’s just plain old comfy narcissism, and it seems more and more the standard fare.

As winsome as Peter Pan seems, he is really a dull conformist.  His philosophy is that of the world.  The religion of tolerance and the idolization of irresponsible youth is the mantra that several generations now have been taught to repeat.  It is custom, the tradition of our most recent fathers.  Anthony Esolen marks the commandments of this now codified let-down:

Thou shalt not adore. Thou shalt not celebrate with abandon. Thou shalt not honor. Thou shalt not fight. Thou shalt not live under the law of God, but within the parameters of thy keepers.

Neverland is a cage and Peter Pan is too self-absorbed to realize it. Let’s lose it fast.

All Is Not Fair in Love and War

Some time ago, I posted a poll about whether the proverb All is fair in love and war is true or not. At the time, I did not say that I was posting on the subject because it was part of my discussion in the paper I had been working on. In any case, most of you agreed with me.

That being said, I post below the introduction to the paper that I will be giving in about 20 minutes in Fatima.  I will be reading an abbreviated version due to time constraints.  More excerpts to follow.

*****

All is fair in love and war.

Traced back to the 16th century work, Euphues written by the Englishman John Lyly, this proverb expresses the rejection of the standard of fair play where matters of the greatest importance are concerned.  It also conveys the paradox, or coincidence of opposites, concerning love and war, viz. that while the one connotes a state of peace and the other conflict, the two are never really far apart.  In fact, the very Prince of Peace came not to bring peace, but to bring the sword.  In other words, the unity of love is never attained by man after the Fall without conflict.  On the cross, Christ is both Warrior and Bridegroom.

But the question is whether or not “all” is really fair in love and war.  It seems to me, in this respect Lyly’s proverb is more or less in accord with the present zeitgeist.  At least there is no universally accepted standard by which to determine what, in the main, the common good actually is, so we bump around in the dark until we arrive at some measure of tolerance for one another—a very utilitarian standard of fair play, indeed.  The very same feminists, for example, who in the 1960’s and 70’s wished to deliver themselves from the disparity of subjugation to men as sex objects and insisted on birth-control and abortion in order to accomplish this, now affirm their right to be sex objects as long as they are in control and have something to gain.  Birth-control and abortion have assured that everyone gets what they want, everyone, that is, except the victims of the silent holocaust.  In this way, without an objective measure of fair play, the battle of the sexes has reached a sort of precarious détente, which some of us might argue is more like the threat of “mutually assured destruction.”

Cervantes took up the proverb and put it on the lips of Don Quixote who finds himself breaking up a brawl caused by an absurd romantic trick.  The maiden Quiteria has consented to marry the rich Camacho solely for his wealth and in so doing jilts her true love Basilio.  At the wedding before the vows have been exchanged, Basilio shows up and throws himself upon his own rapier in front of the wedding couple.  As he lay dying, Basilio refuses to confess to the priest unless Quiteria agrees to marry him.  As soon as he has obtained her consent Basilio jumps to his feet and reveals his “suicide” to be a trick, and in spite of the deceit Quiteria remains firm in her intention to have him.  A brawl between the parties of Camacho and Basilio ensue and Quixote intervenes, crying:

“Hold, sirs, hold! . . . we have no right to take vengeance for wrongs that love may do to us: remember love and war are the same thing, and as in war it is allowable and common to make use of wiles and stratagems to overcome the enemy, so in the contests and rivalries of love the tricks and devices employed to attain the desired end are justifiable, provided they be not to the discredit or dishonour of the loved object.

Cervantes never tires in poking fun at the literature of chivalry, which often promulgated a code of ethics for love and war that mandated contradictory behavior; Don Quixote speaks of rights but in the same breath denies rules of fair play.  In fact, foolish, romantic sentimentalism by definition discredits and dishonors the loved object.

But it is not only the fictional literature of chivalry that reveals the contradiction.  The 12th century work In The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, written at the request of the Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and followed by many of the courtiers of Europe, we are given an adulterous mandate as the first rule of love:  “Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.”  Then, having said this, Capellanus absurdly exhorts his readers that they should “be mindful to completely avoid falsehood.” So much for the Lancelots and Guineveres of the world.

But love and war have always been pretty much the same thing, at least since the Fall.  God created Man, male and female.  Marriage is the first sacrament established by God.  Theologians call it a sacrament of nature.  In America, where the battle over same-sex marriage rages (more love and war), the proponents of sodomy assert that it is solely the State, not the Church, that creates and has the right to define and regulate marriage.  In fact, marriage arises from neither the Church nor the State.  Marriage exists because man is male and female; it is a sacrament of nature.  Both the Church and the State take in interest in marriage because it is a fundamental good for both, but it pre-exists both the Church and the State.  (Relative to the Church, of course, the solemnization of the union is also Sacrament of the New Testament established by Christ, but that does not change the fact that neither the Church nor the State has created marriage).

Again, without universal standards we bump around in the dark unable to perceive any objective definition of our fundamental institutions and settle on dogmatizing a standard of tolerance which is intolerant of everything but tolerance.  Nothing has really changed since the garden of paradise.  Fallen man is still a usurper.  He reaches out for love, but by denying the source of love the result is war.

The temptation of the serpent is an act of consummate violence.  The sin of our first parents is an arrogant and petty assault on heaven.  The subsequent history of mankind is a family feud, whose body-count is virtually numberless.  The primordial prophecy and promise of our redemption reveals that human history will be the recounting of a nearly endless war, in which finally victory will only come at the end of the world, when the Immaculate foot of the Woman will have stamped out the last efforts of the serpent to win over souls to his lie.  The Father of Lies knows of no code of ethics in regard to either love or war.  And from his point of view, love and war are the same because lust and hatred are espoused in the darkling rites of the netherworld.  But, in some sense, they are the same also from God’s point of view because both courtesy and courage will be forever united by the bond of a brotherhood in arms against all that is godless.

Our first and fallen parents are types of the new man and woman, by which the rest of us are recreated—not only in the image of God, but also in the image of the new and true Adam and Eve.  Christ and Our Lady are the new couple, the heads of the new family that is the Church.  Their story is an adventure of the most epic proportions and it concerns entirely the working out of ultimate love and ultimate war.  If we are honest we will have to admit that our salvation is all about love, but it is also all about war.  There is no use in living in denial, by pretending that some fuzzy and warm concept of the universal brotherhood of man will save us, but neither will we get away with fighting our way out of the mess we are in without a code of warfare.  Love and war are close allies, but all is not fair in love and war.