I guess I am really slow on the take, but a “second look” at porn strikes me a rather sordid metaphor.
Anyway, as I pointed out in my commentary on McGuiness’ first installment, this commentary on the education of desire at best says nothing more than what we were all taught in the Catechism, that sin is the result of deception. We think we will find happiness in things that appear to be good but really are not.
Anything involving ecstasy and communion in particular way points to the transcendent experience of communion with God. Even the most depraved behavior is some way is a perversion of something built in by God. Even so, I think we are pushing the limits of theologizing if we think that pornography as pornography supplies us with any new information. In fact, the Playboy culture barely gives a nod to personal communion. Hugh Hefner has been the great reducer of women to the status of nameless paper dolls. The consumer response is not complicated. Really.
I am in agreement with most of what McGuiness says. However, in the interests of making an argument for something important, he does what apologists too often do, which is to minimize those things which are not the thing he wants to emphasize. McGuiness wants to emphasize the education of desire and an appreciation for what he calls “elementary experience.” In the process, however, he caricatures elements of the ascetical life like prayer, penance and the sacraments.
If the multinational corporations have a “wonderful plan” for our lives (and they do), sometimes church people offer us “solutions” that alienate us from ourselves no less than the spinning wheel of production and consumption. Some within the Church will tell us to ignore the infinite need that makes our hearts restless and just plunge into Catholic practices and pious devotions. Never mind the meaning, “Just do it.” Here’s a sample checklist: start going to daily Mass, pray the rosary, make a holy hour, try this novena, frequent confession more often, do some twelve step program, go to a Catholic conference, be virtuous. You get the picture.
To assume that “moral evil’ is just a distorted good, and that therefore, there is no such thing as moral evil, its being just an absence (as darkness is lack of light) and claim moreover that moral Evil pure and simple does not exist, is misinterpreting the Divine statement in Genesis: God saw that His creation was very good and extend it to man’s actions. All the beings that God brought into existence are – in Aristotelian terminology “substances” – possessing qualities called accidents. An act of murder, rape, sadism, sodomy are not “substances” but alas, they are fearful facts.
The act itself is a sin, and sins are not distorted goods, but grave offenses of God, which not only separate the sinner from God, but moreover, deeply stain the sinner’s soul, and moreover, in most cases, wound and hurt other beings. This is why sin is a terrible reality. Original sin was so grave that it cut off man from his Creator, and created an abyss between Creator and creature that only God’s infinite goodness could span. It would be strange indeed if God had decided to send His divine Son to earth, have Him incarnated in the womb of a Virgin and destine Him to a shameful and horrendous death, just for mending the harm done by a “distorted” good.
At this point one wishes to have the eloquence of a Cicero, inspired by the writings of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in which he condemns in the strongest possible words (see Rom.1:18) all the perversions and moral abominations abhorred by the Apostle of the Gentiles, being full fledged realities, and not just distorted goods. Alas, they are fully real acts of revolt. Non serviam. In other words, sexual perversions, immorality, theft, murder, sadism, rape are totally and exclusively man’s doings, and have nothing to do with the goodness of God’s creation. These evils are committed by man alone after creation was completed. The viciousness of these acts is man’s full responsibility and can never be viewed as “an absence or distortion” of something good that God had created.
Here we go on to the next phase of the “redemption of desire” pop-spirituality ride. Matt McGuiness urges us to take “a second look at porn,” so that we can get in touch with the fact that illicit sexual desire is really a misguided attempt at finding happiness. Did I miss something? Isn’t that what Catholics have always believed? Isn’t all sin the choice of an apparent but false good over what is truly good in an attempt to be happy?
Of course, what separates the search for real happiness from that of its counterfeit is a lie. In his opening, McGuiness treats the lie of sodomy rather glibly with a raunchy pop-reference. Unfortunately, those things that St. Paul says must not even be named among you (Eph 5:3) are now part of the cultural fabric, so they have to be dealt with. But if it is true that a lie told over and over again gains plausibility just by the retelling, then our casual familiarity with depravity gives the perverse and diabolical an air of normality. The devil must be given his due: now we give porn a second look because it teaches us how happy we want to be. The problem with pornography according to McGuiness: it does not go far enough. I think McGuiness has taken the bait.