Monday, July 28, 2014

Darkness in the East

Catholic World News reports that the Vatican has suspended all priestly ordinations in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

If this is true, it's an indication that something far more sinister has been brewing down there than just the elevation of an alleged child molesting homosexual cult leader to the position of Vicar General.  This, after Bishop Martino of Scranton, PA made it clear that this man (Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity), who had been operating in his diocese, was not fit for ministry.  The Diocese of Scranton states (my emphasis) ...

Bishop Martino clearly expressed his reservations concerning Father Urrutigoity, who was identified as posing a serious threat to young people. Bishop Martino also carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to not allow Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his diocese. Despite these serious cautions, Bishop Rogelio Livieres informed the Diocese of Scranton that he was allowing Father Urrutigoity to incardinate into his Paraguay diocese.

... and not only to incardinate (to be given the permission and the faculties to function as a priest there), but also to function as Vicar General in the diocese, becoming Bishop Livieres right-hand man.

Urrutigoity was kicked out of an SSPX (schismatic) seminary because of his sexual perversions, but then ran the Society of St. John in Scranton, where he slept with boys as a form of "spiritual direction".  Back in 2002 Scranton's Independent Review Board suggested that Urrutigoity

should be removed from active ministry; his faculties should be revoked; and he should be asked to live privately.

For some reason Bishop Lvieres (a member of Opus Dei) ignored this.

Some in the blogosphere are painting Bishop Livieres as an innocent victim, since he's a Latin Mass promoter.  A favorite trope of some of the more radical traditionalists on the internet is that Pope Francis will stop at nothing to destroy the Latin Mass and orthodox priests.  One blogger is somehow able both to be furious about Urrutigoity having been given authority in Paraguay, but livid that the Vatican should question the very bishop who promoted and enabled him.

It should be noted, however, that preaching orthodox Catholic theology, expressing loyalty to the Latin Mass, and even having a bona fide Catholic Celebrity Rock Star Status is no indication of trustworthiness.  Urrutigoity is Latin Mass all the way, and (allegedly) a child molesting homosexual cult leader to boot.

At any rate, it sounds as if there's a lot more brewing behind the scenes here than the news reports indicate.  To suspend all ordinations is an extraordinary thing, and indicates Rome's concern that the corruption in the "City of the East" goes far deeper than Urrutigoity himself.



A Snappy Statement

Fr. Urrutigoity
My readers complain a lot about SNAP - the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - but here's their press release on a situation in Pennsylvania and Paraguay that some of my friends and I have been following for a long time.

This press release, if anything, is restrained.  The level of indignation could be much higher.  I am posting it here because the final paragraph (which I have highlighted in bold) is especially accurate and sums up where things are at with the scandal.

***
For immediate release: Monday, July 28, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
A controversial Catholic priest who has been accused of molesting boys in the US and had been second-in-command of a diocese in Paraguay has now allegedly been removed from ministry. [MY NOTE: Actually, the link here indicates that Fr. Urrutigoity has been removed as Vicar General of the diocese in Paraguay; it does not appear (from what I can tell with the help of Google Translator) that he has been removed from ministry.]  If this is true, we are glad that this action has been taken but it should have happened months ago and he should never have been put back on the job, much less won a promotion.
Catholic officials let Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity move from Pennsylvania to the South American country even though a therapist recommended that Fr. Urrutigoity "be removed from active ministry; his faculties should be revoked; he should be asked to live privately," because of "the credible allegation from (a victim)" and the priest's "admitted practice of sleeping with boys and young men."
SNAP has been demanding that this dangerous predator be ousted since March. 
Instead, Catholic officials let a credibly accused child molesting cleric move abroad, live and work among unsuspecting families and potentially hurt more innocent kids. 
Transferring predator priests to different dioceses or countries is dreadfully irresponsible. It is a dangerous and self-serving practice that two United Nations Committees have condemned. An investigation should be done to determine which Catholic officials were involved in this recklessness and they should be publicly and severely punished.
In a global institution, the real way to protect kids is to make sweeping reform, not to take individual half-measured steps, in case after case after case, and only when forced to do so by public pressure. That suggests a self-serving pre-occupation with public relations, not a genuine commitment to children's safety.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27 Cakewalk

The most difficult thing at this point about finding and photographing the 250 birthday cakes placed around St. Louis in a rather lame attempt to honor the 250th anniversary of our city's founding is keeping track of the ones we've done and the ones we have left.  Oh, and not getting shot, as many of the remaining cakes are in the ghetto (it's apparently not even safe to be a statue of Martin Luther King - see below).

But as of the end of the day today we only have 26 official cakes to go (we've already photographed 2 "renegade' cakes - cakes not officially sanctioned by the dilettantes and corporate shills who have set up this project, and we're looking for more.  I'm told Bonne Terre, MO has a Renegade Cake, and if anyone knows of any others, let me know - even if they're in people's kitchens.  We have 26 official cakes left, at any rate, after today's batch.)


217. Opera Theater of St. Louis - This cake had the sparkliest candle.  It glistened in the sun.  The rest of the cake was no big deal, which is why I didn't photograph it.



 218. August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, Weldon Spring, MO - The cake was well conceived but poorly executed.  It did, however, have a map of the Conservation Area glued onto the top of it.  That way, if you're on a hike and lost, find the cake and you'll know where you are.



219. What used to be the General Protestant Children's Home in Creve Coeur, MO.  I don't know what they call it now.  The cake is light blue, in front of the porch.



220. The Green Center, University City, MO.  Why is the lion crying?  The lion is crying because this green cake is advertising those idiotic alien-invasion windmills that are ruining the rural countryside all across America.  Let's recycle, kids!  Let's recycle this stupid cake!


Below is a view of the Green Center from further away.  Karen is waiting for me in the red car.  How ironic is it that we drove to the Green Center?



221. Vintage Vinyl Record Store, University City, MO.  The cake is under the overhanging sign, to the left of the trash can.  Oh, and "Music is the Healing Force".  Especially rap.  And disco, if you've only got a cold.



222.  Some other cake somewhere.  University City, MO.  The cake is at the lower right.  It's black.  The cake is painted black.  I'm getting a little tired of this.



223. St. Louis Children's Hospital.



224. The Headquarters of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park.  From what I've heard, they make sure every play they produce has at least one "gay marriage" in it - even if old Will didn't put that in the original script.



225. Castlewood State Park, Valley Park, MO.



226. The Martin Luther King Statue at Fountain Park - Trees, cake, statue; the statue is surrounded by a large fence to make sure it's safe.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Character Assassination - Catholic Style

Dick Cheney's stunt double, Bill Donohue of the Catholic Defense League.

Refusing to address a single one of the facts whistle blower Jennifer Haselberger has revealed in her deposition, in her interviews, and in the abundant documentary evidence that supports Haseblberger's claims about the scandal in St. Paul, Catholic Defense League's Bill Donohue instead goes after Haselberger personally.

And why not?  This is a tactic demagogues of all shapes and sizes have used throughout history.  Avoid the evidence, don't engage on the issues, instead use personal attacks to discredit your opponents.  It may not be the most Catholic or Christian thing to do - but hey, it's us vs. them, so anything goes, right?

Now if Donohue wanted to come after me or pretty much any other Catholic I know, and if he did his digging, he could find a ton of embarrassing and incriminating details that would make it hard for any of us to show our faces in public again.  I have yet to meet a perfect Catholic, and I am far from one myself.  Should my insignificant blog posts pop up on Bill Donohue's radar, he could find enough dirt to destroy me in spades if he put his mind to it.

But what's the best he can come up with to smear the character of this woman, a woman who so loved the Church and was so upset at the cavalier disregard for children and other innocent victims in St. Paul that she sacrificed her own career to speak up about it?  What's the best he can come up with?

The best he can come up with is this.

  • As a young woman she quit going to church, but then when she got older she started going again.
  • One of her instructors at a very liberal feminist Catholic college in St. Paul happened to be, herself, a liberal feminist.
  • A fringe church group has used one of Haselberger's quotes (from a paper she wrote) in their promotional material.

That's it.

No mention of the fact that Haselberger had high hopes for Archbishop Nienstedt because he was so "doctrinally pure".  No mention that everything Haselburger has said or done is consistent with a woman acting in accord with high ideals that are Christian and laudable.  No mention that, if she were really such a foul person, he ought to be able to come up with better stuff than this.


ADDENDUM

It is strange that Bill Donohue has so little confidence in the veracity of Jennifer Haselberger, or of her loyalty to the Church.  The last deposition she gave (before the one released publicly earlier this month) was at the request of and on behalf of the Holy See (in the John Doe v. Holy See case).





Sluts and Cads, Whores and Players

Madam Belle, Gone with the Wind - the whore with the heart of gold.

Sometimes the comment boxes are good things!

As I write this, there are two very perceptive comments on my post "Parsing Tolkien's Letter on Love and Romance".

Paul Stilwell points out the age old double standard that is implied in Tolkien's letter, and how we internet apologists would be quite wrong to run with it.  Arguing that promiscuity is wrong - but that it's somehow excusable in men (those endearing scamps) while being utterly offensive in women (tramps and harlots!) can only do more damage than good in an age where people very easily pick up on stereotypical distinctions that are either unfair or simply wrong.

Chris Chan brings up the challenges to the Boy Girl Thing presented by the New Media, which is reshaping who we are and how we relate in ways we don't even completely understand.

***

As to Stilwell's point, think of terminology.  You can think of a dozen words off the top of your head to describe a sexually promiscuous woman, but can you think of any term to describe a sexually promiscuous man?  Horn Dog is crass, but probably comes closest to painting the picture.  Player or playboy is less derogatory.  Don Juan is a term that describes a seducer, whose goal is to charm and flatter as much as to bed.  Cad is an old fashioned word that was usually used in reference to the emotional turmoil such activity caused.  A cad would break women's hearts and move on: that's why you called him a cad.  But a cad would have other unseemly characteristics, as would a bounder - these words described a man who was generally untrustworthy, whereas tramp or slut or vixen or whore - these words refer not to a woman's overall character in general, but to her sexual promiscuity in particular - as if once you knew that a woman slept around, you didn't need to know anything else about her.

Interestingly, we have the tradition in melodramatic literature of the whore with the heart of gold - the promiscuous woman who is nonetheless trustworthy in all other aspects (Madam Bell in Gone with the Wind is the most memorable example).  But is there a tradition of a cad with a heart of gold?  No, because once you know a man is a player, you can't really trust anything about him.

Why is that?  If our culture is harder on promiscuous women than on promiscuous men, then why do we see such activity in men as a thing that seeps through and corrupts their whole natures, while we see promiscuity in women as an aberration, as something that such women secretly regret, or at least indulge in at a level that is more superficial than when a man sleeps around?  Really.  Think about that.

***

As to the New Media and its effect on the relation between the sexes, one thing is certain.  Email and texting can offer an avenue for emotional intimacy that can be illusory.  Folks have always known the perils of "long distance" relationships.  It's easier for some folks to open up in writing than in person, and now with instantaneous communication, it's very easy to "cheat" with the same techniques - even to fall into an affair without fully intending to.  In other words, if you're cheating on your spouse or steady boyfriend / girlfriend by physically meeting with another person every day, talking about things that are very close to your heart, and maybe even having sex with that person - there's no doubt you're cheating.  But if you both bare your souls more than your bodies via emails, IMs and texts, it's harder to see the slippery slope until you're mired in the muck at the bottom.




Friday, July 25, 2014

To the Anonymous Commenter



An anonymous commenter responded to my post here, with at least one question that I answered here.  And yet he or she claims I'm dodging the points he or she has made.

So let me address them below:

1. Anonymous claimed that the sexual scandal in the Church is over.  This was the point I responded to in my follow up post: It most emphatically is not.  Bishops are still enabling sex abuse, and getting indignant when the press or the courts point this out.  
2. Anonymous takes issue with the number of pedophile priests that are or have been active in the Church (reports range from 4 to 10%).  But the number of abusers is not the point.  The point is how the bishops continue to enable such abuse.  Even if the number is half what Pope Francis suggests - i.e., only 1% - the point is not that number.  The point is what should be done once a crime against a child is committed.  This is what can easily be fixed, and this is what the bishops in their "knavish imbecility" continue to avoid fixing.
3. Anonymous is playing around with numbers from the John Jay Report.  He or she seems to think that the only relevant number is the number of priests convicted of abuse in the court system.  No one in the Church, not even the most untrustworthy bishop, would ever suggest that the number of priests who are criminally charged, much less convicted, is anything but the tiniest fraction of the number of priests who have actually abused children.  
4. Anonymous seems to think I am claiming that the problem is more prevalent now than it was in the 1970's.  It's certainly not as bad as it was then, and I don't know how he or she got the idea I was claiming that it is.
5. Anonymous argues that SNAP is not a reliable source for information about the abuse crisis.  SNAP certainly has a vested interest in this issue, but if Anonymous thinks they're lying or fudging when it comes to the evidence, such as the documentary evidence released by dioceses, law firms and courts all over the country and readily available on the internet, he or she should compare the original source documents with what SNAP claims.  Don't believe SNAP?  Don't believe the New York Times or bishopaccountability.org?  Fine.  Check out the Graves Report in Kansas City, the source documents in St. Paul, the documents regarding the St. Louis cases, etc.  Do a little Googling and you'll find them.  You don't need a filter any more; you don't need a middle man.  This is the internet.  Go straight to the source and find the truth.  I have, and it's very disturbing.

So, dear Anonymous, if you would like to comment further, please comment with a name - even a screen handle, so that we can at least refer to you as someone other than "Anonymous".

And please understand that the truth of this is the truth that will set us free.  The tribalistic lie that this really isn't a problem, it's only the enemies of the Church who are making it so, is a lie that will only make things worse.  If we are Christians, we must love the truth - even the disturbing truth about our own sinfulness, and even if that means shining the light of Christ into the ugly dark corners of our chancery offices.

Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. - the words of Jesus from John 3:19-21.

In other words, don't fear the light.  It's the only thing that can overcome the darkness.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Parsing Tolkien's Letter on Love and Romance

Tolkien's amazing letter to his son Michael deserves a closer look.  Here it is again, with some commentary by me in boldface.  

***





A man's dealings with women can be purely physical (they cannot really, of course: but I mean he can
refuse to take other things into account, to the great damage of his soul (and body) and theirs); or
'friendly'; or he can be a 'lover' (engaging and blending all his affections and powers of mind and body in a complex emotion powerfully coloured and energized by 'sex'). 

Tolkien is setting up here three possibilities in relations between men and women: 

1. A man can relate to a woman merely for the sake of physical pleasure (though really this can never happen, for we can never separate our bodies and our souls, and great harm of some sort comes to those men who try to do this; great harm also comes to the women involved)

2. A man can be "friends" with a woman (before old age, this is almost impossible on any intimate level without the complications of love or attraction, as he points out later)

3. Or a man can be a woman's "lover" - this love being something which engages his whole self, but which still tends to be primarily an emotional experience, "energized by sex".

This is stunningly perceptive stuff, loaded with common sense - as is the rest of the letter.  Read on!

This is a fallen world. The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been 'going to the bad' all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the 'hard spirit of concupiscence' has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell. 

What beautiful prose, right to the point and very evocative.  "The hard spirit of concupiscence" is our innate predilection to sin, especially sexual sin.

We will leave aside the 'immoral' results. These you desire not to be dragged into. To renunciation you have no call. 'Friendship' then? 

He is giving advice to his son.  Michael does not want to give himself to "immoral" relationships with women (fornication).  But he's not called to "renunciation" (celibacy and the priesthood).  Is friendship then the only option left?

In this fallen world the 'friendship' that should be possible between all human beings, is virtually impossible between man and woman. The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favourite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones. This 'friendship' has often been tried: one side or the other nearly always fails. Later in life when sex cools down, it may be possible. It may happen between saints. To ordinary folk it can only rarely occur: two minds that have really a primarily mental and spiritual affinity may by accident reside in a male and a female body, and yet may desire and achieve a 'friendship' quite independent of sex. But no one can count on it. The other partner will let him (or her) down, almost certainly, by 'falling in love'. 

This has to be qualified a bit, lest Tolkien sound too harsh and hypercritical.  

And the qualifier is this: of course, all of us have friends of the opposite sex.  But those are more acquaintances than examples of deep friendship, and the level of emotional and spiritual intimacy is generally tepid or restrained.  It has been my experience that any "friendship" I have with a woman is either

1. At a level of cordiality and restraint: a pleasant acquaintanceship of mutual affection and limited "sharing";

2. Or fraught with "erotic" complications (meaning complications of the love known as Eros, which is more than just sex) - where emotional and spiritual sharing, once past a certain level, invariably leads (quite naturally) not only to attraction but to the building up of mutual obligations, which must ultimately go unfulfilled and renounced by one or the other party - unless the friendship is a courtship building toward marriage.  This is true whether the "friends" add on "benefits" or not.  It's not so much sex that complicates such relationships, but Eros.

But a young man does not really (as a rule) want 'friendship', even if he says he does. There are plenty of young men (as a rule). He wants love: innocent, and yet irresponsible perhaps. Allas! Allas! that ever love was sinne! as Chaucer says. Then if he is a Christian and is aware that there is such a thing as sin, he wants to know what to do about it.

So the problem is love.  How do we love without sin?  Quoting Chaucer leads Tolkien into a penetrating analysis of "courtly love".

There is in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition still strong, though as a product of Christendom (yet by no means the same as Christian ethics) the times are inimical to it. 

Note that chivalry grew out of Christendom, but that chivalry is not the same thing as Christian ethics.  Tolkien proceeds to show how chivalry and "courtly love" differs from Christian ethics, and he gives a very mature and balanced treatment of the subject.  

One might wonder, "What does chivalry have to do with the modern world?  How does this affect a young man - or even a mature man - trying to love without sin?  Chivalry is dead, isn't it?  The times are inimical to it, as Tolkien said."  Well, no, chivalry is not dead; it lives on in the Romantic tradition of literature and art, and its notion of Romantic Love can be seen in every movie or novel of the modern age (except very recent pieces of trash like Hangover).  It's a tradition that tugs deeply at our souls, as it is very evocative of Eros and Agape - of our call to love with great passion, interest, devotion and surrender: it takes what Christ has revealed about love and applies it (imperfectly but very effectively) to the secular world.  It is love of God applied to the opposite sex - which has its problems, as Tolkien proceeds to point out.

It idealizes 'love' — and as far as it goes can be very good, since it takes in far more than physical pleasure, and enjoins if not purity, at least fidelity, and so self-denial, 'service', courtesy, honour, and courage. Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake without reference to (and indeed contrary to) matrimony. 

The tradition of courtly love originally began as the building up of what might be called elaborate rules of adultery.  Later, it took on more dignity - but it originally focused on the problem of Eros for the married man or woman who was not finding Eros in his or her marriage.  

Its centre was not God, but imaginary Deities, Love and the Lady. It still tends to make the Lady a kind of guiding star or divinity – of the old-fashioned 'his divinity' = the woman he loves – the object or reason of noble conduct. This is, of course, false and at best make-believe. The woman is another fallen human-being with a soul in peril. But combined and harmonized with religion (as long ago it was, producing much of that beautiful devotion to Our Lady that has been God's way of refining so much our gross manly natures and emotions, and also of warming and colouring our hard, bitter, religion) it can be very noble. Then it produces what I suppose is still felt, among those who retain even vestigiary Christianity, to be the highest ideal of love between man and woman. Yet I still think it has dangers. It is not wholly true, and it is not perfectly 'theocentric'. It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man's eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars. (One result is for observation of the actual to make the young man turn cynical.) To forget their desires, needs and temptations. It inculcates exaggerated notions of 'true love', as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, and unrelated to will and purpose. (One result of that is to make young folk look for a 'love' that will keep them always nice and warm in a cold world, without any effort of theirs; and the incurably romantic go on looking even in the squalor of the divorce courts).

This is one of the most stunning and beautiful paragraphs Tolkien ever wrote.  In it, he manages to criticize the romantic notion of "The Lady" in a way that is so fair and comprehensive that one marvels at the wisdom and perspective of this man.  The chivalric tradition of "The Lady" and the romantic quest she moves us to, can both inspire a man to a nobility of love, and also fool him and hurt him (and others) badly.  For we poets tend to forget that women are "companions in shipwreck and not guiding stars".  This can lead to cynicism on the one hand (there's nothing more ugly and angry than a disappointed lover, whose ideals have proven to be bubbles that have popped) or to "the squalor of the divorce courts" on the other.  "My wife is not My Lady!  My Lady calls to me from afar!  My Lady is hot and sexy and understands me!  My wife is dumpy and crabby and knows me too well to adore me like her knight in shining armor that I long to be!  But my secretary understands me - or my dental hygenist does - or that young thing over there does!  Oh, stars!  Oh, fate!  Why do I have a wife and not My Lady!" (picks up phone, dials 1-800-DIVORCE).

Women really have not much part in all this, though they may use the language of romantic love, since it is so entwined in all our idioms. The sexual impulse makes women (naturally when unspoiled more unselfish) very sympathetic and understanding, or specially desirous of being so (or seeming so), and very ready to enter into all the interests, as far as they can, from ties to religion, of the young man they are attracted to. No intent necessarily to deceive: sheer instinct: the servient, helpmeet instinct, generously warmed by desire and young blood. Under this impulse they can in fact often achieve very remarkable insight and understanding, even of things otherwise outside their natural range: for it is their gift to be receptive, stimulated, fertilized (in many other matters than the physical) by the male. Every teacher knows that. How quickly an intelligent woman can be taught, grasp his ideas, see his point – and how (with rare exceptions) they can go no further, when they leave his hand, or when they cease to take a personal interest in him. But this is their natural avenue to love. Before the young woman knows where she is (and while the romantic young man, when he exists, is still sighing) she may actually 'fall in love'. Which for her, an unspoiled natural young woman, means that she wants to become the mother of the young man's children, even if that desire is by no means clear to her or explicit. And then things are going to happen: and they may be very painful and harmful, if things go wrong. Particularly if the young man only wanted a temporary guiding star and divinity (until he hitches his waggon to a brighter one), and was merely enjoying the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex – all quite innocent, of course, and worlds away from 'seduction'.

Wow.  

It's politically incorrect these days to assert that men and women are different in any way (even physically).  But Tolkien nails it.

As to women's natural desire - I can only think of Lola Heatherton whose showbiz catch phrase was, "I want to bear your children!"  



But back to Tolkien ...

You may meet in life (as in literature) women who are flighty, or even plain wanton — I don't refer to mere flirtatiousness, the sparring practice for the real combat, but to women who are too silly to take even love seriously, or are actually so depraved as to enjoy 'conquests', or even enjoy the giving of pain – but these are abnormalities, even though false teaching, bad upbringing, and corrupt fashions may encourage them. Much though modern conditions have changed feminine circumstances, and the detail of what is considered propriety, they have not changed natural instinct. A man has a life-work, a career, (and male friends), all of which could (and do where he has any guts) survive the shipwreck of 'love'. A young woman, even one 'economically independent', as they say now (it usually really means economic subservience to male commercial employers instead of to a father or a family), begins to think of the 'bottom drawer' and dream of a home, almost at once. If she really falls in love, the shipwreck may really end on the rocks. Anyway women are in general much less romantic and more practical. Don't be misled by the fact that they are more 'sentimental' in words – freer with 'darling', and all that. They do not want a guiding star. 

Guys like me who tend to be poets and idealists find this hard to imagine, but it's very very true.  Women are much more practical than men.  Their thoughts tend to hearth and home (unless they're simply vixens, as Tolkien notes above - and vixens themselves are so twisted that they are quite unhappy with who they are, as a rule).  A woman can be idealistic in her own way, but it's usually not regarding love and romance.  Even women who have affairs usually do so to find attention, not to find the ideal man.  Thus the tendency of women to "settle", to marry men who meet minimum standards (like breathing and showing an interest in them).  It's the woman's job to "settle" - to settle down, something that does not come naturally to men.  

They may idealize a plain young man into a hero; but they don't really need any such glamour either to fall in love or to remain in it. If they have any delusion it is that they can 'reform' men. They will take a rotter open-eyed, and even when the delusion of reforming him fails, go on loving him. 

Maybe this is why they "settle".  A man believes he can always find the ideal "out there"; a woman believe she can always achieve the ideal "in here".  

They are, of course, much more realistic about the sexual relation. Unless perverted by bad contemporary fashions they do not as a rule talk 'bawdy'; not because they are purer than men (they are not) but because they don't find it funny. I have known those who pretended to, but it is a pretence. It may be intriguing, interesting, absorbing (even a great deal too absorbing) to them: but it is just plumb natural, a serious, obvious interest; where is the joke?

This opens up a great mystery.  Sex is always something ridiculous to a man, no matter how obsessed he is with it; thus men are bawdy and enjoy being bawdy.  A man always finds sex somehow humiliating or humbling and therefore funny.  Women take sex much more seriously.  There's no tension between the natural function of sex and the spiritual desires of a woman; in men there is.  Sex is somehow incongruous to us: we love it, but it's not exactly who we are - which is often the source of humor.  Women don't get that joke.

They have, of course, still to be more careful in sexual relations, for all the contraceptives. Mistakes are damaging physically and socially (and matrimonially). But they are instinctively, when uncorrupt, monogamous. Men are not. .... No good pretending. Men just ain't, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of 'revealed' ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh. Each of us could healthily beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process. Brigham Young (I believe) was a healthy and happy man. It is a fallen world, and there is no consonance between our bodies, minds, and souls.

Amen.

However, the essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called 'self-realization' (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify & direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him – as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that — even those brought up 'in the Church'. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it. When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only —. Hence divorce, to provide the 'if only'. And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the 'real soul-mate' is the one you are actually married to. You really do very little choosing: life and circumstance do most of it (though if there is a God these must be His instruments, or His appearances). It is notorious that in fact happy marriages are more common where the 'choosing' by the young persons is even more limited, by parental or family authority, as long as there is a social ethic of plain unromantic responsibility and conjugal fidelity. But even in countries where the romantic tradition has so far affected social arrangements as to make people believe that the choosing of a mate is solely the concern of the young, only the rarest good fortune brings together the man and woman who are really as it were 'destined' for one another, and capable of a very great and splendid love. The idea still dazzles us, catches us by the throat: poems and stories in multitudes have been written on the theme, more, probably, than the total of such loves in real life (yet the greatest of these tales do not tell of the happy marriage of such great lovers, but of their tragic separation; as if even in this sphere the truly great and splendid in this fallen world is more nearly achieved by 'failure' and suffering). In such great inevitable love, often love at first sight, we catch a vision, I suppose, of marriage as it should have been in an unfallen world. In this fallen world we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean, heart, and fidelity of will.....

Note a few things about this man and his writing.

1. His worldview is profoundly Christian - utterly and totally Christian (i. e., Catholic).

2. He has a clear-eyed even-handed vision of the reality of things as they are: fallen humanity, the workings of the Incarnation in a sinful world.

3. And yet he never loses sight of the ideal.  He is able to look at things realistically without denigrating the ideal that things invariably fall shy of.  And he is very fair to both.

... and from this fairness, one sees immense Charity.

***

Tolkien's letter continues with the story of his courtship of Michael's mother, and ends with his famous acclamation of the glories of the Blessed Sacrament.

You can read that part of it - indeed the whole thing - here.  


Bad Boys and Eunuchs

Eros - looking more like himself than the domesticated Cupid he later became.
One of the things that has caught my attention the last week or so has been a remarkable essay by D. C. Schindler on Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est, in which Schindler points out the Holy Father's Magisterial assertion that Love is One (as God is One) and that Eros - the love that is jealous, interested, invested, eager, lively, passionate, a love that possesses and that takes pride in its object - and Agape - the love that is disinterested, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, altruistic, condescending (in the best sense of the word) - are simply two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the same unified thing: Love, viewed from different angles.  Indeed, Eros without agape becomes demanding and destructive; but Agape without Eros becomes clinical, dehumanizing and condescending (in the worst sense of the word).

I am convinced that a deep mystery is here, one that offers a key to much of our modern malaise.

For the problem with the modern world is not too much Eros but not enough Eros (as Allan Bloom pointed out a generation ago in The Closing of the American Mind).  The hook-up culture is not about love or jealousy or even interest.  It's about a terrifyingly disengaged manipulation of other people.  Hearts no longer get broken; people f*** and move on.  That's a symptom of a privation of Eros: the loss of passionate, jealous, caring love.

And I would say that the Unreality we see in the modern Church is also a symptom of the privation of Eros.  We see it in the contrived music, the sappy homilies, the artificial queerness of most church goers.

And we see it in relationships, even among devout Christians - especially among devout Christians, who are perhaps more tempted to suppress Eros than secular people, in order not to be overcome by the "erotic" (i.e. sex).  One of my actresses recently described the relationship her sister had with her one-time fiancee.  "She was his keeper," she said.  "She led him around and made sure he didn't say anything offensive, made sure he minded his manners."  More of an adult babysitter than a lover, it would seem.

How many young women I've known who enter into relationships like that, relationships devoid of passion!  Now, of course, passion, interest, excitement, being drawn out of yourself - these things have their limits and are not in themselves the ingredients of a good marriage, as J. R. R. Tolkien points out in a letter I quoted at length earlier today.  And every guy on earth has noticed that many beautiful and intelligent women are for some reason drawn to dangerous and irresponsible men - "bad boys".  That's because, at least, the "bad boys" are exciting.  "Eunuchs", by contrast (which is what many modern men are) are safe, and are more like pets or children to be kept by a "keeper" rather than men who draw out and engage that dangerous kind of love that stirs in a woman's heart.  And women these days don't have it easy, since most men, either "eunuchs" or "bad boys" are simply "losers".  Or if not "losers", they're unavailable.  Another actress of mine once described the various types of unavailable guys as being "The Four G's" - either Gay (homosexual), God (a priest), Gonorrhea (a scamp), or Gamos (Greek for married).

Well, the course of true love never did run smooth and all that.

Meanwhile, I think Tolkien's long letter on sex and love deserves some parsing.  Stay tuned.


Wisdom and Prudence in Action

One of the things revealed in the documents that have been released concerning the Fr. Kolar case in St. Paul is that after Kolar was sent away for treatment and it became obvious that he was both initiating sexual contact with adult women he was counseling, and also abusing a minors - and after
the psychiatrists who evaluated him indicated the he had a serious personality disorder, the archbishop and his cronies decided that their options were either ...

1. Make Fr. Kolar DIRECTOR OF GUIDANCE at the seminary (where he could guide and form young men who were becoming priests)

2. Put him to work AT A PARISH (where he would be free to counsel more young women.  Note that the archdiocese made a point of not informing any laity of Fr. Kolar's abusive behavior, so women approaching Fr. Kolar for counseling at a parish would not know the risk they were taking.)

And in neither case would any of the bishops around the country be informed of Kolar's previous work in NET Ministries nationwide, where he had access to plenty of teenage girls over the years. This despite the bishop of St. Cloud, who had caught wind of this, suggesting that they do so.

This is after TWO lawsuits were filed and SEVERAL victims had come forward.

Kolar has since left the priesthood, is married, and draws his full priest pension.  Of his sexual molestation of girls under his care, he says ...

As I look back on all of that now, I see that I was simply using them ... because of my sexual needs.



Tolkien on Romantic Love in a Fallen World

43 From a letter to Michael Tolkien 6-8 March 1941


A man's dealings with women can be purely physical (they cannot really, of course: but I mean he can
refuse to take other things into account, to the great damage of his soul (and body) and theirs); or
'friendly'; or he can be a 'lover' (engaging and blending all his affections and powers of mind and body in a complex emotion powerfully coloured and energized by 'sex'). This is a fallen world. The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been 'going to the bad' all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the 'hard spirit of concupiscence' has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell. We will leave aside the 'immoral' results. These you desire not to be dragged into. To renunciation you have no call. 'Friendship' then? In this fallen world the 'friendship' that should be possible between all human beings, is virtually impossible between man and woman. The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favourite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones. This 'friendship' has often been tried: one side or the other nearly always fails. Later in life when sex cools down, it may be possible. It may happen between saints. To ordinary folk it can only rarely occur: two minds that have really a primarily mental and spiritual affinity may by accident reside in a male and a female body, and yet may desire and achieve a 'friendship' quite independent of sex. But no one can count on it. The other partner will let him (or her) down, almost certainly, by 'falling in love'. But a young man does not really (as a rule) want 'friendship', even if he says he does. There are plenty of young men (as a rule). He wants love: innocent, and yet irresponsible perhaps. Allas! Allas! that ever love was sinne! as Chaucer says. Then if he is a Christian and is aware that there is such a thing as sin, he wants to know what to do about it.

There is in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition still strong, though as a product of Christendom (yet by no means the same as Christian ethics) the times are inimical to it. It idealizes 'love' — and as far as it goes can be very good, since it takes in far more than physical pleasure, and enjoins if not purity, at least fidelity, and so self-denial, 'service', courtesy, honour, and courage. Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake without reference to (and indeed contrary to) matrimony. Its centre was not God, but imaginary Deities, Love and the Lady. It still tends to make the Lady a kind of guiding star or divinity – of the old-fashioned 'his divinity' = the woman he loves – the object or reason of noble conduct. This is, of course, false and at best make-believe. The woman is another fallen human-being with a soul in peril. But combined and harmonized with religion (as long ago it was, producing much of that beautiful devotion to Our Lady that has been God's way of refining so much our gross manly natures and emotions, and also of warming and colouring our hard, bitter, religion) it can be very noble. Then it produces what I suppose is still felt, among those who retain even vestigiary Christianity, to be the highest ideal of love between man and woman. Yet I still think it has dangers. It is not wholly true, and it is not perfectly 'theocentric'. It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man's eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars. (One result is for observation of the actual to make the young man turn cynical.) To forget their desires, needs and temptations. It inculcates exaggerated notions of 'true love', as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, and unrelated to will and purpose. (One result of that is to make young folk look for a 'love' that will keep them always nice and warm in a cold world, without any effort of theirs; and the incurably romantic go on looking even in the squalor of the divorce courts).

Women really have not much part in all this, though they may use the language of romantic love, since it is so entwined in all our idioms. The sexual impulse makes women (naturally when unspoiled more unselfish) very sympathetic and understanding, or specially desirous of being so (or seeming so), and very ready to enter into all the interests, as far as they can, from ties to religion, of the young man they are attracted to. No intent necessarily to deceive: sheer instinct: the servient, helpmeet instinct, generously warmed by desire and young blood. Under this impulse they can in fact often achieve very remarkable insight and understanding, even of things otherwise outside their natural range: for it is their gift to be receptive, stimulated, fertilized (in many other matters than the physical) by the male. Every teacher knows that. How quickly an intelligent woman can be taught, grasp his ideas, see his point – and how (with rare exceptions) they can go no further, when they leave his hand, or when they cease to take a personal interest in him. But this is their natural avenue to love. Before the young woman knows where she is (and while the romantic young man, when he exists, is still sighing) she may actually 'fall in love'. Which for her, an unspoiled natural young woman, means that she wants to become the mother of the young man's children, even if that desire is by no means clear to her or explicit. And then things are going to happen: and they may be very painful and harmful, if things go wrong. Particularly if the young man only wanted a temporary guiding star and divinity (until he hitches his waggon to a brighter one), and was merely enjoying the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex – all quite innocent, of course, and worlds away from 'seduction'.

You may meet in life (as in literature1) women who are flighty, or even plain wanton — I don't refer to mere flirtatiousness, the sparring practice for the real combat, but to women who are too silly to take even love seriously, or are actually so depraved as to enjoy 'conquests', or even enjoy the giving of pain – but these are abnormalities, even though false teaching, bad upbringing, and corrupt fashions may encourage them. Much though modern conditions have changed feminine circumstances, and the detail of what is considered propriety, they have not changed natural instinct. A man has a life-work, a career, (and male friends), all of which could (and do where he has any guts) survive the shipwreck of 'love'. A young woman, even one 'economically independent', as they say now (it usually really means economic subservience to male commercial employers instead of to a father or a family), begins to think of the 'bottom drawer' and dream of a home, almost at once. If she really falls in love, the shipwreck may really end on the rocks. Anyway women are in general much less romantic and more practical. Don't be misled by the fact that they are more 'sentimental' in words – freer with 'darling', and all that. They do not want a guiding star. They may idealize a plain young man into a hero; but they don't really need any such glamour either to fall in love or to remain in it. If they have any delusion it is that they can 'reform' men. They will take a rotter open-eyed, and even when the delusion of reforming him fails, go on loving him. They are, of course, much more realistic about the sexual relation. Unless perverted by bad contemporary fashions they do not as a rule talk 'bawdy'; not because they are purer than men (they are not) but because they don't find it funny. I have known those who pretended to, but it is a pretence. It may be intriguing, interesting, absorbing (even a great deal too absorbing) to them: but it is just plumb natural, a serious, obvious interest; where is the joke?

They have, of course, still to be more careful in sexual relations, for all the contraceptives. Mistakes are damaging physically and socially (and matrimonially). But they are instinctively, when uncorrupt, monogamous. Men are not. .... No good pretending. Men just ain't, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of 'revealed' ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh. Each of us could healthily beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process. Brigham Young (I believe) was a healthy and happy man. It is a fallen world, and there is no consonance between our bodies, minds, and souls.

However, the essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called 'self-realization' (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify & direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him – as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that — even those brought up 'in the Church'. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it. When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only —. Hence divorce, to provide the 'if only'. And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the 'real soul-mate' is the one you are actually married to. You really do very little choosing: life and circumstance do most of it (though if there is a God these must be His instruments, or His appearances). It is notorious that in fact happy marriages are more common where the 'choosing' by the young persons is even more limited, by parental or family authority, as long as there is a social ethic of plain unromantic responsibility and conjugal fidelity. But even in countries where the romantic tradition has so far affected social arrangements as to make people believe that the choosing of a mate is solely the concern of the young, only the rarest good fortune brings together the man and woman who are really as it were 'destined' for one another, and capable of a very great and splendid love. The idea still dazzles us, catches us by the throat: poems and stories in multitudes have been written on the theme, more, probably, than the total of such loves in real life (yet the greatest of these tales do not tell of the happy marriage of such great lovers, but of their tragic separation; as if even in this sphere the truly great and splendid in this fallen world is more nearly achieved by 'failure' and suffering). In such great inevitable love, often love at first sight, we catch a vision, I suppose, of marriage as it should have been in an unfallen world. In this fallen world we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean, heart, and fidelity of will.....

My own history is so exceptional, so wrong and imprudent in nearly every point that it makes it difficult to counsel prudence. Yet hard cases make bad law; and exceptional cases are not always good guides for others. For what it is worth here is some autobiography – mainly on this occasion directed towards the points of age, and finance.

I fell in love with your mother at the approximate age of 18. Quite genuinely, as has been shown – though of course defects of character and temperament have caused me often to fall below the ideal with which I started. Your mother was older than I, and not a Catholic. Altogether unfortunate, as viewed by a guardian. And it was in a sense very unfortunate; and in a way very bad for me. These things are absorbing and nervously exhausting. I was a clever boy in the throes of work for (a very necessary) Oxford scholarship. The combined tensions nearly produced a bad breakdown. I muffed my exams and though (as years afterwards my H[ead] M[aster] told me) I ought to have got a good scholarship, I only landed by the skin of my teeth an exhibition of £60 at Exeter: just enough with a school leaving scholarship] of the same amount to come up on (assisted by my dear old guardian). Of course there was a credit side, not so easily seen by the guardian. I was clever, but not industrious or single-minded; a large pan of my failure was due simply to not working (at least not at classics) not because I was in love, but because I was studying something else: Gothic and what not. Having the romantic upbringing I made a boy-and-girl affair serious, and made it the source of effort. Naturally rather a physical coward, I passed from a despised rabbit on a house second-team to school colours in two seasons. All that sort of thing. However, trouble arose: and I had to choose between disobeying and grieving (or deceiving) a guardian who had been a father to me, more than most real fathers, but without any obligation, and 'dropping' the love-affair until I was 21. I don't regret my decision, though it was very hard on my lover. But that was not my fault. She was perfectly free and under no vow to me, and I should have had no just complaint (except according to the unreal romantic code) if she had got married to someone else. For very nearly three years I did not see or write to my lover. It was extremely hard, painful and bitter, especially at first. The effects were not wholly good: I fell back into folly and slackness and misspent a good deal of my first year at College. But I don't think anything else would have justified marriage on the basis of a boy's affair; and probably nothing else would have hardened the will enough to give such an affair (however genuine a case of true love) permanence. On the night of my 21st birthday I wrote again to your mother – Jan. 3, 1913. On Jan. 8th I went back to her, and became engaged, and informed an astonished family. I picked up my socks and did a spot of work (too late to save Hon. Mods. from disaster) – and then war broke out the next year, while I still had a year to go at college. In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in, especially for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage. No degree: no money: fiancée. I endured the obloquy, and hints becoming outspoken from relatives, stayed up, and produced a First in Finals in 1915. Bolted into the army: July 1915. I found the situation intolerable and married on March 22, 1916. May found me crossing the Channel (I still have the verse I wrote on the occasion!) for the carnage of the Somme.

Think of your mother! Yet I do not now for a moment feel that she was doing more than she should have been asked to do – not that that detracts from the credit of it. I was a young fellow, with a moderate degree, and apt to write verse, a few dwindling pounds p. a. (£20 – 40), and no prospects, a Second Lieut. on 7/6 a day in the infantry where the chances of survival were against you heavily (as a subaltern). She married me in 1916 and John was born in 1917 (conceived and carried during the starvation-year of 1917 and the great U-Boat campaign) round about the battle of Cambrai, when the end of the war seemed as far-off as it does now. I sold out, and spent to pay the nursing-home, the last of my few South African shares, 'my patrimony'.

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. .... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

To Live is To Love

I have been hired to write a short biographical drama on the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

And although I believe she had a strong influence upon me (behind the scenes) at the Chesterton Conference in Emmitsburg, Maryland four years ago, it has taken her a while to grow upon me.  But the more I read of her, the more I like her.  She was, among other things, a woman who valued Friendship most highly among all earthly blessings.

And this insight of hers in particular strikes me.  She wrote it as a note to herself on the back flyleaf of a book she was reading, The Following of Christ.


To live according to the Spirit, is to love according to the Spirit.  To live according to the flesh, is to love according to the flesh.  Love is the life of the soul - as the soul is the life of the body ... To live according to the Spirit is to act, to speak, to think in the manner the Spirit of God requires of us ... To live then according to the Spirit is to do what faith, hope, and charity teach - either in spiritual or temporal things.

Let me unpack this a bit for you.

First, she is playing around with Flesh vs. Spirit, which is not body vs. spirit, but the ways of the selfish  soul vs. the ways of the enlightened soul.  She is using "flesh" here at St. Paul does (Greek: sarx), meaning all that mean, nasty self-centered lust for power that emanates from that narcissistic little petty tyrant that is inside of every fallen human being; while Spirit means Holy Spirit, the work of God within you.

And St. Elizabeth compares the unfolding of love lived according to either principle.  Compare what St. Paul tells us in Galatians (my emphasis and commentary) ...

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh ... The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
[Clearly, Paul is not using the word "flesh" to talk only about bodily urges, for "idolatry", "hatred", "jealousy", "ambition", etc. are spiritual things - but darkly spiritual things.  The acts of the flesh are the things we do when we are motivated by nothing beyond our basest desires - whether those desires are physical or spiritual.  However ...]
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:14-22)

And Mother Seton points out that one can live according to the selfish old man within or, or one can live according to the redeemed new man within; that is, according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.

 But to live is to love.  "Love is the life of the soul - as the soul is the life of the body".  What a great insight!

***

So what is the difference between loving according to the flesh - the sarx - and loving according to the Spirit?

I think we can see the difference in something as simple as Friendship.

***

My son Colin, who's a film buff, insisted that I watch the movie The Master the other night.  It's a Paul Thomas Anderson film that's kind of about a Scientology type cult, but is really about love and friendship.



The main character, Freddie Quell (played with amazing skill by Joaquin Phoenix) is a psychologically disturbed drifter whose life is Disconnected.  Without any real relationships in his life, he floats from job to job and from psychotic episode to psychotic episode, until he is befriended by the Cult Leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman - and theirs is indeed a friendship, despite the fact that they both make a habit of using other people.

"Use is the opposite of love," as St. John Paul used to say.  And, although Freddie Quell in The Master is willing to use, by means of sex, any woman who moves (or who doesn't move), he harbors one true love - a girl whose innocence he would never dream of offending.  And The Master himself, though he's making a career out of using others in a way that is typical of the Great American Scam Artist, is drawn to Freddie with a simple kind of loyalty.

The climactic scene of the movie (spoiler here) is when The Master describes his love by singing a romantic song to Freddie - but somehow it's far from a homosexual moment.  Freddie breaks down in tears, not so much because he has the sense that The Master is trying to seduce him as he seduces everyone else, but because the song somehow communicates a real love between the two that has nothing to do with romance, homosexual or otherwise.  Or at least that's how I saw it, though the scene (and the whole movie) is very hard to pin down.

At any rate, the opposite of love is not hatred.  The opposite of love is use.

***

Sometimes friendships die when one or the other party moves on to other interests, when the air goes out of the tire and nothing can be done to patch it and inflate it back up.

But quite often, it seems, friendships die when one party betrays the other, or when an undercurrent of use and even abuse rises to the surface.

When we are used by others to fulfill their selfish needs - which can include sex, attention, affection, money - when this happens and we wise up to it we feel incredibly, terribly, horribly abused, as well we should.

We feel victimized by someone who was loving according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit.

***

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gave her life to educating young women at a time in America when this was simply not being done - at least not being done for women outside of a wealthy social class.  But Mother Seton took in the poor, the destitute, the desperate; she founded an order that helped orphans, that ministered to the needs of the simple common people, of the poorest of the poor.

Hers was a life lived - and loved - according to the Spirit, and it therefore bore the fruits of the Spirit (as St. Paul describes above).

If all of us began to love in that way, our friendships would flourish, and we would find that instead of behaving with "knavish imbecility" (as our bishops do), the Church would revive and the world would begin to heal.  Suffering would certainly be our lot, as to love is to suffer - but this is, after all, our great and only call.




Hear No Evil, See No Evil ...

Jennifer Haselberger
Anonymous comments on my post The Nature of the Problem ...

Now it was a grave sin what those priests and Bishops did decades ago, but it is time to stop acting like what happened then is still happening now. The Church has taken many steps to prevent sexual abuse from happening.

 But these are steps that are not being followed, at least in St. Paul, Kansas City and St. Louis.  The enabling of sexual abuse by bishops is still going on.  The sexual abuse is still happening.

Read the recent affidavit by Jennifer Haselberger.  You can tell yourself that she's a flaming liberal in it for the money - but at one point she says she had high hopes for Archbishop Nienstedt because he was "doctrinally pure".  So that won't wash.

And most of what she describes is backed up by documentary evidence, and it rings very true.

A friend of mine says the bishops have been behaving with "knavish imbecility".  It's a great phrase, and it comes from Hilaire Belloc, who speaks of the Church as ...

... an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.