Thursday, January 26, 2006

Church: Right Again

The Pope has published his first encyclical. I am not certain I will read it, though perhaps I should. It weighs in at an impressive seventy-two pages, which is a bit dauting. It is supposed to be a letter after all and not a novel.

Ordinarily, I would avoid commenting on something I haven't read, but the press is behaving so humorously I cannot let this opportunity pass by. First,
The New York Times has this to say:

The encyclical, titled "God Is Love," did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics.

The reason is that Benedict knows they are settled matters. He helped write the latest Catechism. Since he is an orthodox Catholic, he's not going to change what he knows to be God's revealed truth, but he's not so dumb as to risk alienating liberal Catholics over something that cannot change. So instead he dealt with the less divisive, but no less important topic that God is love.

The Economist behaves in any even more curious fashion:

An old story tells of a bishop who is asked for his opinion about sin. He reflects for a while and says that, in general, he is against it. This week may be remembered as the moment when Pope Benedict XVI offered his views on erotic love and, contrary to expectations, said he was broadly in favour of it.

Again, this is not hard to understand if anyone at The Economist knows anything about Catholicism, which evidently they do not. John Paul II left an impressive legacy behind. The press likes to talk about how he was the most traveled pope and worked to build bridges between other faiths. His most lasting legacy, however, will most likely be the Mysteries of Light, an addition to the traditional Catholic rosary, and his Theology of the Body teachings.

Pope John Paul II gave a great many talks on what he called this Theology of the Body and it is clear from the first encyclical that Pope Benedict is trying to affirm these talks. For the world has got it all wrong in regards to sex. Sex is good, but it is not always used for good. Like anything, there is a time and a place in which it can be used fruitfully and when it can be turned on its head and abused. How could a group of people who are known for having a large number of children despise the means through which those children came to be? I suppose masochism is always a philosophy one could have, but it is not a good one and it is not the Catholic one in respect to sex.

More from The Economist:

Love—whether sexual, spiritual or something in between—was the topic of the German pontiff's first encylical since being elected, at the age of 78, last April. While denouncing the modern world's reduction of eros to “pure sex... a commodity, a mere thing to be bought and sold”, he says erotic love could be “purified” to fulfil man's highest calling.

The latter portion of the statement is largely a manner of faith, even if it makes a large amount of sense. The former, that sex has become "a commodity, a mere thing to be bought and sold" is painfully true. It is possible to say that the church was oppressing people's sexuality, but do not tell me that the world is treating it with the respect sex deserves. Christopher West, who has written some books on the talks by the Pope in regard to the Theology of the Body says:

The things which are the most sacred are those which are most violently profaned. And nothing is more profaned in our culture than our human sexuality.

It is a powerful statement to make, and it is quite true. I hope and pray that the Pope's teachings reach many ears, freeing those who have been so oppressed by the ways of the sinful world.

The Church has been decried for being out of touch with the modern world. Having been called to be "in and not of" that same world, she has accepted the criticism. What is truly fascinating is how well this antiquated group of superstitious mystics has been right from time to time--indeed often--despite being out of touch with the modern world.

Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) was a ground-breaking encycical which drove liberals mad with rage that Pope Paul VI would dare claim that birth control is immoral. It is only with a clear understanding of the nature of sex that an opposition to birth control makes sense. I will leave it to the reader to decide if the Church's position makes sense.

I will however, take the time to examine just one of Pope Paul VI's four prophecies he mentions in Humanae Vitae.
Janet Smith, a professor at the University of Dallas covers all four prophecies succintly. She notes:

Paul VI also argued that "the man" will lose respect for "the woman" and "no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium" and will come to "the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."

Sounds quite familiar to what Benedict recently said. Could it be that Lord Melburne's old adage is true? “What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damn fools said would happen has come to pass."

Perhaps, just perhaps, the damn fools have got this world figured out after all. After all, we do profess to have God's revealed Truth, which makes sense. Any other boasting of infallibility would be nonsense, but the Catholic Church has a distinct advantage. We know all the answers because we cheat.


Mike, the Faithful Catholic said...

For your blog readers from Milwaukee, WI:
Sorry, a shameless plug...

To gain some more information about Pope Benedict XVI, and support one of the few worthy efforts of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, plan on attending a lecture hosted by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and given by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George. The Cardinal will speak about the new Holy Father and, I am sure, the new encyclical.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center
3501 S. Lake Drive
St. Francis, WI 53235

Vespers at 6:30pm
Greeting by Archbishop Dolan at 7:00pm
followed by lecture, Q & A, and a reception.

It looks to be fascinating. For more info see:

Check out my blog:


troutsky said...

Could "the woman" come to view man as a mere instrument or are they more godly, enlightened, pure whatever? Just curious about the apparent discrimination.

Why can't priests be allowed to get in on this sacred sex?

have you ever heard of Umbero Eco's In the Name of the Rose? Somewhat dense but interesting account of this mystical aspect you speak of.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

The reason for the apparent discrimination is the large differences between the sexes. Men can cavort with many women for two reasons. First, without a uterus they are not prone to pregnancy, which is one factor which prevents women from behaving like men in this regards. Secondly, there is a cultural acceptance for playboys in a way that has never translated to women--thank goodness.

Being a man, you know that we are attracted to a variety of different women. This is probably a good thing, it is anyway such a natural thing that it doesn't really matter how good it is. Yet while this attraction is one thing, living out male fantasies has brought about, well, society of today. I hope that answers the question.

Priests cannot get into this sacred sex because it is the Church's position that it is better for them to be celibate. This is not--I do not think--a revealed truth, it is merely a tradition.

The reason behind it is fairly simple. If priests are married, they will have less time to devote to their flock than they do as single men. Also, by giving up this good thing they are able to receive many graces. A Christian is to take up his cross daily, and I imagine waking up alone is a bit of a sacrifice for a lot of priests.

To your third question: I have not. I just got back from the library where I picked up the book "Living Buddha Living Christ" and also requested "Magic Mountain". I'll let you know what I think.

troutsky said...

Of course i am a raging feminist but when my wives have been pregnant I have been pregnant too.WE are having a baby.( no longer ,thank the Lord) Not quite as devoted as the male penguin, but trying.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Haha you're a good soul.