Two posts on sex (since people like reading about that stuff)

10 01 2010

The first is from Dawn Eden (“oh no! I thought you hated converts!”):

I was just astounded that someone who is not a traditionalist could actually quote the Oath Against Modernism. Most people who cite that in the Church nowadays do so in order to state how it is essentially a dead letter, that we have moved passed stuff like that, that it has to be interpreted in the light of “living tradition” etc. To have someone use it as something of doctrinal weight… maybe there’s something in the water.

In like manner, the assertion that John Paul II’s teachings are “revolutionary” implies the Church’s sacred deposit of faith is not fully contained in Scripture and Tradition, but, rather, progresses with the passage of time—like a child growing through puberty and into adulthood. That is not only an error officially condemned by the Church; it also prevents the faithful from appreciating the real significance of the theology of the body.

That being said, people still haven’t really pointed out to me any new content or spin of Wojtyla’s theories that would augment Catholic teaching on this subject in a positive way. Seems like the same old Vatican II “please sign on the dotted line… yes, I know the paper’s blank” tactics of those who want to make allegiance to Vatican II the ultimate litmus test of orthodoxy. But if you want to re-visit that debate, see the archives of this blog.

The second quote I found on Wufila’s blog comes from a radically different point of view from the Dawn Eden quote:

I began to tell reporters what I fully believe: no present church position on sexuality would be recognizable to Christian writers of two hundred years ago—much less two millennia ago. Part of the reason is that the basic terms and psychological models have changed astonishingly in the last century. All Christian writers, even the most “traditional,” assume the existence of things (like “sexuality”) and mechanisms (like the unconscious) that are neither scriptural nor traditional. But the more striking difference is the scope contemporary “traditionalists” give to sexual pleasure in marriage. Evangelical writers famous for attacking homosexuality write pillow books for Christian newlyweds advocating sexual techniques that church traditions classify as unchaste and unnatural—indeed, as acts of sodomy.

What Steinfels and many other journalists label “traditional Christianity” is, when it comes to sex, actually an all too modern selection and rearrangement of a few old elements detached from the contexts and practices that gave them meaning. The claim for tradition amounts to repeating a few old formulas of condemnation, while the other teaching drops away. This isn’t a tradition. This is violently selective repetition—an ongoing revenge on tradition.

That doesn’t convince me of the “liberal” position, but the person still has a point. On these issues, we can’t really pretend to “stand on tradition” since, scratch the surface, and tradition simply isn’t what we think it is. Dogmatically (i.e. on the books), little has changed, but the general idea of the relationship between sex, monogamy, and romantic love has changed radically in the past few generations in Western society. To pretend we are addressing these issues in St. Paul’s world is playing at the Potempkin village. While I don’t share the essayist’s desire to contextualize out of existence the traditional prohibitions against such things as homosexuality, I would neither want to apotheosize heterosexual romantic love as it exists in our society. I am perfectly prepared to say, and I think I have backing on tradition on this, that when it comes to sex and love in fallen human nature, there is no real “normal”.


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4 responses

12 01 2010
Dante, Beatrice, and Theology of the Body « The Lonely Goth’s Guide to Independent Catholicism

[…] permissible (even necessary?) for the perpetuation of any long-term committed relationship? As Arturo suggests on his blog, there is a parting of the ways between pre-modern and modern conceptions about marriage: most […]

11 01 2010
M.Z.

It would be nice if this engagement were done. There seems to be little interest in an understanding of marriage where sex is not integral to it. And the problems do go deeper on the traditionalist side. It is often taken for granted that the nuclear family is traditional. Even such assumed ideals as having 10 or more children isn’t all that traditional. (You wouldn’t want 12 children – not even for the dubious benefit of farm labor – in a time when Hansel and Gretel was a story for coping with abandoning your children so that you wouldn’t starve to death. Having many children was a luxury for the rich like the Hapsburgs. In the same breath, if you look at French monarchal history, you see difficulty at least 3 times and maybe six or more with getting just one child through childhood to be an heir of the throne.)

10 01 2010
Leah

The problem as I see it is that “love” (however that happens to be defined) has dethroned procreation as the point of marriage. Even societies that are often cited as being amenable to homosexuality, such as the ancient Greeks, understood that marriage was about procreation and a transfer of property, even if marriage wasn’t the most emotionally important relationship for many people. Once “love,” “companionship,” or recreational sex become the basis of marriage, then any other possible permutation becomes “eh, why not?”

10 01 2010
+Wulfila

Thanks for getting the point of that post, Arturo. I didn’t post it to advance any specific point on controverted points of sexual morality even if I do have my opinions about such things, but as a more general point about the ephemerality and Orwellian invention (on both sides) of “tradition”. I’m glad my rather decontextualized post made sense to you despite my negligence.

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