On God having toenails

19 02 2021

Even if I have dismissed something in my own head, I like to return to it on occasion to see if I still dismiss it. Above is a video from lay Catholic theologian Christopher West about the foundational premise of John Paul II’s theology of the body. I went over ad nauseam about a dozen years ago why I find the theology of the body erroneous, and in spite of my effective change in religious faith, more or less I stand by my objections. In fact, I now adhere to a faith that has the premise, “we are not this body,” at its very foundation: it is effectively a key idea of the Bhagavad Gita.

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Escaping the material world

28 08 2019


Materialism is mistaking your own limited ideas of reality gathered from the senses for reality itself. In reading the Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada comments the following concerning contemplating the Universal Form of the Lord (virat rupa):

Some of them think that to hear about the pastimes of the Lord means to hear about His activities with the gopīs or about His pastimes like lifting the Govardhana Hill, and they have nothing to do with the Lord’s plenary expansions as the puruṣāvatāras and Their pastimes of the creation, maintenance or annihilation of the material worlds. But a pure devotee knows that there is no difference between the pastimes of the Lord, either in rāsa-līlā or in creation, maintenance or destruction of the material world. Rather, the descriptions of such activities of the Lord as the puruṣāvatāras are specifically meant for persons who are in the clutches of the external energy. Topics like the rāsa-līlā are meant for the liberated souls and not for the conditioned souls. The conditioned souls, therefore, must hear with appreciation and devotion the Lord’s pastimes in relationship with the external energy, and such acts are as good as the hearing of rāsa-līlā in the liberated stage. A conditioned soul should not imitate the activities of liberated souls. Lord Śrī Caitanya never indulged in hearing the rāsa-līlā with ordinary men.

In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the science of God, the first nine cantos prepare the ground for hearing the Tenth Canto. This will be further explained in the last chapter of this canto. In the Third Canto it will be more explicit. A pure devotee of the Lord, therefore, must begin reading or hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from the very beginning, and not from the Tenth Canto. We have several times been requested by some so-called devotees to take up the Tenth Canto immediately, but we have refrained from such an action because we wish to present Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the science of Godhead and not as a sensuous understanding for the conditioned souls. This is forbidden by such authorities as Śrī Brahmājī. By reading and hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as a scientific presentation, the conditioned souls will gradually be promoted to the higher status of transcendental knowledge after being freed from the illusory energy based on sense enjoyment. Read the rest of this entry »

Chasing the Incarnation

1 04 2019

A haunting image that has been etched into my mind manifested itself to me in a Russian Orthodox church during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation. At a certain point during Matins (I won’t bore you with the context too much), the bearded priest stood before the icon of the Annunciation and chanted one of those old leftover ancient Slavonic chants with censer in hand. I am not sure why this made such an impression on me: it was a good hour into the service, and I know little Old Slavonic (I can sort of muddle my way through understanding what is going on.) The priest wore a sky blue phelonion gilded in gold, the robust baritone voice echoed through the church, and the melismatic chant reached back into time and grabbed from it some hidden reality that gleamed like the clouds at dusk… Read the rest of this entry »

The Catholic exodus

20 12 2018

Rod Dreher linked to a story about why young people are leaving the Catholic Church, which had no surprises in it. A disproportionate number of respondents to a survey said they left due to the teachings about sexual ethics, again, no surprises there. I suppose it has been a question of my formation, but I have never understood why people today separate licentiousness in sexuality from permissiveness in other aspects of life. That is perhaps the wisdom of the great sages of yesteryear, who are now universally reviled for strictly forbidding genital-to-genital contact except in defined circumstances. Supposedly one can have intercourse with a man, woman, dog, table leg, imaginary cartoon character, etc. etc. and that will NOT be detrimental to any other aspect of life, be that the respect for other people’s property, their bodily person, etc. etc. As if one of the reasons people covet property or enact violence have nothing to do with sex… I am not saying that if people kept it in their pants, they would suddenly be saints in all other aspects of life. But why would people be saints in everything if only they were allowed to be licentious in affairs of the flesh? For me, it doesn’t follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Hey, hate to break it to you, but…

27 07 2009

No. 1: Ryan from Athanasius Contra Mundum states the obvious: the Song of Songs isn’t about sex! That’s right, people, deal with it:

The reason is that human love as we know it exists only in this world, and as good as it is, is unfulfilling and lame in comparison to divine love. There is no sex in heaven, there is no marriage in heaven. Those things while good in themselves are also mundane when considered in that light, which is why the mystics viewed the human love as a mere beginning, and someone unable to break out of it as someone who could not advance in the spiritual life. West on the other hand would have you believe they are everything. The principle fallacy of such an approach is that marriage exists in the order of nature, primarily for the procreation and education of children, and secondly as a remedy for concupiscence. The husband has spiritual headship of the family because it is ordered to the family (not his) benefit, essentially the husband rules the family to get it to heaven. In heaven however, people do not rule in the order of nature, but in the order of grace, thus women may rule and have authority in heaven. Our Lady is queen of heaven, and rules over every man, except for her divine Son to Whom her will is always united. In heaven husbands and wives have no common life, because life in heaven exists by the order of grace. The two effects to which marriage is ordered no longer exist. A holy woman of a husband who barely makes it into purgatory will rule, while the husband will be at a lower order. Amidst such a reality, one has a difficult time finding the lofty conception of sex and marriage which West (and it would appear) the late Holy Father find.

No. 2: A friend of mine once told me that you know you are really in the soup when you find that the only purpose of your life may be to serve as a cautionary tale to others. Well, this is one of those moments in my life:

Once again, via the Conservative Blog for Peace, this quote from an Orthodox blogger:

That said, as an Eastern Catholic I reject the idea that Trent is truly ecumenical, and hold instead that its decrees espouse Latin (mainly Scholastic) theological theories, which no one outside the Latin Church is required to accept…

[Comment:] Clearly the concept of “cafeteria” Catholicism is not limited to the Latin Rite. I am slowly coming to the view that many of these people are neither Catholic nor Orthodox. They are Protestants dressed in Byzantine vestments. “I will believe whatever I want to believe.”

I don’t want to bore people with that story again, but I am entirely in agreement. I have to say, at least when it concerns Catholics, such talk is more a demonstration of personal boredom than anything, tinged a bit perhaps with intellectual sloth. They see the state of contemporary American Christianity, and particularly the childish gags of Catholic AmChurch, get discouraged, and start to look for real “ancient piety” elsewhere, all the while bringing their modern sensibilities with them. Carl Jung painted a pretty accurate picture of these people when he wrote:

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world- all because they cannot get on with themselves… the soul has gradually been turned into a Nazareth from which nothing good can come. Therefore, let us fetch it from the four corners of the earth- the more far fetched and bizarre, the better!

Of course, Jung was speaking against the notion of absolute human depravity, and I cannot agree with him in that regard, but I think he is right to criticize the wanderlust that certain “spiritual seekers” have when they approach the traditions and attitudes that are right in front of them. The problem is not the “church you’re in”. The problem is you.

“Holy Sex”

13 07 2009


A review of this topic from the Remnant Newspaper. Here is a quote:

In a video available on his website, West expresses sympathy for Katy Perry, the rock star whose lesbian-tinged hit “I Kissed a Girl” represents, according to him, an example of how rock music explores themes “from the depths of the human heart…” whereas “saccharine Christian music” is “afraid to go there.” West contends that because Perry was “raised in a Christian home” in a “repressive Christian atmosphere” in which “her parents forbade her to listen to anything but Christian music,” she just had to turn to rock and roll to express how “deeply wounded” she is. West admits he is “only guessing” about Perry’s “repressive” upbringing, but this does not prevent him from calumniating her parents on the World Wide Web.

To appreciate how “deeply wounded” poor Katy is, West suggests watching her video on YouTube in which she is “in bed with one guy, thinking about this other guy” or another video in which “she is cutting herself with this knife, blood is all over her cleavage.” We must not condemn this sort of thing mindlessly, he insists, but rather try to understand its meaning concerning the wounding of Perry’s soul by her Puritanical upbringing. “I am sick and tired of this Puritanical BS that passes for Christianity!” he declares to his worldwide audience.

And this is the man who peddles the product called “John Paul II’s Theology of the Body”® to audiences filled with impressionable young Catholics. Have good Catholics completely lost their minds? Even if there were bona fide Catholic doctrine to be found in the “theology of the body,” could the situation in the Church have become so parlous that we would have to learn it from an oversexed man-child with a dirty mouth?

The article also talks about the book above, that was pointed out to me by AG.
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Additional thoughts on Wojtyla’s theology of the body

18 05 2009


After writing my essay on the theology of the body last week, some lingering ideas have been on my mind. I add them here as an appendix to what I originally wrote.

The main reason for the vehemence behind the former post is due to a sense that the theology of the body threatens to invert the ethos of Catholicism in particular and Christianity in general. Indeed, the weakest link in John Paul II’s catechesis is when he has to deal with the various passages in the New Testament where Our Lord and Saint Paul discuss the role of celibacy in the Christian mystery. While he by no means dismisses these passages, he does not quite know where to fit them into his ideological construct. John Paul II seems to want to stand the Christian vision on its head: the paradigm on which Christian discourse must be based is that of the intimate relationship between man and woman. Since we are discussing an “ethos” and not necessarily an idea, it is not possible to come up with a specific proof text to prove Wojtyla wrong. If he and others want to see the Christian mystery through the prism of marriage, that is their prerogative. It can be one school among many, but I would contend that it is not the correct one.
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The Theology of the Body as Realized Eschatology

9 05 2009


Incarnation, Desire, and the Rise of Pop Catholicism

Trying to write an extended critique of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body is like hitting a Jello Mold with a sledge hammer. After long hours of reflection, study, and yes, reading the original text carefully and openly, I some time ago concluded, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, that there is no there there. In its original form, one sees the summit of Wojtyla’s muddledness: swimming in the outdated phenomenology of early last century, he seeks to wow the reader with an unconvincing prose from which anything, from the sober reflections of neo-scholastics, to the ravings of hip “TOB” apologists, can spring. Some can say it is a continuation of Aquinas’ “turn to matter” against “Augustinian” Platonism, others can say that it is completely revolutionary, overturning the old fuddy-duddy, sexual prudishness of the pre-Vatican II church. Some say it helps them in their married life, others say it helps them their consecrated religious life. Still others use it as a banner against the broad, “anti-human” tendencies of modern-day society. Such an ideology is either what its advocates say it is, a “theological time bomb” set to go off some time this century, or it is a bunch of hot air. I have concluded the latter, and I will explain why.
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