Eros Grossly Misunderstood

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.51.35 PMIn perusing Facebook, today I noticed a discussion concerning “The Erotic Powers of the Holy Spiritby Elizabeth Duffy at Patheos Catholic.

Everyone thinks they already understand the quest for transcendence, including sexual transcendence. While contraceptives may well impede it, transcendence shouldn’t be a primary aim in itself, and certainly not a point for evangelizing.

What we Catholics preach with our vans filled with kids is that more than even transcendent sex, the family is the center of the Catholic universe, and Mom and Dad don’t presume to say anything other than “Yes” when God sees fit to expand the universe. It may be potentially exciting, in some weird, crazy “I-love-our-family-and-I-love-you-and-I-would-welcome-another-you-and-me-to-this-world!”-way, but that is merely a by-product of the meaning behind it.

According to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Deus caritas est, the word eros appears only twice in the Old Testament, and not at all in the New Testament, for the writers of which there is a “…tendency to avoid the word eros,” which “clearly” points to “something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love…” Through the Enlightenment this led to the charge that Christianity had “…poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice.”

Benedict states that “purification and growth in maturity” do not “reject” or “poison” eros, but rather “heal it and restore its true grandeur.” He states that this is first due to the fact that “Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved.”

The Christian faith “…has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to new nobility. True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.”

To the extent that Benedict indicates that eros and agape (“ascending love and descending love”) “…can never be completely separated,” he states that the more the two, “…in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized.” To become, as the Lord tells us, “a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38)… one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).”

Likewise, any comparisons of “Communion with the Holy Spirit” as sexual in nature, and the “meditative art” of the “feminine climax” as “acted upon externally… by the Holy Spirit” do not properly reflect the “ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” that is described by Pope Benedict with regard to our understanding of eros.

Here we find an attempt to divinize sexual pleasure, and — more troubling still — to impute such notions upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with the suggestion that the Holy Spirit employed upon her “erotic powers… to inseminate and co-create“. Unfortunately, Ms. Duffy does not stop there, and invokes her own marital relationship, penetrated with what one friend termed “weird, new age sex magic concepts.”

At his General Audience of November 14, 1979, Pope St. John Paul II, as part of his series of audiences commonly known as the “Theology of the Body”, stated that the “meaning of man’s original unity, through masculinity and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude.” Man’s solitude, JPII teaches us, is also presented as “the discovery of an adequate relationship ‘to’ the person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a ‘communion of persons.'”

JPII suggests that if we wish to draw from the concept of “‘image of God’, we can then deduce that man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning… Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.”

Thus, JPII states that the “original meaning of unity” will “possess” an “…ethical dimension, as is confirmed by Christ’s answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19… [and] a sacramental dimension, a strictly theological one, as is proved by St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians… And this is so because that unity which is realized through the body indicates, right from the beginning, not only the ‘body,’ but also the ‘incarnate’ communion of persons.

Through the sacrament of marriage God lends further order to the natural appetites of men, and delivers grace to truly live out the vocation. Marital ceptive sex is pleasurable and possesses a spiritual quality. However, the “feel-good” of sex (for humans, beyond pure biological function and encompassimg emotional and spiritual elements) does not merit the suggestion that husbands “must be Christ in the flesh” for their wives when it comes to the “spiritual drama in the marriage bed.”

I’m not looking for that sort of mystical union, but thanks anyway.

 

 

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Pope Benedict is at the Synod on the Family

[NOTE: For the first time on Quartermaster of the Barque, I fired the censor and used the same profane word three times. Anyone who might be scandalized should go away.]

It is wearying that so much attention is paid — even in a circle so apparently festooned with the best kind of people as we churchblogging Catholics — to individuals who seem to delight in raising the anxiety level and drama of the Business.

Pope Francis, we are told, is presiding over pure chaos. Schism anon, because he intends to permit divorce. divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. Same-sex marriages, or at least blessings of civil ceremonies, or tacit approval of some unacceptable sort for same-sex relationships will be another fruit of the Synod. All the while, there will be a bunch of sloppy cloppy platitudinal relatios that either are meaningless in terms of content or loaded with ambiguity.

I call bullshit. And here’s why.

His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (ya know, the guy with all the memes currently trending on Facebook with the “clear teachings” on the family) is present at the Synod, at least figuratively.

A pope can’t be blamed for dying. Every pope has died. Every pope will die, until the end of time. But Pope Benedict didn’t die and, (Deo gratias) hasn’t died. No, he chose to renounce the chair.

And let’s not indulge any of those utterly absurd claims that he was somehow coerced to do it. Double triple quadruple infinity bullshit. Benedict told us that he was not coerced. Are you calling God’s Rottweiler, the one and only der panzerkardinal, a LIAR??? You’re actually going to accuse Joseph Ratzinger of committing a potentially supreme violation of conscience?

No? Good. So let’s roll that steaming nugget away, OKAY?

We know that Benedict prayed and received assurance that a decision to abdicate would not harm the Church, but perhaps even strengthen it. It would be utter bullshit to argue that His Holiness did otherwise, or that he neglected his sacred obligations, or intended to cause evil or harm.

Pope Francis, however enigmatic, has given no cause to be branded a heretic or enemy of the Church. And moreover, by all appearances the other bishop in white is serene. This moment in the Church is secondary to his will. He acted. From that we should all draw immense comfort. He continues to shepherd us, pray for us, and walk with God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI turns 88 today, and celebrates properly!

This is my new favorite photograph in all of creation, posted on Zenit.org’s Facebook feed:

I am happy to see His Holiness looking well and happy, surrounded by fellow countrymen and accompanied by his brother, Georg. It would be a great privilege to share such a moment in Benedict’s presence. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for him today, and ask God to grant him a happy and healthy 88th year!

Two Years Ago Today…..

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All of Christendom — and much of the rest of the world — recalls that on February 28, 2013, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI abdicated the See of Peter. The Sede vacante took effect at 8:00 p.m. local time, or 11:00 a.m. here in California.

The previous night (February 27), we sat down with Fr. A for a late supper. Mrs. Q had taken the last few days off from work, and we were beginning to feel some real excitement and nervousness for the future hours and days, and a little bit uncertain about what to expect, and when to expect it.

Benedict XVI's final audience, February 27 (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: CanonLawJunkie)

Benedict XVI’s final audience, February 27 (Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: CanonLawJunkie)

We had steaks and baked potatoes for dinner. The boys were already in bed, sleeping. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. when we finally sat down to eat. Fr. A said a blessing, and we set to work on our plates. The steaks were great, and Fr. and I took up some discourse on the significance of the moment (as we are wont to do on such evenings).

I don’t think that either of us paid much notice when my wife excused herself from the table, and went upstairs for a little while.

We just kept eating and talking. Without a doubt, the conversation revolved around the next fews days and their unfolding. When would it happen? How would it happen? What would happen? How would everyone react? What would be the lasting images and words that we would remember?

And Benedict himself. We talked about the occasions that we had both gotten an opportunity to see the Holy Father in person. We reflected upon his great contributions to the Church. His years as panzercardinal, when he defended doctrine as prefect of the CDF, his association with John Paul II, and the way that he was much maligned both before and after his accession to the papacy.

We remarked upon the resignation, what it meant, who might succeed him. We both agreed that it was weird to think of the idea of a new pope without having to process the death of the old one. Most of all, we agreed that it was possible to be serene about all the uncertainty because Benedict was a steady helmsman whose own serenity encouraged us to join him in trusting the Holy Spirit.

My wife returned to the table from upstairs. She had changed her clothes, and showered, which seemed a really weird thing to do during dinner. I was still immersed in discussion with Fr. A, but I briefly paused from chewing and pontificating to ask her if everything was okay. She serenely nodded and smiled. All was well. No need to worry. Keep eating and talking. She sat with us as we continued with our repast, but did not touch her plate.

As Fr. and I basked in post-gustatorial satisfaction, attention turned back to Mrs. Q’s unfinished plate. She let us know that it was probably time to receive his blessing and….. head to the hospital. Although it was still nearly a week to the due date, her water had broken, which is why she’d quietly gone upstairs to change and get ready.

Fr. and I exchanged glances that said, “Wow, check out the clueless dudes paying no attention to the pregnant lady!” We were too addled by red meat and conversation to realize what happened, and she hadn’t said anything because she did not want Fr. and me to miss our dinner. How thoughtfully self-sacrificing is that? My wife waited to tell us she was in labor so we could finish our steaks!

Since February 11 I’d become convinced that we’d have an “Interregnum baby”. I kept telling people, “What’s more rare than a child born on February 29? A baby born in the Interregnum!”

IMG_3927Along the way to the hospital, I was calculating the possibilities of reaching 11:00 a.m. before the baby was born. But as the contractions continued to build, it soon became clear that we wouldn’t wait that long. The first exam upon arrival at the hospital revealed that my wife was already 4 centimeters dilated. The baby would arrive long before sunrise. Our first daughter, Lucia Jean, was born in the final hours of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, and not during the interregnum. In the wee hours of the morning, we had God’s newest gift to us in our arms.

I went to mass at 7:00 a.m. at the local parish and found my wife’s doctor (who had delivered Lucy a few hours before, and who is now in formation for the permanent diaconate) serving at mass in the scrubs he’d worn for Lucy’s delivery. Apparently he’d been home, but only briefly.

The good doctor, who had literally used his hands to help bring new life into the world hours before, was now at the altar of Christ to assist the priest saying mass. As he brought  Father the gifts, sang the responses and rang the bells, I was struck by the sanctity of his service, and the humility shown by his actions. Here was a modern man, as close to a miracle-worker as the secular world will allow, who could have claimed the fruits of his labors for himself, who could have gone home and gotten an extra hour of sleep. Instead, he made himself present for the truly miraculous as the life-giving work of the Church poured out for the benefit of all.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Palrogg)

(Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Palrogg)

I returned to the hospital to bring the Eucharist to my wife, and we prayed together and she received the Sacrament. Then as we enjoyed those first few hours with Lucy in our post-partum room, we watched the televised broadcast from Rome — His Holiness leaving the Apostolic Palace, greeting everyone who had assembled to bid farewell, his brief ride to the Vatican helipad, his flight to Castel Gandolfo, and finally, his last appearance to the public as Pope before the Swiss Guard closed the heavy wood-beamed door at the entrance.

IMG_3320An “Interregnum baby” would have been something distinctive, but as the days pass I am evermore grateful that Lucy was born while Benedict still reigned as Pope. While an interregnum is a very interesting and historic moment, the seat is vacant and so — to an extent — are our hearts. We Catholics do well to love our Holy Father, even when his human faults are obviously apparent. No matter whether we think he is great or just so-so, if our universal pastor is missing, then also is our rudder.

It is only once the stormy moments pass over, when the Barque is again safe and firmly captained, that we can freely look upon times that seemed perilous with the clear vision of the Spirit: that is, whether it seems so at the moment, we are always safely in the embrace of our Eternal Father.

A very happy second birthday to our lovely daughter, Lucy, and a prayer of thanksgiving for the Pope Emeritus, may he live many years to come.

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Quartermaster RSVPs, Offers to Bring the Kegs!

Benedict Confirms Epic Kegger At Apostolic Palace During Francis Visit To U.S. Father Benedict (since that’s reportedly what you would prefer to be called now), send me a text, e-mail, tweet, whatever. Or have Abp. Ganswein get in touch. Lager? Abbey Ale? DIPA? Stout? We have time to plan!

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It’s the Two-Year Anniversary…..

…..of Benedict XVI’s abdication of the Throne of Peter. February 11 is a holiday within Vatican City, which commemorates the signing of the Lateran Treaty on February 11, 1929. Here is a good eyewitness account of February 11, 2013 from a Scottish Archbishop. Please take a moment to pray for the health of our Pope Emeritus.

The Lateran Treaty is significant because it granted to the Church recognition of the Vatican as a sovereign city-state. The recognition was granted by the then-fascist Italian government and arguably provided some protection when the Nazis stood at the “border” between Italy and the Vatican toward the end of the World War II. Generally, the Treaty gained for the Church much-needed autonomy.

The Lateran Treaty continues to be a significant thing in modern times, because the Church has become somewhat temporally diminished since it was executed, as we are being pushed further to the margins of the world’s affairs. With the clamorous rhetoric found in certain corners of the international community, one wonders if such a treaty could be achieved with the current powers.

As with any aspect of the Rule of Law, a treaty is not self-enforcing. Governments and people must respect and abide by treaties. Normally nations possess armed forces and other coercive arguments for upholding treaties. As a temporal power, the Vatican City-State lacks such things. As a temporal power, the Vatican City-State is rather at the mercy of the rest of the world.

14592623378_54e1e3a160_oOur parish’s Catholic “men’s group” is reading Benson’s Lord of the World, because, in case you missed it, the Pope recently recommended the book. He said, “I advise you to read it. Reading it, you’ll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization.” I’ve read it once before, and started it again last night. Since the book was written before the Lateran Treaty, the idea of a Vatican City-State is not well developed, but Rome as the Catholic center of the world is an important element in the events leading to the End of the World.

14779561922_a211851961_oIt’s interesting that for his book, Benson grouped believers into three basic camps: the seculars (or “humanitarians”), the Easterns (primarily, Islam), and the Catholics. That is, essentially, the world in which we live today. Protestantism is not as dead as in the Lord of the World, but it’s headed in the general direction. It will not survive to the end of the world.

Regardless of whether events unfold the way they are described in the Lord of the World, I think there are enough “signs and symptoms” of the world being brought further into conflict with the Church that we as Catholics should be praying earnestly for the fundamentals like religious liberty, the rule of law, and so on. And for courageous bishops and priests. There aren’t many of those, or faithful Catholics for that matter, in the end of Benson’s world.

If you’re getting updated “play by play”, why not just *watch* the Darn Thing?

We get it — Francis is the pope; he has to be neutral. But c’mon, if you are so neutral that you can’t watch the game, how does receiving “play by play” updates otherwise satisfy a commitment to neutrality? I guess one man’s neutrality is another’s self-flagellation.

And what’s wrong with not being neutral anyway? Is he not allowed to say he likes Catholicism best too? A pope can’t like Spanish wine, or French cheese, or Chinese food without irritating the Italians, the Swiss or the Japanese?

In recent memory, all the popes have had a national origin, none were natural citizens of the Vatican, and at least some of them (St. JP II comes to mind) admitted to a natural (and understandable) fondness for their home countries.

Does this mean that JPII cast aspersions on people from other countries, or made infallible statements ex cathedra regarding the superiority of Polish pierogi over Lithuanian zeppelins? Of course not.

So this is just dumb. Let him admit (I’m surprised he hasn’t already) that he wanted Argentina to win and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI simply prayed harder than he did and Germany won because of it. After all, BXVI has more time on his hands now, which should be a true sign of just how neutral Francis really is.

Day 5: Francis v. Benedict?!?

Guatemala, like all of Latin America, has World Cup fever. A few of our group just saw Argentina advance to the next round…

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…Which raises an interesting question. I’m not a sports guy, but apparently the star Brazilian player has an injured vertebrae and is out. That team will suffer from his absence in their next game against Germany. They are vulnerable. Argentina just beat Belgium.

Will we see a photo of Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict, sitting side-by-side, imparting competing blessings upon their teams as they watch the final game? That’s something I’d like to see! Might even become a soccer fan!

Atheism is a Religion, Because it Requires Faith and Belief

Atheism is “the belief that there is no God, or denial that God or gods exist.” (Webster’s New World, 3d Ed.). As soon as atheism does more than deny God (i.e., offers propositions about the nature of existence or creation) then it becomes a belief system, and therefore, a religion.

Unimaginable, since atheism is a religion too!

Unimaginable, since atheism is a religion too! Source: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond belief, further proof that atheism is a religion exists because atheism requires faith, which is defined as “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” (Ibid.).

Perhaps atheists would take issue with the “unquestioning” part, but unless the atheist is content to exist without answers, he must be content with believing in what lacks evidentiary basis.

Setting aside the question of God’s existence, a religion such as atheism (at least among certain “intellectual” adherents) attempts to explain fundamental questions of existence by direct appeal to science. “Intellectual” atheism posits that anything previously (superstitiously) regarded as supernatural is capable of explanation through scientific study.

In other words, if the atheist wishes to explain the miracle of creation, he does so through science. While the “Big Bang Theory” (e.g.) does not conflict with the notion of an Intelligent Creator, an atheist who adopts this theory must reject that there is anything supernatural going on; science must ultimately provide an entirely natural explanation.

The problem with this is that science has yet to offer an answer to the question of our origin or any other ultimate question. There are many theories, but no proofs for a Universe that began from nothing, and came about without God. Until science proves itself capable of answering ultimate questions, the atheist must believe that it will do so, or he is forced to admit that something else is going on.

Thus, the “intellectual atheist” must have faith that one day science will be capable of answering the ultimate questions. Whether the atheist chooses to admit it or not, faith is transferred (but not eliminated) from believing in a Creator, to believing in the existence of sound scientific explanation capable of attainment through human understanding.

In contrast, the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum states “…that religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race.”

Because of God, the nature of the Universe is first a religious truth, and secondarily a scientific one, since science involves study and the testing of hypotheses. It is not dogmatically correct to say that science can provide all answers; pure science would counter that such a statement is pure hypothesis. 

What is reflected by the Council Fathers is that our individual intellectual capacity is not relevant to understanding our origin or answering ultimate questions. Rather, what is accessible to human reason concerning the nature of God is capable of being known by all people, with certitude. What’s implicit here is that this capability is furnished to us, and not inherent to our nature. As with our own salvation, God gifts us with understanding.

That means that an illiterate-rosary-bead-clutching-third-world-grandmother is just as capable of knowing God and His fundamental truths as is the Mensa member or ivy-league professor. “Intellectual” atheists find that this notion doesn’t sit very well. Atheism is, after all, rather elite and exclusive. If there are no atheists in foxholes, you find very few of them where the poor uneducated masses also roam.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coincidentally, this morning I was sent this link regarding the Third Secret of Fatima, and then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempt to interpret it:

…..Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction—the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed….. God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the limits in the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future appears only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12)…..

The Pope Emeritus’ analysis calls to mind the problem with atheism generally. Man has forged the flaming sword and considers himself capable of wielding it, dangers be damned. There is claimed illumination, perhaps by the fire of the sword itself, but it is always limited by finite human capacity, demonstrably evident by the erroneous conclusion that what we have achieved — and can achieve — is due to our own collective merits, and not supplied to us by a loving Creator for a specific purpose. Consequently, humanity gives itself license to unmake what it cannot claim to have made.

Since no atheist can claim to have brought about his own existence, or created anything out of nothing, it becomes little more than irony that believers in God are considered by atheists to be the delusional ones. If we all “appear as in a mirror”, then atheists are the modern day equivalent of those souls chained in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; though they see shapes in shadows for which there are names, there is little unfiltered inspiration, because “God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours.”

The light of God is, in fact, blinding, which permits the atheist to honestly say that he does not see. But it is the atheist’s belief (premised upon negative religious conviction) that there is nothing there that presents the problem to his own salvation.

Confirmation…..

twopopesUnless prevented by some infirmity, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will attend the upcoming canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, taking place this Sunday — Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27). This is what we all hoped/expected, but it’s good to have confirmation. It’ll be all the more historic that two living popes are present to canonize two popes from recent memory, a first in Christendom.

Huzzah!