Well-put, this argument in the second paragraph on sex below from our diocesan newsletter, buttressed by quoting, of all folks, Freud:
Many of us have probably heard single women talking among themselves about men, with one of them ending up saying, “That guy, he’s just a pervert. He’s only interested in sex.” When women detect that a man’s focus has become the pursuit of pleasure, and that unbridled sex has become an end in itself, they tend instinctively to back away. Women often intuitively understand that sex can’t be reduced to mere pleasure without hurting both individuals involved and negating other important goods such as love, family, children, and marriage.
It becomes a “perversion” when we attempt to re- direct sex into something of our own specifications, refocusing it into a form of worldly pleasure-seeking and self-satisfaction. Sigmund Freud, whom no one could accuse of prudery, recognized the basic features of a perversion in the sexual realm when he declared, “The common characteristic of all perversions … is that they have abandoned reproduction as their aim. We term sexual activity perverse when it has renounced the aim of reproduction and follows the pursuit of pleasure as an independent goal.”
Brandon at Darwin Catholic also has an interesting post on the subject of sex:
This Atlantic piece (which from what I can tell is written from what it terms the progressive point of view on sex) argues that sexual traditionalists and progressives in our culture have fundamentally different ideas about what sex is and what it's for.
Trad View: As religious conservatives see it, the great mistake we make when we masturbate is to claim our sexuality as ours alone. All sexual activity must be about “mutual self-giving” between a husband and a wife, the church claims, arguing that masturbation is “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”
I've long thought that masturbation is the linchpin given that it's equivalent to gay sex. If masturbation is okay, then gay sex is and vice-versa.Prog View: In The Ethical Slut, perhaps the best-known “catechism” of progressive sexual morality, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy make the case that “the fundamental sexual unit is one person; adding more people to that unit may be intimate, fun, and companionable, but it does not complete anybody.” Masturbation matters, they argue, not merely because it helps you learn what you want sexually from a partner, but because it helps bring “your locus of control into yourself.”Especially given the source, this struck me as surprisingly perceptive. Moreover, it suggests that if one's sexuality is fundamentally one's own, defined by oneself and limited only by the commitments one makes oneself, there's nothing necessarily wrong in engaging in “depraved” expressions of sexuality, whether ironically or seriously.
So it's crazy how good the blogs have been lately. This from Eric Sheske caught my eye:
Perhaps my favorite Voegelin quote: “No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crisis of a society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order.” Science, Politics, and Gnosticism.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Unless your TV only gets EWTN, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the spiritual crisis since, as Max Picard pointed out fifty years ago, modern society is mass society: its spiritual disorder is pushed upon everyone everywhere through the popular media and everyday living.
Does one become a hermit, like Plato suggested (in his analogy that a man in a corrupt society must live like a man taking shelter in a cave during a snow storm)? I don’t think so, though it’s a respectable position. I’m more inclined to think that every person needs to carve out as much quiet time as possible, whether the quiet time is called “prayer,” “contemplation,” “mental training,” “communing with nature,” “sitting on the dock of the bay like Otis Redding,” or “healthy boozing.” To each lies a different path. Just try not to swim with the diseased tide … even dead things, GKC liked to point out, can do that.
Postscript: I used to spend one week vacationing in a run-down cottage that sat about two blocks from Michigan’s largest inland lake. The cottage sat among other crappy little houses, a redneck-type paradise, I suppose. I spent a lot of time in the little cottage, just reading and thinking and being bored… and watching the guy who lived next door. Every day at about 10:00 AM, he would walk out to his picnic table with a case of cheap beer (Milwaukee’s Best, I think). He’d sit on the picnic table, drinking his beer and smoking cigarettes, staring out at the traffic on M-55 (which ran about 50 yards from his house; an unpaved parking lot divided his hard-scrabble yard from the highway). With the exception of a stray visitor that would pop by to see him (whom he would receive warmly), that’s all he did. Ten years later, I remember the guy clearly. His was hardly a productive life, I know, but there was something there. And I sometimes wonder if Voegelin’s quote above has something to do with it. Voegelin taught it was an act of courage for a man to live a life attuned to the “transcendent” (one of V’s favorite words). The man on the picnic table’s daily life was hardly transcendentally-tuned, but the beer perhaps served a similar purpose, allowing him a sense of ersatz transcendence. He certainly looked peaceful enough.Betty Duffy has a post asserting that St Maria Goretti is a saint for boys:
We cannot take as the moral of Saint Maria Goretti’s story that it is preferable to die rather experience an offense against one’s own chastity, without also concluding that it is preferable to die rather than offend someone else’s chastity.Elena of "My Domestic Church" says Maria's feast day is also an important one for young girls:
Here is a saint who thought her purity was important enough to die for, and yet how many women just throw theirs away on less than worthwhile suitors?Alan Jacobs opined thusly concerning a Rod Dreher essay:
Rod’s right about how deeply Stoicism saturates the culture of the South — the Old South, anyway: the homogenization of America has diluted this mix significantly for recent generations. But even when it was at the height of its influence, this Stoic-Christian synthesis — Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South describes it well — was pretty class-specific. It was among the aristocracy and those who aspired to enter it that the Stoic traits, especially the uncomplaining acceptance of suffering, were most highly valued and consistently practiced.
As Aunt Emily hints, among the lower classes — white and black alike — the story was and is different. Consider for instance the typical poor or working-class attitude towards funerals: the burial of a loved one is a time to weep, to mourn, and to do these things if necessary in a loud voice. Those of a Stoic disposition are of course appalled at such exhibitions, but it makes as much sense to be appalled by those who can bear the loss of a dear friend or family member with an unmoved countenance.
The big problem with Stoics, as I have known them anyway, in the Midwestern as well as the Southern variety, is that they tend to demand that others become as uncomplaining as they are and can be pretty unsympathetic to those whom they believe to have fallen short. I hold no brief for Binx at that moment of his life, but I have to say that I don’t care much for Aunt Emily either. Maybe Binx really does need a good dressing-down, but maybe some basic compassion wouldn’t go amiss either.
When my wife was seriously ill some time ago, people from our church contacted me to ask if we needed anything. When I replied that it was nice of people to offer meals but that Teri’s chief problem was simple loneliness — no one to talk to, as she lay in her sickbed, except a very busy husband — people were, not to put too fine a point on it, shocked. I had said something unexpectedly shameful. One person even commiserated with Teri: how difficult it must have been for her to have a husband who so openly admitted that she had personal needs in her illness. (To be sure, there were also deeply sympathetic friends, though not as many as we had expected to find.)
Of course, this whole situation speaks of more than Stoicism: it speaks perhaps most eloquently of a way of middle-class American life so consistently hectic that the one thing you simply cannot ask from other people is their time. But it was nevertheless clear that what we were supposed to do was to say that we were doing just fine and didn’t need a thing, though under considerable pressure we might consent to receiving a meal or two. To admit that illness is worsened by loneliness was several steps beyond the socially acceptable. So says the Stoic Creed, and most of the time what I say in return is: To hell with it.*
I've also been hyp-mo-tized by the circular firing squad of the USCCB shooting down Brandon Vogt's seemingly innocuous offer to provide ebooks of the Francis encyclical. Jeff Miller's been particularly interesting and clear-eyed about the matter.
Oh so many good things to read. Scott Hahn's book, the new papal encyclical… And I just read a review by one of my all-time favorite priests, Fr. John McCloskey, of the book The Catholic Guide to Depression. Cardinal Dolan put out a $1.99 ebook which I immediately snapped up. I've also had a hankering for some Jack London, recommended by Neil Peart in his Alaskan travelogue. How can I ever prioritize books when I can't even with blogs?