The Best Porn in the World

The word ‘pornography’ means “writing about whores”, from the Greek pórnē – harlots. Now it would seem to follow that best pornography in the world would have to display the best harlots. But the best harlot - by the true meaning of the word best - is a forgiven harlot, like Mary Magdalene, who makes the radical shift from the rotten to the whole. And if she is whole, she is no longer a harlot. She is a virgin. Unfortunately, there is no word for “writing about virgins”, so I will make one up – virgography. Virgography is the best pornography. (With all apologies to Lady Logic.)

Blessed John Paul II – a boss in all respects – when asked for a solution to the crisis of pornography, did something fantastic: He commissioned artists to create and display more art of the Virgin Mary, especially of the Virgin breastfeeding. His answer to the problem of porn was not the lack of nudity – it was nudity. It was not to simply avoid pornography, to tiptoe around it and run whenever it reared its head (though for many of us men, this is the best response) – it was to crush “writing about harlots” by “writing about virgins.” To check vice with virtue, yes, but even more than that. Pornography is to be destroyed by beauty.

To be clear: I believe that the cure for the addiction so many have to the illicit viewing naked women is in fact…naked women. This admittedly-in-need-of-a-lot-of-justification statement goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas’ objective definition of beauty. (If you plan on following this blog, memorize this; my life philosophy is blossoming around it:)

St. Thomas identified the three necessary attributes for something to be considered beautiful, Integritas, Consonantia, and Claritas. If a thing lacks any one of these, it may very well be likable, but it is not beautiful.

Integritas means completion of form. Perfection. Wholeness. All the parts of a thing must serve the purpose of the whole. Consonantia means due proportion or harmony. This means harmony of all the parts, but also the harmony of the thing to its surroundings. (For instance, while dancing is a beautiful thing, liturgical dancing is a bad joke.) And, last but not least, Claritas means radiance. Is the beauty clear? Does it convey?  Or is it simply a good-looking mess?

Now the problem with porn is not simply that it is a sinful, harmful thing. This is true, but what makes porn so killing is that it is the corruption of a beautiful thing. Sex is beautiful. The naked form is beautiful. The naked woman is the most beautiful creation in the entire universe. Pornography contains all of these things, and yet – like the stupid kid who, given paper and crayons, eats the crayons and throws up on the paper – pornography manages to be ugly. Why?

Well first of all, it lacks Integritas. Obviously, I can’t get too graphic in my explanation, but let me put it this way: A pair of breasts is not a woman. Most of pornography is a focus on the parts of the body, rarely ever the whole. And thus there is no completeness of form, only the reduction of the porn-viewer to an organism. No longer does he see a woman, he sees a stimuli, and he responds accordingly.

It lacks Consonantia. It reaaaallly lacks Consonantia. Not only does pornographic sex refuse sex the proportion it is due – necessarily neglecting to show such trivialities as emotion, commitment, sanctity, joy, the fact of procreation, etc. – it is also out of proportion in the way it is displayed. Tangoing, I am told, takes two. Sex has been reshaped to mean a lot of things in our dear modern age, but the one thing it remains is relational. To get psyched about not being involved in an event that by its nature requires a lot of involvement is one of the most incongruous situations of our time. To settle down in front of your computer screen to not be involved in the sexual act is sadly out of proportion with what sex is meant to be. Sex is the least vicarious act in a human being’s life. Porn makes it the most.

And of course, pornography lacks Claritas. Sex, like it or not, is a message. It is a message of commitment. Even if it is but a one-night-stand with a woman you’ll never see or care to see again, your body doesn’t know that. Your body is busy producing oxytocin, chemically bonding you to the individual you’re with, ‘remembering’ his or her smell, taste, and feel in little cells on your spine. This message is destroyed by pornography, and thus men and women become so sadly addicted to the pixelated representations of men and women long dead by S.T.D’s.

But everyone knows this. Or rather, no one believes that pornography is beautiful, least of all the people involved in the actual industry. In fact, they usually glorify its very ugliness. This glorification crosses over to our general culture. It seems to be why today’s “sexy” look usually amounts to a woman snarling at you, or, as Billy Collins put it in his marvelous poem, Victoria’s Secret:

…Nor does the one directly beneath her/ look particularly happy to see me. / She is arching one eyebrow slightly / as if to say, so what if I am wearing nothing / but this stretch panne velvet bodysuit / with a low sweetheart neckline featuring / molded cups and adjustable straps. / Do you have a problem with that?!…

The real question is: How is the masterpiece of the naked form beautiful? What is the difference between the Birth of Venus, and soft-core porn of a naked woman on a shell? Why did Blessed John Paul II advocate nude art as a knife to the heart of pornography? I’ll tell you. Real, authentic portrayals of the naked form fulfill the prerequisites for beauty, and beauty points to God, not to sin.

A beautiful piece of art glorifies the human body by its attention to detail; in its commitment to Integritas. I’m no painter, but this much seems apparent: The artist uses every detail to add the overall focus of the painting. Every piece – every minutia of shading, triangular formation, use of the golden ratio,  the piece’s location, background, foreground, coloring, situation, form, the stance of the model, the symbols, the motifs, even the frame – everything is used by the artist to convey a truth, to convey a message. The parts add to the whole. Compare such a method to that of pornography, where the parts are used based on what stimulus an organism best responds to. It may be well lit, but it is lit to obscure, not to reveal. It may be airbrushed and photoshopped, but these are lies, not efforts to reveal the truth. Pornography is the artist who sells out and draws whatever people tell him to, hoping to sell a million copies to Target.

But what of Consantania? Harmony is apparent within the painting itself – in color, form etc. –  but what of the painting’s harmony to the world? Surely the masterly artwork of the naked woman puts us in the same position that pornography does? After all, is relationship not still required? Surely an image of a naked woman is out of the proportion in which she is supposed to exist, simply because it is an image?

Let me explain. While it takes two to tango, as we’ve previously established, it needn’t take two to admire. That is the difference. Pornography sets up an explicitly relational situation – sex, seduction – while making relationship entirely impossible. It is a contradiction; there is utterly no harmony between having and not-having. The portrayal of the naked form in beautiful art, however, does not aim to seduce. The artist does not draw to evoke reactions of lust – for he gives up his role as an artist if he does – he draws to convey beauty. And the admiration of beauty is something you can do on your own. Think on this. It is downright creepy – and certainly not beautiful – for a man to spy on a woman and lust after her. Is it the same for a man who sees a woman – though she does not see him – and thinks she might be the most breathtakingly beautiful being in existence? Both situations lack a relationship; the first represents porn, the other represents art.

And good old Claritas, rounding things up for us. The portrayal of the naked form in art need very little defense in this manner. Let me put it to you in the form of a question: Who among you have seen pornography and been ennobled, walking away with some truth, some knowledge of God or self? Who has received a message from pornography? (And here I don’t mean from the fact of pornography, which delivers all sorts of messages; boredom, lust, apathy, etc.) But the truly beautiful portrayal of the naked form is always making its mark on man’s open soul.

So why does the beautiful kill pornography? Because the beauty speaks the truth about the naked form. The body is beautiful, incredibly designed. It inspires poetry in man. It is functional – breasts are for nursing babies as much as they are aesthetically gorgeous. It is awesome. The naked woman is made in God’s image, and thus the accurate portrayal of her is always an experience of God. After all, since beauty comes from the Creator, anything beautiful speaks his name. This is not to say that a porn-addict could not look at these paintings and pervert them to the point of lust. He could, but it would take work. It would take a denial of the truth, an internal corruption of external beauty to achieve. And why would anyone seek to pervert beauty into ugliness when ugliness is so readily available? If he is going to pervert external beauty, that is not the fault of the artist, nor of the displayer of beauty.

But what may happen is this. A porn-addict may see an image of the nursing Virgin, of Venus on the foam, and try to internally corrupt it to bring him lustful pleasure. But since he must try, he may very well fail. In fact, I maintain that it is extremely likely that he will fail. And then what? He cannot watch porn without the realization that the human body is something that cannot always be easily objectified. He sees something good and true and beautiful in the naked form, a goodness that prevents him from lust. The whole reality of pornography is called into question, because something – even if he has no idea what it is – is missing. The whole idea behind porn that “this is so awesome, fulfilling, daring!” is exposed, and the words of our late Pope may arise unbidden in the addict’s consciousness, that the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little. The lie of pornography is exposed, and by a naked woman.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a little creepy being spied on either way, but your point is taken.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1646845264 Elizabeth Anne Gill

    Very nicely done.

  • Randy Gritter

    I wonder about this. I think a man needs to arrive at a certain level of maturity before being able to look at a naked woman and not lust. I know when I was struggling with porn that would not have benefited me at all. Even now, I can be in a mindset where I can think about sexuality in a chaste way and I can be in a mindset where I just need to think about something else. I am just not in a space to admire the nude female form and have it glorify God. Maybe John Paul II was never in that space. I can’t help but think he is missing something.

    • Marc Barnes

      I think you’re right in that there’s always a time where we’ll be willing to twist just about anything…we have to recognize that and run from the situation. but i think jp2 meant this to be applied on a cultural level…to give the entire culture a new appreciation of nudity

  • Steven Greydanus

    “To be clear: I believe that the cure for the addiction so many have to the illicit viewing naked women is in fact…naked women.”

    I absolutely agree, and I’ve written about this with respect to the maternal nudity in the excellent documentary BABIES:

    “Far from posing a likely occasion of sin, I think something like Babies is much more likely to be a healthy corrective for young men surrounded by distorted mass-media images of women presented solely as unreal objects of male desire. The mothers in this film are real women, not supermodel fantasies. False media images build up an illusory mystique of the abstract, hypersexualized female body. A certain earthy demystification of the body can be both compatible with propriety and an aid, rather than a hindrance, to chastity.”

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/dont_have_a_cow

  • Gregory DiPippo

    The word you want is “parthenography”, from the Greek word “parthenos – virgin.”

  • Maria

    This is crap writing. I am also a Catholic and i agree with all of your points however i find your posts to be unbearably written.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=824940183 Melina Damgaard

      Maria, while you’re entitled to your opinion (though a little charity could prove beneficial to us all), you might find that your criticism of someone else’s writing garners more respect if you remember to use punctuation and capitalize obvious words like “I”.

    • Karyn

      What’s the point of being so rude? If you don’t care for someone’s writing, click to another page.

    • Anonymous

      Well.

      “I” when used as a first-person pronoun must always be capitalized.

      Crap is a noun, not an adjective—the adjective is “crappy”.

      “Unbearably written” means “written to an unbearable degree”, which is probably a synonym for “overwritten”, and that, it certainly is not.

      “However” when it begins a new clause must be separated by a comma.

  • Dave

    Nice work Marc. Just starting to read your stuff and love what you have to say. Keep at it.

  • Guest

    I am an artist, and though I have felt without words what you just so eloquently communicated about the human form in art, I have lacked a purpose for creating art. I never knew JPII responded to the problem of pornography like that. Once again, his holy wisdom touches my life.

    • Marc Barnes

      Awesome, awesome, awesome! It’s exactly what we need, people actively combating the culture of death by way of beauty.

  • Fisherman

    This is why I’m going to art school. And, Marc, I thought your article was well written.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tobie.rose Rosemary M

    “A pair of breasts is not a woman.” Totally, totally off topic, but this is why I have huge problems with all the publicity stuff people do for Breast Cancer Awareness month–hanging bras across a bridge, making “boobie” cookies, etc etc.

    On topic: great post. :) Lovin’ the Integritas, Consonantia, Claritas stuff.

    • SJ

      Which is why whenever I see/hear “Save the Tatas” (*shudder*) I respond, “No, save the _women_.”

      My grandmother lost her breast to a mastectomy. She did not “fail.” October is a tough month for me exactly because of this.

  • Nate

    I’m pretty sure it’s really easy to corrupt even good art into lustful fantasies.

    On a brighter note, we did sketches of a nude model the other day in drawing class, and it was very artistic and beautiful. I wasn’t sure at first how it was going to be, but there you go.

    • Marc Barnes

      That’s very true. My general idea would NOT be to show porn-addicts beautiful nude art all day. Rather it is the introduction of beautiful nude artwork to the culture in general that would make the difference. This is not therapy, this is redemptive art.

    • Anonymous

      I’m pretty sure it’s really easy to corrupt even good art into lustful fantasies.

      Hoo-boy, yeah, I’m here to tell ya.

      You know that Chesterton thing of being able to appreciate every blade of grass, and that kind of thing? Pro tip, don’t cultivate that awareness of the beauty of everything unless you also cultivate avoiding lust, or an ankle actually will be enough to be an occasion of sin.

  • Athena

    Being both an agnostic (who therefore doesn’t look for the glory of God specifically when basking in beauty) as well as usually being readily opposed to attacks against pornography, I have to say that I heartily enjoyed reading this article. I think you have an interesting point in the difference between the psychological/spiritual impact of awe vs. lust, though I also believe it’s a bit more complicated than simply infusing religious art with more nudity. Granted, the taboo aspect of the nude female form is likely a large incentive to watch pornography. However, pornography serves a purpose that art cannot always fulfill (sexual gratification).

    Where you and I differ is, of course the notion that “sin” exists, and that pornography is sinful (whereas “beauty points to God”). Okay, we’ll agree to disagree there. But what about pornography that seeks to emulate the female (as well as male) body rather than objectify it? Porn which does address emotional relationships and the entirety of the human body?

    Overall, interesting analysis– and props for being one of the only hardcore Catholic bloggers I can stand.

    • Anonymous

      You don’t know the meaning of the word God, when said by a Christian. If you did, you would know that anything that exists, not only does because of God, but the fact that it does exist, is God. It is inaccurate to say that beauty testifies to the glory of God; the fact anything exists to be beautiful, and that any of its beautiful traits exist, is God. It is not debatable, except by the willfully blind, whether the Christian God exists; “God exists”, in the Christian context, is a redundant statement. It is only debatable whether he has revealed himself, or become incarnate.

      And the denial of the existence of sin, similarly, is nonsense. What do you think sin is? Unless you’re a Nietzschean nihilist, you believe in morals, and if you believe in those, you believe it’s possible to do an immoral act. That’s a sin, that’s all it means.

      Finally, there is no such porn that does address emotional relationships or the entirety of the body. The closest thing would be the very best Japanese erotic video games, which are routinely tear-jerking romances, but the tacked-on nature of the sexual content of those is adequately summed up by the fact they’re usually re-released after their initial run with the sex scenes removed. Besides which, relationships with fictional characters (or actors) aren’t real relationships.

      • Gmail

        Sophia’s_Favorite,

        I fail to see how resorting to ad hominems against someone who holds a different view could possibly strengthen your position in their mind. Such statements as “you don’t know the meaning of the word god” and “the denial of the existence of sin…is nonsense” betray a haughty attitude.

        One removes the possibility of any intellectual dialogue by these kinds of phrases, as well as give poor witness on behalf oh Christianity.

        • Anonymous

          It is not “resort” to ad hominem. Technically I suppose it does count as ad hominem, but it is no more fallacious than to inform a member of the Flat Earth Society that it is difficult to discuss astrophysics with him, or to question the quantum physics knowledge of one who confuses the indeterminacy principle with the observer effect.

          I do not have a haughty attitude, I merely refuse to pretend that invalid positions are valid. And agnosticism is not valid: again, only one who does not know how Christians conceptualize their God can claim that his existence is open to debate. Similarly, since sin means merely “doing something wrong”, and nobody not a nihilist denies morals—and the existence of anything implies the possibility of its negation, therefore morals imply the possibility of immorality—for a non-nihilist to deny sin is to speak nonsense.

          • Hielo

            Telling someone they’re wrong directly very rarely convinces them. You’ve gotta take them through it step by step and let them draw their own conclusions. You’re right, but you’re going about it all wrong.

    • Marc Barnes

      Athena, thanks for reading! It means a lot. There are few new atheist/agnostic blogs I can enjoy, so I know what you mean, and it’s awesome that you have such an open and engaged mind. I mean it!

      I think I would differ in that I do not believe that pornography is sexually gratifying. By this I mean, yes, it’ll turn you on and you can orgasm and all the rest, but that is a sexual act divorced from sex. That’s why pornography is such an unhealthy addiction, and so many men struggle to be free from it. Because it is not enough. It is a small, corrupted taste of what should be…to feed on it is to be forever hungry.

      Porn which “does address emotional relationships and the entirety of the human body” is not a thing I’m aware of existing. There is, of course, a problem I didn’t mention here – that the actual act of sexual intercourse is not something well viewed in the third person. It’s one thing to appreciate the human body through beautiful nude art. I wonder if there is any art that depicts actual intercourse that does not aim to seduce?

      But as far as video-pornography, no, it can never address the relational aspect of sex, simply because YOU are not in relationship to what you’re viewing.

      Make sense?

      Again, thanks for reading!

      • Anonymous

        My comparison is, they used to tell you to punch a pillow or something when you were angry. Now, they’re much more hesitant to do that, because getting into the habit of punching stuff when you’re mad…can easily go pear-shaped. Also, since the pillow is but rarely the thing that made you mad (but some pillows really are jerks—what is their problem, huh?), your anger won’t have its proper release.

  • Joe

    I’m surprised you didn’t include Bouguereau’s L’Innocence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stevenvlawson Steven Lawson

    I was driving with Fr. Thomas Loya a while back and he seems to have very similar sentiments. He actually enrolls men struggling with pornography in nude figure drawing.

    • Penny Farthing1893

      That is awesome. I get into this subject a lot, since I am an artist, and people get so weirded out about nude figure drawing. It really is beautiful.

      • Love2Admire

        I think I’m falling in love (in lust?!?) with you vis a vis your well articulated aesthetic and I’m point to your rotator cuff, oh lovely anatomist! Are you an architect by training and in trade?

        • Penny Farthing1893

          haha. I’m just a regular artist, not an architect, but I love architecture. Thanks though.

  • T.D. Roy

    Counterintuitively brilliant. Writing in a Chestertonian style can often be derivative hackwork: here I really think you’ve made the old master proud, a genuine advance.

    Athena, thanks for a balanced commentary! I’ll leave to one side whether porn is really sexually gratifying. I submit, though, that a pornography that addresses “the entirety of the human relationship” is a contradiction in terms – if you do that, you’re making an erotically themed movie, or some such, not porn. And in empirical terms, if you google ‘porn’, you’re not going to pull up material dealing with relationships.
    I’m open to correction on that, I just honestly have difficulty imaging a film that delves deeply into relationships and the people, and is still porn.

    • Anonymous

      Like I mentioned, there are some Japanese erotic video games (eroge) that do—many of them are tear-jerking romance stories—but, also like I mentioned, the sex scenes are designed so they can be excised without affecting the plot. See, they usually do a second run with the sex cut out, to sell to the much broader dating-sim/visual novel market (high school kids can’t buy eroge, they can buy dating sims, and they’re a huge portion of the video game market).

      Still not real relationships, though, pace the 2d-ism movement (hardcore anime fans who—I kid you not—have petitioned for the right to marry fictional characters).

      Even if porn restricted itself to the loving relationships of married people, someone else watching it would just be voyeurism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472790264 Richard Gerard Evans

    I am from a generation where we NEVER spoke of sexuality. But obviously it was practiced since I am the 8th child. But it could not be mentioned in our house. Now, of late, I have seen a number of pictures, lavishly done, where a nearly full term pregnant woman shows her expanded belly and her husband or significant other touches it or holds her lovingly. At first I thought it was WAY over the top–but now I realize that was my own hang up from being taught to run from what is natural and beautiful. Very insightful article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472790264 Richard Gerard Evans

    In a separate discussion on this topic, a woman asked if this applies to male nudity as well, and I say yes indeed it does. Some of the most lovely religious art is of St Sebastian, who is usually portrayed as very toned, muscular yet smooth, and naked or nearly so. And shot full of arrows (when he was martyred they first tried to kill him by bow and arrow). I actually developed a devotion to this Saint because he was so masculine and the beauty of it was not hidden. To explain further I am same sex attracted as well, and yet his art has never led me to lust–rather just to admire and yearn to BE a St Sebastian, patron of soldiers and athletes, both which are pictures of the manhood that I somehow missed along the way. If anything it has caused me to enter into his being somehow and desire his soul, not his body. And not to run from my own. In short to be the man I should be in my heart. So yes I think the male form can be used to glorify our Father in heaven as well.

    • Marc Barnes

      absolutely.

    • Hielo

      Poignant, courageous perspective on this topic. I applaud you, sir.

  • Khaugen

    I’ve read a few of your articles in the past. I tend to be extremely adverse to many Catholic beliefs and views on the world; they simply defy the vary core of my being. I tried in my youth to be a Christian, I read the bible and I strived to live by what I learned from it. It didn’t work. I am wholly and entirely a pagan.
    I try my best to be open minded and accepting of all who aren’t harming others, and it is a struggle and quite a process of growth. Although I disagree with many of your previous articles, you have always backed your points up with clear and intelligent thought.
    I appreciate everything about this article, however. There are so many who don’t understand the difference between pornography and the depiction of nudes, many of whom consider themselves Christian. They act as though the naked body itself is a vile, rather than beautiful thing. I am an artist, and I love painting nudes, so I’m confronted with this attitude often. Thank you for defining the vast difference between the two so aptly, and for presenting a solution rather than just complaining about the problem (as so many do).

    • Marc Barnes

      Thank you so much for reading, my pagan friend. Whether you believe in God or not, you will find him by following beauty, you will do his work by producing beauty, and I promise, anything you do in your art to combat the bitter tide of lust will be remembered when you stand before Him at the end of your life.

      • Anonymous

        The Beautiful is the Good as apprehended by the senses (and the True is it as apprehended by the intellect).

      • Khaugen

        Thank you. You represent your beliefs with integrity and I will continue to read what you have to say.

  • Jonathan

    My roommate tried to justify gratuitous sex scenes in movies by making this exact same BS argument… that it was “artistic”. Please. You can’t get a heroin addict to quit heroin using more heroin. This article is ridiculous. So is JPII’s logic, if his words were truly represented accurately by this article. I also hope no women read this article and get the idea that modesty isn’t a virtue and that they are perfectly OK posing nude in front of an “art” class full of people (some men) wanting to paint the “female form”. The problem with pornography is not that naked women are inherently dirty, or that sex is shameful… it’s that the CONTEXT is wrong. The naked female is being viewed by ANYONE and EVERYONE instead of the committed SOMEONE known as her HUSBAND… and men are looking at women who are not their WIVES.

    • Marc Barnes

      Careful on the strawmen side of things, I’m not justifying gratuitous sex scenes my friend. Merely the proper portrayal of the naked form.

      If ANY portrayal is wrong – because a man must be married to any woman depicted in the nude – does that mean, by implication, that the Sistine chapel is an inherently sinful place?

    • Pixrman

      Johnathan,

      I must respond. This is the very represive attitude the Marc is suggesting needs a new look. The more something is Taboo the more our nature wants it exposed. It is this very exposure in a context of NON-sexual nudity in art or in person that sets the mind free. A rewiring so to speak. I am evidence of this. 3 years porn free as a nudist.

  • Gitsays

    I don’t think I agree. I’m a woman so I can’t be sure what it’s like to have a male set of eyes. But paintings of Mary Magdalen in tight fitting dresses or/and breasts hanging out makes me uncomfortable. I can’t believe she rejoices in those paintings.

    And everyone keeps telling me there’s a difference between naked and nude. I can’t see the difference. And all this elevated nudity seems to be most appreciated by men. The Swedish painter Anders Zorn painted a lot of naked women (slept with most of his models, too). He’s considered a classic, a master of light – definitely non-pornographic nudity. And yet it seems mostly men care for his paintings.

    There is an actual situation behind all these paintings. Actual girls taking actual clothes off. Would you want your wife to model naked for another man? Because it’s art?

    We, as women, are taught to cover shoulders, knees and cleavage in church. To be modest, to don’t fall for the temptation to try and seduce. But also to make it easier for the men around us to focus on mass. You’re telling me nude girls on the walls can’t distract but a bare shoulder can?

    • Marc Barnes

      I’ve never been distracted by shoulders in church – I think that’s just as much a sacramental way of dressing for women as it is for the actual aid of men. But I see your point.

      All I can say is that, as a guy, I don’t get turned on by beautifully, authentically portrayed nudity. It reveals woman for who she is, it shines through all the crap, it guides my mind to what God intended when he formed woman, just as when he formed man. Michaelangelo’s David, for instance, invokes similar response in me – an appreciation of beauty, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man.

      As far as my wife goes, I’ll have to tell you when I have one…but I think were the artist Catholic, with a proper understanding of beauty, then yes.

      • Anonymous

        I can for one say I have many a time been distracted by shoulders, but they are neat-looking contraptions, on guys as well as gals. If the deltoid muscle’s interplay with the ball and socket joint is not a marvel of God’s creation I don’t know what is.

        As for artistic nudity, its older name is heroic nudity—and the word “heroine” is a French neologism, the word exclusively referred to men until the Middle Ages. The Western tradition has always depicted the nude male when the man in question is being treated as an ideal. For instance, Roman and Greek generals, during military ceremonies (but not usually on actual battlefields) would wear armor sculpted to resemble bare chests.

        The one exception to “nude=the subject is an ideal” is the Virgin Mary, who is almost never depicted nude (occasionally, though, she is shown nursing). But that’s probably for the same reason her clothes are always tekhelet blue: as the Theotokos, she is the living Holy of Holies, the dwelling-place of the Living God—which even the high priest only saw on Yom Kippur.

        • Penny Farthing1893

          Shoulders are fantastically beautiful – it was my favorite thing to draw in art classes. The structure of the bones and muscles of the back and shoulders, and the way they interact, is amazing. I’m really glad my drawing teacher also made us study anatomy textbooks. I was the only one so nerdfully inclined…..

    • Ben

      “Actual girls taking actual clothes off. Would you want your wife to model naked for another man? Because it’s art?”

      This is a good objection but it reminds me — as JPII also pointed out (in Love & Responsibility) — that modesty and context are tightly interrelated. I wouldn’t be thrilled about my wife walking around a mall in a swimsuit, for example, but it makes sense at the pool or the beach.

      In the same way there are certain men who are not me, such as her OB/GYN, who are going to see her naked. And that’s OK because it’s appropriate in context.

      I’m not saying that sitting nude for a portrait is the same, or that the moral legitimacy of portrait-sitting follows directly from the moral legitimacy of being examined by a male doctor — but at the same time it seems clear that there isn’t a universal principle that addresses the question of “who may see a particular woman naked”.

      • Jonathan

        NO, a bikini does NOT “make sense” for the pool or the beach. It’s guys like you who are part of the problem. You’re encouraging women to dress immodestly, and this is the root of MANY of our problems today. I’m not talking about context in terms of location… I’m talking about context in terms of PUBLIC vs. privacy of an intimate married couple.

        • Ben

          Who said anything about a bikini?

        • Penny Farthing1893

          Yeah, I figured he meant a modest one-piece. There are lots of kinds of bathing suits….. Some have little skirts, some have shorts, etc. None of them are appropriate for the mall.

          • Anonymous

            I happen to consider one-pieces sexier than bikinis, because it’s much more difficult for a bikini to be flattering.

          • T.

            Maybe some people (men and women) forget that not all women have an upper torso with a size relatively proportional to the lower torso (women whose upper body is two or more sizes bigger or smaller than the lower body). For those women, a bikini or tankini is easier to fit. And if you believe that no woman should wear even a one-piece to go to the beach, what should men wear to the beach? Or should nobody swim? (I remind you that swimming in long, non-form-fitting clothes makes you clumsy underwater and is somewhat dangerous).

            Besides, as a woman who is attracted to men, I find the male form attractive (tautology is tautological). So, what do you suggest? Men should cover themselves carefully when around me (wearing long tunics of heavy fabrics so that I cannot get even a hint of their shape)? Or is it up to me to guard my thoughts and pray for purity of heart?

      • Gitsays

        Good point about context.
        But I don’t believe the context in question is innocent.

        To be fair I probably can not take an objective stand here. I’m so fed up with naked women. If I never see one again that would be totally fine! I don’t think people realize what an incredibly popular image it is. It’s the number one way to sell anything to men OR women.

        The very idea that what is lacking in this world are more pictures of naked women makes me want to scream. And envy muslim women.

        • Anonymous

          If you’re tired of naked women…wow, far be it from a Chestertonian to suggest suicide, but just, damn, son, that be some dire straits.

        • Ben

          But this gets right to the heart of the original post. I wonder if, at root, the custom of covering women head-to-toe is not so much an expression of uber-modesty as it is a subtle variation on pornography — i.e., it’s the instrumentalization of the human body all over again.

          We are more than just our bodies, but at the same time it’s true to say that we /are/ our bodies. Among other things pornography pretends that this is not so — it pretends that the body is just a shell around the person inside, a shell that deserves no particular reverence. I wonder if hiding the body entirely is another way of expressing the same error.

          At any rate Marc argues that one answer to the underlying error is to portray the body — all of it — in a beautiful and reverent way. And to do so in the context of fine art, not advertising (which would again be instrumentalizing the human body).

          Now is it possible for an artist to remain morally upright while doing the concrete things necessary to render nude portraits? Probably depends on the artist. Suppose for example that the artist in question is a woman, painting a female nude.

          Even then the question remains as to whether the image can rightly be shown to any man other than the model’s husband. It’s definitely true to say, as Marc has, that it depends on the viewer. But I don’t think that’s a complete answer. That just tells us that certain people, because of bad habits or what-have-you, are not a suitable audience for nudes in art.

          It’s tough to get to a more complete answer without first digging into the nature of representational art. There’s a certain amount of abstraction that occurs even in portrait-painting, and that might change the terms of the moral question.

          • Anonymous

            If I were (much of) an artist, I’d certainly have no objection to being chaperoned while working, so I wouldn’t be alone with my model. I dunno ’bout you but being alone with someone who has their clothes off is six different kinds of awkward, without morals being involved at all.

    • Penny Farthing1893

      Again, is the Sistine Chapel ceiling that distracting? I guess it could be, but I’ve never heard it mentioned. Also, consider all the male nudes, especially in sculpture. Like Michelangelo’s David. It is a beautiful statue that looks as though it is about to actually move, it’s so realistic. The thing is, context.ressing modestly in Mass is because the focus of the Mass is the Eucharist, and it is a dignified thing. Outside of mass, women should still be modest, but we of often wear brighter clothes, flashy barrettes, that sort of thing, because the occasion is less serious. Ordinarily we don’t focus on people’s bodies, but we should still clothe them with dignity, and, I say, attractiveness. Being modest does not mean hiding under drab clothing. It should be well-proportioned and a color that compliments your skin, because that shows respect for the body too. Likewise, we are not covering the body because it is shameful, but because it is important. So there is no shame in looking at that important beauty because it points to God.

      Of course, if it makes you uncomfortable, then it is good judgement not to look, and we must always be prudent and moderate. But I think the human form is the epitome of God’s creation, and therefore the epitome of art is to faithfully and respectfully reproduce it.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, I hate the whole “should look like she chases Pacman around a maze for a living” school of “modesty”. Logically it’d have to work the same way for guys, and, well, I do kickboxing. If I’m gonna hide the shape of my hinder, say, I’m gonna need big ol’ saggy gangsta pants, because kickboxing makes your gluteus maximus (glutei maximi?) huge.

        Also, if we’re not supposed to find each other sexually attractive at all, well, there goes the species.

        • Carolturkia

          Maybe you should consider not doing kickboxing…maybe its not the best choice for a woman that wants to cultivate certain virtues.

          • Anonymous

            I’m a guy. That’s why I mentioned rules of modesty applying equally to both sexes.

            Sophia’s Favorite—it’s a philosophy joke. Has to do with the etymology of “philosophy”, “Friend of Sophia”, or “Friend of Wisdom”.

          • nishamarythomas

            I’m sorry, I’m two months late, but I laughed. Hard. I figured you were a guy from previous comments around here, but you have to admit, this was pretty darn funny.

          • Penny Farthing1893

            Pardon? Just what virtues does kickboxing preclude? A modest, gentle woman can cultivate athleticism, and defend herself too.

    • JoFlemings

      I can see the lofty truth in the original poster’s argument- but I do not agree completely. I think that while the female form is beautiful and gives glory to God- both male and female do, and I greatly appreciate both, I do not really think any nudity is best. Not in art, not in life. Each body belongs to a person- it is a veiled sanctity proper to the person- only unveiled in propriety under very specific circumstances none of which include approval or affirmation of beauty by public viewing and general consensus. I really think depiction in art of the nude is a misplaced contemplation of beauty.

  • Anonymous

    Alright, my first disagreement on what you may think is a little point, but I think is huge.

    JP II commissioned not just plain old holy nudity (Adam and Eve before the fall), but breastfeeding nudity. Why? Because men are changed by viewing a woman as a source of nurturing rather than a source of pleasure. When I had our first baby and I was nursing I noticed a change in my husband in how he saw me. It wasn’t as though he had been objectifying me before that, but that he didn’t have a complete picture of me until I cared for our baby. And I wonder if it evoked a new respect for me as a partner. Up to then he definitely treated me more like a china doll. (Not a complaint, that was nice, but impractical for the long haul!)

    I think if when men and women have disordered sexual desires that viewing a different, nurturing kind of nudity-like a man in a bubble bath with his baby, or a woman breastfeeding-can reorder their mind to properly view the naked human form. I say that because I think some men would look at your example of Venus and be aroused, but not so much the Mother Mary nursing her son. Then again, I’m not a man and I’ve never been one to gawk at any kind of sexually explicit depictions. (They make me feel like a peeping Tom.)

    • Marc Barnes

      Yes, absolutely. I mentioned this, ” It is functional – breasts are for nursing babies as much as they are aesthetically gorgeous.”
      But at the same time there needs to be an ability to see nudity, beauty and sexuality as inherently good, beautiful things. Art is the one of the best conveyors of that attitude to a corrupted culture.

      • Anonymous

        I’ll see if I can get pennyfarthing1893 in to rant about it (’tis a thing with her), but our society’s aesthetics has far too much of a divorce of form and function.

        “Form following function” is supposed to mean “things should look the way they do for a reason”, not “form is secondary to function”.

        • Penny Farthing1893

          You bet I will! This is a major pet peeve of mine. You are right about what “form follows function” means, but it has been corrupted. The phrase was coined by Louis Sullivan, considered the father of modern architecture. Before you judge the man too harshly, know that he didn’t design what we consider “modern” architecture, but rather, a new type of building based on the ability of steel beams to soar, with exterior decorations added to emphasize height, and the function of the building, rather than following the old style of stone courses for each story from when the bricks actually did the work of holding up the building.

          He was quite the rebel in 1890s Chicago, and the most (in)famous student oh his style is Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite his abrasive personality, he made some gorgeous buildings, far more ornately decorated than the traditional buildings he moved away from. It really looked like art deco, only forty years early. All the decorations framed framed functional aspects – receding arched and solar patterns around doors, marble everything on banks, vertical courses of stone zooming up between the windows of skyscrapers. My favorite thing he did was take classical elements, like a doric column, and using its form and proportions on the entire building, with a sturdy base, “fluted” sides, and a course of decorative stone on top. He was very into using the Golden Ratio and integritas – all that stuff that architects forgot soon after that…

          Enter communism. The internationalist movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were trying to find a style of architecture with no national flavor. Many of Sullivan’s students and adherents were into that too, so they started stripping off aesthetic elements to achieve some kind of stylistic unity. This nonsense reached its peak in the 1960s, with old building being demolished and replaced by monolithic cement and glass skyscrapers. They believed that form was secondary to function, that once you got a building to do what a building does (hold furniture and people, keep out the weather) you can stop, no matter how it looks. Decorating it was aspirational and terribly bourgeois. Some of them went so far as to leave all the “functional” elements, like ductwork, exposed, claiming that as an aesthetic. The really ironic thing is that exposed ductwork is hard to keep clean, huge glass walls bleed heat and rack up huge heating and cooling bills, and flat roofs leak. These buildings are not functional at all – their very banality actually hinders their function. So much for integritas. By any measure of beauty, these modern buildings failed, because the ideal behind them was to erase humanity, not to uplift it.

          Wow. This is the longest post ever. And I didn’t even put any pictures. Hang on while I write something up on my blog and dig up some pics. I’ll let you know when it’s up….

      • Anonymous

        That was my point. That the nursing Madonna is not so much about the nudity or the artistic beauty, but the reordering of the mind to see the beauty in the body as a tool for one soul to nurture another.

        When I was young and I saw the paintings of Greek and Roman men interlocked in warfare and nude as the day they were born, I giggled at their nakedness. But when I saw a painting of a man and son skinny dipping and the tenderness of the man’s face toward his son, his nudity was beautiful. Both were examples of beautiful art, but the one helped order my mind toward beauty and the other couldn’t be appreciated until it was.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the NSFW post title, Marc. Smooth move there, bud. ;)

  • Angela

    This is an incredible article, Marc. I am loving your stuff more and more as I read it. (By the way, is it true that you’re going to Franciscan U? If so, you are going to dominate.)

  • Sarah

    Fascinating post. I see your point, but I do think it needs to be balanced with JPII’s teachings on shame (genuine, good shame that calls for a protective covering of the body due to the realities of concupiscence – concupiscence being our disordered tendency towards sin even after baptism that will *never* go away in this life no matter how hard we try). In other words, JPII was also a fan of the fig leaves.

    So yes, while there is a place for nudity in art (or in a doctor’s office), there is also the reality (as others have pointed out) that clothing is good the majority of the time and in most contexts. The naked body is sacred, “private parts” are designed to be for the most part private, and wearing clothing is the rightly ordered way to say, “My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and not for everyone to see, not even really Saintly people who appreciate the body’s design.” And some men, due to a deeper brokenness, may never in this life be able to enjoy even a work of art (as you pointed out… sometimes simply avoiding looking is best).

    • Carolturkia

      Right on target, thank you for saying this. This is Always forgotten, thanks for your comment.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RS2NGO5O4VTWXTXB2H2Q6Z6TDM Sky

    Sandro Botticelli asked to be buried at the feet of the model for the Birth of Venus, Simonetta Vespucci.

  • ST Brandel

    Posted at Little Catholic Bubble:

    “Hey, Leila. Enjoyed this post, but I have something else on my mind.

    I wonder if linking people to Bad Catholic is the best of ideas. I haven’t read a lot on his blog, but I have seen some things that are not quite orthodox, and could even lead one to sin. Sometimes I feel he uses his blog as a place to revel in the sin he cannot or should not commit.

    For example, his post today is about pronography. It was, as his posts usually are, informative and entertaining. However, he argues that the cure for porn is more artists depictions of the naked body. Even if this was Blessed JPII’s idea, it is not a dogmatic or binding teaching of the Church. Bad Catholic makes the argument that true and complete beauty pulls on a man’s soul and leads him to God.

    In the case of porn, I disagree, and I think some of the art he puts up on this post are immodest and impure. The virgin Mary squirtting breat milk on the face of the Baby Jesus, really?

    The thing is, it doesn’t matter if the artist’s rendition of a naked woman, especially that of The Blessed Virgin, is pure, whole, beautiful, or respectful – the sickness of porn lies inside the person’s mind. He can look upon any naked form of woman and see what he desires – be that sex, domination, perversion, violence, etc.

    I had a friend in a Theology of the Body study with me years ago. He was sick. He shared too much with everyone. He had a serious porn addiction and he to said that he was finally at the point where he was able to look at pictures of naked women and little girls and “see the real beauty” of the human body and female sex. (And, he found confirmation for this in TOB, which is just one of the many reasons my husband and I question teh focus and teachings of TOB.)

    Was he just finding a new way of fulfilling his addiction by masking it in words of purity and “healing”? Was he just tempting himself, testing his will, testing God’s grace? I believe he was. And, I believe that like any addiction, the addict must avoid his sin at all costs. If you tend to over drink, you never drink again. You don’t go into bars to test your strength. If you have a habit of thinking sexually, perversely and adulturously of women, you don’t fill your head with naked images, nomatter how beautiful they are.

    I guess, I should be leaving this comment on Bad Catholic’s blog, but I don’t start up conversations with male bloggers online. I just wanted to mention it to you, because I believe you to be orthodox, faithful, and sincere. You seem to truly care about the sanctification of others.

    Art is NEVER an excuse for immodesty or sinfulness, and it certainly is not the cure to a porn addiction.

    Tiffany”

    • http://www.littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com Leila@LittleCatholicBubble

      Just a note to clarify that I did not write this. Someone put this on my blog, on an unrelated post, and then someone else posted it here. Thanks! Leila@LittleCatholicBubble

      • ST Brandel

        I thought I made that clear when I said “Dear Leila.” Apologies.

    • Lovenaturally

      If I could offer a thought, I don’t think you can universalize your experience with a potentially former porn addict, and use that to discredit TOB. Anything in Catholic theology can be corrupted, that’s why the Church has held so many councils.

      As an orthodox Catholic, I say Bravo to BadCatholic. He’s taken something so many people live with only at the emotional level and provided the intellectual background. It may not be officially defined Church teaching, but I suspect so are a lot of things you and I believe.

  • Derek Remus

    First of all, the pornographic picture should not be on this blog, since such pictures are occasions of sin.

    Second, the way things are stated in this post is far too explicit and banal. Any discussion of human sexuality should be conducted with great delicacy because of how easily one’s concupiscible appetite can be excited by references to sexual matters.

    Third, can you cite where Blessed Pope John Paul II said that “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

    Best regards.

    • 7man

      There were no pornographic pictures on this post.

      • Derek Remus

        All right, the photograph of the immodestly clad women, if you’d like me to express it differently.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

          Which one, the Blessed Virgin Mary or Venus? Have you ever stepped foot into a museum or have you miraculously managed to go your whole life avoiding beautiful art and the human form?

          • ST Brandel

            Do we really think that the Blessed Virgin squirtting breast milk on the face of the Baby Jesus from two feet away is an accurate depiction of the beauty of breast feeding? Because I think it is not. Women do not breast feed this way. Men with breast milk fetishes would find much pleasure in an inaccurate depiction such as this.

            I personally think the Virgin Mary should not be depicted nude out of respect and reverence. I would not want any of the Holiest people of our faith to be depicted in anyway that could distort our or their purity.

            Furthermore, maybe for you, Katrina, it is a pure and innocent image, but for someone with a propensity to lust is can easily be an occasion of sin, especially when women don’t tend to shoot their milk across the room when breast feeding.

            The point here is Jesus’s command that you cut your arm off or cut your eye out if it causes you to sin. What he is saying is that you get rid of anything at any cost to save your soul from sinning and eternal damnation. So, if you have a tendancy to make the “innocent” (which I am not saying the Virgin Mary image is) something that is sexual for your own pleasure, then you better stay away from nude images.

            I guess I live in a pretty orthodox world, because all of my Catholic friends and family practice this anyway, even without the propensity to lust. They avoid most mainstream movies, radio stations, and television. We don’t even have TV, because you can get a nearly nude woman on a commercial and not even have time to turn away. The most popular shows on TV are ones with lesbian couples, sex scenes every time block, crass talk, and teenage sex. Netflix is your safest bet, and even then their are lustful covers on some of the movies.

            Lust is the downfall of our society – pornography, adultury, divorce, rape, abortion, the pill, single moms and homelessness, etc. All of these are the result of people who cannot control themselves or won’t take responsibility for their actions because of lust.

            My point is, if we cared more about our souls and the souls of others, we would not push for more nude artwork. I respect JPII, but I am allowed to disagree with his infallible teachings. This one is not ex cathedra.

            TB

          • Marc

            You’re seeing the oversexualized and reacting by saying that a naked breast can never be a good thing. Exposing a breast and nursing in that manner was a symbol of abundant grace. If that is a fetish to you, than what on earth must you think of the Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard? It seems that this “ew” factor is just a particularly American heresy. Granted, if one has addictions almost anything could be corrupted, but there must be inherent good IN ORDER for it to be corrupted. And seriously, I’m curious what you think about St. Bernard.

          • Carolturkia

            Awesome, thank you! Well said and you speak for many!

          • Carolturkia

            “But I am allowed to disagree with his infallible teachings…” you made a typo, right? You meant fallible.

          • T.

            Interestingly, at least in my country (Portugal) and in Spain, there are many Medieval Churches devoted to Our Lady of the Milk, and Medieval statues that present Mary breasfeeding Jesus (with varying degrees of verosimility). And the Church never disapproved this way of honoring Mary (and, in my opinion, of adoring the strange, wonderful God that made Himself be fed while He was to be food, made Himself be weak to raise the weak, made Himself suffer death so that death might be vanquished).

            I believe seeing a breastfeeding woman is normal, but I understand that in American culture it is more of a heated issue. Peace!

          • mary

            Not gonna lie, when my baby girl unlatches herself after my let down has started, it looks an awful lot like that painting. Just sayin’

          • Derek Remus

            Neither the Blessed Virgin Mary nor Venus. Those are paintings, but I said photograph. There is only one photograph in the post.

          • terpsichore

            …the mascara ad? Her body isn’t even in the picture.

  • Walstan

    Wow! Long, but I got through it, and glad I did. I have seen this from both sides, and am in complete agreement. Bless you !

  • healed

    This must be the first thing that you have written that I don’t entirely agree with. For the most part, I think I concur, but I do have to disagree with the point that it is extremely likely for a porn addict to fail when he tries to corrupt a painting. I have been (in the past, praise be to God) addicted to porn, and I really don’t think it would have been too hard for me to corrupt such art. Even now, clean for over a year, I have to be very, very careful with what I look at. In reading this article I had to zip by the images, as, for me, its just too risky of a venture. It is possible that, now at least, the images wouldn’t make me lustful, having matured a lot in the past year, but its not something I want to test. So yeah, good article as always, but on this point, I have to disagree, based on what I have experienced.

  • Theresa N

    I am really enjoying these posts and I appreciate your frank, but non-abrasive style. I wrote a post that was kind of related to this recently and would love if you would cover some of these things, you would do it better than I do: http://pursuedbytruth.blogspot.com/2011/09/love-your-body.html

  • Jay E.

    This was brilliantly put! But you didn’t link any of Bouguereau’s art! In my opinion, he has the most beautiful renditions of the naked form out of any artist I’ve ever seen. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/William-Adolphe_Bouguereau

  • Jay E.

    Also… I am an artist myself, and I’ve immensely enjoyed your posts on converting the world through beauty, which is something essentially and desperately important, and ridiculously overlooked. As Christians with a call to evangelize the world, this does not merely mean spreading the truth of the Gospel but also it’s goodness and beauty. We see the world more clearly when we see it through the lens of artistic beauty. I don’t know if you’ve read C.S. Lewis’ comments on the Lord of the Rings, I can’t seem to find it online, but he notes that part of the genius of the work is that it dips reality in myth, and thereby we can see it more clearly as reality. I believe that’s pretty much in the same vein as what you’re talking about here. Art depicting the nude form (I should say good art) literally illustrates the beauty of the nude form and points us back to the full reality of the human body as a living Temple. It shows more than pornography because it puts glasses on the viewers eyes, viewing the human form through the lens of artistic beauty. In viewing pornography, you’re viewing a distorted reality – you need glasses!

    This is a very beautiful post. As an artist, this is immensely inspiring stuff!

  • Katelyn Sills

    I think I’m beginning to love this blog. I grew up Catholic, but unfortunately rarely identify with my fellow Catholics personality-wise. Frankly, a lot of people either are nervous ninnies (“What? You mean I’m supposed to defend my viewpoints publicly?”) or are obnoxiously arrogant in their faith and belittle anyone who isn’t Catholic.

    The other problem is that if one ever states an opinion to one of these Catholics, the response is “I’ll have to look up what the Church says.” or (if they already know) “That’s contrary to what so-and-so [insert church authority here] said…” What they should be saying is, “that’s wrong for 3 reasons…” Instead of focusing on whether an idea is TRUE, they focus on whether an idea fits with what they are told. This creates a population of Catholics who can’t explain themselves to anyone who doesn’t already believe. Also, when anyone who offers original thought is called a heretic, it stifles intellectual discussion.

    I’ve always loved CS Lewis’s writings because he humbly appeals to the God-given voice of reason that is somewhere deep down inside each one of us, and makes us think. I feel as though this blog is in that tradition (I haven’t read Chesterton, but after reading the comments, I aim to do so as soon as possible.)

    One issue though: I was on my laptop before class and started reading this post before realizing that the guys behind me probably thought I was just looking at naked people. Not sure how to feel about that :P

    • Marc

      imagine how i felt researching this stuff, haha. But thanks for reading, and I hope I will not disappoint.

    • ST Brandel

      Katelyn,

      I can see your issue with how some Catholics act. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with appealing to Church authority on issues one is unable to reasonably explain oneself. I personally do not have 2,000 years of tradition, exegesis, and debate floating around in my head. No, the Catholic Church has all of that and more in its treasury of knowledge. Anyone who thinks they can reason about God or reason to the correct interpretation in the Bible on their own is a very prideful person. Maybe a saint or a few discovered something new along the way by the grace of God, but other than that every Catholic should seek wisdom from the wise and learned, from our ancient Church. Reason, as well as conscience, has a roll to play in discerning whether what you hear fits the larger paradigm, but it is foolish to believe that your reason alone can get you to the Truth better than appealing to the Greats of our Church, the Councils, and the Dogmas. The Bible tells us numerous times to appeal to the wise, to appeal to Tradition, etc.

      At the same time, I do agree that Catholics should have a reason for their beliefs. It is obviously not going to mean a thing to you or any non-Catholic what such and such Pope said or what the Catechism says. A Catholic should learn to not only quote other authoritative people, but be able to stamp out the facts themselves and list the reasons and use their reason.

      The things is, even Protestants do this. They appeal to the Bible in little snips of verses here and little snips there, usually without any idea of the big picture. They also appeal to a lot of what Luther or other reformers laid down – solo scriptura? Why? Explain that? That is not in the Bible. Faith alone? Explain that? Other than the one verse you can shoot out, what do you have to say for all of these other verses that speak to the contrary?

      My point is, on all sides, it is a high and lofty goal to know your faith and reasons for it as well as the Church Fathers, the Pope, or even your parish preist. As a wife and mother, I can only dedicate so much time to study, though I probably should have gotten my MA in theology and not what I did get it in. My husband went to school for philosophy and has a lot more in his head than I do, so I even appeal to him. Just how it goes. For any Catholics out there who want to know how to defend their faith, I find many of the hosts for EWTN’s On Call show very informed and helpful. You can get those shows and others on EWTN on iTunes. Frank Sheed and Fulton A. Sheen are awesome to.

      Lastly, it seems your struggle is with authority in general, otherwise you may recognize the authority in the Pope, the Church Fathers, those wiser and more learned than yourself, and in God himself, who founded the Catholic Church, giving the keys to Peter, the command to hear confession to the apostles, and his Spirit to remain with the Church forever.

      TB

      • Katelyn Sills

        I really appreciated your reply, TB. Just as a bit of background, I’m a college student in computer science. Usually, if I don’t understand something, I ask someone who knows, but I don’t immediately accept what they say. I examine it, and if there is something that doesn’t make sense to me, I keep asking until I understand or until (although this is unlikely) I’ve shown a contradiction. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am used to a university environment in which ideas are judged on their truth, and no other person’s idea is thought to be completely beyond understanding.

        I think this mode of operation should be applied to our faith. I don’t think this is arrogance; I think it’s what God asks of us. He expects us to use our rationality. If he wanted us to simply accept things because we are told as such, we wouldn’t need intelligence at all.

        This approach seems to induce fear in a lot of Catholics, but I don’t understand why. If the Church is right, then we shouldn’t be fearful of people working things out logically for themselves, since they will come to the same conclusion as the Church! Yes, it may take them a while, but they will learn the reasoning behind it, which is important in and of itself. For instance, in upper division math courses, students are required to prove things that have already been shown to be true for hundreds of years. It’s unlikely that they will disprove anything, but they will undoubtably learn, and perhaps even come up with a different way of approaching the problem. Multiple proofs are great, since they lead people to the same conclusion but have the added benefit of convincing people who wouldn’t otherwise be convinced.

        Why does this fear exist? Perhaps the Church thinks most people are dumb, and is therefore terrified by ordinary people going willy-nilly through theology. Sadly, this is probably true. However, our response should be to train people up to be think more critically, not treat them like children. Not everyone is going to be a theologian, but everyone should learn how to think critically, no matter what their occupation. If we just tell them to accept things unconditionally, they will be at a complete loss for what to do in novel situations, or if something happens to make them lose their faith in authority (i.e. priest scandals or rumors thereof). However, if they have investigated their faith and come to the same conclusion as the Church, they will stay Catholic even in times of trouble.

  • Cwilton

    There is absolutely no biblical evidence that Mary Magdalene was in any way licentious. Quite the contrary, it now seems very clear that the “harlot” rumors were the centerpiece of a smear campaign against her memory by early church leaders who were at that time working hard to ban women from church leadership. It’s hard take your otherwise intriguing article seriously when it begins with such a spurious claim.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472790264 Richard Gerard Evans

      Actually there is at least some evidence that she was somewhat of a “bad girl.” An early and very godly Pope, Pope St Gregory the Great, preached on this as early as 591, around 200 short years after the canon of the New Testament was settled, and Sacred Scripture says that Jesus cast 7 demons out of her. Demons do not get into people by accident. So whether it was sexual or other sin, she had allowed something into her life that was seriously wrong before meeting and being transformed by our Lord.

      Second, she is a canonized Saint. The Church refers to her as St Mary Magdalene and she has a universal Feast Day each liturgical year. Whatever she was before, she was a testimony to the saving power of Jesus. And she was also the “apostle to the Apostles” being given the revelation of the Resurrection before St Peter or any of the others. So it would appear that both Sacred Scripture and Tradition at least would imply that she lived, at one time, a less than stellar life. And the Church honors her above any other woman in the New Testament other than the Blessed Mother.

      Not a bad record to have in my book.

    • Gregory DiPippo

      In point of fact, the claim that “the ‘harlot’ rumors were the centerpiece of a smear campaign against her memory by early church leaders who were … working hard to ban women from church leadership” is the result of a smear campaign against early Church leaders, and specifically against St. Gregory the Great. I would recommend a perusal of James Kugel’s masterpiece “The Bible As it Was”, in which he explains the pre-Christian origins of early Biblical exegesis. Pope Gregory was working solidly within a very ancient and universally accepted traditional manner of reading the Bible when he identified the woman taken in adultery, the woman who anointed Christ’s feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee, and Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the Resurrection, as one. All of which is said to glorify her as one whose repentance makes her one of the greatest of the Lord’s disciples. At no point does St. Gregory claim that the sins which resulted in her being possessed by seven demons were specifically sexual in nature – this idea results from a Renaissance era confusion of the iconography of St. Mary Magdalene with St. Mary of Egypt, who was unmistakably a harlot. If I may be forgiven the seeming lack of modesty:

      http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/04/feast-of-saint-mary-of-egypt.html

      Mr. Evans is correct to note that Mary Magdalene is the most honored female Saint of the New Testament after the Mother of God herself. Since the High Middle Ages, the Church has honored her with the title “Apostle of the Apostles”, as the one who announced the Resurrection to the Apostles.

  • momofthree

    “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Yes, Yes and Yes.

  • Karatechick06

    Awesome post!

  • Anon

    Before my conversion I was very promiscuous and even after my conversion I battle with lust and because of the access these days of pornography I was having a great deal of trouble overcoming it and I found that, for me anyway, the only way I could really get victory was by saying the rosary and especially a hail Mary when tempted and the also regular attendance to confession. When a non alcoholic goes into a bar and has a beer there is no problem but an alcoholic cannot even walk through the doors. Also if a sex attic is trying to overcome his addiction seeing a picture such as displayed in this article it doesn’t help.

  • Henotic71

    the profound is always good
    good is always profound
    when it’s good for anyone
    it is good for everyone

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/B26HOMI72K3FJIUOXTFQXKFNSA Tanu

    really aesthetic.. contemplating it..

  • Gowtham vyra

    wow some truth are there

  • http://www.facebook.com/dean.dickens.395 Dean Dickens

    Really helpful post, thank you.


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