A condemnation becomes a recommendation

In Western culture, at least since its Christian formation, there has been a perduring tendency to give too much importance to the morality of sex. The sexual has threatened to take over the moral focus of whole generations of persons. Everything about the “sexual” is considered “moral” or “immoral,” and “morality” is almost reduced to “sexual morality.” All of this is to the detriment of concerns about economic justice, the oppression of whole peoples, political dishonesty, and even theft and the taking of life.

That’s from the introduction to Sr. Margaret A. Farley’s book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, quoted by Stephen Prothero in an op-ed titled, “Vatican is unjust to condemn nun’s ‘Just Love.’

Prothero summarizes Farley’s central conclusions. For Farley:

Love is just when it meets three criteria: “it is a true response to the reality of the beloved, a genuine union between the one who loves and the one loved, and an accurate and adequate affective affirmation of the loved.” In short, “persons are not to be loved as if they were things.”

Turning to the ethics of sex, Farley advances a parallel argument, though this time she articulates seven norms: “do no unjust harm,” “free consent of partners,” “mutuality,” “equality,” “commitment,” “fruitfulness” and “social justice.”

I haven’t read Farley’s book. I hadn’t even heard of it until the Vatican drew my attention to it by sweeping it up into its larger crackdown on women. But I admire this approach to sexual ethics — an approach that actually tries to apply ethics to sexuality, rather than just drawing one big bright line at marriage and saying everything on one side of that line is good and everything on the other side is bad.

So I suppose I’m grateful to the Vatican for highlighting this book for me, and for millions of other people. Farley’s book came out in 2008, but now, thanks to stern condemnation from the Catholic hierarchy, it’s the No. 1 religion book on Amazon and No. 14 book overall.

Farley’s publisher is probably scrambling to see if they can get the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to condemn the rest of their catalogue. As Ron Charles writes in a post titled “Sister Farley’s revenge“:

From papyrus to vellum to paper to e-books, two principles of publishing have not changed over the centuries:

1. Churches can’t resist the temptation to condemn books.

2. Nothing boosts book sales like condemnation by a church.

Oh, and speaking of the Vatican’s impressive powers of promotion-by-condemnation, here is some excellent news for the Episcopal Church: “Pope Benedict XVI refuses to allow communion for Catholic divorcees.”

It’s always a pastoral disaster when you draw a line to insist that people were made for the Sabbath rather than the Sabbath made for people. This is not a bold stand for doctrinal purity. It’s simply pastoral malpractice. Cruel and right are not the same thing.

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  • Fusina

    In the case of some things, if they had just left well enough alone… Two friends and I rented out a movie that was panned by various church leaders. It was boring and … well, boring. Didn’t do anything to my faith–that is being done very well by the church leaders themselves. Um. Well, that is sad, isn’t it.

  • Tonio

    The traditional approaches to sexual morality are much more than “just drawing one big bright line at marriage and saying everything on
    one side of that line is good and everything on the other side is bad.” These originated during eras when wives and children were considered the property of husbands. Most of these approaches focus on controlling female sexuality. The practical effect of following their strictures is that wives would not bear children by men other than their husbands, and it’s reasonable to suspect that this was the whole point.

    Some of the other prohibitions often look like honest attempts to promote procreation at a time when infant mortality was much higher. But again, some often have the effect of preserving male power as well, and in patriarchal societies there may not have been much practical difference between preserving the society and preserving the power of its men. The prohibition on homosexuality may be about maintaining gender roles.

  • Tonio

    Even Farley’s  “fruitfulness” norm sounds suspicious. If it weren’t for her other norms, or if she were a man, I would wait for the other shoe to drop. The other shoe would be a claim that the only purpose of women is to bear and raise children, regardless of what else they might want to do with their lives.

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

     Tonio, it’s been a few years since my last moral theology course where
    Farley’s work was discussed and i don’t have the notes or text in front
    of me, but i believe by “fruitfulness” Farley (as well as many other
    Catholic theologians not in trouble with Rome) is attempting to move
    beyond the notion that sexual acts must always be for procreation. 
    “Fruitfulness” is not coded language for “procreation,” it’s a way to
    expand sexual ethics beyond the black and white of Being Able/Willing to
    Have Babies = Moral Good and Not Being Able/Willing to Have Babies =
    Moral Evil.

    If procreation is taken out of the equation of what makes a sexual act
    moral (or just), then the door opens to affirming couples who use birth
    control as well as same sex/same gender couples (and masturbation, as EdinburghEye noted).  Using “fruitfulness”
    to replace “procreation” as a defining characteristic of what comprises a
    moral sex act makes the Vatican quite nervous.

  • Lunch Meat

     

    “Fruitfulness” is not coded language for “procreation,” it’s a way to
    expand sexual ethics beyond the black and white of Being Able/Willing to
    Have Babies = Moral Good and Not Being Able/Willing to Have Babies =
    Moral Evil.

    I often wonder if people who are scornful of merely “recreational” sex ever notice that that word also includes “creation”…

  • JayemGriffin

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I read “fruitfulness” as something more like “This sexual act produces something beneficial to both parties” (eg. connection, satisfaction, mutual trust) rather than just BAYBEEZ.

  • Joshua

    Maybe it refers to sex involving fruit somehow.

    <ducks>

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    I was amused that the Vatican’s public condemnation had got Farley’s book from around 142,000 on Amazon’s bestseller list into the top ten in 24 hours. But I also find it quite funny that when I wrote about it (and about how what Farley says about “self-pleasuring” goes against Catholic teaching) the blogpost got favourited by three publishing blogs almost before I’d finished tweeting. 

    How many other publishers are looking at sales results like that and wondering how they could get the Holy Office to denounce their booklist?

    (You can see the editorial conference, can’t you: “Now, do you think you could be just a bit more blasphemous…”)

  • Tonio

     Thanks for the link. The first paragraph you quoted under “Vatican approved” sounds vague and evasive. It doesn’t define “moral responsibility” in that context. Is the Church claiming that self-gratification is so addictive that teens will neglect their alleged responsibility to procreate? Or that it’s a gateway drug that leads to stealing and cheating?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Tonio: Is the Church claiming that self-gratification is so addictive that
    teens will neglect their alleged responsibility to procreate?

    I wondered that. Speculation follows, and forgive me if this is offensive to anyone.

    A good priest is going to strive to keep their vow of celibacy. Some priests lapse one way or another, some leave to get married, but my guess is, most priests at least try to avoid having sex.

    With other people.

    Nothing will convince me that a man will be able to avoid “self-pleasuring” no matter what, except maybe both arms in a cast. Obviously a priest who does has committed a mortal sin, he repents, confesses, does penance, is forgiven, all’s well… and no doubt priests who hear priests’ confessions know perfectly well that this is what happens.

    Net result: most priests know a lot more about how good masturbation feels and how tempting it is to jerk off when you’re very, very horny than they do about any kind of partner sex.

    Just a thought.

  • Tonio

    Dennis Miller: “Let him who has a free hand cast the first stone.”

    Nothing will convince me that a man will be able to avoid “self-pleasuring” no matter what, except maybe both arms in a cast.

    I question that assumption, or at least its application to men only. Sounds too much like the claim that monogamy goes against men’s natures.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     I question that assumption, or at least its application to men only.
    Sounds too much like the claim that monogamy goes against men’s natures.

    I didn’t mean it that way.

    All Catholic priests are men, and as far as I understand them (which is not very far) the Catholic Church’s objection to masturbation is about men masturbating. So I just left women out of the picture. But I’m sorry that it came out wrong.

    (That itself sounds wrong in a paragraph about masturbation.)

    (Also, my own thought about masturbation is that you can be completely monogamous and masturbate your rocks off. Masturbation isn’t being unfaithful.)

    (I have now typed masturbation so many times it looks completely meaningless.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    In real life, I have met real women, (some of them atheists, fwiw) who consider masturbation to be a kind of unfaithfulness. It seemed to be tied up in the idea that “Exclusive control over his access to orgasms is my power in this relationship.”
    —-

    Also worth noting. When the Church says that masturbation is “gravely disordered”, that’s a specific thing with a specific meaning, and not just generically “bad”. 

    I mentioned a while back about the catholic church being locked into hierarchical mindsets, and that’s what they’re talking about here: their beef with masturbation (at least, their *theological* beef) is that in the catholic theological mindset, sex, like everything else, is supposed to slot into this gigantic hierarchy of being, and that masturbation elevates “your own physical pleasure” over the other purposes the recognize for sexual activity.

    It’d be no less wrong, but one could easily imagine (very easily, given the way asexuals get marginalized) an entirely secular argument against masturbation along the  same lines: that masturbation is sex without sharing, and therefore inherently selfish.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    My (atheist) first boyfriend thought masturbation was cheating.

    I am so so so glad I didn’t end up with him permanently. That was not the only way in which he was messed up. 

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

      who consider masturbation to be a kind of unfaithfulness.

    Then I suggest you learn to do your own laundry and clean your browser. ;-)

    It’d be no less wrong, but one could easily imagine (very easily, given
    the way asexuals get marginalized) an entirely secular argument against
    masturbation along the  same lines: that masturbation is sex without
    sharing, and therefore inherently selfish.

    The wonderful Captain Awkward does a splendid take-down analysis of that attitude here:

    “Vaginas, penises, hands, tongues, mouths, brains (big sexy filthy
    brains!)….don’t wear out with use. There is no finite amount of pleasure
    to be had in this world; you can have all of it. I don’t know why
    that’s so terrifying to some people.
    Masturbation, for you, is self-care. You’re taking care of your own
    sexuality. You’re relieving stress. You’re making yourself feel great.
    You’re reveling in your own fantasies. It’s not something that takes
    anything away from your partner or how you feel about your partner,
    because your body belongs to you and your brain belongs to you. You get
    to be the protagonist of your own sex life.”

  • Parasum

    One can be gay and single, but it is still a no-no. There, got away w/out using the word.

    Another angle: the CC has a high view of chastity, so it’s understandable that anything that seems not to be, would be forbidden.

    IMO, the Church would have more success in commending chastity if the accent were not on sex all the time. Chastity is like other virtues – it affects all of one’s personality. STM the Church’s  is far too compartmentalised. There is no sense in the CC – ISTM – that to encourage people to grow in virtue, one should invite them to be virtuous, & should emphasise that virtue is to be *loved*. And that therefore, chastity is to be loved, because it is lovable, to be desired, longed-for, enjoyed.  “Laying down the law” & saying “Because I say so”, is a miserable makeshift for what people could be given. It really is vomit-inducing that ther is this huge gap between how the CC approaches chastity, & how it [i]could[/i] approach it.  Teaching chastity by saying only that “X is bad” does not give a positive vision of chastity – just a list of “dont”s.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Is chastity anything but a list of “don’t”s? Besides chastity kink, which somehow I don’t think the Vatican would approve of, particularly because it is usually something that dominant women do to submissive men. 

    Good sex, including masturbation, does some very positive things for one’s personality and health, both physical and emotional. I don’t see how avoiding all sex always could do anything good for anyone who has any kind of sex drive whatsoever.

  • Keromaru5

    The Church Fathers tended to put it more in terms of self-control.  Early Christianity was all about learning to control your passions so you could better pursue union with God.  They saw non-marital sexual activities as acts of selfishness, which keep the person turned away from God.

    Not saying I entirely agree with this, just that I can kind of follow the thought process.

  • Tonio

    “Union with God” has no meaning outside of a Christian context, so the thought process hits a wall if one doesn’t subscribe to the assumptions the Church Fathers used. But more importantly, the concept seems disconnected from any goal of making the world a better place to live for everyone.

  • Keromaru5

    Neither does Hell, and non-Christians still take that seriously.  I certainly find theosis a better incentive than avoiding Hell.

    I’d also argue that seeking union with God has everything to do with making the world a better place, since a key component of it is conquering Sin to more easily embody the Kingdom of God within oneself and more easily see the Image of God in others, as well as own up to mistakes* when they happen.  Of course, to really do justice to this concept, I’d basically have to give you a crash course in Patristic and modern Orthodox theology, and I don’t have time for that.

    * which is probably closer to the original Greek meaning of sin than the modern-day connotation.

  • Tonio

    The difference with Hell is that there’s nothing vague about the popular notion of concept itself – you disobey in life, you suffer for eternity after death. (That’s separate from what the theologies actually say about Hell.)

    My point about “union with God” and “non-marital sexual
    activities as acts of selfishness, which keep the person turned away
    from God” is that these don’t seem to necessarily translate into consequentialist principles for how one should treat others. That’s what I mean by “making a world a better place.” The core question is how can people outside the religion know that there is such a thing as “union with God” without automatically accepting the assumptions inherent in the theology.

  • hapax

    “Union with God” has no meaning outside of a Christian context

    There are an awful lot of Jewish people, Muslims, Hindus, neo-Platonic Pagans, etc. etc. who would be very surprised to hear that.

    the concept seems disconnected from any goal of making the world a better place to live for everyone

    That depends on one’s approach.  Personally, if I aim for “union with God”, I’d better make the world around me a fit place for God to inhabit.  Indeed, that’s the first step towards mystical union.

  • Tonio

     I was specifically addressing one religion’s union concept, and those other religions own concepts may differ, but you have a valid point. I would think that the term “God” excludes religions like Hinduism and the Pagan ones, since that word is a name used by monotheistic religions.

    The reason I’m questioning the doctrine is because it appears to insist that all people in the world (not just Christians) are required to abstain from non-martial sexual activities. That’s different from, say, the Amish prohibition on utility service.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Union with God” has no meaning outside of a Christian context, so the thought process hits a wall if one doesn’t subscribe to the assumptions the Church Fathers used. But more importantly, the concept seems disconnected from any goal of making the world a better place to live for everyone. 

    “Union with God” has a bit more specific of a meaning to the Unitologists.  

    Make us whole…

  • The_L1985

    The Varican is arguing that any form of sexual stimulation that cannot make babies is, in and of itself, blasphemy and a direct affront to God. Because sex is for babies. According to the celibate, there is no other reason to have sex ever.

    I wish I were joking.

  • Tonio

     I’ve heard some opponents of religion claim that the teaching is just a tactic to swell the denomination’s ranks, with more babies meaning more future churchgoers. While that’s too much like a conspiracy theory, the teaching itself seems to defy any reasonable explanation. It could have originated during a plague or some other catastrophe that lead to massive underpopulation. Or else, as I mentioned earlier, it’s about children as property.

  • Mathbard

    Oh, that’s no conspiracy theory. It’s a full-blown conspiracy and is called Quiverful. Wish I was joking.

  • Tonio

     I know about Quiverful. I was questioning the idea that Catholic theology had the same intention behind its own teachings.

  • The_L1985

     It originated in the 19th century.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    This reminds me of the Parents Music Resource Center, the organization co-founded by Tipper Gore back in the 80’s.  The PMRC would protest an album, and almost invariably its sales would increase.  And the more strongly they condemned an album, the higher its sales would rise.  The group then shifted its focus to having such albums labeled (the Patental Advisory sticker you see on CD’s today is the direct result of their lobbying).

    The Insane Clown Posse commented on this phenomenon in their song, “Terrible.” In that song, they say that the folks who protest these kinds of bands are actually helping them, and that Christians should, instead,  “Help all those people eating out of those garbage cans! When you’re done with that, come protest *me*!  Shit, I could use the money!”

  • Tonio

    Exactly. That was when I was in college, and I found and read the entire transcript of the hearing. Even today, I’m grateful that supporters of free expression had Frank Zappa as a spokesperson. The PMRC might have had a valid point when it slammed “Sugar Walls,” penned by a performer whose sexual obsessions are notorious. But the height of unintentional farce came when the panel accused Dee Snider of pushing sexual bondage in the song “Under the Blade.” Almost the BDSM equivalent of professional homophobia.

  • hapax

     

    This reminds me of the Parents Music Resource Center, the organization
    co-founded by Tipper Gore back in the 80’s.  The PMRC would protest an
    album, and almost invariably its sales would increase.

    Nothing increases demand for a book than ANY attempt to censor it.   That’s the silver lining behind book banners — they very rarely go after lousy literature.  Nope, they decide to take on Of Mice and Men or Push or Tango Makes Three, and a good book that has been languishing in obscurity starts to fly off the shelves.

  • Ursula L

    Nothing increases demand for a book than ANY attempt to censor it. 

    This is only true when the book-burning is mostly verbal, and the book-burners and book-banners have little practical power beyond their words and their matches.  

    Book banning and book burning, when done by the genuinely powerful in a way that is focused and uses the full strength of their political and social power, is a very different thing.  

    The fact that, in the US, the most the Catholic Church can do to “ban” a book is issue a stern warning that will actually boost sales is not a reason to be accepting of the concept of book banning.  

    If the organization or government doing the banning is genuinely powerful, and genuinely ruthless with that power, then book-banning is just one tool in their arsenal of oppressions.  In that context, people don’t rush to buy and read banned books, because the secret police are watching, and notes are being made, and questions will be asked.  

    It’s a mark of the privileges of living in a mostly-free society, that we see book-banning as free advertising rather than a threat to the lives and freedoms of authors and publishers and readers. 

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Book banning and book burning, when done by the genuinely powerful in a
    way that is focused and uses the full strength of their political and
    social power, is a very different thing. 

    The Catholic Church banned Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo in 1633 and it promptly became a 17th-century bestseller.

  • Ursula L

    The Catholic Church banned Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo in 1633 and it promptly became a 17th-century bestseller. 

    Exactly.

    And in 1633, the Reformation had already happened, so that large portions of Europe were outside the control of the Catholic Church, and the book in question could be published quite safely in those areas.  And control of national boarders was by modern standards, very loose, so printed copies could easily be smuggled into Catholic-controlled areas.  

    Plus, even in areas that were nominally Catholic, the control of the Catholic Church varied greatly.  Some areas were actually part of the Papal States. Other areas had Catholic rulers, but those rulers created and enforced laws based on their own agendas, rather than being mindlessly in lock-step with the Church’s agenda.

    Also, even in the Papal States, the Catholic Church didn’t enforce a level of social control that is anywhere near as oppressive as some other examples in human history.  East Germany, North Korea, Stalin’s USSR, or Hitler’s Germany* are a examples of places that were/are much more focused on ideological control of the population.  And they are places where people are known to have chosen to hide or destroy portions of their own private libraries, rather than face the risk of being caught with banned books.  

    *************************

    *Exception to Godwin’s rule, I’m not calling them Nazis, I’m saying they’re not as bad as Nazis.  But “Not As Bad As Nazis” is a completely insufficient marker for judging whether a regime is benevolent or harmful.  

  • Aiwhelan

    I like that one of the bad reviews of Farley’s book goes straight to “women should be silent” (seriously, he/she claims that nuns not keeping silence is where things started to go downhill).

  • Jay in Oregon

    It’s too bad that Newt Gingrich has dropped out of the race; I would have looked forward to the talking heads discussing his ethics and faith they way they did when the Catholic Church wanted to deny communion to pro-choice Democrats.

  • Jurgan

    Does anyone else find it strange that a nun is giving advice on sexual ethics?  Isn’t that kind of like a vegetarian giving advice on preparing a steak?

  • Ouri Maler

    Well, I dunno. My mom is vegetarian, but she cooks some delicious meat dishes.

  • Tonio

    Strange, but not as offensive as a male priest lecturing women on sexual morality and gender roles.

  • Tricksterson

    Or a celibate priest passing judgement on reproductive issues.

  • Tonio

     That amounts to the same thing, since reproductive issues disproportionally affect women (to say the least).

  • Dash1

    What leads you to imagine that a woman who is now a nun has never had sex or, indeed, a committed, sexually fulfilling relationship?

  • Keromaru5

    Having been single most of my life, I can definitely see how a celibate can offer insight into sexual relationships. You can tell a lot by observing people from the outside.

    And no, Anon, having sex does not a full person make. There are plenty of virgins and celibates who are fully realized and mature human beings and many sexual dynamos who are really stunted adolescents.

  • Tricksterson

    It’s quite possible, even probable that when it comes to “self pleasuring” at least that she knows whereof she speaks.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Does anyone else find it strange that a nun is giving advice on sexual ethics?

    No.
    Until very recently, most nuns considered themselves “brides of Christ” literally. With everything that entails. Vowing not to have sex with a living male does not cut off one’s sex life. (And remember, the Bible has nothing to say about women having sex with each other.) Sexual fantasy and masturbation are parts of a healthy sex life as well, and even entail all of a healthy sex life for many people.

    Nuns have historically been, and in many parts of the world still are, sexually exploited by priests and bishops. That is one big fat reason why the Vatican wants them to shut up. 

  • Anonymous

    I can only imagine that this closeted sex thing among the clergy is like a mirror of don’t ask don’t tell in Constantine’s army. Constantine, the founder of Catholicism IMO, put the whole sex thing backstage to power and greed for power.  Sr. Farley’s book is published in 2006 and now it is condemned just in time for the assault on the American nuns and all the real estate an aging community is sitting on. How convenient.  
    But in general, these celibate types cannot man-up because very few of them have ever been men.  To deny your sexuality is in essence a code word to deny your humanity.  There is a great deal of difference between the Christianity of Jesus of Nazareth and the Catholic Church of Constantine. 

  • Lunch Meat

     

    But in general, these celibate types cannot man-up because very few of
    them have ever been men.  To deny your sexuality is in essence a code
    word to deny your humanity.

    That is extremely dismissive of asexual people and people who choose freely to be celibate for their own reasons. I was a woman and a human before I had sex; I would still be a woman and a human if I chose to be celibate for my entire life.

  • friendly reader

     

    But in general, these celibate types cannot man-up because very few of
    them have ever been men.  To deny your sexuality is in essence a code
    word to deny your humanity.

    So does that mean people who haven’t had sex for whatever reason – health, not having met a person they want, being asexual – aren’t fully human? fully men?

    Seriously, I think you’re trying to be liberated, but you’re going too far in the other extreme in a direct equation of sexuality with humanity and manhood. People can choose to not have sex and still not be denying their humanity.

    Unless I am misunderstanding you, which is possible. If so, please clarify.

  • friendly reader

     Also, regardless of your intent, the phrase “man-up” needs to just END.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I have to wonder just what it is that makes members of orgs like this think trashing anything and trying to slam the weight of their power down onto it will make that thing go away.

    It’s like when the RIAA or MPAA hamfistedly tries lawsuiting their way to success. All it does is make them look like giant grade A assholes and inevitably spawns even more torrenting of the stuff they wanted gotten rid of.

    It’s like when you tell someone not to do something. There’s, like, some kind of human reflex that makes people want to do something even more when you say don’t do it, even if your reason is good.

  • http://twitter.com/Thalesdisciple Joshua Bowman

    I’m reminded of the episode of Father Ted in which the clergy protest a movie and make it into the theater’s biggest draw in years. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT9xuXQjxMM

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I have to say, these accusations that center around the lack of sex are a little asinine, especially to people who through no fault of their own have a sex drive but no partner with which to engage in*.

    * besides the obvious.

  • Ken

    “persons are not to be loved as if they were things.”

    “Sin is when you treat people like things. It gets worse, but it starts with that.”  Or something along those lines; spoken by Granny Weatherwax in one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

    Not that I think Sr. Margaret Farley was plagiarizing Pratchett. Most likely both were just stating an obvious corollary of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  • P J Evans

     Even further back: John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider makes that same point. It’s set in a society where a lot of people are treated as things.

  • P J Evans

     Even further back: John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider makes that same point. It’s set in a society where a lot of people are treated as things.

  • P J Evans

     Even further back: John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider makes that same point. It’s set in a society where a lot of people are treated as things.

  • LL

    The Catholic Church is almost beyond parody at this point. 

    The nuns should break away and form their own denomination. I don’t know what it should be called, but I recommend not using the word “Catholic” anywhere in there. 

    I kind of agree that celibacy doesn’t mean you’re not fully adult or manly or whatever, but I do think people who haven’t experienced sex should refrain from lecturing others on how or how not to do it. 

  • P J Evans

    ‘Catholic’ is okay (it just mean something like ‘universal’) – but they should avoid ‘Roman’.

  • Keromaru5

    And also, “catholic” is still used by the Orthodox, Anglicans, and, well, just about anybody who uses the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds.

    I’d also argue that “Roman” is legitimate, as it recalls the original jurisdictional structure of the Church, with the patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.  It’s the same way you also have a “Greek” and “Russian” Orthodox Church.  It’s all about which bishop is overseeing your territory.

    In fact, one of the major beefs the Orthodox have with the Papacy is its insistence of authority over all other churches.  That’s just not how they do things.

    Now, if American Catholics could somehow set up an American Catholic Church with its own patriarch and episcopal structure, you might have a case.  There’s a canon from the Council of Nicea forbidding one bishop from overseeing another bishop’s territory.  A Greek bishop has no jurisdiction over a Russian, nor a Russian over an Antiochan; and if in some strange future, Rome and the Orthodox world reunited, the Orthodox bishops would have no say over what the Pope does (they recognize him as “first among equals,” not as leader of all Christians everywhere).  If there were a Patriarch of America (or even the Americas), the Pope would theoretically have no authority over him.

    Problem is, there’s virtually no precedent for it in the RCC.  There is in Orthodoxy, not as a form of protest, just as a kind of maturation for a local church.  If the Orthodox Church of America, for example, were recognized as autocephalous by the other jurisdictions, it would be the American Orthodox Church, and presumably all the Greek, Russian, and Antiochan dioceses would be turned over to it, and all Orthodox in North America would have their own independent set of bishops.  But in the RCC?  There have been attempts to set up competing Bishops of Rome, but I’m not aware of anyone who’s tried setting up their own patriarch alongside the Pope.
    This is basically how the Anglican Communion is run, too, and a source of controversy.  When Katherine Jefferts-Schori was made Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, several conservatives sought ordination from the head of the Nigerian Church, as an extension of that church.  But since there’s already an American Anglican Church, we’ve wound up with overlapping jurisdictions, in violation of the Nicene canon.  To my knowledge, that American Nigerian Anglican Church is not recognized as a part of the Anglican Communion.

    So, um, yeah.  Hope you enjoyed that lecture on high-church episcopal polity.

  • Tricksterson

    Not quite sure what the difference would be between a “competing Bishop of Rome” and “their own patriarch alongside the Pope” but here are a couple of references that might fit the bill

  • Keromaru5

    The difference is that the antipopes were usually making competing claims to the same Papacy.  A new patriarchate would be independent from Rome and able to govern itself, but still in communion and with the same canonical system.  The Pope wouldn’t be able to boss them around; though he could keep appointing competing bishops to undermine them.  Again, it would be just like how Russia and Romania can have separate patriarchs from Constantinople, and from each other, but not be separate.

  • Isabel C.

    TMI follows:

    I could even deal with “fruitfulness” and “commitment” in certain interpretations, and I’m a pro-casual-sex girl who’s getting her tubes tied as soon as the doctors will allow. Just read “fruitfulness” as “both people are getting something out of this” and “commitment” as “…to treating the other person as a person.”

    @1cfd07d71c70392c27d26165e23b0cf2:disqus : While I can’t speak for everyone, I probably *would* be having a lot more partnered sex if that was my only release. As it is, yeah, there’s some calculation: I *could* go home with J. Random Schmoe*, try and make sure he has a good time, have him sweat on me, have awkward conversation before and after, and try to sneak out before I have to stay over for breakfast, and attempt to satisfy my own urges despite the fact that getting any sort of technique out of that guy will probably require a Powerpoint presentation. 

    Or I can satisfy myself in five minutes, go watch a DVD, and not have to deal with some doof hanging around my apartment. 

    So, yeah: better sex when I do have it, but probably less (and with fewer guys) overall. I don’t see this as a bad thing, myself, but hey. 

    *Who hopefully is not a serial killer or something, also. 

  • Tonio

     While I agree in principle with your latter point, I don’t know why you’re directing it at me, since I wasn’t condemning self-pleasure.

  • Isabel C.

    @1cfd07d71c70392c27d26165e23b0cf2:disqus : Er, sorry, didn’t think you were. Responding to the question you asked above:  
    Is the Church claiming that self-gratification is so addictive that teens will neglect their alleged responsibility to procreate? 
    sort of thing.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira


    Is the Church claiming that self-gratification is so addictive that teens will neglect their alleged responsibility to procreate?  sort of thing.

    Yep. Though it’s not just the Vatican — lots of people who are right-wing Christians do this. It’s weird to say the least. All I can think of is that they are so pre-occupied with the thought of masturbation that they think those of us who do it (i.e. pretty much everyone) must be as well. It’s a very early adolescent way of looking at things. I thought about sex pretty much constantly when I was 13 or so — way more than I do now, even though I actually write about it now. 

    Sex toys are illegal in Alabama. Not a strong Catholic state, but definitely Bible Belt. There are people who like to claim that dildos lead to adultery and destroy the marriage vow. I wish I were kidding. What I find particularly sad is that the men who claim this (and they are mostly men) seem to think that they themselves are just walking sex toys, that they are in competition with a nicely-molded silicone object. 

  • Lunch Meat

     

    What I find particularly sad is that the men who claim this (and they
    are mostly men) seem to think that they themselves are just walking sex
    toys, that they are in competition with a nicely-molded silicone
    object.

    There was a book–I believe it was Every Young Woman’s Battle–that supported this idea. One of the reasons that porn is discouraged was “if she knows how to please herself, what would she want a man for?” I think it does make men insecure when women are aware of themselves sexually–because they realize women expect equal pleasure and they don’t know how to give it.

  • Lunch Meat

    Edit: I should have said “some men”–I didn’t mean to imply that all men are made insecure by sexually aware women.

  • Isabel C.

      One of the reasons that porn is discouraged was “if she knows how to please herself, what would she want a man for?”

    I’ve heard a lot of comments re: romance novels that either are this or sound like this underneath. Blah blah “unrealistic expectations” blah blah “dissatisfaction with real men”…

    …far as I can tell, it amounts to straight guys freaking out because oh my God women might develop standards or something.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I have seen so many people insult Stephenie Meyer by saying she wrote down her sexual fantasies and sold them. Which… yeah? This is wrong because why now? There seems to be an immediate “ick” reaction in certain people to women daring to have sexual fantasies at all. We’re supposed to be the objects of fantasies, not the ones doing the fantasizing. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have seen so many people insult Stephenie Meyer by saying she wrote down her sexual fantasies and sold them. Which… yeah? This is wrong because why now? There seems to be an immediate “ick” reaction in certain people to women daring to have sexual fantasies at all. We’re supposed to be the objects of fantasies, not the ones doing the fantasizing.  

    This is hardly unique to Meyer.  Anne Rice did exactly the same thing, as did Laurell K. Hamilton.  A person can make a lot of good money doing that.  I think that the difference with Meyer is that she seems very self-unaware that is what she is doing.  I guess for my part, I like it when people own their own stuff, and the denial of that tends earn some ire.  

  • Isabel C.

    Right.
    And, okay, publishing your fantasies (sex or power or whatever) without filing the numbers off well enough does have its problems. I don’t really need bits of comics that could be subtitled Alan Moore Does Hot Chicks, any more than I need bits of TV that could be subtitled Joss Wheedon Is an Angry Existentialist With Daddy Issues or Ten Years Later, Aaron Sorkin is Still Not Over Whatsherface, or books that could be subtitled Hey, Has Terry Goodkind Mentioned That He’s Objectivist?

    But…those guys don’t get half the mainstream flack that Meyer does, and while I don’t have any particular love for Meyer or her work, I can’t help but think that gender’s related there. It’s reasonable to point out that the author’s fantasies don’t appeal to everyone, that a certain section comes off as self-indulgent, or that, you know, I don’t pay $7.99 to be part of your therapy session, buddy or that OH MY GOD SHUT UP TERRY GOODKIND. Just…be clear about what you’re objecting to. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Did you know socialism is inherently evil? I bet you had no idea! Surely you wouldn’t have gotten that notion from Faith of the Fallen. It’s a very subtle detail. Like Aslan being Jesus.

  • Tonio

     Or book cycles subtitled Robert Heinlein Wants to Be Hugh Hefner.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yeah, there is a reason why I never read The Sword of Truth series beyond “Wizard’s First Rule”.  

    Incidentally, even that was not free of author fetish-insertion.  Yes Mister Goodkind, you want to be tied up and abused by women in leather outfits, I get it.  Can we move on now?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    How do you define “mainstream flak”? If Terry Goodkind doesn’t get bashed as often as Stephanie Meyer does, it’s only because his books aren’t as well-known as hers are. It seems to me that Goodkind gets derided at least as much as Meyer has, and the criticisms are (justifiably, in my opinion) a good deal more vicious, especially from the former fans of his work who managed to enjoy “Wizard’s First Rule” (a pure if generic fantasy novel) only to be smacked in the face by the overt Objectivism (as well as the increasingly violent misogyny) in the later books.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m not sure it’s that so much as a lot of people find her particular sexual fantasies to be on the creepy side.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Honestly, I really don’t want to read the sexual fantasies of strangers, especially when I don’t share them. That’s not saying that she’s wrong to publish them (clearly it worked out for her, especially after the book deal and the successful movie franchise), but you can’t just leap to conclusion that anyone who criticizes her on that basis is doing it because she’s a woman.

    Male authors who do that can be just as annoying. In fact, Meyer is the least annoying of that set because her books started out as being wish fulfillment, which meant that if you didn’t like that sort of thing you could put the book down before you became invested in the series. A lot of other writers (Terry Goodkind, Laurel K. Hamilton) start out in one genre and gradually shift into porn/political ranting/some combination of the two after their runaway success loosens editorial controls. This wouldn’t be bad if it was still well-written, but the plunge in writing quality can be a little jarring.

    I certainly don’t think that this concept is wrong in the sense of being bad business sense or even immoral; I just don’t think it’s very interesting and I don’t really like being called a misogynist for criticizing what I think is badly-written porn.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’ve heard a lot of comments re: romance novels that either are this or sound like this underneath. Blah blah “unrealistic expectations” blah blah “dissatisfaction with real men”

    ……far as I can tell, it amounts to straight guys freaking out because oh my God women might develop standards or something.

    I would hesitate to make an assumption, but if I were, I would be assuming that there is something of a double-standard at work when it comes to erotica directed at heterosexual men.  

    Incidentally, as a heterosexual male, I want women to have standards, I want to be judged. I would rather have a certain standard of decency are care that I be expected to live up to, as opposed to the alternative.

  • Isabel C.

     Well, I can’t say I’ve never thought of men that way. ;)

    But:

    a) They don’t have to date me, 
    b) Any guy I’m gonna sleep with, even casually, brings something more to the table, even if it’s just the visual appeal, and
    c) “OH NOES GUYS MIGHT NOT GET LAID” is a pretty bad reason for trying to dictate what people do with their money and/or personal lives.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I get the feeling that a lot of the anti-sex culture warriors tend to be General Ripper types, waging a war motivated by their own largely unconscious sexual frustrations.  I would think that being better in touch with their own sexual identities would get them to loosen up a little and not be so down on people who make other choices.  

    The constant self-denial that one has a sexual identity (outside of very strict ideals) cannot be good for one’s psychological well-being.  

  • Varunreg

    I really don’t understand how these authoritarian figures never learn from their mistakes. It’s like how Salman Rushdie got ridiculously more popular and richer after the Fatwa that was placed on him. Even before the Internet, sales of his book the satanic verses shot through the roof after being banned in several countries.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I was really struck by just how wishy-washy the response was from the president of my alma mater, who apparently studied under Farley. He quite rightly worried about the possible chilling effects on academic freedom, but then went on to explain that the vatican was totes right to censure it,  because it’s only for scholarly use, not for your average every-day teaching about sexual morality, and that it was totally not a censure against Farley herself, just against the one specific book, and it’s not like anyone was actually going to teach it as a book on general religious education on sexual morality for non-experts anyway.

    Yuck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Is it possible that the Catholic Church is actually some kind of stealth  marketing organization? They’ve built up a certain reputation for themselves which they exploit for the benefit of authors by ‘banning’ their books, thus guaranteeing a spike in sales.

  • malpollyon

    For me Piers Anthony heads the list for creepy author fantasy syndrome. I really do not need pages explaining why it’s totally okay for older men to like young girls, but I especially do not need it from an older male author of books aimed at tweens called things like “The Color of Her Panties”. I also do not need a long “Author’s Note” at the end of the Book telling me how Piers Anthony is the greatest author since Isaac Asimov because he always answers his fanmail and never gets writers block (seriously, WTF?).

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Frankly, the fact that the current papacy continues to cover-up and turn a blind eye to the abuse of children and has begun deliberately persecuting and oppressing women makes me think that not Christ, but his old enemy Satan is running the show in the Vatican. “By their fruits ye shall know them”, and the fruit of this papacy is so rotten that no good person should have aught to do with it. I regard the edicts of this current papacy as the cawing of crows and the yapping of jackals–and certainly no guide to morality or faith.
     


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