Dialogue on Rebecca Bratten Weiss’ Teaching on Sexuality

Dialogue on Rebecca Bratten Weiss’ Teaching on Sexuality September 20, 2017


I have written three articles on the controversy swirling around Rebecca Bratten Weiss, and her dismissal as an adjunct professor from Franciscan University of Steubenville (for supposedly not being “pro-life enough”). Today, I talked about something a little different. It was said that she denied Church doctrine, and I repeatedly pressed her critic and it moved into this subject matter. I was in my full “socratic method” mode. We seemed to have accomplished at least a little mutual understanding and constructive progress at the end after a rough and frustrating start. This occurred on my Facebook page with a Catholic woman named Leticia Velasquez. Her words will be in blue.


Franciscan has a right to hire professors who agree with Church teachings. Those of us who pay them tuition depend on it.

Exactly. Rebecca has denied none, far as I can tell. That’s why I’m defending her, because I also deny none, and I like free expression and the openness of exchange of ideas.

[You are] defending a liberal Catholic.

Oh so now if a person has been wronged and treated like crap (including in public), but is a political liberal, we mustn’t defend them?

She twists it [Church teaching], which is worse.

Please show us how.

[she linked to Rebecca’s “Defense of Game of Thrones]

Game of Thrones is not Catholic Church teaching. I bet you opposed Harry Potter, too. Right?

I want to go to heaven. I avoid all near occasions of sin including dirty movies, and the occult. I have a long history which informs this which I do not care to discuss in public. I wish that you would take me seriously. I care for the souls of all humanity.

Good for you. You’re not caring much for Rebecca right now. I’m taking you seriously enough to challenge you to show which Church doctrine Rebecca has denied.

I want her to rethink some of her views for the good of her immortal soul. The hard knocks of life make me straighten up and fly right after I walked on the dark side in my youth, seduced by the admiration of popular views in academia.

I was involved in the occult, too. But I don’t have to go to extremes now because of it, and be against Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, or Chronicles of Narnia, etc.

You can’t confuse the likes of JR Tolkien and CS Lewis with JK Rowling.

She pushes the envelope with nudity. I see her endorsing what I would consider soft core pornography in her defense of the Game of Thrones on Patheos.

What Catholic doctrine does she deny?

I taught English at a Catholic school where Twilight was an obsession. I was in trouble for saying it was a bad influence. Did you know that 50 Shades of Grey was fan fiction for Twilight?

Nudity is an extremely complex topic. God told Isaiah to walk around naked for three years. St. Francis stripped naked when he began his ministry. Are you against the nude paintings and statues in the Vatican?

Incrementalism is the devil’s favorite tactic.  Nudity at the Vatican and in sacred art is at one end of the spectrum. Televised rape is quite another. If modesty makes me a prude, so be it.

I’m all for modesty. Why don’t you give Rebecca the benefit of the doubt? Maybe she has thought this through a lot more than you think.

What Catholic doctrine does she deny?

I don’t want her teaching my daughters. I fought to home educate them to as avoid what Dr William Marra describes the sewer of pop culture. I argued with nuns and other Catholic school administrators about modesty.  She is trying to redefine, not deny.

Okay. What Catholic doctrine does she redefine?

If she denied outright that would be more honest. She is trying to mind bend. That is dangerous. That’s why our airwaves are full of filthy content.

We are homeschoolers, too. My wife’s been doing it for 20 years, including with special needs involved.

What is pornography and what is literature, art, film. etc.? You must admit the bar has been moved quite a lot since 1960.

Yes, it has been moved. I agree. But that’s not our topic, which is (4th time now): What Catholic doctrine does she redefine?

Adultery. The sixth commandment or perhaps the 9th. What consists of sinning with your mind against chastity. 

So you are saying she has denied the command not to commit adultery, and (by extension) to be chaste?

I can’t watch most of TV or movies.

Because of your wild past, apparently. Not all of us had a wild sexual past, you know.

Good for you. I wish I didn’t but it was incrementalism in a Catholic institution which started my thinking on sexual integrity on a downward slide. If sister said birth control and sexual involvement outside of marriage were OK. . .

Not her personally. I just think she is trying to argue for more acceptance of what used to be considered sinful content.

I think matters of that sort can be disagreed on by equally pious Catholics. It’s complex in application. That’s different from the claim that Catholic teaching is being denied.

Alright, I will withdraw that claim but she twists it and I will not deny that. And I want my girls to remain chaste till marriage. I worked and sacrificed my career to give them this gift.

I have four children and they are all chaste, and waiting or waited till marriage. I’m all for that. We teach it and our kids have heroically lived it.

Such a wild past sometimes makes us become overly legalistic, because we can’t handle certain things. We can’t extrapolate that to every person. I had a roommate who couldn’t handle rock music because it made him stumble. So I couldn’t play anything. It’s never made me stumble. It’s just music to me.

What claim are you withdrawing?

The claim that Ms Weiss denied Catholic doctrine.

I know you said she twisted but doesn’t deny it. You said that a long time ago! So you say she is attacking chastity, but I think I have shown that is not a simple matter at all, when closely examined, and past lives highly affect it and can’t be universalized to all other people.

Twisting is just as bad! I don’t think you’ve shown that she has done that. In the end it would come down to discussing individual pieces of literature or art, where equally good Catholics can and do disagree.

My wife won’t watch war movies or the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam (now in process). She can’t handle it. I can, and so I watch ’em. That’s not an absolute.

Remember what Jesus said about cutting off your hand or putting out your eye if it leads you astray. Don’t despise drastic measures some of us need to reach His Kingdom. I have all eternity to enjoy His presence any sacrifice I have to make now is so paltry in comparison. So many souls lost for sins of the flesh according to Our Lady of Fatima.

I don’t despise any sacrifice you make for the sake of your own soul. Good for you. What I disagree with is projecting your situation onto others when it may not apply.

Don’t you think that pornography is reaching a public crisis level so much so that the State of Florida declared a public health crisis?

Yes, pornography is a huge issue and a great tragedy. The question is whether Rebecca is teaching or promoting it!

Catholics have a solemn charge to be salt and light to the world. We will answer to God for it. Better be a prude that go to hell.

We disagree on degree and application, not on the principle that chastity is required and lustfulness condemned.

Therein lies our disagreement. We may never agree but we must agree to love one another.

Thanks for the discussion Dave. Don’t expect an expose on my youth anytime soon.

Let’s look at one example. Was it wrong in the 1965 movie, The Bible to show Adam and Eve nude (from behind)?

I am an Italian-American who liked Zefirelli’s Romeo and Juliet despite the USCCB”s condemnation of it for a flash of breast and buttock.

Now that’s just it. That wasn’t over the line for you. Someone stricter than you will say you just watched pornography because of seeing a breast for two seconds.

I know, they will. I make trouble wherever I go.

So you’re less strict than them, and I and Rebecca are less strict than you. It’s a complex discussion!

Okay. At least we accomplished something at the end, I believe.

Yes, we did. Civility. Not easy to come by on comboxes which is why I usually don’t engage.

I do respect the fact that you are concerned about chastity for yourself and children, even though it may not seem so. We’ve lived our lives that way, too. I’m glad we found some common ground. And I love Italian-Americans!

Thank you and I respect you for supporting your homeschooling wife and child with special needs.


I’m sure I’m actually closer in opinion to Leticia than to Rebecca in such matters. But that’s what makes it fun. Personal opinion isn’t the doctrines and dogmas of the Church. And modesty and chastity and lustfulness can be and are extremely complex topics in application. Where are the personal lines drawn? Are there lines that apply to everyone? Etc. When does a guy looking at a beautiful woman start becoming lustful? And when does the artistic nude become pornographic? It soon becomes extraordinarily complex. What’s a “bad word”? How do we determine that? When does clothing become immodest? Is that culturally relative? It goes on forever. 

But I agree with her that things have degenerated a lot and that we do need lines (however defined) to protect against lust and unchastity.


Photo credit: The Kiss (1901-1904), by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Photograph by Ad Meskens (8-17-13) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license]


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