Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chastity, chivalry, and avoiding ridicule

Noli me tangere: Do not touch me.

One serious problem for young people attempting to live a chaste life, and therefore bucking the hugely powerful trend of modern western culture, is that they can too easily be seen as losers. A good deal of prestige goes along with sex and relationships, and those who miss out on these tend to lack prestige. I've been talking about women in the last couple of posts, in response to one article I quoted, but here I'm going to focus on men, and I am partly inspired by this article here.

The author, John Mallon argues that part at least of the reason some women don't get asked on 'dates' is because they are giving off some rather hostile vibes, quite probably without meaning to. He says that men prefer women who are 'kind', and these can be hard to find; a lot of women seem to make a point of negativity and cynicism in dealing with men. This is true. But his description of men and of their needs presents an image of the 'Beta' man. A man who can't really deal with women, who lacks the characteristics which women admire and find attractive. But this is a problem, and the ladies are not to blame for not giving off warm vibes to men they don't find attractive.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Towards better arguments against promiscuity

Via dolorosa. From the Rosary Walk at Aylesford Priory.
In my last post I disuscussed the argument made by 'Jennifer Joyner' against promiscuity. Her article takes the form of a personal testimony, not relying on moral or religious arguments. Instead, it focuses on the the risk of pregancy, and the lack of pleasure.

I think such testimonies are helpful to see, and her essential point is true enough. One might add to it the risk of (let's use the proper term) venereal disease. Like pregnancy, people living the promiscuous lifestyle which our society regards as normal for the young and unmarried (at least) have a far greater chance of this than most of them imagine.

Such arguments from the perspective of the young person and what he or she wants for him or herself are related to the approach to apologetics which has taken hold in Catholic circles in the last half-century. The focus is not on the objective existence and provability of God, for example, so much as the lack one feels without God: instead of looking at the reality outside us, it looks at the feelings within us.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Not enough fun in the sack: a poor argument against promiscuity

The repentant Mary Magdalen
A lady calling herself 'Jennifer Joyner' has written an interesting critique of sexual promiscuity, without reference to religion. She makes many good points about the unsatisfactory nature of 'hookup culture', writing as a woman, and addressing women primarily. There's something I want to disagree with, however, which is encapsulated in the following paragraph.

In a culture claiming to promote gender equality, I believe hooking up has taken a dramatic step in the wrong direction. Whether we like it or not, sex is intrinsically biased against the woman: biological reality dictates that she carries the brunt of sexual risks while he wields the majority of the of sexual power. Make their coital relations mutually selfish—that is, primarily about fleeting pleasures and not about caring for the person—and she always loses. She plays a rigged game.

She goes on to specify that women bear the risk of pregnancy, and also of the experience not being a pleasurable one: in her phrase, it may not be that much fun in the sack.

She makes the common mistake, in assessing the costs and benefits involved in the 'sexual economy', of ignoring the cost to men of rejection. Men invest—or gamble, in you prefer—in advance of the actual 'hookup', and whether we are talking about honourable courtship or the utterly sordid way of life the unfortunate writer experienced, and then repented, they bear a significant risk of rejection. If they are rejected the investment—or gambling stake—is completely down the drain: the time and often money spent cultivating the woman. This is a very important factor in considering the incentives involved. However, I want to draw attention to a distinct, though related point.

From the article is seems almost incomprehensible that women behave as, sadly, they too often do. But if we don't understand why they do, we stand no chance of persuading them to stop. So at the risk of making a life of sin sound more attractive than Joyner does, I want to be a little more realistic.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Book of Gomorrah: a new translation

Another book which I was allowed to read in advance of its publication is this new translation of St Peter Damian's famous work, The Book of Gomorrah.

It is most famous because of its Jeremiah-like condemnations of unnatural sexual acts, like this from Chapter 20:
“Why, I ask, O damnable sodomites, do you seek after the height of ecclesiastical dignity with such burning ambition? Why do you seek with such longing to snare the people of God in the web of your perdition? Does it not suffice for you that you cast your very selves off the high precipice of villainy, unless you also involve others in the danger of your fall?”
But there is more to it than that. It is, in fact, a long argument for the seriousness of sexual sin, including the sexual exploitation of others, based on the Church's early penitential discipline. That discipline, which stipulated a certain number of days, months, or even years, of public penance for various sins, had long been superceded, from a canonical point of view, by the time St Peter Damian was writing, in the context of more frequent confession and other developments. However, St Peter argued that it continued to have relevance as the testimony of the earliest ages of the Church to the relative and absolute seriousness of sin. If we no long have to fast for seven years for adultery, for example, we should take to heart that such an act is worthy of such a penance.

I am quoted on the back cover:
“Hoffman has produced a highly readable translation of St Peter Damian's most famous work, with a scholarly and helpful commentary placing it into its historical context. As the Church once again confronts the consequences of a collapse of clerical sexual discipline, we do well to read St Peter's insistence on taking seriously the Church's early penitential tradition, and the Scriptural references which formed the foundation for this, as well as his zeal for the souls of both sinners and the victims of abuse. Hoffman has done a great service to his readers in preparing this edition.”

The publisher is offering a 15% discount on the book to Rorate Caeli readers, who can purchase the book by clicking here.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Blessing of Throats in Oxford

Blessing of the Faithful at the end of Mass, on the feast of St Blaise.

The Catholic life is a round of blessings. Having taken home candles blessed in the Candlemas service - for use in emergencies, such as storms, childbirth, or the Three Days of Darkness, as well as for the visit of a priest with the Blessed Sacrament - the very next day a pair of candles is blessed in honour of St Blaise, and these candles are used to bless the throats of the Faithful.

Blessing of the candles to be used in the ceremony.
Using a blessed or otherwise holy object to confer a blessing is, of course, a logical thing to do. It gives the proceedings a special solemnity, and in this case keeps alive the memory of St Blaise, a bishop and martyr who cured a little boy with a fish-bone stuck in his throat.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Prayer or bedlam before and after Mass? Which would God prefer?

Cardinal Burke leads the Prayers After Low Mass following his Prelatial Low Mass in
SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford.
I love this letter from the pseudonymous 'Pastor Iuventus' in this weekend's Catholic Herald, who has a weekly column there. (A few years ago the priest in question came on one of the LMS Priest Training Conferences and wrote it up in his column.)

SIR – Chris Whitehouse (Letter, January 29) makes the same mistake as many others who, like him, seek to justify the bedlam in many Catholic churches immediately prior to and after Mass on the grounds that “God doesn’t mind”. Fortunately we do not have to rely on such intuitions about what would please God in his house, as God’s express position is an unequivocal: “My house is to be called a house of prayer.”

Candlemas in Oxford


With the church filled with incence and lit by candles, crystal-clear photos are not to be expected! But it was a beautiful Mass, accompanied, with chant, by Oxford's Schola Ablelis with eight singers.