Sunday, October 10, 2021

The appropriation of the uniquely symbolic potentialities of what we are being forced today to call "heterosexual" marriage was very deliberate on God's part

"For Thomas, so far as the dignity of the human nature is concerned, the Word could have assumed the [(une)] body of a woman, for the Incarnation and the divine power are [both] indifferent by relation to the sex to be assumed:  'Ipse [Deus] potuit assumere quale corpus voluit'; it is for reasons of convenience (ad congruentiam) with the mission of Christ to be Head of the Church, to teach, to direct, [and] to defend humankind, that he assumed the [(une)] masculine sex. . . .  This position is far from being unanimous in the 13th century.  For Bonaventure, for example, the[se] reasons of convenience become reasons to affirm the impossibility of an assumption of the body of a woman by the Word. . . .  [And it is] the same for Thomas' teacher Albert the Great."

     Adriano Oliva, O.P., "Essence et finalité du marriage selon Thomas d'Aquin pour un soin pastoral renouvelé," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 98, no. 4 (2014):  614n41 (601-668), translation mine.  Texts cited:  .
     According to Oliva, one should never adopt uncritically—which is to say without examining the works of St. Thomas in all of their sophisticated particularity—the contemporary prejudice that he insisted upon "the inferiority of women" (614).

"The quintessential deathwork of our time . . . is pornography."

      Carl R. Trueman, The rise and triumph of the modern self:  cultural amnesia, expressive individualism, and the road to sexual revolution (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2020), 98.  "A [Rieffian] deathwork . . . represents an attack on established cultural art forms in a manner designed to undo the deeper moral structure of society. . . .  Deathworks make the old values look ridiculous.  They represent not so much arguments against the old order as subversions of it.  They aim at changing the aesthetic tastes and sympathies of society so as to undermine the commands on which that society was based. . . .  [A deathwork is] a symbol of something deeply sacred to the second world being presented in a form that degrades it and makes it utterly repulsive. . . . [It turns] it into something dirty, disgusting, and vile. . . .  The major problem with pornography is not what many religious conservatives might understand it to be—its promotion of lust and its objectifying of the participants.  It is certainly both of those things, but the problem is also much deeper:  it repudiates any notion that sex has significance beyond the act itself, and therefore it rejects any notion that it is emblematic of a sacred order" (96-99, paragraph breaks ignored).
     The reference is to the first book in the trilogy by Philip Rieff entitled Sacred order/social order:  My life among the deathworks: illustrations of the aesthetics of authority (Charlottesville, VA:  University of Virginia Press, 2006).

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The greatest of human friendships

"if a husband were permitted to abandon his wife, the society of husband and wife would not be an association of equals, but, instead, a sort of slavery on the part of the wife [(non esset aequa societas viri ad mulierem, sed servitus quaedam ex parte mulieris)]."

"the greater the friendship is, the more solid and long-lasting will it be.  Now, there seems to be the greatest friendship
[(maxima amicitia)] between husband and wife, for they are united [(adunatur)] not only in the act of fleshly union [(in actu carnalis copulae)], which produces a certain gentle association [(quandam suavem societatem)] even among beasts, but also in the partnership of the whole range of domestic activity [(ad totius domesticae conversationis consortium)].  Consequently, as an indication of this, man must even 'leave his father and mother' for the sake of his wife, as is said in Genesis (2:24).  Therefore, it is fitting for matrimony to be completely indissoluble [(omnino indissolubile)]."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, ScG (revised and completed 1260-65) III.123.4 & 6, trans. Vernon J. Bourke.  Latin from Corpus Thomisticum.  Note that ad by comparison with that in, both of which qualify adunatur:  "in the act of fleshly union," but "towards" or "with an eye to" or "for" partnership in the whole of domestic association.
     The sacramentality of marriage:  But then note that friendship (amicitia)—which is realized first and preeminently within the life of the triune God himself (Dictionnaire de philosophie et de théologie Thomistes, 18)—is, for Aquinas, precisely what the heavenly Bridegroom seeks with us.

"the perfect friendship of the sort which exists between a man and his wife [(perfecta amicitia qualis est inter virum et uxorum)], for whom man even leaves his father and mother (Gen 2:24), cannot be had with many wives."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, Expositio super Isaiam ad litteram (1251/52, i.e. before the Commentary on the Sentences) 4.1.136, trans. Robert St. Hilaire.  "what, for Aquinas, is [truly] essential to marriage, the communion of life between the spouses and [their] perfect friendship, is the sole true reason for avoiding polygamy.  If, three years later, in the commentary on the Sentences, he evokes also the good of children and mutual aid, this is because he expresses himself [there] in a manner more complete.  [But] the early commentary on Isaiah manifests already very clearly the conception of the essence of marriage that we encounter [again and again] in the course of his teaching" later on (Adriano Oliva, O.P., "Essence et finalité du marriage selon Thomas d'Aquin pour un soin pastoral renouvelé," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 98, no. 4 (2014):  611 (601-668), translation mine).
     Against the argument that this conception of the true essence (or first—as distinguished from consequent—perfection) of marriage renders it vulnerable to the reformulations of our time would have to stand, among other things, the fact that "male and female have different operations," and that "the vice of sodomy," as "entirely unnatural," can "in no manner stand with the stated end" (135 and both often elsewhere in the Thomistic corpus).  More important still:  "things that are ordered to some one thing are said to be united together in their ordering to it [(in ordine ad aliud)]. . . .  And so, since by marriage two people are ordered to [1] one single generation and education of children, and also to [2] one single domestic life, it is clear that in marriage there is a union, because of which a man and a woman are called 'husband' and 'wife'; and such a union, by the fact that it is ordained to some one thing [(ex hoc quod ordinatur ad aliquod unum, most distinctively that 'one single generation . . . of children')] is marriage" (In IV Sent., italics mine).

Thursday, October 7, 2021

PSEUDO St. Catherine of Siena: "What is it | you want to change? | Your hair, your face, your body? | Why? || For God is | in love with all those things | and He might weep | when they are gone."


What is it
you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body?

For God is
in love with all those things
and He might weep
when they are

     Daniel Ladinsky, Love poems from God:  Twelve sacred voices from the East and West (New York:  Penguin Compass, 2002), 203.  From the prefatory "Genesis of these poems" (xiii-xiv) a strong indication that this one, though attributed to St. Catherine of Siena, is inauthentic:

Penguin Random House
Any liberties I have taken with these poems was an act, I hope, void of self-interest and done with the sole intention of trying to help emancipate our wings. Several translators have been helpful to me with this work, though most of what is in this book could be said to be an avant-garde portrait of these remarkable historic figures. I have used and mixed whichever of their colors I felt were the most genuine, the most relative to the present, and were the most capable of bringing the reader into the extraordinary experience of these great souls. For their experience of God foretells our own.

What to say to academia about these poems? Well, I think scholars have made important contributions to unveiling God, yet millions of people continue to be persecuted by frightening untruths stemming from archaic concepts of Him that took root in many of us as children. I hope there is enough benevolence—and reality—in my interpretations of these poems to alleviate some of that suffering; truth frees and makes us laugh. We need to know that God is the source of all humor and that God is Infinite Intelligence, a Beloved that does not defy our deepest sensibilities and the innate, glorious compassion of the heart. . . .

"No one could ever paint a too wonderful picture of…God." But I feel He doesn’t mind that I tried. In studying the lives of these wonderful saints, I can’t imagine any of them saying "no" if they were asked if we could freely adapt their words to a few blue-grass tunes or whiskey-soaked jazz. I think they might shout, "Go for it, baby; set the world on fire if you can, kick ass for the Beloved with some great art."

     My suspicions have been confirmed in correspondence with two specialists in St. Catherine studies dated 6-7 October 2021, Dr. F. Thomas Luongo, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History, Tulane University ("it doesn’t sound like anything Catherine would say. She is not exactly the patron saint of body-positivity!"  "I don’t think it’s something that Catherine or any other fourteenth-century author could have written"), and Dr. Karen Scott, Associate Professor of Catholic Studies and History, DePaul University ("Ladinsky's text is in no way a real translation of authentic texts by Catherine of Siena").

Monday, October 4, 2021

"the utter sufficiency of revelation on its own"

Truett, Baylor
"[Albert] Outler[, who invented the so-called 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral,'] was a brilliant historian but a dilettante in philosophy.  Despite his vast learning, he had no real need for issues in theory of knowledge, and this shows up dramatically in the original version of the thesis.  Hence he completely missed the extent to which Wesley was a medieval figure in his treatment of Scripture.  For Wesley, Scripture mattered because it mediated divine revelation; and, like Aquinas, he was more than ready to come to the aid of revelation with sundry appeals to the tradition of the church, philosophical arguments of one sort or another, and experience—religious and otherwise.  This, of course, looks like the Quadrilateral; but the resemblance is entirely superficial.  Outler misread both the content—involving as it does an appeal to revelation—and the structure—involving as it does a keen sense of the utter sufficiency of revelation on its own."

     William J. Abraham, "What Should United Methodists do with the Quadrilateral?," Quarterly review 22, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 86 (85–88).

Sunday, September 26, 2021

"Isn’t the ‘binary’ thinking we sneer at precisely a taking seriously of difference, after all?"

Pontifical John Paul II Institute, Washington, DC
"Isn't the 'binary' thinking we sneer at precisely a taking seriously of difference, after all?  Why is a culture so preoccupied with difference so reluctant to acknowledge anything that might significantly distinguish a man from a woman?  And just here we see the confusion implied in the ambivalence:  to reject binary thinking . . . is to affirm nonbinary thinking:  nonbinary thinking, in other words, is good, while its opposite, binary thinking, is bad.  This division of the world is just as 'binary' as the division it rejects; the only difference (!) is that, precisely unconsciously (in fact necessarily unconsciously), it denies the difference between its terms.  And it does so in the name of difference!  In short, we in the modern world affirm difference, only to absolutize it to the exclusion of all else; and we reject difference, only ruthlessly to divide the world into pluses and minuses, Sneetches with, and Sneetches without, stars on thars."

     D. C. Schindler, "Perfect difference:  gender and the analogy of being," Communio:  international Catholic review 43 (2016):  196-197 (194-231).