Friday, September 3, 2010

"censoring of the scope of desire"

In the annual Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón stated that "the sign par excellence of the marginalization of Christ from life is the shriveling of the dimensions proper to humanity, a reduced understanding of one's own humanity, of one's perception of self, a reductive use of reason, affection, and freedom, a censoring of the scope of desire" (Can a Man Be Born Again, Once He Is Old?, pg 7). One manifestation of this is what is best described as the pathologizing of behavior, which means applying the disease model to everything and referring to every deviation from political correctness as a "phobia," an irrational fear, something that requires treatment, re-education. In this it is easy to discern the seeds of a new totalitarianism.

To shift gears, because we're now all about sex all the time, even to the point of asserting that our sexual preferences are the basis for rights, and the fact that from time-to-time I engage on the subject of sex in a straightforward way, it seems opportune to point out that the "censoring of the scope desire," by which I mean reducing desire to sexual desire, as if sexual desire itself is an end, not a means to our end, which celibacy for the sake of the kingdom seeks to embody in the here and now, was summed up well by Allan Bloom in an article he wrote for National Review back in 1982: "There is nothing wild, Dionysian, searching, in our promiscuity. It has a dull, sterilized, scientific character." An example of this leads me to make a guilty admission.

Years ago my wife and I, when we were up late, used to periodically watch the show Blind Date. The show would arrange a blind date for two people. The date always included limousine service, which would pick up the man first before swinging by to pick up his date. It always included supper and an activity, bowling, mini-golf, bungee jumping, what have you. Sometimes it led to dropping the lady off at her doorstep and culminating with a friendly peck on the cheek and a clear determination no follow-on date would ensue. Other times, it led to more. The couple was always debriefed after the date during which they were asked whether they would like to date the each other again. More often than not, either one or both of the people did not want to date the person again. One such episode sticks in my mind. After supper and the scheduled activity, the couple wound up getting in a hot tub and went "all the way." During the debriefing, the woman was adamant that she would not date the guy again. When the show’s host said something like, “But you had sex with him,” to which she replied, "I was bored." Boring, indeed


  1. I am not really sure how to say all that I would like to here. As you know, I have tremendous respect for you and I have learned a great deal from you. You never seem to present things in a way that makes me want to shut down... I like to be invited into the challenge.

    Someone recently asked me how I have reconciled all my own beliefs with those of the Church. I said that it was not a case of a checklist and me tossing out some things simply because they were not in line with my way of seeing.

    To me, being Catholic is a journey of understanding - to literally stand under - and be obedient - literally to listen - and deepen my belief. It is not a switch where I say "today I believed this but tomorrow I will fall in line and believe that."

    Church is relationship and I am actively involved with that relationship as I try to fully embrace each teaching and surrender to a greater truth.

    To me, the "I believe in everything but..." People on both sides of the ideological divide use this and I do not like it, and cannot live that way.

    I want to say more but coherent words, sentences - they are not coming. I hope to return. Thank you, as always.

    P.S. True story, one night when I lived in LA, probably '99 or '00, I was on a date and they were shooting an episode of Blind Date.

  2. Fran:

    I have to admit that I am not really sure what your are trying to say. I also find it interesting that you discuss what it means to be in the Church without once mentioning Christ. This is not to be critical, it is just an observation. After all, there is a direct correspondence between being obedient to the Church and being obedient to Christ. The word obedience certianly needs to be understood fully and is certainly about relationship.

    I am pretty up-front about the fact that I can think of no area of Church teaching with which I am at odds. Certainly I understand things better, that is, more deeply than other things, especially those things I have experienced and that some areas remain quite abstract to me (i.e., haven't affected me greatly). Certainly my pastoral experience has deepened my experience, often by really challenging me, especially when it comes sexuality, which I count as a grace and has been the cause of me seeing what great wisdom of which we are beneficiaries.

  3. That is a good observation, I did not mention Christ. I read that comment yesterday and have held it in my heart and in my prayer since.

    Part of it is that I find that implicit, but when I give it some thought, one should be equally explicit about Christ.

    As for what I was trying to say, well, I do know what I was trying to say, but assiduously avoided saying it because I am not sure I possess the words and wisdom to say what I want to say. I may write to you about it, that may be best.

    In any event, I do always thank you for what you generously put out here; your blog and your very presence is a gift. My heart and mind, my spirit - are always challenged and enriched by what you offer here.

  4. If we don't let ourselves be challenged, then we don't belong to Christ and our life becomes merely the assertion of so many smug assumptions. The world places no greater pressure on the Church than to conform to this age in matters sexual. Hence, it is more important than ever for Christians to be signs of contradiction. It is not matter of renouncing sexuality, or denigrating our bodies, in an attempt to recapture the semi-Manicheanism of the past. As we read in no less than the Catechism- "Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

    "Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. the harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out" (2332-2333).

    Also, we are all called to chasity. "Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

    "The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift" (2337).

    In short, while sexuality can easily become instinctual, to live by instinct is not even to live in a human, let alone a Christian, way.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...