Okay. What ABOUT "Tolerance"?

Got an email from a very nice-sounding lady who asks, “But isn’t it important to be tolerant?”

Well, of course it is! The problem comes when we use the word “tolerance” when what we really want to convey is “approval.” There are a great many things I tolerate, of which I most decidedly do not approve.

A woman is living with her boyfriend. I do not approve of this arrangement; I think it is detrimental to her dreams for her greatest happiness. However, I am not at her house grabbing her possessions into a box and demanding that she move out right this minute: I am tolerant of her decision, even though I dislike it.

Get the difference?

We are seeing a great misuse of words. People scream about “tolerance,” especially those groups like the radical gay lobby, or the anti-marriage people… okay, let me be candid, here: it’s liberals who talk about tolerance. Conservatives practice tolerance, liberals are among the most intolerant of disagreement of any group of people I’ve ever met. They’re all for peace and harmony… so long as it is on their terms. They will brook no disagreements.

They call for “tolerance” of their ideas and their causes, yet they practice none, demanding the suppression of opposition and even resorting to dishonest or illegal means to get what they want.

This is not tolerance. It’s an attempt to engineer society for their pleasure.

And it is, worst of all, dishonest.

Catholic Sex – Being Open to Life

I’ve already pointed out that there are three basic rules for Catholic sex:

1. Sex must be limited to husband and wife.
2. Sex must be open to life, and
3. Sex must be approached with reverence and respect – both for one’s spouse and also for the vast Mystery of which marital sex is analagous.

Being “open to life” certainly deserves some elaboration. It is, after all, one of the requirements for what the Church recognizes as a sacramental marriage, a valid marriage.

First of all, being open to life does not obligate us to bear children. For example – I am fifty years old, decidedly perimenopausal, and my chances of being able to conceive, were I presently married, appear to be negligible. Moreover, there are couples who suffer the agonies and heartbreak of infertility. Does this mean our marriages would be invalid? not honored by the Church?

Of course not! The point of the matter is that we do not willfully and deliberately seek to thwart the natural outcome of our union, in the marital embrace, with our spouses. If, by some miracle, I or some infertile couple were to conceive, that child would be welcomed – not hindered – from that conception.

And therein – the deliberate and willful attempt to thwart the natural outcome of that activity which is created by God to result in conception – lies the issue of being open to life.

Conception occurs as the natural consequence of sexual intercourse. Sperm meets egg – voila! a new life is begun. This is a marvelous, almost mysterious occurrence – one that inspires awe in all of us (I’ve noticed that even women who scorn having their own children can go ridiculously and disproportionately ga-ga over puppies, kittens, and foals, which are produced by the same mechanical means).

Fruitfulness is one of the commands that God gave Adam and Eve, our first parents. It is a mandate as well as a privilege to be able to multiply.

Moreover, being childless was considered a curse from God. Remember how Sarah, then Hannah (mother of the prophet Samuel) begged God to remove the curse of their infertility? Throughout the Scriptures, and throughout history, childbearing is a blessing and a joy, both for husband and wife.

Does that mean we have to throw away all common sense and self-control and have as many babies as our bodies will allow?

No! The Church has never taught that husbands and wives have to leave conception, and the number of children they bear, to mere chance. The lament – taken to ridiculous extents in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life,and I’m normally a Python fan but I’ll make an exception to that one, of Catholics being condemned to bearing a child every year is just not realistic.

Yes, it happens – and for some families that is their choice! but that it happens is not the fault of the Church.

According to the Church, if one doesn’t want to make a baby, one must refrain from that act which naturally leads to conception.

This shouldn’t evoke groans and protests from the crowds. After all, insofar as Judeo-Christian history goes, we’ve only had a brief period of treating sex like an inalienable right and a purely physical right at that – something like forty years out of several thousand. Jewish law required periods of sexual abstinence during a woman’s “uncleanness” – during her menstrual period and for several days afterward, until she had undergone ritual cleaning.

Interestingly, the green light for Jewish couples to resume marital relations also coincides with the beginning of the woman’s approaching fertility.

Sex should never be motivated by selfishness. One of the worst wrongs arising out of the push to approve and accept artificial birth control is that it can dangerously reduce sex to little more than a recreation. We take away the “risk” of conception, we remove the reverence of the ultimate meaning of the act itself. We – and I say this as one who used to actively contracept – do little more than mutually masturbate one another.

Rather than an act of self-donating love, entered into with the full realization that our union could result in new life, and reverencing the fertility that God endowed us with, sex becomes an animal pursuit of personal physical gratification.

Think about why artificial contraception was developed in the first place. It wasn’t to protect women from untimely pregnancy; it was to allow males unfettered access to sexual pleasure. Men have had access to condoms for generations. They, after all, are never infertile. And with the development of contraception for women to use, they are absolved, not only of the burden of self-control, but also of the responsibility for choosing self-control. How many times have you heard men criticizing their pregnant wives or girlfriends for becoming pregnant – because she was supposed to be “taking care of that”?

Too many.

We’ve inculturated a whole generation of males, and are well on our way to ruining subsequent generations, to believe that abstinence and self-control are burdensome , unreasonable, and unrealistic. Everything in our pop entertainments and in the subtle and direct messages we are adopting as a culture says that sex is nothing more than physical pleasure.

I have a lot more to say about this, later.

No Gay Gene!

A major British gay activist has admitted that there is no such thing as a “gay gene.”

I’m glad to see that one such activist has had the honesty and integrity to admit what a lot of us instinctively knew already.

God would be a liar to “create” a homosexual and then to prohibit homosexuality. He doesn’t work that way.

More later.

Catholic Sex – a recap and emphasis before moving on –

We’ve seen how the Catholic Church views sex as an amazing gift from God – one which reflects His Oneness and integrity, one which serves as metaphor and analogy of our ultimate union with Christ in Heaven.

And – in case I didn’t make it quite clear in my last post, let me give a bit of emphasis to a little bitty detail that is going to be very very important in my next couple of posts:

There is only one epistle in the New Testament that was written to Jewish converts to Christianity: The Epistle to the Hebrews. All the others were written to Gentile (Read: Pagan) converts to Christianity.

Get that? Gentiles, not Jews. That means the early Gentile Christians were converted to Christ out of nonJewish cultures, out of cultures where sexual licentiousness was the norm, not the exception.

Talk about your major Culture Shock!!!

So, when you read St. Paul’s epistles, or any of the others, but especially St. Paul’s, since he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, remember: these things were written to people for whom the Christian paradigm was a MAJOR conversion! Not just in opinion, but in complete and total world view.

And so – when Paul is talking about sexual morality, he was addressing people for whom, previously, there had been no limits, no taboos, no prohibitions, no exclusions.

This is an extremely important thing to remember as we address issues of homosexuality, abortion, and birth control.

See you in a bit! Descartes and St Thomas Aquinas are begging me to come sit with them for a while!

Catholic Sex: Marriage is a Living Metaphor

Have you ever wondered that Christ would refer to himself as the Bridegroom, and His followers as his Bride? Or that St Paul would pick up that metaphor and use it in his own epistles to the various churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire?

Well, let’s go back a bit – a long bit! – to this fellow named Abraham, and his wife, named Sarah. They were Chaldeans, and God tapped him on the shoulder and said, “You. I’m going to give you more descendants than you can shake a stick at!” and Abram (that was his name, back then), said, “Who, ME???” because he and Sara didn’t have any children at all at that point – and as she pointed out when the angel came and repeated the promise to her, that in one year she would have a son, she was past the age of “knowing pleasure.” (Gen. 18:12)

“Knowing pleasure.” That’s a polite euphemism for having sex, ladies.

Now – one of the things that is significant about this event is that Abram lived in a very pagan culture. Sodom and Gomorrah were bad enough that they had to be destroyed, but they weren’t singular in their licentious culture. The culture was pagan – polytheistic, and utterly licentious where sexual matters were concerned. Let’s just say that there were no taboos.

But out of that strange world, God called Abram, and renamed him Abraham, and his wife Sarah – and he had him leave all that behind and go to a far land, and Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was supposed to be past the point of knowing sexual pleasure – and Isaac fathered two sons… and so on down to Moses.

Now – the immediate thing is that Abraham and his descendants didn’t worship a plethora of deities; they worshiped the One God. And the strangeness increased as the descendants of Abraham multiplied in Egypt, until a fellow named Moses came along and led the Israelites, who worshiped the One God out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

And along the way, Moses was given the Law of the Hebrews, which established the code by which this One God expected His people to live. And part of the ethos that distinguished this people was that God commanded them to live in monogamy – One man, One woman, one lifetime. (It didn’t always work, there were some who took multiple wives, but that’s another sermon) –

And this was really radical! In a world where men possessed multiple wives and concubines, and had sexual liaisons with other men and with boys, and with beasts (remember your Greek mythology about Zeus coming as various beasts to seduce women? It wasn’t isolated to just mythology; the myth reflected a cultural reality)… This God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob declares, using Moses as His mouthpiece –

“I am the Lord your God. Don’t live like the Egyptians, from whose bondage I have delivered you – I am the Lord!” – In other words, the way we live as a people reflects the very nature of the God we claim we believe in.

And throughout history, God used the metaphor of marriage to describe His love for Israel – the wife who would, despite His tender care, prostitute herself with false gods. He even moved the prophet Hosea to become a living metaphor, himself, with the prostitute Gomer, to demonstrate to Israel His never-failing, never-tiring love for them.

Now. What does this mean to us? We are His people, if we are Christians. And our own marriages are a metaphor of fidelity – Him to us, and us to Him.

But more than that, our marital love, expressed in the sexual union, is a profound metaphor of our ultimate union with Christ when we get to Heaven. The Marriage Feast of the Lamb is not just Christ’s union with an analagous “church” institution; we are the Bride – you and I, male and female as Bride – being wholly united with Him forever in a Mystery so profound and so beyond human comprehension that it can only be called the Beatific Vision.

Our joy in the marriage bed is invited – it is ordained by our very emotional and physiological construction – it is celebrated in the Scriptures: the Song of Songs is an incredibly erotic Book, and it’s in the Bible. Don’t argue with me that it’s just poetry representing God’s love for us – the very fact that the language and imagery is erotic ought to affirm for us that He intends the erotic union of husband and wife to be a joyous, blessed event!