Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Custody Battle

One of the more ridiculous blog battles last liturgical year was the Christopher West inspired claim that those of so-called "mature purity" need not practise "custody of the eyes".  "Custody of the Eyes", for those who don't know, is the simple and humble practise of not gazing upon objects that would excite our passions to sin.  In most cases, that means (for us guys) not gaping at naked ladies or at those who are provocatively dressed.

But what interests me is not that the battle was fought - for we sinners are always looking for rationalizations for our behavior, including we sinners of "mature purity" - but that Custody of the Eyes is an issue even in hell.

At least for Dante.

The Furies in hell appearing to Dante and Virgil. 
They are about to reveal Medusa.
In the midst of Dante's descent into hell in The Inferno, Dante is accosted by the hideous Medusa, famous for having an eternally bad hair day.  One glimpse at Medusa and her hair of snakes turns men into stone. 

Dante's guide, the poet Virgil, admonishes Dante not to look, and Virgil goes so far as to cover Dante's eyes.  Dante then drops a clue for the reader, saying

O ye who have sound understanding, regard the doctrine that is hidden under the veil of the strange verses.
 
 What hidden doctrine, then, is buried in this hellish encounter?

Well, if you think about it, why would anybody want to look at Medusa?  A naked lady, maybe, but a gal with snake hair?  And yet we can't help but look at wrecks on the side of the road.  When Saddam Hussein was hanged and the video spread around the internet, I managed not to click on it and watch, knowing it's not right to gaze upon a man as he's dying - even if that man is a very bad man.  And yet, I was certainly tempted.  Why?  What is it about our natures that compels us to be drawn even to things that are ugly and dark and harmful to us?

For we know that one peek at Medusa turns us to stone, plants us in hell, stuck solid and immobile for the ages.  We know it's bad for us.  But we can't be trusted not to look.  We need help.  We need grace.

We need our better natures to guard our fallen natures; we need our angels; we need God.

Neglecting "Custody of the Eyes" on earth is like a trip to hell without the wise Virgil at your side, the wise Virgil who covers your own eyes, knowing that you can't be trusted to.

(I follow up on this post here - The Prosperity Gospel Discovers Lust)

19 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Christopher West drivel. He's done so much damage to the young and not so young Catholics of our nation. I have absolutely no tolerance for anything that he publishes or comes out of his mouth. He needs to be silenced.

The Woman of the House said...

Not drivel at all, perhaps you do not understand what he says. Of course custody of the eyes is important, there is a though a hierarchy of virtues. You can consider yourself the most chaste person around, and be proud about it. Both humility and chastity are important, but humility is the safeguard of chastity. True charity supercedes the virtue of thankfulness, though they usually go hand in hand. There has been a resurgence of Manicheanism among many Catholic, probably in response to the horrific impurity in our culture. Beware though, that you/we do not become like the islamists, who seek exterior modesty at all costs (it's not a bad thing to be modest, no one is saying that here), but the men are willing to live serious impurity. (eg. rapes of "infidels" whilst demanding the complete veiling of muslim women.)
I know a priest in the FSSP order who said that many of the men who are most hyper about women's dress causing them to sin, and "modesty" being addicted to impurity in their lives. Read up on the Manicheanists. They lived horrible impure lives whilst being hyper anti-sex, anti-body. In media stat virtue. In the middle stands virtue

To the pure, all things are pure - says my mom.

Anonymous said...

West is way off the mark and his commentary on TOB is problematic to say the least. In this life, one is never excused from the practice of virtue, and as far as I know, presumption is still a sin. For a man to believe that he has been perfected in purity and therefore can gaze upon a naked woman is taking delight in his purity and the permission it gives him, not that there is permission, to gaze at naked women or those immodestly dressed. This is pride. Satan's fall was precipitated precisely by the delight he took in his beauty and perfection.

Aged parent said...

Christopher West is, let us be frank and face reality, merely following to its logical conclusion the flawed teachings contained in the "theology of the body". Let us further be frank about one other thing: the TOB was the product of a very troubled mind, that of Pope John Paul II. Yes he was the Pope. Yes he said many wonderful things about abortion. But he was also, sadly, exactly the type of modernist Pope St Pius X warned us about and tried to prevent from attaining prominence by his introduction of the Oath Against Modernism, now a very dead letter in the Church.

I have not the slightest doubt that this idiotic "theology" of the body will ultimately be condemned by the Church once She recovers from the deadly illness that is now sapping Her strength. The simplest interpretation of John Paul II's TOB is this: it is like throwing gasoline on a roaring fire.

That so many eloquent, insightful and beautiful writings on this delicate subject by Saints and Popes down through the centuries are now being consigned to the dustbin as a result of this new "teaching" is a horrible tragedy, one very capable of ruining untold Catholic souls. Harsh words, perhaps. But if we ignore the fact that this Pope did some serious damage to the Church entrusted to him (while praying for his immortal soul) then we will be hard put to achieve our own Catholic equilibrium.

West is one of many sadly misguided individuals who have followed John Paul II's teaching to its logical conclusion. Yes, by all means try to counsel Mr West away from this dangerous nonsense; but while doing that we need to reject John Paul's disastrous initiative.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Woman of the House - "To the pure, all things are pure," says my mom.

Tell your mom, "Even if that were true, none of us is pure." And that's not Manichean. That's just Church teaching on fallen man.

Of course, a fuller explanation is, things are not defined merely by our attitude toward them. If an innocent child accidentally views pornography on line, is that pornography "pure" because he is (sexually speaking) "pure"? I think not.

Aged P., it's not JPII who claimed Theology of the Body was revolutionary, it's his insipid and over-sexed followers. Is B16's "Deus Caritas Est" wrong teaching? Of course not, but it builds upon JPII's talks.

Well, I'll say this much, West brings 'em all out of the woodwork!

Kevin O'Brien said...

I follow up this post in more detail here - The Prosperity Gospel Discovers Lust.

The Woman of the House said...

Hi Kevin,

You're right, and no one's saying that. There is a lovely scene in the newish Ignatius press movie on St. Philip Neri where he's visiting the prostitutes' house. His enemy has planned it as a trap to catch him in sin, but he's in there talking away to them, and has them weeping for their sins. His enemy is foiled in his trap. A less holy man might not have been able to enter there, and wisely so (so as not to fall into sin himself), but there are others with special graces from God who are called to visit the most wretched and to look upon them (as it were) to raise them up from the mire. Thanks be to God for such persons!!

Wade St. Onge said...

The Woman of the House,

I have two questions for you:

1. Do you think St. Alphonsus was tainted by the Manichaean heresy based on what he wrote here:
http://www.cathinfo.com/catholic.php?a=topic&t=14334

2. What does this FSSP priest you mention say about Christopher West's theology?

The Woman of the House said...

Wade, it doesn't much matter what I say or think. People have made up their minds, I'm talking to the air. About your first point, I don't have time to read it all... How very sad... "St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face." "St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face." How to make one of your flock feel like they're just Jezebels! Very sad indeed.


Kevin, I don't think anyone who's against C.West, is a Manichaean. I think many Traddies are seriously on the edge of the heresy in that realm, if not neck deep in it. I'm saying "Don't be foolish and go off the other side of the cliff!!!"

Then again, the SSPX'ers are very sadly, in schism, and don't even know it. Lord have mercy on us and keep us in the Truth.

Anonymous, don't go to the Sistine chapel! Naked people! Don't become a doctor or a nurse either, or change a baby's poopy butt! The evil body will be made manifest, oh and isn't Jesus lying naked on the Cross, don't look at a Crucifix either. Don't tell anyone he became a little naked baby either. Whatever you do, don't get married and don't have a baby, the doctor might have to look at one's naughty bits (!!!) and worse but I won't describe it for you, to spare you the trauma!

Wade St. Onge said...

"It doesn't much matter what I say or think. People have made up their minds, I'm talking to the air".


You took the words right out of my mouth.

Wade St. Onge said...

"Don't go to the Sistine chapel! Naked people! Don't become a doctor or a nurse either, or change a baby's poopy butt! The evil body will be made manifest, oh and isn't Jesus lying naked on the Cross, don't look at a Crucifix either. Don't tell anyone he became a little naked baby either. Whatever you do, don't get married and don't have a baby, the doctor might have to look at one's naughty bits (!!!) and worse but I won't describe it for you, to spare you the trauma!"


More proof that West supporters cannot win and therefore cannot stay on the issues - pulling out the strawmen.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Woman of the House, you are actually saying some things that make sense.  But look at the comment by Waywardson, and my reply to it, in my latest post.  That, I'm afraid, is how West molds people.

jvc said...

"About your first point, I don't have time to read it all[...]"

Continually amazed that West supporters cannot be bothered to read ANYTHING about their guy that might be critical.

We're not asking you to agree with every jot and tittle. We're just asking you to actually read it. Just like we have to read your guy's stuff in order to find out how problematic he is. If West's opponents are so wrong, why can't anyone ever answer the critiques of West? Why doesn't anyone ever dissect Wade St. Onge's detailed posts?

Could it be that you aren't actually much interested in the truth, as much as propping up your guy?

Wade St. Onge said...

"Continually amazed that West supporters cannot be bothered to read ANYTHING about their guy that might be critical"

Deacon Jim, to his credit, at least made the (albeit failed) attempt.

The Woman of the House said...

We're arguing about this here, and these Christians are suffering this in Syria. God help us. God convert the Muslims.

http://schnellmann.org/syria-rebels-make-child-behead-unarmed-prisoner-civilian.html

Wade St. Onge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wade St. Onge said...

"We're arguing about this here, and these Christians are suffering this in Syria. God help us. God convert the Muslims."

Can't we do both?

And it takes two to "argue". So if you believe this debate takes our attention away from persecuted Christians, then perhaps you should stop debating and start doing what you can for them (which unfortunately amounts to prayer and sacrifice - unless you have the freedom and wherewithall to travel over there and do something hands-on about it).

More deflection from West supporters - more proof that they cannot engage the substance of the issues. I've dealt with this one already. It's the "go after the real criminals" defense:

See III.3, and III.6, under:

http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.ca/2010/09/theology-of-body-i-introduction-and.html

Kevin O'Brien said...

For those of you too lazy to click on Wade's links, his point III 6, which he refers to above, really does address Woman of the House's invalid reasoning ...

'(6). “These criticisms should not be made because ‘we are all on the same team’. The real enemies are the liberals who are killing babies – go after them. This is the argument made by Robert Colquhoun at “Love Undefiled” (http://loveundefiled.blogspot.com/2010/07/alice-von-hildebrand-criticizes.html). Regarding the first, which I have also heard described as the equivalent of “shooting a soldier who is fighting on our side”, this is another convenient way to deflect valid criticisms. “Fraternal correction” is a Christian act and can often be a necessary one. It is especially appropriate when private critiques have either gone ignored or have not been acted on – which, in the case of Mr. West and Dr. Schindler, seems to have been the case if we are to believe the latter. I think this is a fallacious argument for about a dozen reasons, but I will just ask this question: when St. Paul “opposed Peter to his face” in front of “all” who were present – the Jews, Gentiles, and Apostles (Galatians 2:11-14), was he “shooting a fellow soldier” or being a “bad teammate”? As for the latter – ie. “go after the real enemies”, this reminds me of the guy who gets caught for speeding and says to the police officer, "why don't you go after the real criminals".'

Wade St. Onge said...

Thanks, Kevin.

I should have had the foresight to copy and paste it.