Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pornography - Gateway to Communion and Liberation

OK, here's where the Christopher West thing is heading.

A purely despicable article in CNA by Communion and Liberation member Matt McGuinness shows you what you need to know.  McGuinness uses West's tactics, but takes them just a wee bit further.

Rightly, McGuinness points out that our deepest desires are for more than what lust can provide, and that seeking to use porn to fulfill these desires is bound for frustration.

But, incredibly - and it astonishes me as I write this - McGuiness, a member of a devout Catholic organization writing for a Catholic publication, encourages men to go all out for porn.  You want it?  Go for it!  You'll see it doesn't help.

In other words, sin and sin boldly.

To do otherwise is to be LESS THAN HOLY, or so McGuinness implies.  Do you desire to bring yourself to climax before lewd pictures on the internet but feel reluctant to do so?  Heck, you're a piker!  Don't be lukewarm or you'll be vomited out of Christ's mouth - go all the way, bro!  See how far your lust will take you.  To do otherwise is puritanical.  To seek the virtuous path of turning away from porn is naive.

No, the solution is not to be found in mortification or penance alone, but in beginning to take our own humanity seriously; seriously enough to go to the depths of the inner meaning of our Baptism, which incorporated us into the Body of Christ, in the flesh.

McGuinness writes.

He continues

If you are already an amateur pornographer, why not consider taking it up “professionally” as it were and see how that makes you happy (or fails to)?


I say it again.  This is where the Christopher West nonsense leads.

West merely says that a man can put himself in sinful situations if he has "mature purity", and any who balk at this are judgmental puritans who are not maturely pure.  McGuinness says a man should simply sin just to see how unsatisfying sin is - and to do otherwise is to fail "to go to the depths of the inner meaning of our Baptism."  To sin, and to sin seriously, is, for McGuinness plunging the depths of our incorporation into "the Body of Christ, in the flesh".  To sin is to be a brave Christian!

For West, seeking out temptation = mature purity.

For McGuiness a sin of the flesh = the flesh of the Body of Christ.

This is despicable.

Critics of West have seen this coming and we have been sounding the alarm.  But we will continue to be pilloried as half-hearted old fashioned Christians who just ain't bold enough to plumb the depths of desire by equating sins of the flesh with the flesh of the Eucharist.

And McGuinness quotes Scripture to make this appalling argument.  CNA should be mortified that they published this.  C & L should be ashamed and embarrassed that this man is affiliated with them.  Christopher West should be scared that we are finally seeing the fruits of the poison he has been spreading.



McGuinness is actually saying that a sin of the flesh is a deep expression of our incorporation into the Body of Christ.  He is actually saying that we must come through sin to get to the other side.  This is gnostic nonsense; worse than that it is sick and smells of sulphur.



McGuinness also proudly points to a scene in Fight Club - Fight Club of all movies! - as a model for whatever rationalization for lust he's trying to sell us.  The scene he calls "marvelous" is the most sexually graphic and vile scene in a tremendously vile movie, and that's saying a lot.  And this is his best example for why "following our lust" like "following our bliss" will get us to heaven.



McGuinness also wrongly attributes to G. K. Chesterton the quote, "A man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God."

Even if that statement were true, the obvious reply would be, "Such a man is looking for God in all the wrong places."

And that is exactly what we mean by sin.


Benjamin. said...

Perhaps he will suggest we should jump into a fire so that we find out how much it hurts.
This is ridiculous, and dangerous.

Perhaps we could get closer to God through reading the Bible.

The modern media is sick. It has just become a vending machine for excuses. If you want to be more popular, you can watch MSNBC where they justify same-sex sexual relationships because they're "loving." Or, if you want an excuse to be greedy, you can watch the Christian Broadcasting Network, where some man will tell you that a good Christian make lots of money, and will get lots of cars and houses. Do people actually believe this stuff? Are the arguments presented doing most of the misleading, or does most of it start in the heart before the TV is turned on? Perhaps it is just whatever word can be used to fill in the blank labeled "excuse."

Joey Higgins said...

This is just... bad.

Maybe he's a little older and didn't grow up with pornography or he hasn't really "been in it" recently, but it's not a place where you find God. Surely, you will find misery and not be fulfilled, but does one need to be blinded and deadened to reality to see God? Does one need to learn a behavior that can destroy his life (internally)? Surely there are other ways to "discover" God - any rejection, recognition of grace/mercy, saying yes to God and making other's lives better through sacrifice, adoration, mass, love, growing in grace and wisdom - "saving" a life... I'm sure there are many others.


Then there is:

The moralists out there would tell us that the solution to the scourge of porn is “virtue” or self-control or some twelve step program or perhaps intensely frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation

I don't now what works better than going to confession for this addiction. I have no lasting will to stop without it.


A West defender gave me this analogy from this blog and I find it very useful to illustrate my point here: Change porn with alcoholism. Does a man need to destroy his liver to discover his desire? Sure... the analogy misses in the poor attempt to state that porn is just a byproduct of corrupted reproductive desires and love... but would you ask an alcoholic to drink more so that he can appreciate sobriety? Pretty sure he already knows that he isn't happy - wouldn't be drinking if he was - I suppose.

And why do we keep making references to Hefner? Is there some strange adulation there? I would imagine that we could say "pornographer" or porn peddler and get the point.

Michael said...

If I have West's teaching correct... he finds any act permissible so long as it culminates in the man's semen ending up inside the woman.

We all intuitively know this is wrong since acts such as invitro-fertilisation which essentially have that same end are forbidden.

The acts West may or may not be advocating as permissible lack unity just as invitro-fertilisation does.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as there seems to be such a mess coming from this guy, can i have some solid confirmation whether or not his book "Theology of the Body for Beginners" is safe to read or not? It's always a best move to avoid certain material that echoes this sort of nonsense and avoid being influenced by it from beforehand.

Thanks very much.

Kevin O'Brien said...

The thing is this stuff stinks. It smells funny. With West's stuff, the odor is perfumed over. Here, the author is not talented enough to spray the perfume. We need to trust our noses. This ain't theology. It's not even an attempt at theology. It's rationalization for sin, and the worst kind of rationalization for sin. It's the "spiritualizing" of non-spiritual impulses. Is man looking for God when he masturbates to porn on the computer? In a remote way, in a way that the man does not consciously register, he is. But what is this man's immediate goal? Let's not fool ourselves. His immediate goal is sexual, selfish, and physical. A sin of the flesh; less serious than a sin of the spirit, which is what this sin becomes if you fool yourself into thinking it's a pathway to God.

Anonymous said...

You guys make me sick. This is exactly why so many Catholics leave the Catholic Church, because Catholics like you are so scared of your own humanity that you prefer the Manichean, Pelagian, Jansenist Church she herself condemned over and over again. Rip on Chris West all you want, but go do yourselves a favor and actually read Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body (the whole thing) and face it. It's alot more scandalous to people like you then you think. And read the scathing critiques of Pope Benedict on this kind of insecure, freedomless, moralistic Christianity that you guys are proposing to the world. And please read the Gospels about those guys called the Pharisees...it's interesting that they react to Jesus the same exact way you are reacting now. Why? Because He scandalizes those "men of religion" over and over and over again with His freedom.

Kevin O'Brien said...

There you have it, friends.

Avoiding pornography is "Manichean, Pelagian, Jansenist" and Pharisaical. Even Pope Benedict XVI thinks so and has apparently somewhere said so, and we all missed it.

And it's my fault so many people are leaving the Church.

And apparently the Church gets the credit for so many people whacking off in front of computer screens, now that the Church has embraced the "Freedom" of Christ.

Some freedom.

David K said...

West is kind of like bacon; it smells really good and most of the time it tastes good, too. but in the end - no nutritional value and will kill you

dk, seminarian

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kevin! You've done an excellent job at revealing your terribly flawed hermeneutics! This hermeneutics always seeks to first add and then condemn extreme absurdities which the other party in no way condoned! Instead of a dialogue and a seeking to understand, it becomes a deaf (and deafening) condemnation of your own false interpretations. Talk about bad communication and a deaf ear. It actually shows more about the criticizer than the criticized. I dont even know this author, but I think you've radically missed the point of the entire article... Im sorry I cant continue to debate. Besides being useless and depressing, I have to work. One last thing: you may want to throw out the entire parable of the prodigal son (which Jesus actually taught people) since the way people could interpret it would be "dangerous," according to you. A father freely gives his rebellious son tons of money, which the son immediately wastes on an excessive amount and variety of sin. The son then "comes to his senses"(sin will NEVER satisfy us, because our hearts were made by God, their only true satisfaction) and goes back to his father, who is so overjoyed that he throws the biggest party in years. It's the scandalized older brother who condemns his brother, becomes "angry," and refuses to enter the party. Forgive me but this blogpost sounds like the older brother party outside, and nothing of the person of the father, nor the experience of the younger son.

jvc said...

Bacon is actually fantastic! Check out the Paleo lifestyle. Go with uncured bacon, of course. The nitrates are usually the issue.

jvc said...

I was waiting for a single substantive sentence to appear in that above screed.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous commenters, please sign your comments with some sort of name so we can refer to you if a dialogue starts. For example, Anonymous #2 above says ...

'One last thing: you may want to throw out the entire parable of the prodigal son (which Jesus actually taught people) since the way people could interpret it would be "dangerous," according to you. A father freely gives his rebellious son tons of money, which the son immediately wastes on an excessive amount and variety of sin. The son then "comes to his senses"(sin will NEVER satisfy us, because our hearts were made by God, their only true satisfaction) and goes back to his father, who is so overjoyed that he throws the biggest party in years. It's the scandalized older brother who condemns his brother, becomes "angry," and refuses to enter the party.'

Anonymous, I do not deny that God can bring good out of evil and remorse out of sin. But St. Paul tells the Romans that we may not sin so that good may come out of it. He told them that long ago.

Are you really arguing (as it appears both you and the man who wrote the CNA article are) that we OUGHT TO SIN so that we may feel remorse about it? Are you really saying that that is the point of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

If you are, you've made my point, despite my so-called flawed hermeneuitics.

Kevin O'Brien said...

I really think Anonymous 2 above is revealing the heart of the bad philosophy behind McGuiness' article and West's bad teaching.  I detail that in my latest post, Pig Slop and Prostitutes.

Henry said...


As someone who organizes classes for an Adult Faith Formation program in my parish, I have read some of Christopher West’s books, and the criticisms of his approach to teaching the TOB. Like you, I believe his former approach leaves a lot to be desired (I have not read his latest book so I don’t know if he has modified his approach since his sabatical) particularly since it fails to recognize that we are exhorted by Christ, through His Church, to avoid all near occasions of sin.

Your post, however, gives me the impression that you want to disparage Communion and Liberation, a charism in the Church that strives to be faithful to the Magisterium, by implying that Matt McGuiness, a person who follows Christ through CL, is promoting the same ideas Christopher West promotes.

I read Mr. McGuiness’ article and I agree with you that his primary purpose is to point “out that our deepest desires are for more than what lust can provide, and that seeking to use porn to fulfill these desires is bound for frustration.” I can further agree that his use of hyperbole and “Giussanian” vocabulary may obscure that goal for some. (Of course, this article is, as he states, part 1 of 3 so perhaps he will clarify some of his terms and ideas in his subsequent articles.)

However, IMO, your selective excerpts and comments distort the content and thrust of what he is attempting to do. Perhaps you’ve sent him an email to verify if you are interpreting what he wrote correctly; but absent that, with all due respect, I believe you are “proof-texting” his article in a misguided fashion – something Dawn Eden did not do when she criticized Christopher West.

Please let me know if I am mistaken.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear Henry,

Thank you for your comment.

I have indeed emailed Matt McGuiness in the hope of starting a dialogue with him, and have so far not heard back.

I will say, however, that when he clearly disparages virtue, penance, mortification and other avenues of chastity, the proof texting you accuse me of can hardly be the case.

Also, I am commenting on this article in a wider context. Look at the wrong interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son that Anonymous asserts above (and see my recent posts in which I respond to her). This is becoming a trend in the Church. More and more there is a movement not only to rationalize serious sin, but to assert that serious sin leads to Christ, and that those who attempt to avoid such sin are prideful narrow-minded supercilious prigs. McGuiness and West are part of that trend, and it is a very dangerous trend.

As to Communion and Liberation (CL), I know several men who are involved in it, and they are devout, good Catholics. But you are the second person to tell me (by way of defending CL) that McGuiness' style and logic reminds them of Fr. Giussani!

I can believe that McGuiness may not represent CL in his wrong thinking, but when two proponents of CL defend both Communion & Liberation and McGuiness by telling me how similar the writing of McGuiness is to the founder of Communion & Liberation, it makes me wonder.

Henry said...


I also see what you see and I agree that it’s something that must be stopped.

In your last paragraph you wrote: “I can believe that McGuiness may not represent CL in his wrong thinking, but when two proponents of CL defend both Communion & Liberation and McGuiness by telling me how similar the writing of McGuiness is to the founder of Communion & Liberation, it makes me wonder.”

It was “wonder” that lead me to become a Catholic and so I think “wonder” can be “a good” if it leads a person on a journey toward the Truth,. So, if you think that CL is suspect (or “wonder” about it’s “orthodoxy”), then I encourage you to verify for yourself if that suspicion is true or not. The men you know can give you Fr. Giussani’s books and/or you can peruse some of his writings on the website.

But please don’t imply that the entire charism is suspect because of Mr. McGuiness’ article. If you were intentionally striving to do so, then I would direct you to paragraphs #2475 to #2479 in the CCC. I, however, do not believe that is your intent and that’s why I want to encourage you to continue to point when a person my be misleading others and/or distorting the true teachings of Our Lord.

Henry said...

Oops - bad proofreading. The last sentence should say:

"...I want to encourage you to continue to point out when a person may be misleading others and/or distorting the true teachings of Our Lord."

Nick D said...

That article was B as in B, S as in S. if I had gone "all out for porn" back when I was just a "recreational user," I don't know where I would be right now. Some place very bad. And even today, there but for the grace of God go I

anna lisa said...

I read the article you are referring to. I don't think it is honest to say he was telling men to "go all in" with porn, to see how it leaves them feeling. I had the impression that he was writing from the experience of his own nausea and emptiness after he went down that path himself. Big dif.

waywardson said...

I think you have completely misunderstood McGuiness based on the way you quote him out of context and misrepresent what he is saying. He is NOT advocating porn as virtue.

Let's compare his argument to food:

People eat junk food. But that is because they are hungry. It is good that they want to eat. But junk food will never satisfy them. REAL food is what they are looking for.

And his "go pro" comment?

Don't just much on potato chips. Eat the whole bag! See how you feel afterwards. That's not what you want.

Meanwhile, I ask that you please reflect on CCC 2477-78:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

And I will sign my name to this.

jvc said...

I am delighted that the arguments of the Westians are not improving, as evidenced by the previous post.

You make the common error of the Westians that pornography is merely a less complete form of sexuality. This is a lie. Junk food is still food. Pornography and masturbation are never merely inadequate forms of sex. They are objectively evil, at all times.

And are we really going to get this notion, again, that we can't criticize West for any reason? Why? Should we also stop criticizing Barack Obama for trying to shut down the Catholic Church? An error is an error, and an adult calls it like it is.

Kevin O'Brien said...

First, Waywardson, thank you for being a regular reader and for your comments.

And thanks to JVC who pointed out that your food analogy is wrong. Very well put, JVC.

Waywardson, as to my moral flaws and sins, please point them out to me as frequently as possible. you are doing me a service.

But in this case, I don't see how the CCC quotes apply. I do not think I am guilty of either

1. Rash judgment, as I'm not judging Matt McGuiness, nor am I pointing out his moral faults. I do not know him. I have emailed him three times in a conciliatory manner on this issue, in an attempt to start a dialogue, but have not yet heard back. I am pointing out that his theology is hideously wrong and dangerous; the man himself, I presume, is a well-intentioned serious Catholic. Is it not possible to criticize another's bad ideas or bad actions without being charged with a lack of charity? On the contrary, as the last paragraph you quoted states, to bring another to a correct interpretation that he may be saved is an act of grace. I am trying to do just that with McGuiness. His interpretation of Catholic teaching is abysmally wrong, and since he's preaching it publicly, it must be combated publicly, lest others fall prey to it. In pointing this out, I am trying to bring him back to a true relation with God and His Church. How is this rash judgment?

2. Likewise, I am not engaging in detraction or calumny, since I am not attacking McGuiness personally. I am attacking what he wrote, which is worthy of contempt. The man himself may or may not be worthy of contempt; I presume he is not. Few people are.

3. Perhaps I am misinterpreting McGuiness, but that really isn't likely, since he was quite plain in asserting that neither "virtue" mortification, or penance should be the means used to fight addiction to pornography. On the contrary, he called such a path, the path recommended by the Magisterium of the Church, "scrupulous."

And, Waywardson, you yourself are making the point you claim I'm misunderstanding. I claim McGuiness is telling people that indulging in sin is a path to Christ. You say I misread him, but then you paraphrase him as telling a porn addict to go further, "eat the whole bag" of chips and see how empty he then feels.

That's exactly what McGuiness is saying, you and I agree. He is saying if you're dabbling in porn, go further down that road. Sin until you feel remorse.

That's a dreadful bit of advice and contradicts Jesus Christ and two millenia of his teaching.

Sin Your Way to Salvation is a brutish and vile heresy.

BobA said...

My take on the article, much like Anna Lisa, is that I think the author's point is not that masturbation and pornography are virtues, nor that we shouldn't avoid sin, nor that we should set aside virtue and self-control in order to overcome these issues, rather that anyone who honestly has plumbed the depths of these sins will know that they do not satisfy: cannot satisfy.

We have a generation of young people who refuse to learn except by experience, and I think Matt McGuiness is endeavoring to show by thought experiment what we already know deep in our hearts through what we have already experienced that this disordered desire does not give us what it promises.

On a side note, I have yet to read the rest of your posts on Christopher West, but I have listened to many tape series by him and read a couple of his books and really don't understand how all this ties back into West, nor do I think your criticisms (what little I've read of them thus far) reflect West's theology or intent. Perhaps, though, I'll leave more remarks in their respective posts.

God bless,


Kevin said...

Okay all,

Repeat after me.

Junk food has nutritional value, so it can be okay, in moderation.


The two are not the same. The only way the analogy works is if you change "junk food" to "rat poison." The analogy completely fails, but at least then we are comparing apples to apples.

In the end, Mr. McGuiness wrote a public article. That makes everything he says fair for public attack. His ideas are toxic. A novice (or worse yet a non-Catholic) would read his work, and not only hear "go pro" on porn, to gorge yourself on porn, but that confession really doesn't make much a difference. How's that going to help present the clear Catholic truth on the matter?

Aged parent said...

John Paul II, I am saddened to say, opened the door to all this garbage with his fatally-flawed TOB. The seeds of the Wests of this world were well planted in the Pope's weird "theology" of the body and we as Catholics are going to be suffering from this papal misstep for generations, until it is finally condemned by the Church by a future Pope.

John Paul had many good qualities, but he had several not-so-good ones. The TOB is one of the not-so-good ones, I'm afraid.

BobA said...

Aged parent,

Have you ever read TOB? Much less West's interpretation thereof?