Monday, April 7, 2014

Shame and Self-Control

Two other big differences between JP2's Theology of the Body and the Pop Theology of the Body being peddled by some:

1. For JP2, shame is, at least in part, a good thing.  It protects the body from the "appropriation" that the body is subjected to by lust.
2.  Self-control is something that lust (concupiscence) damages.  Far from being a sign of someone not in possession of "mature purity", custody of the eyes (which is a form of self-control) is a sign of someone whose original purity of heart is able to conquer, to a certain extent, the damage done by concupiscence.  "Manifested as a 'coercion sui generis of the body,' concupiscence limits interiorly and reduces self-control," JP2 writes.  The Westians would have you believe that self-control limits our ability to love; in fact, lust limits our self-control: and without self-control, we cannot love.

Somehow this all gets turned around in the pop-Catholic world.  Somehow shame and self-control are degraded as signs of sinfulness and weakness.  In fact, both shame and self-control are virtuous responses to the fallen human condition.  JP2 is very clear on that.


Tom Leith said...

Funny what you learn when you read the source documents.

Back in the day when I was trying to figure out whether there was anything to this Church Thing after all, I noticed I couldn't get a straight answer about anything. Depending on who you asked about the Church, you could get diametrically different (i.e. flatly contradictory) answers. This is still true, but we have better resources now.

One day in downtown St. Louis, I spotted a Catholic Bookstore. I had never imagined there was any such thing. I had heard of things called "encyclicals" that according to one group of people were letters written by the Pope for the benefit of bishops, and by another group of people were letters written by the Pope to everyone in the world.

The Daughters of St. Paul evidently thought encyclicals are for everyone -- they had one of those wire racks that spins around full of them -- dozens of titles. Cheap ones cost fifteen cents -- expensive ones were fifty cents. I bought about five buck's worth and then tried to learn how to read them. I still have them.

This took awhile but when I started to get it, the feeling was "why didn't somebody say so?" And thus I began to experience the Church as a truth-telling thing -- by learning what the Church had to say for and about itself rather than listening to what others said about her.

We of a certain temperament have been very spoiled for the past 30 years or so -- I barely remember when there was a Pope named Paul. I really didn't care at the time. But Pope John Paul II is one of the best two or three Catholic philosophers since Aquinas, and Pope Benedict XVI is one of the best two or three Catholic theologians since Aquinas. It will take the Church a century to understand and incorporate what they gave us.

Kevin O'Brien said...

... agreed, Tom. And Pope Francis may end up being one of the two or three best evangelists. Or maybe not!

As for source documents, the primary one (even for Catholics) is still Holy Scripture, which has a wholeness and scope that make proof texting risky and often wrong. If more Catholics read Scripture regularly, we'd be better acquainted with the great context of Church teaching.

Tom Leith said...

Learning to read scripture is even better when you're learning from a well-educated Jewish convert (and Thomist).

Pope Francis is a pastor -- he's avoiding "divisiveness" in public, but he still excommunicates priests who don't believe the Church is what it claims to be. He's saying "c'mon in and look around. If you decide the Church just might be a truth-telling thing and still have some difficulties, we can address them. But for now, let's get the fundamentals right: there is a God, He made you, He has a purpose for you, He loves you, by some primordial disaster your nature was wounded and you've become trapped in your passions, He sent His Son to redeem you, and His Son founded a Church to carry on His work. This is it, warts and all."

One hopes he's deadly serious about reforming the curia and about having Canon Law actually obeyed. I have this little theory he's trying to make himself personally popular so he can go about that nasty business and not get killed, especially dealing with the Vatican Bank -- that's the only thing I can think of that will be tougher or more dangerous for him than the lavender lobby. I also think it is the reason the cardinals elected an outsider (i.e. non-European): half because they think he'll be easier to dupe, half because he has experience of corrupt governments and of governance both, and fewer personal loyalties to get in the way of reform.

Kevin Tierney said...

I'm hoping to eventually get to the whole self-control and "chaining your ability to love" thing.

What's interesting is that The Songs of Solomon (West's "centerfold) constantly warns about letting love develop at its own pace, to not stir or awake the love until it is proper to do so. To do that requires real self-control.

A love that is a conscious act of the will is far superior and far more real than a love which is just the response of passing emotions.

DS Thorne said...

I'd like to second Tom Leith's remarks on the difficulty in getting straight answers, especially in the days before the internet. The campus ministers where I was in college were seriously squishy - it's not my job to speculate how that came to be - but the result was that for a long time I drifted, unnecessarily. Hear, hear, to reading the encyclicals!

~DS Thorne,