Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quotes from ‘New Perspectives on Contraception’

New Perspectives on Contraception (by Dr. Donald DeMarco)

A litany of quotes worthy of reflection

 

Although the book is clearly filled with good arguments against the contraceptive mentality, it is worth noting the many quotes that apply to all clear thinking.

  1. Contraception and God’s Plan

“Today’s society is in love with “choice,” even to the point, at times, when some individuals prefer another’s choice to their own existence. This may seem a gesture of heroic altruism, but, I thought, in upholding an abstract choice over one’s concrete existence, one exhibits a curious preference for shadow over substance.”

Choice and plan are compatible with each other, but only insofar as choice submits to plan.. When choice is made into an ideology…it becomes completely divorced from plan, and consequently, from order, coherence, and direction.”

“There is a philosophy of individualism that honors no other law than will or freedom.”

  1. …and Health

“It is often exceedingly difficult to disabuse the mind of long-held and firmly rooted errors, even if one is countering such errors with common sense.”

“The way a doctor treats his patient indicates what he thinks of that patient and his right to be adequately informed.”

“There is a bit of irony in the fact that many women disregard the Pill’s threat to their health in the name of reproductive freedom. In far too many instances, their expression of freedom led to their being treated as if they were slaves.”

“When healthy women ask doctors, in the interest in avoiding pregnancy, to supply them with hazardous drugs, their request carries the implication that being pregnant is a medically treatable condition, that is to say, a disease.”

  1. …and the Divided Self

“Man…is a unity of body and soul…His freedom lies in being all he is, a unification of the physical and the spiritual. But the prevailing notion of freedom in the modern world, strangely enough, is in not accepting one’s wholeness, but in dividing oneself so that one part is free from the other.”

“For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as a mystical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man.” (quoting Walker Percy)

It is important, needless to say, to control our urges and impulses. But control does not imply a devaluation of that which is controlled. In the case of moral self-control, it implies integration…The moral purpose of control is not conquest but sublimation.”

“The notion of a unified being does not mean very much to most people. It seems far too abstract…Looking good and experiencing sexual pleasure for them seem to be more real.”

  1. …and Compromised Intimacy

“…three positions that are now deeply embedded in the collective psyche of contemporary society: 1) the denigration of fatherhood; 2) the absolutization of freedom; 3) the rejection of marriage as a permanent and uncompromised form of intimacy between husband and wife.”

“If freedom simply means separation from others or pure individuality, then love would hinder such a form of freedom…freedom is not a terminal value but something that allows a good to be realized.”

“…a divided self is not a candidate for a unified relationship. Self division has no potential for intimacy with another.”

“Central to a philosophy of individualism is the notion that intimacy between two people compromises individuality…Even the bond of matrimony is regarded as a form of bondage.”

“Contemporary novelists…call their reader’s attention to the existential plight of modern man who is separated from community (isolation), from tradition (dislocation), from persons (alienation), from meaning (emptiness), and from hope (despair). Collectively these various separations create an illusion of freedom.”

“Philosophy is absolutely useless if it does not make distinctions.”

“According to today’s social etiquette, it is permissible to correct a person for misusing a word, but not for misusing her body.”

  1. …and the Trivialization of Sex

“If we were to seek a visual image that adequately epitomizes our fragmented world, we could not find a better one than Picasso’s Guernica (http://www.pablopicasso.org/images/paintings/guernica.jpg)

“St. Augustine defined peace as the ‘tranquility of order.’”

“’It belongs to the wise man to order,’ as St. Thomas remarks.”

“Breaking up the natural order of things removes each element from its web of meaning.”

“We are creatures made for meaning. The shades of boredom quickly descend on the artificial womb that we fabricate out of comfort and security.”

  1. …as a Gateway to Abortion

“Contraception is the rejection of the unwanted child in theory, abortion is the rejection of the unwanted child in practice. The contraceptive mentality is the frame of mind that unites theory with practice.”

“This seems to be the logical outcome of regarding contraception as positive. Because contraception is presumed to be positive, the thing it keeps away, the unwanted child, must be cast in a negative light…The well has been poisoned, and when a child comes into existence in a contraceptive atmosphere, he is likely to remain as unwelcome in practice as he is in theory.”

  1. …and Being a Person

“In order to begin distinguishing between what acts are good and what acts are not good for human beings, it is first necessary to respond to the question, ‘What does it mean to be a human being?’”

“Etymologically, the word conscience literally means with knowledge. One’s conscience cannot be formed in an intellectual void…Similarly, choice is not a truly a choice in the absence of knowledge…The fact that there is no group that declares itself to be ‘pro stab-in-the-dark’ or ‘pro guess’ is not without importance.”

“…when conscience possesses truth, freedom is not compromised in the process.”

“Truth, freedom, and conscience are mutual allies. To isolate conscience from this triad of life is to contradict its essential operation. Conscience alone is most unhelpful.”

“What psychologists often mean by ‘person’ …is , in reality, the reduced notion of an individual…The meaning of ‘person’ in the contemporary world is also very much tied to capitalism and consumerism. Man is Homo economicus or Homo consumens.”

  1. …and Virtue

“Man is a person. He is not an extension of his environment. It is not his destiny to be socially conditioned or completely politicized. Nor is he meant to be a mere child of his times, an unthinking tool of the Zeitgeist.”

“We cannot achieve or attain our fulfillment as persons without virtue. This is simply a matter of being realistic. Yet our contemporary society shows far more affection for virtual reality than it does for virtuous reality.”

“Mahatma Ghandi warned the world about the dangers of relinquishing virtue for technology. He was particularly concerned about the adoption of contraception and the abdication of chastity.”

  1. …Revolution, and Prophecy

“Revolutions may be intellectual, political, or technological; they are rarely, if ever, moral…Placing sex within a revolutionary framework dooms it from the start. Sex is not something to be liberated; rather, it is the human being who stands in need of liberation.”

“Moral growth is slow because there are so many factors to integrate. Information needs to be integrated into knowledge, knowledge has to be tempered by wisdom, action needs to be modified by experience. Knowledge needs love, love needs virtue, virtue needs experience, experience needs time…Moral evolutions and technological revolutions are essentially at odds with each other because of the contradictory ways in which they evaluate time.”

“The primal divorce from which emerged many other divorces is that between the unitive and the procreative.  But this split, which many thought to be insignificant and without consequence, is really a separation between man and God, and the usurpation by man of the throne of God.”

10. …and Catholic Teaching

“If the only way open to us for the knowledge of God were soley that of reason, the human race would remain in the blackest of ignorance.” (quoting St. Thomas Aquinas)

“As one astute observer[1] has remarked in criticizing the UN’s prevailing contraceptive strategy: “All the UN approaches to women are subsumed by the driving need to control and curtail their fertility.”

There is a “priority that the person has over pleasure, that love has over appetite, and that generosity has over selfishness.”[2]


[1] Blanca Reilly

[2] At least…there should be

Dante, Purgatorio, XXX (part II)

I love this line as well: “Pursuing the false images of good,
that promise what they never wholly pay.”

This ties back to what Virgil says in Canto XVII. “All men, though in a vague way, apprehend a good their souls may rest in, and desire it; each, therefore, strives to reach his chosen end.”

Do not the limited things of this world seem so fulfilling as we strive after them, and so empty later? This is most especially true in sin, where we rationalize it up to the point of committing it, and then (if we still have the conviction of conscience about us) immediately experience the emptiness of our act as the primary feeling of guilt.

Even if not directly sinful, we feel the same thing if, while on a diet, we see that piece of chocolate looking so appealing and, once the taste of it is gone, the calories remain in our stomach…and we feel so much more regret for so much longer than the fleeting pleasure of the moment that “promised so much,” as the quote from Canto XXX says.

In keeping to the analogy of a diet and health, one can put a piece of pizza away in a minute or so…and can work for 30 minutes on a treadmill to “remedy” the situation. How many sins do we commit within a moments time and, afterward, regret for so long, whether it is just as a matter of guilt or as a matter of waiting for the next opportunity to confess.

And yet, we are human, and we seem to be slow learners. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Ro 7:24)

Luckily the next line answers…

Dante, Purgatorio, XXX

Dante looks back for Virgil, but Virgil is gone. “But he, he had taken his light from us. He had gone. Virgil had gone. Virgil, the gentle Father to whom I gave my soul for its salvation!”

 

“It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason…because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason…therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation.” (STh., I q.1 a.1 resp.)

 

Just a couple Cantos earlier, when Matilda corrects the mistakes of the poets, such as Virgil and Statius, Dante looks back to see their response. “…they had received her final words with smiles that lingered yet upon their faces; then they turned back to that lady of glad graces.”

 

Amazingly, they simply want the truth, and find not disappointment but joy in the correction. They truly understood the purpose of reason; to seek truth. And when enlightened to it, they are not offended that they may have erred, but are joyous to attain what they sought.

 

Dante, however, reacts not in humble trust to the movement beyond reason, but in fear and sadness. Of course, long habit makes this understandable, but still it must be remedied. Reason was never a bad thing, and faith does not contradict it. But we must love truth, and not our mere attempt to know it alone. When truth transcends reason, we must be open to receive it, not fearing leaving behind what we thought we knew, but finding joy in what truly is.

 

St. Thomas, who “wrote well of Me (Christ) concerning the Eucharist” and wrote well in so many other things as well, say all he had written as if straw once he had a vision beyond. He found not sadness or frustration in this clearer vision of Truth,…but joy and awe.

Augustine and Signs

“Now he is in bondage to a sign who uses, or pays homage to, any significant object without knowing what it signifies: he, on the other hand, who either uses or honors a useful sign divinely appointed, whose force and significance he understands, does not honor the sign which is seen and temporal, but that to which all such signs refer. Now such a man is spiritual and free even at the time of his bondage, when it is not yet expedient to reveal to carnal minds those signs by subjection to which their carnality is to be overcome.” -St. Augustine in On Christian Doctrine

The Zen masters say: A finger is excellent for pointing at the moon, but woe to him who mistakes the finger for the moon!

What we see here is that it is not the Catholics but the protestants who are stuck in paganism. They seem, like gentiles of old, to not be freed from worshiping signs of signs, thinking they cannot even “use the finger to point to the moon.” When a pagan worshipped before an idol, he may have worshiped this idol. But even if he did not, he worshiped some other created thing, this idol being a sign that pointed towards it.

But with a crucifix or an icon, we have a sign that points toward, not some other “thing” but to the true God, for example. We aren’t worshiping the sign, but rather, understand what a sign is for.

In fact, just a few lines later in the same chapter, Augustine continues

“But at the present time, after that the proof of our liberty has shone forth so clearly in the resurrection of our Lord, we are not oppressed with the heavy burden of attending even to those signs which we now understand, but our Lord Himself, and apostolic practice, have handed down to us a few rites in place of many, and these at once very easy to perform, most majestic in their significance, and most sacred in the observance; such, for example, as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord. And as soon as any one looks upon these observances he knows to what they refer, and so reveres them not in carnal bondage, but in spiritual freedom.”

This patristic text makes so much more sense out of John 6 which tells us “it is the spirit which gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” For the flesh of the Lord clearly is “of avail;” if it hadn’t gone to the cross, their would be no salvation for man.  But rather, seeing it in a worldly way instead of in the “freedom of the Spirit,” that would hinder us.

No wonder that a few chapters later Augustine can state simply “Now Scripture asserts nothing but the Catholic faith.” Whatever one may argue, there is no doubt that the Bishop of Hippo, who also appealed to the decisions of Rome for so many of his writings, meant it in no distant way than it would be taken to mean today.

Dante Purgatorio Canto XXV

Dante, in Canto XXV, is schooled in the formation of the soul as an individual form having vegetative, sensitive, and rational powers. After refuting the error of Averroes (or one of his errors, at least), the “true” explanation of the soul’s formation is given. This particular and special creation by God of the soul certainly explains the individuality of the human soul, setting it at variance with the “one intellect” theory of Averroes and others that interpreted Aristotle’s psychology in such a way.

 

St. Thomas gives a clear refutation of the theory in the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book II, Chapter 75:

 

“For just as it belongs to the human soul by its specific nature to be united to a particular species of body, so this particular soul differs only numerically from that one as the result of having a relationship to a numerically different body. In this way are human souls individuated in relation to bodies, and not as though their individuation were caused by bodies; and so the possible intellect, which is a power of the soul, is individuated likewise….”

 

“…Hence, it does not follow that the intelligible species are numerically one in this or that knower; otherwise, this and that person’s act of understanding would be numerically one, since operation follows upon the form which is the principle of the species…”

 

Of course, the above quotes demand to be read in context, including the arguments that these excerpts refute (which St. Thomas, of course, always fairly lays out up front).

 

Nevertheless, this theory of exactly when the individual soul is infused into the human body is still speculative, and has repercussions. Two such are as follows.

 

For one, St. Thomas is often said to have denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is false on two accounts. In the first place, this was not a dogma yet pronounced, and as such, could not be explicitly denied (or at least “rejected”). Also, St. Thomas himself gives his theory as a speculative, not definitive, teaching. He gives it as reasoned opinion, saying it best fits his understanding.

 

How this is related has to do with another speculative theory, that in which the body receives the soul (and thus first becomes a human person) at around 40 days after conception. In this way, Mary could have inherited original sin in her body, and at the infusion of her soul, immediately been freed from all stain of original sin.

 

A second application of this theory of the late infusion of the soul into the body is by pro-abortion advocates who claim Catholic status. We have seen such “theologians” as Nancy Pelosi try to show that St. Thomas would have been pro-first trimester abortion by this, a fanciful idea, for sure. 

 

But it all returns to the Canto at hand. The real purpose of abortion and the mentality that leads to it is our lust. We seek pleasure without consequences. We seek to separate what God has made one. All human sin is, once again, a distortion of the good things the good God has made for us.

Religion and Relationship

I would like here to offer some thoughts on Jesus, religion, and relationship because the topics seem to be brought up often as if in opposition. 

 

But first, I would like to clarify an important principle which, if not understood, will lead to the confusion and incomprehension of all that follows.

 

We must define our terms: “A human is a 6’3” African American man that teaches science in Fresno, California.”

 

Of course, a human may be male, black, tall, a teacher, and reside in the Golden State. But these are not what he is. Man is a rational animal, created in the image and likeness of God. It is important, so important, not only in what follow, but in ALL THINGS that we learn to distinguish the accidental and the essential.

 

So what about Jesus and Religion?

 

If we think religion is about saying morning prayer, or keeping Sunday as a day of rest, or of listening to Gregorian Chant or Jars of Clay, then we are confusing the accidental with the essential. Religion is about knowing our place before God, and honoring the command of the great Teacher on religion who said to “render unto God the things that are God’s.”

 

So religion is not about the things we do, but about the service in Whom and for Whom we do them. We cannot see religion as the particulars, but as the essence of our relationship with God. Yes, religion, in its essence, is about our relationship with God. It is both personal and communal. We must not pretend to isolate religion from relationship. One without the other makes either an empty term. You do not have a true relationship with God if your religion is ABOUT the particulars, and you do not have a true relationship with God if you ignore the religious aspect that He, as Creator, put in you as man. Religion and relationship stand or fall together. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

 

Likewise, if you see the errors of those OF a religion as errors of Religion itself, you again confuse the accidental and the essential. One may say “I despise religion because by it, people have gone to war.” Well, people went to war, not religion. The problem with this line of thinking is that it does not lead to a relationship with God, it leads to a denial of him. Today, it is more popular to say “Science flies you to the moon, and religion flies you into buildings.” But that is not what “religion” does; that is what a false zeal in a false religion does, and “Without knowledge, even zeal is not good” (Proverbs 19: 2).

 

Subjectively, religion is the virtue by which man renders to God what is due to Him, which, of course, is everything. Strictly speaking, we can never “repay” God. Still, it is that same wise Teacher about that tells us “to render unto God,” and so, we religiously do as He tells us (let us not forget that there is real meaning to our current fight for freedom of religion, and it is rightly termed this, rather than “freedom of relationship”, for the government can make a claim that it already allows freedom of “relationship,” yet we all know that is not enough).

 

But objectively, religion is those things that we believe, and rather, the source of those things. If that is Jesus, then it cannot also be this particular Rite, or that particular prayer or set of prayers, or this or that small group or even Institutional Church. All those things are means, some of them even sacred, but they are not the immediate content of faith.

 

My point in all this is that we should all reflect and discern whether or not we are guilty of either misunderstanding religion and relationship. If our “relationship” with our Creator denies the virtue of religion that says “render unto God the things that are God’s”, our relationship is empty and unfounded. Likewise, if our “religion” consists in the actions, liturgical, moral, and otherwise, as if they were the end and not the means, then our religion is empty and unfounded.

 

Let us remember that if we truly “have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations then we will not live a religion without relationship, nor pretend to have a relationship separated from religion.

 

Do not presume to say to yourself we have Abraham (or the Catholic Church) as our father, for “from these very stones God could raise up” such. The means will not bring your salvation. But likewise, do not neglect religion, which is, again, to “render unto God,” for if we neglect it, we will be judged as such: “Truly, I say to you, ‘as you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

As another wise teacher has written “neither circumcision or uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love” and “if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

 

On the subject of relationship and religion, let us ask the wisest of all Teachers:

 

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

 

Let us never separate religion and relationship, nor pretend to live one without the other. The two are “one flesh.”

 

In Him,

 

Matt 

Purgatorio, Canto XVII

“While it desires the Eternal Good and measures its wish for secondary goods in reason, this love cannot give rise to sinful pleasures. But when it turns to evil, or shows more or less zeal than it ought for what is good, then the creature turns on its Creator. Thus you may understand that love alone is the true seed of every merit in you, and of all its acts for which you must atone.”

What packed lines. I will hardly do justice to a few of the points made here, such as the implied relation between reason, truth, and the intellect and the will and the good.

Love is the cause of both merit and of that for which we must make satisfaction? Yes, because we are moved of our will toward the good. This much in our will is in fact determined, that good is that which it seeks.

“The will is a rational appetite. Now every appetite is only of something good. The reason of this is that the appetite is nothing else than an inclination of a person desirous of a thing towards that thing. Now every inclination is to something like and suitable to the thing inclined. Since, therefore, everything, inasmuch as it is being and substance, is a good, it must needs be that every inclination is to something good. And hence it is that the Philosopher says (Ethic. i. 1) that the good is that which all desire.” (STh., I-II q.8 a.1 resp.)

We are not determined to one particular good over another particular good, however much we may be determined to good in itself. In this is our free choice that includes a “freedom” to sin. Of course, true freedom is bound up in truth, but God’s calling for us to freely love Him entails our ability to reject this love. We may ignore the directive of the Apostle John when he says “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” (1 Jn 5:21), but when we “show more or less zeal than we ought” for certain goods or the good itself, this is exactly what we do. We take God’s good creation and make an idol of individual particular parts of it, and then we place them between ourselves and God, losing sight of Him for a good He made.

Virgil later wraps this up, poetically saying “All men, though in a vague way, apprehend a good their souls may rest in, and desire it; each, therefore, strives to reach his chosen end.”

Purgatorio Canto XVI

It was a debate in the days of the Old Covenant, it was a debate for the early Church, for St. Augustine and his contemporaries, for those during the time of the Reformation, and with for us still today. It is a debate within Islam, and a debate within Christianity, and even a debate between the secular theories of spiritualism and materialism. In what way (if any) is man free, and in what way (if any) is he determined?

“Mankind sees in the heavens alone the source of all things, good and evil; as if by Law they shaped all mortal actions in their course. If that were truly so, then all Free Will would be destroyed, and there would be no justice in giving bliss for virtue, evil for pain.” (Canto XVI)

Just as God cannot make “square circles” He cannot be a God who “justly rewards or punishes” those who had no free will in the matter. To say that He justly punishes those who had no ability to do otherwise than they do is not to glorify God by proclaiming “His ways are above our ways” but to annihilate all coherent thought of Him, claiming He is a God of logical contradictions.

“You are free subjects of a more immense nature and power which grants you intellect to free you from the heavens’ influence. If, therefore, men today turn from God’s laws, the fault is in yourselves to seek and find.” (Canto XVI)

God moves man’s will, as the Universal Mover, to the universal object of the will, which is good. And without this universal motion, man cannot will anything. But man determines himself by his reason to will this or that, which is true or apparent good. (STh., I-II q.9 a.6 ad.3)

I wrote in my blog a while back that:

‘If one were to ask the question “why does a rock fall when released from the hand,” it would, no doubt, be a true yet odd answer to say that “God wills it.”  Yet, we must not argue that indeed, the falling of the rock does not escape God’s providence.  It certainly did not catch Him by surprise…However, when asking the question, we are usually seeking the more proximate answer.  To say that “the rock falls because of gravity,” that still hardly understood force that draws massive objects toward one another, is to in no way infringe upon God’s power and providence.’

The point of all this is summed up by St. Thomas in STh., I q.23 a.8 resp., when he speaks of predestination during the section of the Summa on the One God, and in the following article, when speaking of the primary mover of man’s free will:

“As Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv.) it belongs to Divine providence, not to destroy but to preserve the nature of things. Wherefore it moves all things in accordance with their conditions; so that from necessary causes through the Divine motion, effects follow of necessity; but from contingent causes, effects follow contingently. Since, therefore, the will is an active principle, not determinate to one thing, but having an indifferent relation to many things, God so moves it, that He does not determine it of necessity to one thing, but its movement remains contingent and not necessary, except in those things to which it is moved naturally.” (STh., I-II q.10 a.4 resp.)

And this final thought takes us to the poetry of the following Canto, where Virgil speaks of man seeking good, loving always, but often loving lessor goods with great zeal, while loving God, if at all, with much too little…always oriented to good, but freely oriented.