Monday, December 01, 2008

Spell Check

I must apologize for the prolonged periods of silence. I have been overextended, this time due to illness, and frankly, now I should be able to get back on the ball. I have about twelve articles in the queue so let's get underway.

Spotted this on Drudge Report earlier in the week, and happily it was still there today. My initial reaction to the headline was, "Typical Gnostic nonsense." After all, when someone deingrates sex, you have to suspect that there is a loathing of the body hidden somewhere under the surface. When I read the article, however, I was treated to something a bit more thought provoking, although I am still pretty much standing by my initial reaction.

The Dalai Lama, assuming he's being quoted correctly, makes some correct observations about sex and sexuality. Certainly, the sexual act creates not only a sense of euphoria and well-being, it creates a sense of being bonded to the other person. This is not a spiritual fact; it's a biological one as well. The sexual act releases specific hormones into both the men's and women's systems that reorient visual recognition in the brain. That bond can create complications, especially when the bond happens outside the stability of marriage. Add in the fact of how the Western culture treats sex as a game or a pasttime and you can see where the Dalai Lama is on to something.

Further, as someone who prepares people for marriage and counsels on marriage, married life has its ups and downs. I am not sure I would blame all or any of that on sexual practice, but I do know that differing needs in that regard can create stress and difficulties.

Last good point relates to celibacy. In many ways, the Dalai Lama sounds like St. Paul who also advocated celibacy, quite forcefully. That celibacy is a giving up (namely the good of marriage) for the greater good (witness to the eternal Kingdom where people will not be given in marriage) resonates with the Buddhist leader's comments. I would be curious to find out what the good celibacy is meant to foster. I would assume it is a move toward detachment from the obstacles of the world and freedom from the cycle of samsara.

Now, did one else catch the problem with the comments as reported? It sounds like an either-or proposition. Either one engages in sexual activity and therefore is left imperfect or they are a celibate and therefore can focus upon the eternal good. This might surprise some, but this is not how the Catholic Church looks at sex, marriage, and celibacy. Also, I detected a bit of confusion in the article about the meaning of chastity and celibacy, but that is another issue all together.

At the outset, let's say this. Objectively speaking, celibacy, according to the Church's general life and practice, is the "higher" state of vocation because it more publicly and radically demonstrates one's dedication to God. Subjectively speaking, however, I have met lots of parents who outstrip me in the holiness department because of the greater degree to which they embrace their vocation. Ask any parent about the joys of cleaning up after intestinal distress in a kiddo and you'll see my point. The key for the Catholic mind is marriage and celibacy are not opposites. They are different expressions of the same desire - to build up communion.

In the married couple, they build up communion by imaging both the fruitfulness and faithfulness of the Holy Trinity and Christ for His Church. The fruits of daily sacrifice and yes, the fruit of their bodies are the outward sign of the building of life, starting at the most essential level. In the priest and more generally in the celibate, they point to the eternal Kingdom. In some sense, in some degree of perfection, they already are living what we hope to obtain. They do this through their service to and through the Church.

Once again, I write all this up for you to remind you that just because the outward expressions of religions can be the same the reasons for the stance can be very different. As time progresses, all Catholics are going to have to be equipped to express these truths in charity and some force if we are not to get swept under the rug of history.

1 comment:

Adoro said...

Well stated, and thank you. I also had read that article and gnosticism in it, but recognized the good points...the same ones you highlighted.

My ultimate conclusion was the same as yours; that although we might agree on some points, the foundations for our beliefs are completely different and so our understandings of celibacy (and chastity) are significantly different!

I didn't consider his confusion on celibacy/chastity...but I think you're right.