“King of virgins and lover of chastity and innocence, extinguish in my frame, by the dew of Thy heavenly grace, all flames of unlawful passion, that I may thus for evermore bide before Thee in innocency of body and of soul. Mortify in my members the sting of the flesh, and repress in me every dangerous emotion. Together with all other virtues (each Thine own gift and, in sooth, well-pleasing to Thee), clothe me with true and abiding purity, that, unsullied in body and clean in heart, I may this day offer unto Thee the sacrifice of praise.”
Almost everything Edward Feser posts is worth linking to, but I think this topic is especially in need of clear explanation in today’s world. It’s a wonderful analysis and explanation of why sexual sins are “such a big deal”:
[One of the] morally significant aspect[s] of sex, … that the unique intensity of sexual pleasure can lead us to act irrationally, is perhaps less often discussed these days. So let’s talk about that.
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[P]recisely because sexual pleasure is unusually intense, it is even more likely than other pleasures are to impair our ability to perceive what is true and good when what we take pleasure in is something that is in fact bad. In particular, habitually indulging one’s desire to carry out sexual acts that are disordered will tend to make it harder and harder for one to see that they are disordered. For one thing, the pleasure a person repeatedly takes in those acts will give the acts the false appearance of goodness; for another, the person will be inclined to look for reasons to regard the acts as good or at least harmless, and disinclined to look for, or give a dispassionate hearing to, reasons to think them bad. Hence indulgence in disordered sexual behavior has a tendency to impair one’s ability to perceive the true and the good, particularly in matters of sexual morality. In short, sexual vice makes you stupid.
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[I]in contemporary intellectual life most people know nothing of, or at best know only crude caricatures of, [the general metaphysical framework underlying traditional natural law theory]…. Hence they fail to understand the rational foundations of traditional sexual morality.
But the Thomist is bound to judge that mere intellectual error is not the only problem. For it’s not just that people in contemporary Western society commonly disagree, at an intellectual level, with the natural law theorist’s judgments about what is disordered. It’s that they commonly act in ways that natural law theory says are disordered. And if such behavior has a tendency to impair one’s capacity to perceive what is true and good, especially where sex is concerned, then it follows that widespread rejection of traditional sexual morality is bound to have as much to do with the sort of cognitive corruption that Aquinas calls “blindness of mind” as it does with the making of honest intellectual mistakes. That people who don’t behave in accordance with traditional sexual moral norms also don’t believe that these norms have any solid intellectual foundation is thus in no way surprising. On the contrary, that’s exactly what natural law theory itself predicts will happen.
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And thus it is no surprise that Christian theologians have traditionally emphasized the dangers sexual sins pose to one’s immortal soul. This is not because such sins are the worst sins — they are not — but rather because the pleasure associated with them makes them very easy to fall into and, if they become habitual, very difficult to get out of. (Churchmen who want to downplay the significance of sexual sins in the name of compassion are thus acting in a way that is in fact anything but compassionate.)
I highly recommend reading the whole thing, as these excerpts come nowhere near doing it justice.
Edward Feser, “What’s the deal with sex? Part II“, Edward Feser blog, February 6, 2015.
“Guard me around about with the loving and watchful care of Thy holy angels: and before their most sure defence may the enemies of all good, flee in confusion. For the sake of this dread mystery and by the ministering hand of the holy angel of the sacrifice, do Thou, O Lord, preserve me and all Thy servants from that obstinacy of spirit wherein lies pride and vain-glory, envy and blasphemy, uncleanness and wrong-doing, doubt and mistrust. Let them be confounded that persecute us. Let them perish that are bent upon our ruin.”
Devotions in Preparation for Mass and Communion, prayer for Sunday, in The New Roman Missal (Fr. Lasance), 1956.
(See Part 1 here.)
‘Why should a Catholic institution not … be itself, precisely to offer to that increasingly homogeneous and nothing-adoring world a different word, the word of Christ and his Church? Have not the secular preachers of diversity instead worked their hardest to efface that difference, to muffle all those who speak with the voice of the Church against the vision that those preachers have to offer—a vision that pretends to be “multicultural,” but that is actually anti-cultural, and is characterized by all the totalitarian impulses to use the massive power of government to bring to heel those who decline to go along?
‘These aren’t idle questions. I notice, on our Diversity page, that incidents of “bias” will be forwarded to a “Bias Response Team,” which is, if I may adopt the phraseology of one of my shrewdest colleagues, a Star Chamber whose constitution and laws and executive power no one will know. “Fear not,” says the angel, “for the great Unwritten Law will come upon you, and the power of Correct Thinking will overshadow you.” How precisely the fear of being hauled before the Star Chamber can possibly bring people together in friendship, is never revealed.
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‘In my now extensive experience, Catholic professors in Catholic colleges have been notably tolerant of the limitations of their secular colleagues. We make allowances all the time. We understand, though, that some of them—not all, but then it only takes a few—would silence us for good, if they had the power. They have made life hell for more than one of my friends. All, now, in the name of an undefined and perhaps undefinable diversity, to which you had damned well better give honor and glory. If you don’t—and you may not even be aware of the lese majeste as you commit it—you’d better have eyes in the back of your head.’
Anthony Esolen, “My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult“, Crisis magazine website, September 26, 2016.
You may have noticed that my posting dropped off precipitously last Fall. We had a death in the family and, at virtually the same time, I went through a major career change, and seemed to have lost my muse. A lot of it, I think, was being forced to focus on temporal matters. Previously I had been in the same job for a long time, and perhaps was on auto-pilot in regard to making a living. But my employer went out of business, and I had to change jobs and could no longer take things for granted.
In the meantime, the great earthquake known as the presidential election took place. It was so upsetting to me that I stopped watching the news months beforehand. Trump was the very last of the Republican candidates that I wanted to be nominated, and the one who I thought had the least chance of beating the Democrats. I simply resigned myself to eight more years and beyond of Democratic rule, and wished to hear no more about it. It was like knowing with certainty that a train was about to crash with catastrophic results. Some would call that a thing that you can’t help watching, but I tend to turn my eyes away from such things (assuming there’s nothing I can do to prevent it). Knowing the tragic outcome is enough for me, I don’t need to see pictures.
I believed Hillary would win, but could foresee no happiness either way. It was time to check out, prepare for martyrdom. I don’t mean that literally. I didn’t think physical martyrdom was imminent. But I must resign myself to living as a Christian in a regime hostile to Christianity.
When Trump won, I was surprised at how happy I was. It was as though a great weight had been lifted. It wasn’t that I loved Trump, but that the political trajectory which I thought was unstoppable, suddenly altered course. Primarily I exulted in the fact that the Democrats would not get to name the replacement for Scalia (peace be upon him). But also, that a huge chunk of the electorate voiced an emphatic “NO!” to political correctness.
I consider Trump a great big boor, a vindictive teenager in an adult body, crude and rude and annoying. Nevertheless, I am a conservative (according to my lights) and a Christian. How can I not be happy when he appoints pro-life Christians like Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos to his cabinet? What an amazing turnaround, when I had resigned myself to the likes of John Kerry and Kathleen Sebelius for the foreseeable future.
I must admit also that I found the inauguration speech encouraging. What struck me most, not as a Christian but as an American, was the slogan “America First”: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” A simple idea, one that you would think would be taken for granted, not needing to be said. And again, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” Of course it is. We expect other countries to do so, and we should do so ourselves. The job of our government is to look out for our interests, not to “make the world a better place”.
Again I’m not a Trump admirer, and did not vote for him, in the primary or in the general election. But when I hear the anti-Trump rhetoric, I can’t help feeling all the gladder that he won instead of them. If the rhetoric focused on him being an immature jerk, I would have no quarrel with it. I’m embarrassed that someone who conducts himself as he does in public, represents us before the world. But I’m convinced that him being the equivalent of Hitler or the KKK is sheer fantasy. I’m far, far more disturbed by the rhetoric and behavior of the anti-Trump factions, than I am by Trump or his followers. I find them far more divisive, indeed I believe they are deliberately so, as a matter of political strategy, whereas Trump’s divisiveness is accidental, following upon his clumsy and brutish manner of expressing himself.
I have no illusions that the next four years will be wonderful or that Trump’s administration will be beyond reproach and devoid of scandal. He’ll do some things right and some things wrong, like any other president. But he’ll do some good things that the Democrats would never have done, and will avoid some bad things that the Democrats would have done, and I can’t help feeling glad about that.
It is fitting that Christ should have been born at night, that most of sinful humanity should have slept through the event, and that those who were awake to see it were practiced in vigilance. The shepherds, about whom we read in today’s gospel, kept watch over their sheep through the night. To stay awake was their job, and the angels in a blaze of blinding light appeared to them as they kept vigil. Then they went to find the Babe in the manger who was the Light of the World, and in the morning glow they amazed the people of Bethlehem with their story of the Child who came in the midst of darkness.
One night changed everything. And so night became the enchantment of colored lights and carols in many tongues, and the daystar became a symbol of the Son of God and the hope of the future.
We celebrate Christmas during the very time of year when the night is longest. G.K. Chesterton remarked on this when he said:
Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate (The New Jerusalem, Ch. 5).
Fr. Andrew Geiger, “Christmas Mass at Dawn” Mary Victrix blog, December 25, 2016.
This is a map showing alleged “incidents of hate” that have occurred since the November 8 presidential election (from the website ThinkProgress.org):
A couple of interesting things that I noticed:
1. The two states with the most incidents are New York and California — notoriously the two big states that the candidates never bother to campaign in, since they are a lock for the Democrats, i.e. states with large liberal majorities. There have been a total of 36 incidents in those two states.
2. The states in green are those which have no reported hate crimes since the election. Many of these are notoriously conservative states. What stands out to me in particular are the Southern states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina, all of which have zero reported incidents according to this map. Louisiana has one reported hate incident, Georgia two, Tennessee three, for a total of six incidents in the entirety of the Deep South.
I wonder, if you asked random liberals who hadn’t seen this map, which states they predict would have the most reported “incidents of hate”, and which would have the least, how many would predict that California and New York would have six times as many incidents as the Deep South.
You might say that this is due to the larger populations of California and New York. Let’s look at this: California and New York have a total combined population of 58 million, and there were 36 incidents in those two states. Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee have a total combined population of 37 million, and there were six incidents in those six states. If you do the math, you will see that California and New York have an average of 6.2 incidents per 10 million people, while the Southern states have an average of 1.6 incidents per 10 million people; or in other words about four times as many incidents per capita in the coastal, liberal states compared with the Southern states.
Remember, what is supposedly fueling this “wave of hate” is that Trump supporters are being “emboldened” by his election to act out their hatred. If that’s the case, how is it that people living in states that voted Democrat by wide margins are emboldened to act out their hate, while those living states that voted for Trump, are not?
When you consider that the Deep South states are purportedly those with the highest concentration of haters (read “white conservatives”), and the large majorities by which Trump won those states, why aren’t they going absolutely hog-wild with hate, letting their hate flags fly, burning crosses left and right, confident in the approval of all their friends and neighbors?
There’s something wrong with this theory….