I am not confused

Cardinal-elect Farrell tweets

If you find Pope Francis “confusing”, you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I quite agree, although not in the way he would like.  I’ve never found Pope Francis “confusing”.  Certainly, if one tries to parse individual sentences according to the rules of grammar and logic, one can often show them to be nonsense, but it’s always pretty clear what he’s getting at.  Namely, something completely inimical to the way of holiness preached by Jesus Christ.

Willed incomprehension is a Catholic hobby.  Once dissenters would say silly things such as that the real teaching of Catholicism on homosexuality is “unclear” and could only be unearthed by the esoteric arts of heterodox academics.  Today, it’s the conservatives who affect to be “confused” or who misunderstand statements of the Pope that are, in themselves, quite clear.  For example, Jeff Mirus and I have at various times tried to “explain” the Pope to be teaching that Catholics who commit adultery may be engaging in venial sin if the difficulties in abstaining are too great.  (Mirus refers to a woman having sex to keep a man around for their children.  I was willing to be even more indulgent and consider that giving into lust can be a venial sin if one is at least putting up a fight.)  In fact, Amoris laetitia says nothing of the sort.  Recall the key paragraph.

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.

This is, in fact, admirably clear.  The couples engaging in adulterous sex are not sinning at all, not even venially, because God Himself does not ask that they comply with the 6th commandment, meaning it is in fact not a moral requirement at all in their case.  The text clearly claims that the human conscience possesses at least two capabilities.  First, it is able to come to a knowledge of the moral law, and above this of the “overall demands of the Gospel” and also to recognize the applicability of one of these “overall demands” to one’s own situation.  Second, conscience contains within itself some sort of faculty for recognizing that one is personally exempt from these demands in a particular case.  This is indeed an astounding claim.  I admit that I have never sensed in myself the operation of this faculty for knowing which of God’s universal rules do and don’t apply to me personally, as opposed to my well-honed sense of when a particular rule is going to be inconvenient for me and my imperfect will to obey.  One could argue that this position is philosophically confused, in that the norm against adultery is at once universal and not universal.  (If it is not universal, but adultery is only wrong under certain circumstances, then there would have been no need to posit this hitherto-never-noticed operation of the conscience.  One could simply say that conscience can refine its understanding of the demands of the gospel, and given the more precise demands see that one is not in violation, at least “for now”.)  However, whether it is defensible or not, His Holiness has stated his position clearly.

The lesbian catastrophe

My imagination is out of whack with that of the population at large.  Of all the dangers facing the humanity, the ones I find frightening often don’t match what everybody else worries about.  For example, I find antibiotic-resistant bacteria scarier than a couple degrees of global warming.  Maybe I shouldn’t, but that’s my first impression.  Or here’s another one.  Serious people worry about the gender imbalance in China.  Sex-selective abortion is leaving a surplus of Chinese men compared to Chinese women.  That’s a lot of men who won’t be able to marry, and that can’t be good.  I don’t buy the theory, by the way, that sexually frustrated men go off and start wars.  The heads of state who initiated the Great War weren’t suffering from involuntary celibacy, and the men who fought were doing their unpleasant patriotic duty.  But, regardless, having many more of one sex than the other is sure to mess up one’s society in profound ways.

From a link on a comment at Chateau Heartiste:

The report, based on data collected between 2011 and 2013, found that 5.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men identify as bisexual. Compare that to the CDC’s last report on the topic, published in 2011, which found that 3.5 percent of women and 1.1 percent of men claim the sexual identity.

Sexuality is more complex than chosen labels, though: Far more women and men report having had same-sex sexual contact—17.4 and 6.2 percent, respectively—than identify as bisexual. That means almost one-fifth of women have fooled around with another woman. These numbers have also risen since the last survey, which found same-sex nookie reported by 12.5 percent of women and 5.2 percent of men.

There were similar findings on the attraction front: 16.9 percent of women and 5.8 percent of men report sexual attraction that isn’t exclusively to the opposite sex or the same sex.

Female sexuality is more malleable than male sexuality, more easily manipulable by social expectations.  As lesbianism becomes high status, the female id responds.  We see the status of lesbianism rise in two ways.  First, there is the level of political conviction:  homosexuality is now celebrated, and its critics are ostracized.  Second, there is what one might call the level of pornographic status, the impression that men find lesbianism sexy.  Of course, a woman responding to the latter incentive must remain at least somewhat bisexual, because there’s the idea in the background of a future man’s titillation to be exploited.  Against this, society is still heavily heteronormative, not in the sense of heterosexuality being morally normative, but in the sense of it being the default.  Most girls grow up with a mother and father in a heterosexual relationship, and most of the older women they know, who provide their image of what a woman’s life at 40 or at 50 looks like, have husbands.  All the Disney princesses are heterosexual.  One might say that homosexuality is celebrated, but heterosexuality is expected.  Given the state of the culture, one could argue that this is a reasonable compromise, but neither traditionalists nor feminists are happy with it.  Traditionalists have no power, but feminists do, so we can expect the expectation of heterosexuality to be eroded by government and media campaigns.

According to that report, at least 17 percent of women have sufficient same-sex attraction that they could identify as lesbians with the appropriate social conditioning.  Probably social conditioning could raise this number even higher.  Suppose, though, that 17% of women and 6% of men is the cap on homosexuality.  That would mean we’re heading for a situation with around 88 heterosexual women for each 100 heterosexual man.  As I said, my guess is that the true extent of female erotic malleability has not yet been seen.  If the Chinese have trouble, we have trouble too.

Rule by law

How much better it would have been if that would have been the expression, rather than “rule of law”.  It might have saved us the confusion of imagining “law” as something somehow existing and possessing authority apart from the expressed will of the sovereign.  The implied opposite of “rule of law” is “rule of men”, as if there weren’t always men deciding what the law should be.  The opposite of “rule by law” would be “rule by direct prescription”.

Law is one way the sovereign rules–by general rather than specific commands.  It is often a good way, making the operation of government generally predictable so that subjects can plan their actions accordingly.  In some cases, justice may even require it.  For instance, ex post facto punishments are unjust unless the behavior newly proscribed by positive law is already proscribed by natural law (and I would not favor retroactive punishments even then).  It is even a good practice to separate the legislative and executive functions, not so they can “check” each other, but to force the legislature to formulate laws abstractly, knowing someone else of possibly unlike mind might be charged with their execution.  Similar things might be said of the English custom of common law, which English conservatives often praise for being an expression of “spontaneous order” rather than parliamentary fiat.  Perhaps there are reasons that a judge ruling with an eye to precedent gives better results than a legislature ruling with an eye to the common good (or ideological misconceptions thereof), but either way we are dealing with authoritative acts of the collective sovereign, with “rule by men”.

The sovereign certainly can, in his duty to protect the common good, issue specific orders.  Suppose I’m a wizard who invents a spell that will change the Earth’s rotation period to one year, putting half the world in permanent day and half in permanent night.  Desperately, the lawyers search, but there is no law that forbids tampering with the angular momentum of the Earth or any other planet.  No one would say that the state could not forbid me to do such a thing, or intervene to stop me if necessary.  Perhaps you will find some law that says the state may take unspecified acts to avert urgent dangers to the public, but this is just an acknowledgement that the state is not restricted to rule by law.

Bishops sink Polish anti-abortion law

From Syndey Trads:

Fourthly, the protests of the feminists forced Law and Justice to convene in a hastily and embarrassing manner an arguably illegal session of a Parliamentary committee and recommend the rejection of the popular initiative to the Sejm (the Lower House). That same day – and this must be especially emphasized – the Polish Episcopal Conference issued a surprising document, in which it opposed the pro-life reform, because it mandated the punishing of all those persons responsible for conducting an abortion, including women who allow their children to be killed.

Fifthly, the Law and Justice government rejected the popular initiative by a crushing majority in the second stage of the legislative process (in the Polish Sejm legislative process is divided into 3 stages) effectively blocking any substantive discussion concerning the Bill and the posing of questions. The authors of the bill (i.e. the Catholics in the aforementioned NGO’s) were informed that a discussion on the bill would take place just a few hours before the committee meeting and before the final vote, despite the fact that the rules of the Sejm require that this happen three days in advance. As a result, some of the representatives of the authors  of the Bill did not make on time to the Sejm.

Sixthly, throughout the duration of the controversy, certain Law and Justice politicians would declare their discomfort with the notion of punishing women, which was stipulated under the Bill. Despite having the means to simply expunge this section of the Bill and continue to work on it without the penal consequences for women who decide to kill their children, they refrained from doing this. This reflected the position of the Polish Bishops who on the same day decided to reject the Bill in its entirety. The Sejm rejected the popular initiative. Out of 460 MP’s, barely 50 voted for the bill.

Seventhly, Law and Justice MP’s who all of a sudden changed their position made references to the decision of the Bishops. Krystyna Pawłowicz wrote openly on her Facebook page that “it was the Episcopate that authorized us to do this”.

The Polish Church is one of the more conservative ones, but even for it, the Fifth Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Kill) is trumped by the Zeroth Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Criticize or Punish a Woman for Anything, Not Even for Contracting the Murder of Her Own Child).  Human beings will die because of this “women are the second victim” nonsense being propagated by a feminism-corrupted Catholic Church.

Sexual hypocrisy

I have a tendency to begin posts on sex by stressing my own moral shortcomings.  Odd that I should spontaneously feel this will enhance my credibility, isn’t it?

The progressive puritan believes one should not criticize a sin if one indulges in it oneself; that would be hypocrisy.  We Catholics are nearly the opposite, feeling it is better to criticize only one’s own sins or the sins to which one is prone.  We feel more comfortable affirming moral demands whose burden or censure we ourselves share.

“Everybody commits sexual sins” is the punchline of jokes in the West going back to the Middle Ages.  Our unchastity is a spiritual calamity, to be sure, but it is also very humbling, very civilizing.  Who can boast?

For that matter, even those who do remain chaste, even in the hardest case of celibacy, feel little temptation to brag.  Really, sexual temptations are weak, much weaker than the compulsions of pain or fear of imminent death.  We admire those who defy the latter because of the strength of what they resisted.  We give in to illicit sexual urges not because they are so strong but because our will is so weak.  We didn’t really want to resist.  If I had believed death or mutilation would follow my indulgence, I would have had no trouble resisting.

Sodomy is sodomy.  In the eyes of the Lord, getting a blow job from your wife is the same as going to a gay bathhouse and engaging in buggery with multiple disease-ridden strangers.  If we use God’s categories rather than modern man’s, most of us will be found to be in the same state as the homosexuals.  Which means…we are in a position to judge!  Heterosexual sin is far worse, because far more widespread, and I suspect heterosexuals are more likely to murder their children in utero, a sin God abhors much more than the sexual sins it enables.  But we heterosexual perverts have this going for us:  we’re not trying to persecute the Church for telling the truth about our transgressions, not trying to bully her into telling us accommodating lies.  This is our little virtue–“tolerance”, one might call it–and a proof to the homosexual perverts that it can be done with no great spiritual heroism.

Morality–why do we so automatically associate it with sexual issues?  Most of my duties have to do with taking care of my family and with my job.  However, I never have to be motivated solely, or even mostly, by a sense of moral duty when it comes to those.  I could ask myself, as a thought experiment, “How badly could I neglect my children and get away with it?” or “How little work could I do without getting fired?”, but even the thoughts anger me.  I don’t want to neglect my children.  I want them to flourish.  First because I love them.  Strip away that, and I still have a selfish, proprietary desire to see them do well.  Strip away even that, and I still have a selfish desire not to think of myself as a bad parent.  Strip away even that, and we are (fortunately) integrated well enough in our community that the kids couldn’t do too badly before it would be noticed.  So, really, I’ve never have to motivate myself to care for my kids by appealing to bare moral principle.  Affection, vanity, social expectations, and morality all work together to make any alternative unthinkable.

What are the consequences of sexual sins?  But what makes them sins is the very altering of the act so that it doesn’t have consequences.  Here, the moral law must stand naked, and its frailty in our souls is revealed.

Error has no rights week

In honor of Banned Books Week, consider sending a link to my In Defense of Censorship to a librarian you know.

Groundwork on the virtuocratic alliance

Shi’a-Catholic dialogue on illiberal political theory.