Sunday, November 21, 2010


So, let's see if I've got this right.
It can be licit to use the male prophylactic when engaged in immoral activity; but it remains illicit to use it when engaged in moral activity.
That really clears things up, doesn't it? We have always been at war with Eurasia! We have never been at war with Eastasia! Got that?
His Holiness Pope Benedict's XVI's ruminations on the doings of rent boys might have generated from a holy life of prayer and study, but they give little comfort to some Catholic family men who wish to be orthodox while also supporting families within economies designed to ensure that workers receive wages less than those upon which it's possible to support a family by one's sole efforts.
Having been sexually aware for nearly 30 years now, and having been told by my Church for all of that time that the old rubber sock is an intrinsic evil and an absolute no-no at all times and under all circumstances, it is to say the least disappointing to find out today that there may be exceptions to the rule, exceptions for which you - inevitably - don't qualify. You're a man who sells sex to other men? That's all right, you get a pass. You try hard to follow the rules, to the extent of putting obstacles in the path of your marriage and disrupting the peace of your home? To the back of the bus with you. And shut up while you're about it.
This is, in my opinion, a not unreasonable assessment of the changes to Catholic doctrine which seem to have been announced today, albeit in a rather irregular and ad hoc way. Oh, the CLOACA (Corps of Legally Orthodox Approved Catholic Apologists) has been out in force, with the sainted Father John Zuhlsdorf taking a break from posting pictures of his dinners and his bird table to get the herd back on to the reservation. Such is the natural reaction of the lesser spotted Catholic ultra when confronted with anything that deviates from their own rather backward philosophies of throne and altar.
Casual readers of this post might just get the impression that I'm more than a little angry about this - and they'd be right, on a number of different levels. We can forget all the 'mays' and 'mights' contained in the Pope's interview. That's just lawyerly shit, verbal cement you use to keep your sentences together when you're trying to keep your intellectual integrity while also trying to fly whatever kite takes your fancy. It is astonishing that such ass-covering language is used when the group under discussion is noted for its disinclination to follow suit.
I'll tell you who I'm angry for. I'm angry for all of those people who have felt compelled to lead unnatural, less than fully human lives in states of denial, in what the late Servant of God Fulton Sheen described as 'brother and sister marriages', becoming sexually inactive long before they probably had to, because they felt they had to do so in order to remain orthodox, and because nobody told them any differently.
I'm angry because this presents an open goal to the atheists and secularists I have spent my own time opposing. That's been my choice, but it's irritating when the institution you defend on your own account seems to cut the legs from under you.
But most of all, I'm angry for those orthodox, God fearing, God loving, Catholic married men who have lived all their lives with the stench of sin in their nostrils as they've made love to their wives. Some of these men might read today's reports and think that if it's good enough for the rent boys, it's good enough for them.
While one wouldn't necessarily agree with them, it would be very hard to blame them if they did.



Blogger berenike said...

Oy, Martin.

The first thing I did when I saw the headlines was hunt down the actual text. When I read it, I thought "oh for Pete's sake. He didn't say anything about the morality of using a condom, he said to focus on the condom is to miss the point, he said that there might be a case in which someone started to use one as a sign of an inner change for the better, and he said that condoms are not a moral solution (they are not moral - notice that?)

I was reduced to thinking that the press are malicious as well as daft, but I am baffled as to why you can't see that that is all the HF said.

And even if he had been talking about sodomy, then the condom is not in any way contraceptive. Do you really think he was advocating Safer Sodomy? Maybe next it'll be Milder Murder (sharpen your weapon to reduce suffering)?

And even if he had said "It's just fine to use condoms to prevent infection, even in marriage" - that wouldn't makehim right, would it? If he'd said "Our Lady is the eternally-begotten fourth person of the Trinity", we'd not be wringing our hands over martyrs for Catholic truth, would we? We'd say "Oh crap, the HF is a loony. Great. Just what we needed."

24 November, 2010 15:49  
Blogger Martin said...


The quality of catechesis may have been higher where you come from, however having received my religious formation in both state and private sector schools in Scotland in the 1970's and '80's, unfortunately for me the condom was made the point. As I wrote elsewhere erlier today, condom morality played a greater part in my religious instruction than any explanation of the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Nicene Creed, the Eucharist, the Mass, the Resurrection or the beatific vision. And on Sunday I find - whoops!- what was drummed into me might not actually have been as clear cut as it was certainly made out to be!

My apologies if you found my post unsettling, Berenike, that wasn't my intention. However, I'm just really hacked off at this on so many levels I'm almost beyond words.

24 November, 2010 22:23  
Blogger berenike said...

I was taught nothing about the faith till I was 12, when I started at a state Catholic school in Edinburgh (of Trainspotting fame) and then we spent among other things considerable time in RE learning about using condoms, and that masturbation wasn't a sin so long as we didn't do it too often. The Institutional Church was BAD. I only "clicked" about the real presence after I read a book on late medieval religiosity that a priest lent me when I was an undergraduate at Napier.

I'm upset for you, and for the all the upset people. I don't see why you think what he says contradicts what you've always understood to be Church teaching. I would be very upset if it did, or if I thought it did, but I would be upset about the Pope thinking it, and about (which has happened) the horribleness of this being all over the world. But I wouldn't think it changed the truth. I would think the Pope was wrong. With a small disclaimer somewhere in my head to the effect that perhaps I'd not got all the ramifications of the main point right, and it was me that had been wrong in how I understood the matter previously.

I don't see that that's groupthink, or doublethink, or any such. It took me years to get from "UTTER NONSENSE! I'm a Catholic, but" to "It's nonsense, but I'm a Catholic" to "I think there's some sense in this" to "crap, this makes sense" to having, after all this long discursive meditation, come to see the world in this way. It is true. Even if I were to lose my faith, the way I see the question of contraception, sexuality etc would not change; I don't hold it Because the Pope Says So, I hold it because it is, as far as I can see, true. It took the authority of the Church to make me consider the matter at all seriously, but as the theologians say, God reveals truths that are available to reason alone (such as murder=bad) because a) most people don't have time to sit around working out the eternel philosophical truths and b) human reason is fallible and the philosophers get most of it wrong much of the time.

I am entirely with you on the (probable, as I live abroad now) crapness of the Scottish clerical response. And there I quite share your upset, outrage, exasperation, feeling of helplessness, ...

prayers and cyber sympathy. I'm glad someone gives a damn. Thanks for writing about it.

25 November, 2010 11:49  
Blogger berenike said...

wrote long and thoughtful comment, but blogger just ate it. You've given me food for a post or two, but I shoudl like to proudly declare my Worse Catechised Than Thou credentials; first catechesis of any kind at age 12 when started at state catholic school in Edinburgh (of Trainspotting fame); much time on how to use a condom, the badness of the institutional church. Very emphatic teaching from one RE teacher that masturbation was not a sin so long as we didn't do it too often. Good stuff on social justice and so on (credit where credit is due). But didn't realise about the Real Presence until someone lent me The Stripping of the Altars when I was an undergrad at Napier.

25 November, 2010 11:52  
Blogger Martin said...


First of all, a mangled apology capable of being itself mangled in many different ways. For some reason, I always thought you were Polish.

It was not my intention to expose, Woodward and Bernstein style, the raw underbelly of defective Scottish catechesis. I'm afraid I found 'The Stripping Of the Altars' to be a suitably lenten Lenten penance, a book that should properly be subtitled 'Everyting You Wanted To Know About Rood Screens in Chalfont-sub-Comber But Were Afraid To Ask'. That should not, of course, detract rom the core of what I understand Duffy's message to have been, which was that Catholicism in England withered for no reason other than that it was just forgotten.

At St. aloysius College c.1982-1983, the Jesuits left the sex education, the nuts and bolts of the bumping and grinding, to the biology teachers.

25 November, 2010 23:38  
Blogger Martin said...

It looks like Blogger didn't eat it.

Thanks, Berenike, that was kind of you.

25 November, 2010 23:41  
Blogger berenike said...

but ah um! (Polish, that is).


Funny what God uses, innit? I think Screamingly Liberal Anti-Church RE teacher and the Cows of Bashan in the minor prophets (you oppress the poor) were crucial tools of gracein my caring enough not to lapse after school :)

26 November, 2010 10:50  

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