The Eagle and Child: S1E17 – “Sexual Morality”

SexualMorality

Notebook

What is the virtue of chastity? Is it unhealthy, impossible or repressive? In today’s episode, Matt and I look at what C.S. Lewis had to say about this, the most unpopular of the virtues…

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Episode 17: “Sexual Morality” (Download)

 

— Show Notes —

• My outline for today’s chapter is available here. Unfortunately, there isn’t a C.S. Lewis Doodle for this chapter.

• Has Matt seen ANY movie?! He hasn’t even seen the classic Disney movie, Dumbo!

• The Drink-of-the-week was, once again, a scotch. Matt and I were enjoying Johnnie Walker Green Label.

• This was our C.S. Lewis Quote-of-the-week:

“Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy”

– C.S. Lewis, Surprised by joy

• Chastity is a virtue, just like those Cardinal Virtues we addressed in Episode 14, such as Justice, Fortitude, Prudence and Temperance. Chastity is the virtue by which we order our sexual desires which enables us to love rightly.

• Last week we spoke about our “raw materials” and how they impact our decision-making abilities. In today’s chapter, we look at a very specific application of this teaching with regards to the sexual instinct.

• Jack begins by making a distinction between chastity and modesty/propriety. I personally prefer the term “propriety”, since this speaks to me more clearly of societal norms (whereas I associate “modesty” more with “chastity”). Lewis says that propriety refers to how much of the body one may show, as well as what subjects one is allowed to talk about and what words we can use in such discussions. Lewis affirms that the rules of modesty/propriety can change, whereas the rule of chastity is constant.

• The world thinks chastity is just crazy. Over the course of this episode Matt and I are aiming to demonstrate that it is not crazy but is, in fact, beautiful. Lewis makes the bold statement that either Christianity is wrong or our current sexual instinct has gone wrong.

• To demonstrate the disfunction of the sexual instinct, Jack points out that the sexual instinct must by necessity be moderated. It would be possible for a man to populate an entire village in no time if it was left unmoderated!

• Jack compares sex to food. He says that the purpose of the eating instinct is to nourish us and that the purpose of the sex instinct is for biological purposes. This is the passage Matt referred to when we discussed Lewis’ views on contraception in the Preface.

To drive this point home, Lewis describes a country in which a striptease was performed with a piece of bacon. What would we conclude about such a country? Wouldn’t we think that their impulse with regards to food had gone awry? I dubbed this example “The steaktease”…

Someone might respond that such a country must be starved of food. Hence the titivation related to food. In a parallel way, this would explain the presence of strip clubs – they are a result of sexual starvation. However, could one really say that we’re living in an age of sexual starvation?! No, quite the opposite!

• How did we get into this poor state? According to Lewis, it’s because we have been taught a steady stream of lies about sex for the last twenty years. Remember, he was writing in the 40’s! How much more today?!

The lie we have been told is that “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of”? There is a kernel of truth here. The sexual act itself is nothing to be ashamed of, but that doesn’t mean that every sexual desire should be acted upon.

• The popular opinion is that Christianity looks down on sex, but Lewis challenges this opinion and argues that Christian is the religion which elevates the body and marriage the most! It is because Christianity thinks so highly of sex that it cares about its context so much:

“Each of these impulses is capable of being perverted. Fire in the hearth is good, but fire in the clothes closet is not. The sex instinct can be distorted into license and perversion. In that case, the other person is really not loved, but is used. One drinks the water; one forgets the glass…”

– The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen

• I mentioned The Theology of the Body, which was the corpus(!) of work produced by Pope St. John-Paull II, during 129 of his Wednesday Audiences.

• Gnosticism, the heresy of the Early Church was also mentioned, since Gnostic systems typically thought poorly of the body and of matter in general. They said it was evil.

• In contrast to sex itself, the current state of our sexual instinct IS something to be ashamed of! Can we be cured? Well, Lewis says that before we can be cured, but we must WANT to be cured. To illustrate this, he quotes St. Augustine:

“But I wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” For I feared lest Thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished. And I had wandered through crooked ways in a sacrilegious superstition, not indeed assured thereof, but as preferring it to the others which I did not seek religiously, but opposed maliciously” 

– St. Augustine, The Confessions, Book VIII

• There are three reasons why desiring chastity is difficult:

1. It’s unnatural/unhealthy
Our warped human natures, the contemporary propaganda against chastity, as well as the Enemy are at work here. They combine to tell us that chastity is something unnatural because sex is perfectly naturally. This twists the truth. Sex is natural! However, not all expressions of sex are and neither are all contexts the same!

Eating is a good thing, but not all kinds of eating. I mentioned a condition where a pregnant woman might gnaw on strange things, such as coal. The condition is called Pica and I first heard this mentioned in a talk by Matt Fradd.

2. It’s impossible
If you ever want to overcome something, the first thing to do is to believe that it’s even possible!

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” 

– G.K. Chesterton

Matt gives the excellent example of the four-minute mile. For the longest time, it was thought that it was not physiologically possible for a human to run that fast. However, as soon as it was broken, suddenly many more people broke it because they had been shown that it was actually possible! The Art of Manliness podcast recently had an episode on this subject if you would like to learn more about the breaking of this world record.

I told the story of making it past an overhang on a climbing wall purely because the person belaying me wouldn’t let me down until I had done it!

Matt reminded us that chastity isn’t just a sheer act of the will, it requires God’s grace.

It is important to know what to do when you falter or fail. This reminded me of Mike Tyson:

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth”

– Mike Tyson

This, in turn, reminded Matt of the following words at Pope Francis first Angelus:

The problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask, we grow weary of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but at times we get tired of asking for forgiveness.

Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father who always pardons, who has that heart of mercy for us all. And let us too learn to be merciful to everyone. Let us invoke the intercession of Our Lady who held in her arms the Mercy of God made man.

Pope Francis, Angelus, March 17, 2013

When we fail in any virtue, God can use that moment to help us grow in the ability to pick ourselves back up and try again. This is something which is articulated very clearly in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

3. It’s repressive
However, people who say that chastity is repressive, don’t really know what true repression is! Repression is when you push something into the subconscious, it is not simply when you say “No” to an impulse or emotion. Repressed sexuality will rarely manifest itself sexually.

Those who attempt chastity are MORE conscious and MORE aware of their sexuality and their impulses.

Matt brought up the example of Chesterton’s fence once again. Paradoxically, boundaries allow us to be more free.

• Sex is not at the centre of Christian morality, although you may get that impression from Christians. The real centre lies elsewhere and will be looked at in a future episode.

• Within us we have our true self, our animal self and our diabolical self. The sins of the animal flesh are bad, but the diabolical spiritual sins are worse.

The Eagle and Child: S1E14 – “The Cardinal Virtues”

Carindal Virtues

Carindal Virtues

In today’s episode, we revisit some of the material covered in the previous chapter. In this episode, C.S. Lewis re-examines the question of morality through the classical lens of the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude.

If you enjoy this episode, you can subscribe manually, or any place where good podcasts can be found (iTunesGoogle PlayPodbeanStitcher and TuneIn). Please send any objections, comments or questions, either via email through my website or tweet us @pintswithjack.

Episode 14: “The Cardinal Virtues” (Download)

 

— Show Notes —

• My outline for this chapter is available here. Unfortunately, there isn’t a C.S. Lewis Doodle for this chapter 🙁

• Matt hijacked the start of this episode by naming some of the books we use to elevate his microphone:

Hymns and Homilies of St. Ephraim
A Summa of the Summa by Peter Kreeft
Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero
The King James Only Controversy by James White
○ How to do apologetics by Patrick Madrid

According to Matt, this explains why my ideal woman is Amy Farrah Fowler!

• While discussing my reading habits, I mentioned that I’m a fan of the Pints with Aquinas podcast by Matt Fradd, who is author of several books including the The Porn Myth.

• Quote-of-the-week:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point” (The Screwtape Letters)

• The Beer-of-the-week was, once again, Franziskaner.

• There are seven virtues which Jack identifies. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. There are also four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude.

• The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardinalis” which means means hinge. It is on these four virtues that all others turn.

• I was surprised that Jack never actually defines “virtue”. Etymologically, it comes from the Latin word “virtus” which, in turn, comes from the Latin word “vir”, which means “man”. My education in the virtues has primarily come through The Catholic Man Show podcast. Here are some of their episodes on the subject of virtue:

Episode #84: Patience
Episode #82: Courage
Episode #77: Natural & Supernatural Virtue
Episode #48: Talking Virtue in Bartlesville
○ …

For a working definition of “virtue”, I went to St. Thomas Aquinas, the medieval scholastic who drew heavily from the works of Aristotle. He defines virtue as “…good qualities of mind whereby we live righteously” (ST IaIIae 55.4). I simplified it even further: virtues are good habits, vices are bad habits.

1. Prudence
This is “practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it”. It is the virtue which directs all the others.

People today often don’t think of prudence as a virtue, and even some Christians cite Matthew 18:3 where Jesus tells us to “become as little children” as justification for rejecting prudence. Lewis rejects this interpretation. Matt referenced Matthew 10:16 where Jesus tells his followers to be “wise as serpents”. To help understand this saying of Jesus, I gave the analogy of a little child jumping into her father’s arms. I referred to a talk from Bishop Barron’s on “Dumbed Down” Catholicism:

This does not mean we all have to be intellectuals. I spoke about some of the great Saints of the Church who were considered by their contemporaries to be simple or unextraordinary. Some of the people I had in mind here were St. Therese of Lisieux, Brother Lawrence, and St. John Vianney.

Christianity is an education in itself. Jack references John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. I referenced a story by Boston College Philosophy Professor, Peter Kreeft.

2. Temperance
Temperance doesn’t necessarily mean abstention and it also doesn’t refer only to alcoholic drink. Temperance just means taking a pleasure to the right level. As Jack points out, Islam is the teetotal religion, not Christianity:

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino! [Let us bless the Lord]”
– Hilaire Belloc

“In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe, and the cross can all fit together.”
– G.K. Chesterton

A Christian may give up certain things for a good reason, but as soon as he starts insisting others also abstain, he has taken a wrong turn.

I mention that Byzantine Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox) are currently in the Nativity Fast, which means that we give up good things (like meat and dairy) as an ascentical practice.

We discuss chastity and sex. Matt explains that he typically explains Catholic teaching to people primarily in terms of natural reason since, after all, Christianity provides a guide for the correct functioning of the “human machine”.

People can be intemperate about lots of things other than alcohol. Are you temperate with regards to Netflix?!

Why do we drink on the show? In explaining this, once again, I steal liberally from The Catholic Man Show, since the hosts also drink on air and regularly address this issue. Matt and I share a beer because God made the things of this world good (see Genesis 1:31). We can give glory to God by consuming the good things of this world which He made for us, but only as long as we consume them to the right degree (i.e. with temperance). For those suffering from alcoholism, the “right degree” is probably complete abstinence. For those dealing with addictions and their families, I would recommend a book recently released by my friend Scott Weeman, “The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments”.

3. Justice
Justice is what we would call “fairness”. Matt offered a caution from Lewis’ book The Great Divorce about giving someone “their due”.

4. Fortitude
This is what we might today call “guts” or “grit”. This is necessary for the practice of all the other virtues.

I told the story about the song The Altar and the Door by Casting Crowns. I heard the lead singer explain the story behind the song and album and how, when our fortitude fades, black and white turn to grey and we begin to negotiate with sin.

• Finally, Jack explains the difference between virtuous acts and virtuous character. If we focus on the former, we will reach the following incorrect conclusions:

1. The “how” and the “why” don’t matter
Right actions done for the wrong reasons don’t build character and it’s character that we want!

I disagree with Lewis’ assessment a bit. Right actions done for the wrong reasons can be a starting point for us. In being virtuous, we can see the beauty of virtue and see that this is indeed the right way to run the “human machine”. Jack will actually build on this idea himself in Book IV’s chapter “Let’s pretend”.

2. God cares most about “the rules”
This is incorrect. What God most cares about transforming us into Jesus!

3. Virtue is only for earth, not Heaven
Virtue is the very thing which will allow us to enjoy Heaven!

At the end I mentioned Sarah Swafford’s talk on “emotional virtue” on Leah Darrow‘s podcast, Do Something Beautiful.

“Is there life before marriage?”…the video

Featured

A few weeks ago I gave my presentation on “Is there life before marriage?” to the Goretti Group. The audio for that evening is available here, but I just saw that the video has been posted on the Goretti Group’s YouTube Channel:

If you would like the audio version of this presentation, you can download it from the feed on iTunes and Google Play.

You also might be interested to hear the discussion of some of the ideas raised in this talk between myself and Nessa on recent episodes of The Restless Heart podcast (Episode 4 and Episode 6). The podcast itself is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Goretti Talk: Is there life before marriage?

BridgetFeatured

Bridget

Last night I gave a talk for The Goretti Group. This was a variation on a talk I gave at the Southern Kansas Young Adult Conference.

Is there life before marriage? (Download)

I’ve written a couple of articles for the Goretti Group in the past which you might like to read: Dear Miss Lawrence and “I waited until my wedding night to lose my virginity and I wish I hadn’t”.

Catholic Dating: The issue of chastity

Romance

Last week I wrote two posts on the subject of dating outside of the Catholic Faith. In an effort to keep those posts focussed, I had decided to address the specific scenario of a couple composed of two Christians, a Catholic and a Protestant.

However, as I was writing, there was one issue related to dating outside of the Catholic Faith that I particularly wanted to raise, but since it didn’t naturally fall within the parameters which I had set for those articles, I decided to omit it. In today’s brief post, therefore, I would like to return to this issue.

In the previous post, I presented three main areas for potential conflict between a Catholic and a Protestant:

1. The Wedding

2. Religious Practice

3. Children and family life

In addition to these three areas, when a Catholic dates a non-Christian (as opposed to a non-Catholic), there is another area of potential conflict which is particularly worth considering:

4. Chastity
Is your potential spouse committed to chastity? Will this person do everything possible to help you remain chaste?

It is worth pointing out that potential contention over the subject of chastity is certainly not limited to the situation where a Catholic is dating a non-Christian. It is possible that conflict may arise when dating a Protestant or, as I highlighted in my previous post, even a fellow Catholic. There is no guarantee that someone who identifies as “Catholic” actually will believe or practise the entirety of the Catholic Faith.

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Catholic Dating: Should I date a non-Catholic? (Part 2)

Wedding rings on top of an open bible

Today is the concluding part of yesterday’s article, “Should I date a non-Catholic?”. In the previous post, I explained that this is a question I’ve heard often in Catholic circles and I shared a little bit about my own experience of dating non-Catholics. We spoke about the reason for dating and concluded that its purpose is ultimately marriage. Therefore, when we speak about dating a non-Catholic, we should really talk about marrying a non-Catholic, since this is ultimately the point of dating someone.

We ended the previous post by looking at what the Catechism has to say on the subject of marriages to non-Catholics. We read that the Catholic Church does allow marriages to non-Catholics, but cautions Her children not to underestimate the difficulties involved in this kind of union. In today’s concluding post, I would like to discuss in more detail the potential areas of difficulty alluded to by the Catechism and then offer some concluding thoughts.

Practical Considerations

Since this two-part series focuses primarily on dating a Protestant, it is good to emphasize how much we share with our Protestant brethren. A couple composed of a Catholic and Protestant will have much in common, as did I with my former girlfriend whom I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Having said that, when discussing this subject with friends, I find it helpful to ask questions about three areas of potential conflict:

1. The Wedding
Who will marry you? Will it be a Catholic priest or will it be another kind of minister? Will you get married in a Catholic Church or will you seek dispensation to marry in some other denomination’s building? How will your respective families react to this?

Who will teach your marriage preparation classes? What will be the content of that formation? Not all views of marriage are the same. For example, the Catholic Church’s teaching is that marriage is indissoluble. Will this be taught during your class?

2. Religious Practice
Where, as a couple, will you go to church? Catholics are required to attend Mass each week. In an effort to accommodate this, will you go to a Catholic parish together?

Or, will you attempt to go to both a Catholic Mass and a Protestant service each week? I speak from experience when I say that this can quickly become exhausting!

Or, will you fulfill your obligation by going to the Saturday Vigil Mass alone? Are you okay with that?

Is the subject of religion taboo with your potential spouse? Is it a regular source of conflict? Are you supportive of one another’s religious practices? Are you leading each other towards holiness?

When spiritual issues arise, to whom will you turn as a couple?

3. Children and family life
Will your potential spouse be open to life, or will he want to contracept? If it is suspected that your unborn child has Down Syndrome, for example, will he urge you to abort the child?

When seeking permission to marry a non-Catholic, you and your fiancé will be told that you are required by the Church to make sure that any offspring from the marriage are to be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church. Will you and your spouse do this? Or will your children be dedicated, rather than baptized? Will you teach them the Catholic Faith in its fullness, or will they be taught the lowest common denominator between your respective faiths? How will you respond when your children ask questions about the differences between the teaching of the Catholic Church and your spouse’s denomination?

An ex-girlfriend of mine had an interesting take on the subject of children. She would ask herself if she felt confident, in the unfortunate case of her early death, whether her husband would raise her children as she would desire.

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