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Location: West Chester, PA
Bio: Born & raised in northern New York; U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman for 5 years (mostly in San Diego); converted to Catholicism in 1995; Graduated Franciscan University of Steubenville 2001 (biology with pre-theology program certificate which means I took a good deal of philosophy and theology in addition to the biology); worked for Priests for Life for 2 years in New York City as Director of Research; entered Dominicans (province of St. Joseph) in 2003 and after a novitiate year attended graduate theology school at Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, as a Dominican student brother for 3 1/2 yrs; discerned I did not have a lifelong call to be a Dominican so departed the community on good terms in Feb 08 at the expiration of temporary vows; 2009 moved to West Chester to take a job as a teacher at Reginia Luminis Academy in Downingtown, PA, where I taught 7-8 grade for one school year; now I live in Philadelphia and work with Visiting Angels as a home care aide for the elderly; not sure where life will take me long term, am still open to the priesthood but moving slow at this point to regroup and move forward from here; while at FUS I came to know Katie through being involved with the University Concourse
Greetings! Here are few thoughts from my perspective.
The statement, “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution.” Is in fact an affirmation that condom use is always immoral from the point of view of the Catholic Church. But he says this quickly and moves on because the objective immorality of condom use is not what he is addressing here. He is interested in the interior, subjective state of the individual person who is immersed in a life of deep and habitual entanglement with serious sexual sin. How does such a person begin to take that very first step toward conversion? This is what he is interested in. He knows well that a real transformation from a life given over to serious sin, begins somewhere. It begins with a first step. And Benedict is very interested in this first step, because without the first step (toward conversion) there can be no second, and third, and fourth steps.
Notice, that Benedict did not say that this first step would itself render the action (of perverse sexual acts) moral (good). He made no such statement. He is simply recognizing the huge importance of a shift in intention. He knows that without a change of intention first, there can never be a change in behavior (whether sooner or later) from perverse to good. Intention always comes first (in truly human acts, which are always intended and understood).
Look at his statement carefully. He did not say condom use was a “first step.” He said the “intention of reducing the risk of infection” could, possibly, be a “first step.” He’s talking specifically about the intention. The action of the condom use is not what he is talking about at all in his reference to the “first step.” The “first step” is all about the interior shift in intention. And that first step, by itself, does not itself make the external action good. He says no such thing at all.
I can take a “first step” away from something, but then turn around on the very next step and go back. The “first step” is not truly the beginning of a sustained path toward real conversion unless the second and third and fourth steps and all those following also continue on in the same direction as the first. But, it may well be the case that only after, say, 100 “steps,” does my external action finally become objectively good. But that 100th step at which I begin to act morally could never happen without the very first step, which was that very first glimmer of a genuine change of internal intention away from mere self-seeking and toward caring about the good of others, however small that glimmer may be.
Also, I think its helpful to ask, what is the problem the Pope is really talking about? A “solution” to what? I think the Pope is not ultimately talking here about AIDS (though this is the immediate context). The problem he is really getting at is a human life lived in such a way that the whole sphere of human sexuality has become, in fact, inhuman. So, the Pope wants to deal with the very fundamental issue of how does an individual person go from living his sexuality in an inhuman way (another way of saying in a habitual pattern of sin), to living his sexuality in an authentically human way (i.e. in accord with God’s plan for human life)? And, when considering this issue in regard to the interior psychology of human action, the very, very, very first thing that emerges as the place to look for the most initial indication of what may possibly become a lasting change from inhuman to human living—is intention (and in the context of sinful mankind this always means, in some way, a shift from a self-absorbed intention to an other-regarding intention).
So, I think that when looked at in this way, it is clear that Benedict was not analyzing in any way the basic morality or immorality of condom use (in whatever context). He was not interested in this here. He is interested here in thinking about one very narrowly specified point in the overall dynamic of human action. He wants to focus especially on that point within the broader sweep of a human act that indicates a possible beginning of the process of conversion from inhuman (immoral) patterns of living human sexuality, toward human (moral) patterns of living human sexuality. The only point he makes about condoms per se is that, of course, they are immoral. And then he moved immediately on to the topic of intention within human acts and the role it plays in conversion, and how we might notice a crucial shift in intention of the sort that could possibly result in real and lasting conversion.
Dec 16 at 3:11 am
I met Dr. Jefferson once, briefly, at a National Right to Life conference. I did not know anything about her at the time. She was very humble and unassuming. It was in the evening in the restaurant/bar area of the hotel. A group of pro-lifers was sitting together and she was among them. If my memory serves, she simply introduced herself as “Mildred” when I and a couple friends joined the group. She didn’t even clearly say she was a doctor when I asked her about herself. I think she said something general about health care. One would have had no idea by talking to her in that setting what an accomplished woman she was, although she had a beautiful quiet dignity about her. I did not know until later when someone else told me about her what a remarkable woman she was. May she rest in peace with Jesus!
Nov 12 at 2:06 am
Great comment, Jules! I think this is so important, and, to my thinking, it points directly at the heart of one of the fundamental things that identifies an especially Catholic understanding of life in relationship to God.
This is what Catholics mean when we speak of having to do something in regard to our salvation. It’s not at all about taking primary responsibility for our salvation. Rather, it’s about allowing God, by our humble participation in His saving acts in our regard, to ennoble us with the incredible dignity of being creatures who are invited to share personally with our own free wills in Jesus Christ’s redemption of the world and who may accept and act upon that invitation by grace!
The excessively passive (in an inert, non-participatory sense) approach to accepting salvation that is more common among non-Catholics is actually a view of life, it seems to me, that demotes human dignity tremendously, for our personal individual human freedom in this view participates in the gift of salvation in a much lower, lesser way.
Does God just plug His nose and cover the “dung heaps” of our souls with the beauty of Christ (thus, not even realizing our true selves), or, does he take the dung in our souls and, with our free cooperation, make it into something beautiful and sweet smelling, so there is no need to cover it over?
As adults, it seems the first steps along this blessed path of inner transformation is our response of gratitude to God for all His many gifts.
Oct 19 at 11:12 pm
Katie, I wonder if this sort of thinking is a hold-over from the 70’s era in which it seems to have been a huge fad to proclaim “feelings” as the be-all, end-all and highest locus of that which is most valuable in human life. And when I say “feelings,” here, I mean a rather thin, very animalistic understanding of feelings, quite removed from a rich and deep understanding of human affectivity such as found in von Hildebrand.
If one has a shallow, thin, animal-like understanding of feelings, and then takes as the greatest truth one can state about love, that “love is a feeling,” you get the result concluded by the author. Of course, the problem being that “love” as a (superficial 70’s era) feeling, and genuine love that takes up and engages the breadth and depth of the human person, are not the same thing. Concluding that the former is thin gruel upon which to ground a lifelong marriage does not say much about marriage based on the latter.
I think part of the problem is a very reduced view of the human person. The depth and breadth and splendor of the human person is simply not recognized by so many in today’s society. If we don’t know what we are, we can’t appreciate what we can do (i.e., love with a truly human love).
Oct 2 at 5:01 am
Jules, perhaps you know this, but I recall being told that MacIntyre, at some point later after writing After Virtue, changed his mind on some points he presented in After Virtue. I’m sorry I don’t know specifically what those points are. But I think I can say with fair certainty that he no longer holds to everything he put forth in that book, though much of what he says therein is quite valuable. We were assigned sections of it for our first course in moral theology (of a two year series) at the Dominican House of Studies.
One major point that I recall Fr. Corbett, OP, highlighting based on that book is the importance of understanding that we have a nature as human beings. This, in turn, is linked to having a telos for human life. Then, an understanding of virtue as integral to the attainment of both authentic freedom and full human flourishing is possible. The absence of a properly understood nature-rooted anthropology must eventually produce an ethics that devolves merely into the struggle for power and the imposition of the preferred laws by the powerful. No nature; no virtue; no genuine human social equality and freedom and flourishing. Nothing left but a will to dominate. At least these are a few broad themes I recall from the course during the time that we were using MacIntyre.
Oct 2 at 4:11 am
Great job, by the way, on the conference panel! I watched it online.
Jun 10 at 4:16 pm
Totally agree, Katie.
It is quite frustrating that Dowd and other radical (anything-goes-so-long-as-it-is-“safe”-and-consensual) feminists don’t seem to have any clue that the very attitude toward sex that they promote among the young is directly responsible for this perverse, brutish behavior.
It is telling that Dowd’s article says nothing about any possible reasons why such behavior is becoming more and more common among boys.
Dowd and others are typically promoters of Planned Parenthood and it’s approach to “sex education” of the young. But Planned Parenthood’s idea of “sex education” for the young (e.g. their section for teens on the PP web site) places human sexuality in an amoral, animalistic context. Sex, for PP, is a pleasurable activity that has no necessary link to marriage or children, or even adulthood. It is this demotion of the significance of sex promoted by radical feminism that opens up a social space for the behavior exhibited by these boys.
Does Dowd realize that the “curriculum overhaul” that she calls for, if it is to have any chance of success, must include jettisoning the typical left/progressive values-indifferent approach to sex that she has probably said elsewhere is a good thing (as supposedly promoting freedom and equality and such)?
Jun 10 at 4:13 pm
Ironic that we have this in an age when silence is less a part of ordinary life, and less appreciated.
Perhaps, in a society that no longer knows how to listen for God in the stillness, this is one way post-modern cultural elites can be convinced to take silence seriously. Make them pay for it and pretend it is really special and important because a famous artist gives them permission to take note.
On the face of it, it is funny because of the absurdity of it. But, I also thought as I watched it, that there is a kernel of truth beneath the absurdity that Cage, the musicians, and the audience, at least on some level, recognize—that silence is important for a flourishing life, and that it should be taken seriously. It’s just that the way they attempt to do so is so hyper-exaggerated and wrongly contextualized it becomes silly.
This is what happens when we no longer recognize the value of what, for example, happens in traditional monastic life with its built-in structures of communal silence. We still realize somehow that communal, organized silence is a good, but we no longer have an idea of where it properly belongs, or from where to derive inspiration for how to embrace silence fruitfully.
May 14 at 4:32 am
Here is a link to a blog that collects links to articles pertaining to Pope Benedict and the reporting about him. (Not an endorsement of all these articles.)
I’ll be praying today especially for priests, bishops, and the Holy Father. A most blessed Holy Thursday and Easter Triduum to all.
Apr 1 at 12:36 pm
Oops. My last comment got cut off as it posted. Don’t know why. Here is the rest. . .
I mention this because I know of people who seem to expect the Church to do everything in regard to passing the faith on to their kids and yet they don’t even make Mass a priority for themselves. But then they will pile on the Church when the media does so, without themselves knowing any particulars or being able to tell the difference between misleading reports and accurate reports. Or there is the other example, of parents who claim to want to instruct their kids at home, and then do not do so (and also do not make Sunday Mass a priority themselves).
While such situations ought not exclude people from speaking critically about the Church, I am concerned that at least in the case of such circumstances, the adults really do not know much of anything about what they are criticizing; their scorn does not go beyond being a carbon copy of the latest scandalous article in the major media (e.g. the Fr. Murphy case and joining the chorus of blaming the Pope when the full picture does not suggest he did anything wrong regarding this case). This sort of blind critique cannot do much to bring about the reform that is so needed in episcopal management.
(Speaking now not of victims, who are in their own category as those who should be listened to with special attention, but of others who have not personally been abused. . .) That critique which has a decent chance of making a positive impact, I think, is the critique offered by those who speak from a place of genuine personal faith and of love for the Church. From such can come the seeds of new life. And I trust that this is what any of us here are doing when we are critical, whether of the Church or of each other—that we are speaking from a place of high expectations, and of love. (And always remembering as the Franciscans so rightly have reminded the Church that all reform must include me.)
Apr 1 at 12:00 pm
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