Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nun Articulates Sexual Ethics for Vatican's Anti-sexual Fossils

Leave it to a nun, in this case Sister Margaret Farley (of Yale Divinity School) to school the Vatican's ossified, anti-sexual relics in a practical sexual ethics that nearly all normal, non-psychotic people would be able to live by. This she did in her (2006) book, Just Love.   Evidently, this daring and insightful book only got onto the Vatican's radar screen later, after it had taken issue with American nuns standing for reason (and especially the Obama Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - including the revised contraception aspects).

See also my earlier blog:

So, not long after these Theo-fascists grabbed control of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (the main activist outlet for American nuns) Sister Farley's book evidently came onto their radar and all hell broke loose. The aged dinosaurs in Roman collars heaped all sorts of opprobrium and then questioned Sr. Farley's bona fides as a Catholic, or religious. For her part, Sister Farley calmly and briefly replied in one op-ed:

I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether.”

Indeed. And that genre is a refreshing liberation of Catholic Sexual ethics from its anti-sexual Manichean roots, as opposed to the deformed hyper-Manichean blunderbust  embodied in the Church’s antiquated Magisterium (Teaching office - and once more, as we were taught at Loyola University in our Ethics classes, NO ONE is obliged to adhere to any injunctions of the Magisterium - they're intended as 'guiding'suggestions' and not predicated on the 'ex cathedra' (infallible) pronouncements). This is also a major reason why young married Catholics have been advised by enlightened priests to "follow their own consciences" in regard to practicing artificial birth control.

This is good because let's face it the common thread thoughout the RC Church's Ethics history is an unhealthy preoccupation and obsession with sexual acts, including condemning a host of natural behaviors such as masturbation, and entertaining sexual fantasies. Indeed it was the last that got the attention of a former priest, Emmet McLoughlin who documented in his book 'Crime and Immorality in the Catholic Church' (Lyle Stuart Books, 1962) how the Church's demonizing (and Hell -sanctioning) of sexual fantasies was responsible for more Catholic committals to insane asylums and psychiatric wards than anything else. 

In one of his chapters ('Let the Statistics Tell Their Tragic Story', pp. 189-214) McLoughlin actually documents the extent to which the RC fossils' proscriptions against sexual fantasizing (especially those instances which produced hard-ons) engendered no end of torment in the most sensitive and earnest Catholic youths. The latter's subsequent preoccupations with the tortures of Hell (e.g. if they died in their sleep after masturbating) then sent them into precarious and unstable mental states that often led to an asylum or hospital psych ward. Those that didn't suffer such an end, often turned into de facto eunuchs.....thereby accomplishing the Church's primary aim of seizing control of its flock's collective gonads. As all power mongers on the planet know: control the gonads of subjects and their brains will (usually) follow!

The question arises:  Why should anyone give a royal crap what this absurd, archaic throwback institution asserts or teaches?  Well if the preceding wasn't enough let me add two more reasons: 1) It lost all moral standing once it opted – at the highest levels of the Vatican (e.g. Ratzinger) to protect priestly pederasts, and 2) its repulsive dogmas, including the ban on artificial contraception, continue to spread destitution and misery globally. (Why the late Arthur C. Clarke dismissed John Paul II's encyclical ‘Veritatis splendor’ as a "crime against humanity")

The fact is the Church has used up its moral capital and doesn’t even know it. The fact they've gone after enlightened nuns like Sister Farley shows they're too damned dumb to recognize when they're out-maneuvered. Meanwhile, recognizing the exhaustion of that capital, Sr. Margaret Farley has advanced a refreshing, realistic sexual ethics predicated on real flesh and blood humans, not glorified angels inhabiting human bodies. For that she is to be commended, and one reason I recommend her book, even to non-Catholics and atheists! The fact is we ALL need the vision provided by a rational sexual ethics devoid of antiquated doggerel, foolish ancient crutches (e.g. "natural law") and absurd encyclicals that look backward instead of forward ....and making the planet better.

In my own book, ‘The Atheist’s Handbook to Modern Materialism’, I included a Chapter (Six: Materialism and Morality) which subsumes sexual ethics. Some of the objections to orthodox Catholic sexual morality I give below, many of which dovetail with Sr. Farley’s reasons for advancing a rational alternative:
- Reducing valid intercourse to the pure animal level by demanding “openness” to conception, while disallowing the variants of human sexplay

- Using invalid ‘natural law’ arguments to reject contraception, masturbation, etc.

- Hyper-emphasis on sexuality and sexual “transgressions” arriving at unbalanced ethical sanctions (e.g. prescribing ‘Hell’ as a punishment for masturbation or artificial contraception and also for a mass murderer that slaughters 44 people with an AK-47). As I noted, this leads to an "upside down" ethics where really evil acts are conflated with insignificant natural ones.

- Violating the ‘genetic fallacy’ to argue against abortion and also being hypocritical (since the Church supported abortion in the first trimester until the infallibility doctrine was introduced in 1859)

- Arguing- a la Aquinas- for a ‘moral perfection of the generative organs” which doesn’t exist in reality. (E.g. By what objective criteria is a moral ‘defect’ measurable? How may we discern it from other defects?)

- Allegiance to Aristotelian modes of thought which fix behaviors within defined limits and hence limit ethical response, intuition, action. (E.g. the Church long held slavery was acceptable under natural law since some men "naturally" needed masters to guide them)

The totality of these disclose that the warp and woof of Catholic sexual ethics is predicated on unrealistic phantasms or hopelessly surreal ideations that have more place in an insane asylum than a supposed institution embodying spiritual righteousness. But this isn’t surprising, because given this sort of inchoate sexual ethics, one can then perceive how and why priestly pederasty and its protection would arise.

Thus, padres, as putative incorporations of the Church’s ‘sublime’ order, are not subject to natural law limits.  (As one priest once told my younger brother after serving a Mass and trying to make a move on him in the sacristy. “Natural law is for you, not for me!” )  In another case in Barbados in 1974, I learned of a priest based at the local Cathedral (St. Patrick’s) who tried to entice an affair with a young 17 year old girl to whom he was giving “lessons” by assuring her that he was the vested vehicle to the Almighty! “I am your channel to God” he once told her. Fortunately by this time she’d become suspicious and left.  Unfortunately the conflict subsequently aroused within her caused her mounting psychological distress culminating with being committed to "Jenkins" - Barbados' Psychiatric Hospital.

Will these cloaked reprobates ever learn? Not bloody likely so long as they can expect so much protection from higher ups and often the same jackals that call down perdition on innocent youths merely becoming acquainted with their own bodies in their own ways. (Which Sr. Farley courageously defends, just as former Surgeon General Joceyln Elders did before being unceremoniously- and cowardly -  ousted by the Clinton admin.)

Thus, the misshapen and imbalanced  doctrines of the church as to sexuality, is what confers the doctrines' very malignancy and the sense of exceptionalism for the hierarchy. They believe they’re entitled to do whatever they want, and to make allowances or worse, escape hatches, to avoid sanctions. And of course there's always "confession" to assuage all their sins or crimes if needed. Then….they have the temerity to pronounce judgment (in confession say) on a youth merely for relieving sexual tensions via self-stimulation!

Sister Margaret Farley's rational proposal of sexual ethics therefore merits serious consideration and kudos for doing her part to sanitize this cancer on the face of the Earth, this spiritual scourge. Yes, there are components of the broader church that are decent, mainly those devoted to charitable work, but let us not mistake them for the vipers that inhabit the Vatican…..or the Vatican Bank….still accumulating wealth over the centuries while so many starve, even in Italy.

Sister Farley, we look forward to your next book (hopefully!) ripping the Vatican Vipers and their apologists to shreds!

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