Poppets, soooo many letters this weekend! I will get to posting them eventually. Meanwhile, I have confirmed that I will be going to the Edith Stein Project at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA (Feb 11-12), so if you live in the midwest and it's worth the drive, sunny South Bend is where you will find little me.
Now, some interesting combox conversations with two noted Catholic bloggers, who are single women, has led me to reflect on what my blog is about and what its theological and anthropological underpinnings are. I think it would be helpful to write them out. Does that sound like too much for first thing Monday morning? But as my readership snowballs, I feel it is important to tell you where I stand. I have an M.Div., you know, and it was banged into my fuzzy red head that with influence comes a lot of responsibility. So here goes.
Theological Assumptions of Blog
1.1. God is, and God is a loving God Who has a plan not just for history but for each and every one of us. God knows better than we do what is good for us and loves us better than we love ourselves. Therefore, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to pray that we are given the strength and wisdom to help His plan and not hinder it through sin and stupidity.
1.2. God wishes us to live in certain ways, and not in others. God's teachings can be found in Scripture, tradition and the human heart.
1.3. The blogger being a practising Catholic, this blog assumes that the guardian of Scripture, tradition and (in so far as She is able) the human heart is the Catholic Church. And Catholics, believes the blogger, are not supposed to stay in their comfy ghettos 24/7 but to go out into the world and hang out with people of other religions or none, finding common ground and offering the wisdom of Catholicism for acceptance or rejection in a not-annoying way.
1.4. Marriage is the natural end of the human person,BUT the tradition of the Christian Church has held that the state of virginity/celibacy, since the Incarnation, is superior to marriage because it is a sign of the Kingdom, in which there will be no marriage.
Before the Incarnation, getting married was almost always what you were supposed to do. After the Incarnation, thousands and thousands of Christians have answered a call to remain Single.
The Single Life has traditionally been a life of great honour. Amongst the Jews of first century Palestine, sexual abstinence was associated with prophecy. Single Life has taken many forms during the history of the Church.
1.5. Through original sin, creation was broken. Although the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ began the healing work and gave us reconciliation with God, the effects of the Fall persist. There is perhaps no sadder proof for the Fall than the continuing war between the sexes, which I think is unnatural and simply appalling.
Anthropological Assumptions of Blog
2.1 Almost all men and women are good and wish to do good, not evil. Nevertheless, men and women sin. Good people can worsen through sinful habits; the evil among us can be transformed by accepting the promptings of grace to repent and live according to God's will.
2.2. Men and women are different in important ways, and their biological and psychological differences are complementary, not contradictory. This means that the differences are good, not bad, and they should be respected and even cherished.
2.3 Both men and women participate equally in reason and love, however. Men and women are both in the image and likeness of God, which means that they can (A) love, even to the point of complete self-sacrifice and (B) reason.
2.4 Men and women need each other for flourishing. Even a hermit or monk, a man who has made a tremendous sacrifice in eschewing the company of women, needs to have a relationship with Our Lady, to ask the prayers of female saints and to read their works.
Meanwhile, men and women living in the world, be they Single, married, consecrated, lay or clergy, have a duty to get over any resentment regarding the opposite sex and learn to love them as brothers or sisters.
2.5 Men and women were made for themselves and for each other. The position of St. Edith Stein was that Man was made for himself and Woman for Man. The position of John Paul II was that both Man and Woman were made for themselves. My own position is that of John Paul II with his caveat that both are called to serve others. Even a hermit is bound to at least pray for others.
Sexual Assumptions of this Blog
3.1 Sexuality (eros) is a powerful force deeply rooted in the human person. It is experienced differently by men and women. Itself inherently good, it can be used for great evil.
The purposes of sexual intercourse are (1) to create a bond of mutual love and commitment between husband and wife that will help them get to heaven and (2) to continue the human race. It should be quite fun once you get used to it. It is not worth losing your soul over. It is the Vitamin C of marriage.
3.2 Premarital/extramarital sex is a serious sin that destroys friendship, not only with God, but with other human beings. Sex is a powerful force that our age has set up as a rival to God. (Quite literally, in fact. Freud seemed to think that sex, not God, was at the bottom of everything.) Recognizing the life-giving but also incredibly destructive force of sexuality, all human societies--sometimes with a ear to God's will--have always surrounded it with boundaries, both helpful and unhelpful. Reducing women to chattel or sub-humans and demonizing our sexuality is not helpful. Hatred for men and women who experience same-sex sexual attractions is likewise not helpful.
The assumption of this blog is that sexual relations are spiritually, psychologically and even socially dangerous unless between a man and a woman pledged in matrimony. It assumes the the teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of sexuality are true.
It warns that passionate kissing, which has been celebrated lovingly in stage, song, and Archie comics as a harmless past-time, should be avoided between those who are not engaged to be married. Any kind of physical sexual activity can lead to premature and illusory feelings of committed love. In short, it makes us harder to be reasonable, and this being also a Thomist blog, that gives this blog kittens.
3.3 Permanent virginity is superior to marriage, for it is a sign of the Kingdom. Temporary virginity is a very good thing for it is a sign of obedience to God's will concerning sexuality. It is also a defense against sexual sin. Virginity can only be lost through an act of the will, ruled St. Augustine. Destruction of the hymen, through violence, sports, dancing or whatever, does not make a woman a non-virgin. Homosexual rape does not make a man a non-virgin. (This last bit is not St. Augustine, but I'm sure he would agree although he did think that homosexual rape was the absolute worst thing that could happen to a man, short of damnation.)
3.4 It is the opinion of this blog that any man who commits self-abuse has no business judging women they believe, for any reason, to be sexual sinners. Everyone is a sinner, and just about everybody is a sexual sinner in some way. Most of us have times when we really have to work at being chaste, and when we fall, we have to get up again, say sorry, and strive to do better.
3.5. It is the opinion of this blog that staying chaste is a greater challenge for men than it is for women, although western society has been doing its damnedest to make it extremely hard for women, too.
Epistomological Assumptions of this Blog
4.1 Human beings come to knowledge through experiencing, understanding (the answer to "What is it?") and judging (the answer to "Is that really so?").
4.2 Human beings are often in a flight from understanding, usually because we are frightened of reality. We ought to get ALL the necessary data before we make judgements about anything.
4.3. It is better to be rooted in reality than to live in a dream world or to cower in a isolated corner.
4.4. In the blogger's experience, women have a much more difficult time remaining rooted in reality when it comes to romance, the opposite sex, etc., than men do. Women marry men they don't really love (and sometimes don't like) all the time, denying their feelings and hoping desperately that it will all turn out okay. Men, however, tend to put their ears right back and don't get married unless they really, really want to or are hiding a homosexual orientation or are gold-diggers. On the other hand, many Single men seem to get irrationally angry about their state. Hmm.
Authority of the Blogger
5.1 The blogger has no teaching authority whatsover. I am no substitute for your mother, your confessor, your doctor or anybody at all, except perhaps secular advice columnists. Theologians (among whom I was in training to be) should assist not rival the teaching office (magisterium) of the Church.
5.2. The blogger is 39 years old, a recently remarried woman, who married stupidly at 25, divorced at 27, received a church annulment at 28, accepted at 35 that she might be Single for the rest of her life, and had a church wedding at 38.
Before I turned 35, my so-called "dating life" consisted of dozens of lessons of what not to do and how not to be. This is where I get the great bulk of my opinions about dating and courtship, keeping in mind that my goal is not to marry everyone off but to give comfort and a sense of dignity to Single people who need it. I also hope to strangle divorce in its cradle by discouraging doomed marriages.
5.3. I am a Roman Catholic who goes to Mass every Sunday, usually in Latin. I think Benedict XVI is the bee's knees, and when certain (always older) people call him "Ratzinger", I gently say, "I think you mean 'the Holy Father'."
5.4. I have no problems with Vatican II, although I understand why some people do. I believe the new Mass is valid, although I wish it more often looked like the Mass Vatican II actually asked for.
5.5. I have an M.Div./S.T.B. and graduated Cum Magna Laude, thank you very much. I have worked in a number of lay ministerial roles, some of which I am hiding from my tradition-loving friends.
5.6. I write for two Catholic newspapers, one rather centrist and one rather "progressive". I am probably the most (if not only) "traditionalist" writer in the "progressive" paper. I would love to be a bridge between "traditionalists" and "progressivists" but it is a very hard thing to do and stay sane, let me tell you.
5.7 I began my "Seraphic Singles" blogs to help myself and other Single women feel better about being Single in a chaste Single-despising world. When I realized Single men were reading, I decided to write about their concerns, too.
5.8 Now that I'm married, I feel less like a wise-talking, gunslinging companion-in-arms, and more like a mother hen who longs to gather her chicks under her wings. When John Paul II said that every woman was a mother, I think he was including this kind of thing. Meanwhile, I try not to flutter annoyingly.
What a long post! If you're still there, go reward yourself with a cookie.
Update: Many thanks to Andrea Mrozek for her thoughtful review of Seraphic Singles/The Closet's All Mine. I think it is worth mentioning that Andrea, one of Canada's loudest, brightest, pro-life voices, adheres to the Reformed tradition.