Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sin, Actually

Grace. One of the teachings of my Canadian theology school that resounds through my brain ten years later is "If you begin with sin, you end with sin. If you begin with Grace, you end with Grace." I think this is particularly true in all discussions of sexuality. Otherwise we end sounding like Euripides' Phaedra ("Only death can blot out the shame of my random crush!") and Hippolytus ("Why can't we just buy sons?") I think Catholic artists, in particular, have a duty to somehow illustrate the great beauty of Eros, which is above everything else an impulse to escape the prison of one's own ego to connect with someone or something else.

Of course, we live in a post-Fall universe, so sexuality has been at least slightly messed up along with every other created thing, and we have to pray and strive lest the wellsprings of Eros get clogged up with selfishness, greed, lust to dominate, fear and even hatred. And the terrific challenge to Christians, particularly artists, is that we have to school our very thoughts. But whoever thinks that this is just too hard should contemplate the clerical abuse scandals to see where "Oh, don't worry about such little things" has got us. Deliberately sustained thoughts very often lead to deliberate actions.

I was thinking all this the other day when a colleague put up this article on Facebook. It is from the Globe and Mail, an old Anglo-Canadian newspaper whose long legacy of anti-Catholic sneers once actually made me cry, quite hysterically, in the toilets at work. (When I called my mother for comfort, she said, "It's the Globe and Mail. What do you expect?")

The article, as you can see, describes the Toronto Newman Centre as if it were a cult. It "openly targets" university students, says the Globe and Mail article provocatively. Jeepers. I'd love to see if they could get away with saying Hillel "openly targets" university students. And of course the article insinuates that Courage is some sort of scary, scary group that forces its members to "resist homosexuality."

What Courage actually does is acknowledge that there are gay Catholics who have particular challenges in remaining chaste and thus want and need special pastoral care. The Newman, incidentally, also offers pastoral care to other Catholics who want to remain chaste, e.g. in the confessional. To which I am not a stranger.

When shaking its finger at Catholics' supposed reluctance to get with the equality program, the world conveniently ignores that our high sexual ideal is for everybody. Married people do not get a free pass. I imagine many married people have a polygamous/polyandrous orientation, and yet we suppress that all the time--even more than Single Catholics who go around snogging now this girl and that. If a Single parishioner in my parish casually and drunkenly snogged somebody at a party, my guess is that his or her confessor would go relatively easy on him or her. But if I or B.A. did that, our confessor would rip our heads off. (N.B. I'm not complaining. I'm just telling it like it is.)

Then there's the whole NFP deal, such a trial to young married Catholics who are really afraid of having large families but really do not want to be closed to life either.

Then there's the whole transmission-of-life deal, such a trial to old married Catholics who seek fertility help from specialists and embarrassingly and demeaningly have to spell out to strangers why we cannot do this or that.

But of course there are also the chastity challenges of the unmarried, both those who worry they will never get married and those who know that they will not. (And, yes, they are often, perhaps usually, maybe even almost always a tougher row to hoe.) One thing about chaste clerical celibacy and the chaste celibacy of nuns and monks: it puts even the non-gay majority in relatively the same position of gay Catholics who also want to remain chaste.

My dry remark to my colleague was that I remembered being urged at the Newman "to resist heterosexuality." The Newman discouraged heterosexuality in the same way Courage discourages homosexuality, and people should get their information about Courage from its members, not from the Globe and Mail.

Underneath our exchange, some wag wrote, "Resistance is futile."

I beg to differ, particularly when you have the assistance of Grace.


Lena said...

It would be sad to give up. I do not want to dwell in the slop.

Loquebar said...

Your summaries of Phaedra and Hippolytus' points of view are too hilarious. "Only death can blot out the shame of my random crush!"

Eliz... said...

When shaking its finger at Catholics' supposed reluctance to get with the equality program, the world conveniently ignores that our high sexual ideal is for everybody.

This is something I emphasize to anyone who will listen. Especially those who talk as thought being gay or acting on it is the unforgivable sin.

The Catholic Church is the most consistant in regard to sexual sin and it should foster some feeling that we are all in this together. And supporting one another helps make the burden lighter to the point it is not longer a burden. That Grace thing.