Monday, 17 February 2014

Scandal and Perseverance

I had a wonderful Toronto weekend! On Saturday night I met my poet pal Clara for beer, read parts of her rather occult (!) new book, and went dancing at a Goth club, which I had not done in a year. I got home after 2 AM but was up again by 9 AM so as to be driven by an old friend--my prom date, in fact!--to Solemn High Mass at the Toronto Oratorians' Holy Family Church.

I had not been at the Extraordinary Form (or TLM, for short) since I arrived in Canada, and it was like running water to the panting deer. There were three priests at the altar and a men's schola (including Dominicans) plus organ behind me in the organ loft, and it was positively mesmerizing. I began to think I should have gone to confession beforehand, la la la. Was there still a priest behind me in the box? Oh there was. Hmm.... La, la, la. A priest in the sanctuary began to sing the Epistle. Oh, so beautiful!

Aaaagh! Conscience pricked by beauty, I click-clicked down the side aisle to the box and cast myself on my knees in the compartment of the box with the green light. The last time I was in that box I was given a hard time for not going to confession often enough. However, I would admit this again at once to whichever priest addressed me from the middle. I am not good at confession; I lack a proper sense of sin. I am an arrogant worm. Wah! I suck.

And five minutes later I was out of the box, and the schola was still singing the gradual, and my soul was clean and happy, and Mass was AWESOME.

And during Mass I meditated on the subject of scandal, and now-married women who had lived with their boyfriends, and naturally don't want to be thought ill of for their sins (who does?), versus Single women who so terribly want to find love but dread that they will have to sin to do it.

The fact is that we are all sinners. This is not a world of people who sin very rarely because there are so few sins, and those who commit those few sins (like rape) are irredeemable monsters. This is a world of sinners who sin all the time because we are fallen, and there are so many sins, and the world encourages those sins, either by making sin look glamorous ("This cake is sinfully good!") or by insisting that sin is not sin at all. For example, making out with a guy whom you do not intend to marry is a sin, however serious or venal a sin that might be. Don't marry the man if you don't want to. But do go to confession.

This reminds me that I got an email recently from a guy who was invited by a girl--a NCG, he believed--to make out with her, and then shortly thereafter, she dumped him. She wanted more experience before she settled down, blah blah blah. He had been a perfect gentleman, being chaste and not initiating couch snogging sessions, which had worried this girl, even though she was not actually in love with our Eavesdropper. (Eavesdroppers, though Eavesdroppers, are still OUR Eavesdroppers.) Well, excuse me, but her suggestion that they make out, when her intentions proved not to be honourable, was sinful. She used our Eavesdropper for thrills, or made out with him as a kind of test drive, and that was bad behaviour. Not only did she owe him an apology, she owed one to our Lord and Saviour.

Incidentally, I know some readers think I am out to lunch on the doctrine of "making out is a sin" which is why I bring it up yet again. When I was twenty, I agonized over "How far can we go?" and no priest actually said. Life experience leads me to think "how far can we go" for Singles means a brief and chaste kiss-on-the-lips. And, yes, making out with an attractive man you have a crush on is one of the most intoxicating things on earth, sweeter than wine. But too bad. Fiancés (the REAL kind, with a wedding date) and husbands only. Meanwhile I know a girl who didn't kiss her fiancé on the lips until they were actually married. (His idea.)

And what dread punishment will fall upon you in this life if you make out regardless? Very likely--NOTHING. Zip. Zero. Nada. The problem with chastity education which harps on all the horrible things that can happen to you if you just go ahead and commit sexual sins is that the horrible things do not always happen. You go to college in fear and trembling for "the girls who do" and--surprise--they all seem happy and confident. Some of them are faking their happiness and confidence, of course, but others are not. Some of them are shallow, sure. But some of them are deep. Some of them ponder for a day or weeks or even months if they should sleep with their suitor Such-and-Such, and contemplate if he is "responsible" and take all "responsible" precautions, and initiate a sexual relationship with him, and eventually move in with him, and marry him five years later, maybe in church, and have his baby two years later. Everyone is happy, and nobody--certainly not me--doubts that this family is a pillar of the community and the hope of the future.

"Well!" our sheltered Catholic girl might think. "I have been lied to by my chastity educators! Sod this for a lark, I am getting drunk and letting nature take its course."

WHAM! She gets pregnant. Or an STD. Or a broken heart. Or PTSD after a string of badly-thought out sexual relationships leave her a wreck. Because too many sheltered Catholic girls are all-or-nothing kind of people, unlike their often more sensible if invincibly ignorant non-Catholic friends, who at least think very hard and discuss it with their mother or best friends before they jump in the sack, at least for their first sexual relationship. Because God allows bad things to happen to some and not to others. And this is why it is absolutely terrible for married-or-partnered women to reveal their sexual sins without a trace of remorse. They are a scandal to their weaker sisters, and by weaker I do not mean morally weaker, but the socially weaker vulnerable Single women.

Sin is not always punished in this life; there is this place called hell, or if that is too awful to contemplate right now, this place called Purgatory. Sure, there is sacramental confession, thanks be to God, but it only works if you are SORRY for your sins, and actually recognize that your sins are sins. So the repentant Magdalene weeping in the confessional may actually have the advantage over the blissfully ignorant and happy equivalent-to-married mother of three. And, as we read in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, feeling repentant for the sins that conceive your beloved out-of-wedlock children is a problem.

I'm not writing this to beat up on sexual sinners, especially as I am one myself, as I imagine so are most of you, if only in a venial way. Among my friends is a happy-go-lucky gay guy, and my imagination just does not go through THAT door. I don't "judge" him--though if he ever were to asked me what I thought of Sin X or Sin Y, I would certainly tell him--I just pray for him, the dear man.

No, I'm writing this to suggest that sexual sinners who, thanks to God's mercy, don't suffer any adverse affects in this life from our sins not spread this news to vulnerable, innocent, virgin women who are terribly, TERRIBLY tempted to give into their sexual desires, in part because sexual desire is one of the strongest forces on earth, and in part because they are told they will "never get a boyfriend" or "never get married" unless they do. Reflecting comfortably on sexual sin, past or present, from a position of social strength--e.g. a great, loving, marital relationship--is a scandal, a stumbling block, to Single women. It can really hurt them.


Belfry Bat said...

Actually, they were a Priest, a Deacon, and a tonsured seminarian (... I don't know if St. Michael's Abbey uses the minor Orders...). Both the not-priests-yet usually sing in the Schola, but this is another important part of their training.

Maybe more later!

Seraphic said...

Ah, thank you! At any rate, there were a Priest, Deacon and Sub-deacon, which was a rare treat for me. In my Edinburgh TLM we are lucky if we get a Deacon and Sub-Deacon once a year!

A Solemn High Missa Cantata is so beautiful!

Gregaria said...

There is so much wisdom in this post! I have also looked at people living in sinful lifestyles who were happy, confident, healthy... and thought, "Have I been lied to?" I don't especially appreciate being told about all the bad things that will happen to me if I give in to sins x,y, and z EXCEPT that sometimes those bad things happen. The thing we aren't told is that there's a whole other common sense side to deciding who to marry/sleep with. I think Catholic girls also go into marriages thinking: if we're both Catholic and we don't sleep together or even kiss before marriage, God will bless our marriage/we will be perfectly happy. But if the guy is a jerk, I think they're just deluding themselves.

Anyways, thanks for the post. :)

Seraphic said...

Thank you. And yes, sometimes these bad things do happen. And sometimes they happen because the innocent are scandalized by sinful behaviour of others that seems to profit them. How horrible if others suffer because we escaped suffering!

The thing is, we can never assume God's mercy for ourselves. We can be grateful that God has been merciful to our sexually sinning friends, and pray that He will continue to be merciful to them, but we cannot act as though we ASSUME God will be merciful to US. We may ask (or thank Him for) His mercy on our friends, but we err, we must BEG His mercy on ourselves. And there's no better way to show that contrition by going into the dread confessional. (Perhaps for some people the confessional isn't dread, but it is for me until I am out of it and grateful for it.)

Seraphic said...

*but if we err...

Heather in Toronto said...

I brought my parish's RCIA class to Holy Family's Solemn High Mass a few weeks ago, and we all loved it. They do put on a lovely Mass, don't they?

Seraphic said...

Yesss... but I don't think they would like the expression "put on" as it might give the impression someone thought of it as a theatrical performance. Certainly they celebrate the Solemn High Mass with great reverence and attention. What a treasure it is! Good for you for giving your RCIA class a chance to assist at it!

Seraphic said...

*To assist at Mass means to attend Mass.

Antigone in NYC said...

Life experience leads me to think "how far can we go" for Singles means a brief and chaste kiss-on-the-lips. And, yes, making out with an attractive man you have a crush on is one of the most intoxicating things on earth, sweeter than wine. But too bad. Fiancés (the REAL kind, with a wedding date) and husbands only.

Oh, Seraphic, I think this is very, very bad advice to give younger women. Very, very, very, VERY few emotionally healthy men are going to propose to a woman with whom they have shared only a "brief and chaste" kiss on the lips.

Please, staying a virgin until marriage and finding good, moral, healthy men to date is good enough. By all means, keep your clothes on. Set limits. But please don't set up impossible standards for women--younger women especially--to think they should follow. It's not living in reality, and reality is often how God speaks to us.

I used to believe things like this in my 20s, came around in my 30s, and don't want to see others waste time and precious years.

My parish priest has a good standard for physical affection---"the level of physical affection should be equal to the level of commitment." It's a general rule, sure, but I find it helpful. Complete commitment = marriage = sex.

Antigone in NYC said...

***Whoops! Meant to type "hard enough" not "good enough."

Zee Freudian slip, she is showing, perhaps???

- A.

Heather in Toronto said...

Yeah, I didn't really like "put on" myself but wasn't sure what else to use. Offer? Present?

Seraphic said...

Antigone in NY, why do you say that? I mean, are you saying that men will not fall in love with women who do not make out with them?

But naturally I do not want the young ladies of the world to tear their hair out. I may need a male point of view here. And could a (dare a) priest chime in?

The thing is, we are stymied by this: the decree of Pope Alexander VII

Julia said...

Excellent post.

In fact, I might even go a step further than you have and say 'no making out with fiances' either. No matter how 'real' the fiancé is and how certain the wedding date is, engagements break up all the time.

Moving on to Latin Mass - I took 18-Year-Old Sister to Solemn High Mass the other weekend. A group of my friends also went. Nearly all of us are pretty much Latin Mass novices, so one of the priests spent some time before Mass explaining the Missal to us.

And yeah, seeing a line to confession can really prompt one into joining the line, as 18-Year-Old Sister and I did. When it's right there being offered, why not? The line was long, and full of people aged 18 to 30. 18-Year-Old Sister loved the Latin Mass, and remarked that she was surprised to see such a young congregation. The parish is a little too far for us to go every week, but I go to a very reverent OF parish (you know, with actual altar rails and confession), so I don't feel starved of reverence or beauty at that OF parish.

Julia said...

Also, my sympathies to our Eavesdropper. And to the girl as well. I hope she comes to her senses.

Belfry Bat said...

Another occasional Eavesdropper, I would like to report that it's more than possible to fall madly head-over-heels and plan dates and proposals without any tangency occuring at all, never mind osculation; and to be sorely crushed when she cannot requite his protestations of et.c.

I don't know if that helps you at all, or how commonplace it is. But do all you can to be more what God intended you to be, and virtuous in particular, because that does attract the virtuous man.

Seraphic said...

Incidentally, I am thinking of getting rid of the boy ban starting this St. Joseph's Day. What do we think of that? Should we accept the Eavesdroppers as Readers again?

Antigone in NYC said...

Antigone in NY, why do you say that? I mean, are you saying that men will not fall in love with women who do not make out with them?

I am saying that very few contemporary, healthy, Western men will propose to a woman with whom they have shared only the brief, chaste kiss. And I'm guessing many (though not all) of us reading are Western women.

I've seen men fall in love with crushes whom they have never kissed, yes, but a proposal is a different thing.

Are there some men who would? I'm sure there are a few wonderful guys who would, esp. in more conservative subcultures. But in my experience in Catholic circles, a lot of the guys that might had emotional issues and were generally uncomfortable with their sexuality.

As faithful Catholics we women have a tough enough time finding a spouse (at least on my side of the pond, the ratio of men to women at Catholic events skews around 30/70), we shouldn't take on unrealistic and unrequired standards. (I can't help but think of the Parisees heaping unnecessary burdens on on others' heads.)

By all means, if a woman feels called by God to make such a resolution, she should do so. But she should understand the potential consequences of her actions, ie. significantly reducing her chances of marriage. Just like the 17th Century Jesuit missionary needed to understand the possibility of a brutal martyrdom (sorry for the dramatic comparison!).

By all means, bring back the boys!

~ Antigone

Julia said...

From what I've seen, our Eavesdroppers seem pretty benign, so I would have no problem with their returning.

Seraphic said...

For me the question is whether making out is a sin or not. If it's a sin, you don't do it. If you do it, you go yo confession. There are conscientious Catholic men who do indeed feel making out is at very least a near occasion for sin. If there are Catholic men yelling, "You won't do even that?", then they need to do some reading. And thinking. Girls get endless enjoyment from couch snogging sessions whereas all that foreplay and no resolution is eventually frustrating for men. Too bad for them, of course, but it would be kinder, chaster & safer if they were not brought to that level in the first place.

Yep. We here on Seraphic Singles say it like it is.

Sheila said...

Of course chaste kissing shouldn't be *all* you do. There should be holding hands, affectionate hugs, arm around the shoulder while watching a movie .... all these emotional, affectionate things that are not sexual. (Too much focus on kissing was problematic for me -- I had resolved to "save my first kiss" and suddenly realized that if I kept up the way I was going, I was going to save nothing BUT the first kiss .... oh dear!) The point should be to do things that are emotional, romantic, affectionate, but not things that are passionate, arousing, or sexual. We all have some basic sense of what these things are .... we detect a difference between a couple sweetly snuggling at a party and the one that makes you want to yell "Get a room!"

If someone tells you "get a room!" you're going too far. Depending on your personal selves, it might be wise to keep much of your dating in public spaces like family living rooms, homes shared with roommates, etc. ... but I suspect more mature people may not need this rule. It was a good rule for us.

And I think if you stick to this -- doing lots of things that allow you to feel emotionally close, and no things that are of their nature arousing, you aren't going to have men declining to propose because you haven't gone further. After all, you've been plenty affectionate and it should be clear by that point whether or not there's any chemistry.

Of course, any physical display of affection should be in line with the affection you actually feel, and the level of commitment and intimacy the relationship actually has. Anything else is kind of like a lie, don't you think?

Seraphic said...

Well said, Sheila. I am an affectionate woman myself. I hug men and women I am fond of, and I kiss them soundly on the cheeks, and I would certainly walk arm in arm with them if they did not find it weird. Hand-holding is a couple thing, or a grown-up and child thing, so for myself I would draw the line at holding hands with male friends, although I do not mind shaking hands and having my hand kissed by such polite men still sufficiently old-fashioned (or Polish) to do so.

I was annoyed when an older married man once planted a kiss on my lips, and I would certainly avoid doing that to anyone other than my husband.

Naturally you Singles think that my behaviour with men-I-am-not-married-to should be more circumspect than yours, but ask yourselves why this should be? Naturally I do not make out with any male friend whom I find attractive, although I hug any male friend I very much like. I would even waltz with them, a dance which necessitates very little "room left for the Holy Spirit." So what's the difference?

I suggest the difference is that making out is foreplay, and hugging and waltzing are not.

Kate said...

I am all for the "no making out" rule. Have I always observed this? Noooo, but the guys I have made out with in the past still hold some bizarre fuzzy happy spot in my brain. Even though I knew that the making out wasn't going to lead to anything else, the guys always held out hope and I certainly had some trouble remembering why it had to stop at times. The way I see it is that as single women, we should plan on avoiding it. At all costs? Meh.

Anonymous for this time said...

I am currently engaged, and I agree with Antigone. I would have found it strange if we had made a much more serious commitment to each other (public engagement) without any increase in our physical affection for each other. I mean, thanks to NFP classes he already knows my daily temperature readings and other more intimate data.
Our physical relationship does have an impact on our overall relationship -- for example, if I haven't initiated kissing in awhile, he'll notice and say something -- not because he just really needs to "get some" but because there's usually some underlying reason that we need to discuss before things get back to normal. We are learning those dynamics at a reduced level in the same way that we're learning NFP, discussing finances and children in pre-marital counseling, and setting new boundaries with our families of origin in preparation for a healthy marriage. It's not a "trial run" in the same way that living together would be (and no, we haven't had sex), but it is recognizing that it doesn't have to be 0 to 60 either.
For me to not kiss him until our wedding day would be the equivalent of him not saying "I love you" until our wedding day. Maybe if you both agree well in advance that those will be the parameters of your relationship, it can work, but it seems more like a calling of heroic virtue rather than a general expectation.

Antigone in NYC said...

I think the potential sinfulness of making out depends very much on the circumstances (ie. the nature of the relationship and commitment, what is being expressed, how long you indulge). A brief, chaste kiss could be sinful and unkind under certain circumstances (ie. you have no real interest in the man or are kissing him out of a sense of obligation or for a little thrill for yourself). In that case, sin would be less about misplaced physical arousal, and more about the deceit behind the kiss.

No woman should ever be making out with a man if she doesn’t want to—just as no woman should be chastely pecking a man if she doesn’t want to. No good man (Catholic or otherwise) should pressure a woman to do ANYTHING she doesn’t want to. But a lot of good men (good, upright, marriageable men) might walk away. It cuts both ways: I wouldn’t absolutely rule it out (esp. if affection had been clearly and comfortably demonstrated as described above), but as a 30-something contemporary Western woman I think I would be extremely nervous about marrying an older (30 plus) contemporary Western man who had only expressed his physical affection by holding hands and a few brief, closed mouth kisses.

I guess it really does come down to a question of whether making out is always sinful (I don’t). I think we can both agree that we are never given license to sin; ends do not justify means. But I stand by my argument that Catholics who intend to reserve sex for marriage have a difficult enough road ahead of us: placing even greater restrictions on physical affection in contemporary Western society restricts your potential matches to a very, very small pool, which is unfortunately wriggling with many (not all, but many) emotionally stunted personalities.

Seraphic said...

I leave fiancés who have wedding dates out of the whole discussion of making out. I don't want to say this five more times in the same year, or get graphic about it, but making out is a form of foreplay and therefore a help to happy marital sexuality.

If you are making out, but you are getting married to this man in x months, chances are most likely you are not using this person for thrills or lustfully, but are preparing (whether consciously or not) for sex with him. You have staked your whole life on this person, and he on you, and you are going to be consummating the relationship in a comfortable period of time.

Therefore, I believe fiancés are a different kettle of fish entirely. I am thinking about the SINGLE Singles, which is to say, girls who have NEITHER fiancés or husbands.

The caveat is that a fiancé has to be a REAL fiancé (with a wedding date attached), not a guy you think you will marry one day or a live-in lover you call your fiancé to keep your Catholic grandma quiet.

Anon for now said...

I do certainly agree that making out is a form of foreplay, and can be very murky territory for a dating couple. But I do sort of side with Antigone (etc) for this one, in that physical affection can, in certain settings, mirror emotion affection, and I would be worried about being in a headed-toward marriage type relationship with a man who never even tried to do more than a simple kiss.

Perhaps I'm biased; I have a close family friend who, having been seduced by a college boyfriend into giving away her virginity and sorely regretting it, was ever so grateful that her next boyfriend never pressured her to do anything beyond chaste, quick kissing on the lips. Soon after they married it turned out that he was a closeted gay man who, because he worked in politics (it was the Nineties), needed to be married to a pretty, educated woman like my friend. They divorced within two years, and it took her a very long time to get over it.

Obviously that's a terrible, probably unusual case, but just fyi.

Seraphic said...

So what we are saying here is that guys have to make out, whether it is a sin or not, to prove that they are not homosexuals?

Nah. Believe me, I know that some girls think this way when their sweetie doesn't grab them after three weeks (or two weeks, or the first date), and I also know there are still Catholic gay guys out there lying their socks off to their convenient girlfriends so that they can "pass." This is why I advocate something called TALKING and SHARING OPINIONS and BELIEFS.

We would all go insane if guys advocated guys not marry girls who won't have sex with them before marriage, lest they never get any sex after marriage. And yet here we are seriously discussing whether or not we should bother with guys who won't have foreplay with us before marriage, lest they be gay or secretly emotionally twisted or whatever.

My friend McKelvie, who is now a priest so this is no longer something he has to worry about ,said he would love it if he was a bit too forward and a girl slapped him. His big fear was that he might go too far and the girl would never stop him. This scared the heck out of him. So I would advocate to any girl who is dating a guy who seems attracted to her but does not launch couch snogging sessions is to ask why not. Then he can explain. IN WORDS. Sometimes it's just that he is a conscientious guy who doesn't want to fall into sin.

Antigone in NYC said...

Physical affection shouldn't be about proving. It's (ideally and morally, I think) the external expression of an internal reality (I care about you, I am attracted to you, I am expressing these feelings in an unique and embodied way).

His big fear was that he might go too far and the girl would never stop him. This scared the heck out of him.

That is a certainly a lot of fear.

Was he as afraid in all other aspects of his moral life outside of the possible sins of concupiscence? Was he as terrified of pride, anger, and selfishness in his relationships? Of cowardice? These sins can be just as (eternal) life draining and dangerous (if you believe the good Catholic medievals---or even C.S. Lewis, for that matter---FAR more dangerous).

Seraphic said...

I don't know. He was only 20-something at the time, and we were sitting around the table talking about dating.

At any rate, you are quite right that we should examine physical expressions of affection and sexual desire within the context of virtue and charity overall.

The "how far can we go?" question shouldn't be answered within a vacuum. However, a pope has given his opinion that making out is a serious sin, and that shouldn't be papered over, either. When in doubt, mention it to a priest in the confessional, that's what I would advise. And it's not just about chastity. For the reasons I mention above, it is also about justice.

Antigone in NYC said...

Ah, I am a hopeless advocatus diaboli... (But, hey, Church employs 'em, right?). Sorry, I really will end here (unless you want me to go on!). I realize that, though public, this is your blog but I do feel strongly about this issue.

Pope Alexander VII lived in 1599 - 1667. We do not. In Pope Alexander VII's century, 12-year-old girls were often married (in the Church) to 20 and 30-something year old men. Some of these unions probably ended up more or less well. But such a union today would appall most contemporary Westerners. Social mores change; writings and teachings must be considered within their historical and cultural contexts. Truth continues to reveal itself.

Pope Alexander VII was also a crusader against heliocentrism. Heretics could be burnt at the stake. We've rather papered and moved on from those.

Seraphic said...

Truth does not change, though. Either it has always been wrong for single, non-affianced, non-married people to kiss until they are well & truly sexually aroused, or it has never been so. And the answer to that question rests not with you or me or contemporary mores but the authentic teaching of the Christian Church.

If we cannot live up to a standard-and perhaps few of us can-the solution is not to do away with the standard but to admit our limitations.

Brigid said...

I think perhaps a more Eastern view of sin might make the idea of "making out to a non-spouse/fiancé is a sin" more palatable. From that angle, it's more of a pragmatic recognition that making out isn't super useful to one's spiritual health, and that it might be worth re-thinking rather than forging lustily ahead.

I'm Orthodox, so in my worldview sin is not That Thing You Did That Was Wrong but That Way You Missed the Mark or That Thing You Did That Wounded Your Heart and Your Relationship with God.

In that light, I can see how making out could be damaging to one's equilibrium, not to mention distracting one from the things one should be aiming for. Lust is a passion, and when the passions rule us instead of the other way around, that's a problem.

Tanny said...

This conversation is so frustrating. :( I probably shouldn't have even read it, being one of those very single Singles who has never even held a boy's hand, let alone kissed one! I find myself constantly looking for rules when trying to envision myself in a potential-for-kissing scenario (I don't mean fantasize; I just mean plan out how I might potentially actually go about dating and even becoming engaged to and maybe even marrying someone -- which is, naturally, a big concern to a slightly lonely Single!), because rules are constants in an unknown, right? Helpful constraints for when you don't know what you're doing or whether you can do it? And for a long time I was content with Good Old Pope Alexander VII's decree. (Also with what I learned from that really weird 80s video we watched in Catholic junior high health class, in which we were told by a woman with a giant blonde perm that 'French Kissing is a Sin!')

But then I start thinking about all of the different women and girls I know, and yes, the men and boys, too, and I wonder, how can we generalize to all of their very different situations and personalities and circumstances and loves? Is the experience of loving someone so much the same that rules such as 'no french kissing' or 'men who don't kiss have something wrong with them and you shouldn't marry them' apply to everyone, everywhere? Hence -- frustration. And I end up feeling really lost, because this kind of relativism (a.k.a., the modern world today!) scares me.

I mean, I would say that my instincts on this matter -- having no experience, admittedly -- are the same as yours, Auntie Seraphic -- which is to say that I think there's a difference between a physical expression of love for another person and a physical expression intended to create or obtain physical (sexual) pleasure; and that the only place where the two can meet, quite safely, is within the sacrament of marriage. And certain types of physical actions are, without a doubt, designed to arouse; loving though they can be, they should exist within that committed relationship.

Anyway, just my confused thoughts. Not sure if they make sense!

Sheila said...

Still, "a Pope said so once" is not doctrine. Popes have said all kinds of things.

I agree with you about making out, but because what you say makes sense, and because making out (being a sexually arousing activity) carries with it many of the emotional issues of having sex .... not because a Pope said so once.

I get picky about this sort of thing because there are lots of websites full of Church-hating people whose argument consists of "A Pope said this! And then another Pope said something different! See, the Church is false!" Infallibility is rather more complicated than that, as I'm sure you know.

Seraphic said...

Tammy, it's important that you don't worry about these things so much. How nice it would be if we could go back to the days when we could just play with boys or girls in the sandbox without worrying much about each other! Somehow, you have got to get some of that tranquility back in socializing with the opposite sex.

The most important word I have for you is "relationship." We're all in relationship with each other, and all our relationships are different. When it comes to physical expressions of affection, what still really matters are the interior dispositions of both people in the relationship. Sexual attraction can be a really strong, really blinding force, but...BUT.. . you can still make good and prudent and loving choices despite it. You can say "No." You can smile and leave the room.

For example, when I had a terrible crush on Max (see "Seraphic Singles" the Book), I was tempted to (as a friend advised) "Just make out with him and come home!") But I didn't. I didn't because I was darned sure we would not have any kind of post-Germany relationship (and we haven't) and because it would be beneath my dignity as a PhD student (which it would have been) and because he would probably have told other people (and I have since heard all about the poor girl he played shortly after I left). So even though just seeing dear Max made me feel slightly drunk, prudence and charity (especially charity for myself) prevailed!

Seraphic said...

Sheila, well, you know, I have never read any cleric making an actual pronouncement on it, so Pope Alexander's tough talk was a bit of a relief. WHOO-HOO! Someone willing to take a stand! Now we can go home! Yee-haw!

Tiny Therese said...

What disturbed me were the posts that said if you're boyfriend doesn't want to make out with you, then he has an unhealthy view of physical affection and that some men will dump a woman who won't make out with them.

What if making out is too sensuous for one or both of you to handle? It doesn't necessarily mean that you're being scrupulous. Some people just can't handle it and remain chaste even if they're engaged.

Belfry Bat said...

Dear Brigid,

The mathematician in me can't help but highlight how different ways of saying something can boil down to the same underlying thing (which is nifty, in that having different ways to name something means (as you say) having different ways to think about one thing): starting from the premise that the Moral Law is part of our nature, one cannot miss the mark or wound our heart or relationship with God except by doing wrong, nor can we choose to do wrong except by wounding our heart or relationship with God.


The mathematical professional in me (with an interest in understanding how people go about understanding, eachother or in general) can't help but wonder if Seraphic and Antigone actually understand the same thing by the phrase "making out"; to be sure you are refering to the same external appearances, but Seraphic is clearly considering the inward repercussions of choosing such actions, and Antigone seems to be considering more the longer-term externals... is a snog a pinch of incense?

Rivka said...

Wow. Powerful post. I am myself, by the way, one of those socially weak virgin Catholic women. Although in my case the social weakness is due to Aspergers/Autism Spectrum Disorder.