Bearding the Pope

Of course we haven’t yet studied the major natural law problem, but this Blog is never afraid to tackle the most controversial topics. I write of a flagrant breach of the natural law which is extremely common. Indeed the Pope himself is guilty of it.

Why do a large number of males, indeed a majority in western countries, deliberately remove their secondary sexual characteristics? That is, why do they shave off their beards?

On a prima facie basis we must recognise that to remove such an obvious characteristic given to us by our Creator is a flagrant insult to his generosity and is clearly a perverse denial of our sexual natures. More careful examination reveals that the mutilation involved is, as the theologians say, intrinsice malum – and no circumstances whatsoever, except a secondary effect resulting from extreme medical necessity — can justify it.

Not that I am the first to draw attention to this neglected area of morality. The Albany Argus of 1855 was clear that removing beards was a violation of the laws of nature. It contradicted the purpose of a beard which is clearly to keep the face and throat warm. Shaving involves wasting some 40 inches of hair a year, and – over a lifetime – using up a solid three month’s worth of effort. It is, the Argus said, a “barbarous practice” quite unsuited to modern man.

You may think the issue of beards is trivial, but in fact the instinctive response to facial hair lies deep in the human psyche. While the most respectable and wise have worn beards, they nevertheless constitute a threat to those whom I may charitably call “would-be eunuchs”.

You will recall (if only because it has recently been revived) the 1960s musical, Hair. Its significance lay in the fact that the new, questioning – and so threatening – generation majored on the growth of long hair and beards. They were a sexual threat.

I worked for many years for a large international financial company, and, even as late as the ‘90s, my UK boss told me that the international powers that be had always held back my promotion on the grounds that my beard gave the wrong image.

I have been fortunate in my women friends, and I enjoy the proximity of the fair. So I had the opportunity to observe what happened when I grew a beard in middle life – a grizzled version of which is still with me today. About half my women friends retreated to a safer distance, while the other half came in closer. The contrast was most marked. But I suppose the epitome came when I asked my wife whether or not she liked my beard. She answered: “It’s like committing adultery, without all the hassle.”

The beard stays on.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Bearding the Pope

  1. Semper sperans says:

    Oh dear! It surely can’t be that the blogmaster himself is confusing the natural law with the law of nature? Clearly the writer in the Albany Argus of 1855 knew the difference as your quatation from him celarly shows And even he seemingly restricted his support to beards on men and not hirsute appendages on the armpits of women, another perfectly natural phenomenon.
    It also shows a touching, and unsuspected, innocence to believe that the boss was actually telling you the truth all those years ago. It was probably your socks that offended people.

  2. James H. says:

    I tried growing a beard once, in the years when my hair to waist ratio was higher. The results were terrible. My sister said I looked like Homer Simpson!

    A colleague of several years ago tried growing a ‘tache. He said his wife made some remark about looking like a [expletive deleted] scarecrow, so off it came.

    So, the reason is obvious: ‘Chicks don’t dig it!’ 😀 Obviously, rules about generalisations apply.

  3. snafu says:

    > confusing the natural law [1] with the law of nature [2]

    How does one tell the difference? What makes shaving a beard an instance of [2], but using a condom [1]?

    Is it purely on an authority that we divide acts up like this? Or do we ‘just know’ which things are contrary to natural law? If the latter, what properties of each that tell us which camp it is in?

  4. tim says:

    Snafu, “powerful and concurrent reasons”, possibly. (Or, put it another way, I don’t know).

    I grew a beard when I became professionally involved in biotechnology (it was cheaper than buying a leather jacket). Since then I have used no other. It saves time in the morning, and my wife approves. The expense probably balances out – razor blades and shaving foam versus extra costs when visiting the barber. And it hides a receding chin.

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