To Hell on a handcart

Recently, I was listening to a serious discussion on the radio about changing moral values in our society. Professor Dawkins gave an example of this: it was once taken for granted that sexual activity outside marriage was forbidden. The reason, he suggested, was that the danger and disaster of irregular pregnancy made such a principle inevitable. But the modern facility to separate sexual activity from conception had removed this need. And so our moral value has changed. As Lord Justice Munby said, in a lecture to the Law Society last week, the accepted sexual mores of the 1960s are as distant to modern Britain as ancient civilisations such as “Nineveh or Babylon”.

Of course, Dawkins is right. The shared moral rules in a society are related to how that society gauges the consequences of different activities. The Catholic approach takes a deeper view of human nature. It argues that sexual intercourse is a symbolic and actual way through which the bond of marriage is expressed. It brings about a condition which the Bible describes as two in one flesh. Such a union requires the total and lifelong commitment of a man and a woman, even if we disregard the potential of procreation. If the Catholic Church is right, then we should expect that breaking this moral rule will bring damage to our society.

In examining this, I am, first, indebted to a 2010 paper by Harry Benson of the Bristol Community Family Trust. This is published under the auspices of National Statistics.

Family breakdown is always an issue for the children. There is certainly an argument that, in some cases, breakdown relieves the children from living in an atmosphere of family conflict, but it is clear that overall breakdown disadvantages children, through lack of parental resources. Who is surprised by that? The number of lone parents has doubled over the last 30 years, but marriage itself has not done too badly. While 75 per cent of marriages were for life in the 1960s, and this has dropped to about 55 per cent, it is still the norm for marriages to last. Divorce rates have been reasonably stable, and divorces tend to be concentrated in the early years of marriage.

Cohabitation presents a different picture. In couples where cohabitation has occurred before marriage, men tend to remain less committed than women in the subsequent marriage. This suggests an element of dishonesty in the relationship itself. By the child’s fifth birthday, nine per cent of married couples have split up, compared to 35 per cent of unmarried couples. And the pattern is similar over all income groups.

Perhaps the most depressing statistic is that, if we look at couples with 15-year-old children, we find that 97 per cent are married. The number of cohabiting parents who survive such a period is vanishingly small. While of course this will include couples who have married after a period of cohabitation, the idea that cohabitation can survive over the long term is a triumph of hope over experience.

Against the background of this analysis, there has been a steady fall in marriage rates over the last generation, and a steady increase in the proportion of adults cohabiting. The number of couples was 2.25 million in 2007, and is expected to increase to 3.70 million by 2031.

We see the evidence in this demotion of married sexuality all around us. Perhaps its most worrying expression is found in the attitude of the next generation. Even in those who have had a good Catholic background we may find the assumption that relatively casual sexual relationships are acceptable, or that it would be folly to enter marriage without a trial period of cohabitation.

For some, the most worrying aspect is the damage done through the whole distasteful element of hard pornography. Now that this is readily available on the internet, and thus on mobile telephones, it is extremely difficult for parents to control. There really is no young person to whom it is not available, directly or through friends, if they wish to see it. If we leave aside those unfortunate teenagers who are actually addicted to porn – as one might be to a drug — we are faced by a culture which teaches the young that normal sexuality involves the sexual degradation of women. And the women (often, in fact, young girls) may begin to think that this is the only pathway to popularity. We learn that six out of 10 teenagers have been asked by their fellows to text sexual images of themselves. Of course, sensuality for its own sake quickly palls. Only sensuality which is expressed within, and subsidiary to, a relationship of committed love has a long-term future.

If we believe that faithful marriage, and bringing up children within its emotional security, is a foundation for their mature happiness, then we are swimming against the tide. The recent British Social Attitudes survey reports that there has been a dramatic fall over the last generation in the conventional morality of sex and marriage, And this includes the attitudes of both Catholics and Anglicans.

So the future is bleak. Sadly, children do not learn from their parents’ disasters – they are substantially more likely to repeat them. I will not see the worst of these outcomes, but I fear that my grandchildren and my great grandchildren will. Unless, or until, we re —learn the lesson that the full expression of sexuality belongs only to committed marriage, we are asking for big trouble. Do you think that, if Professor Dawkins were to study the evidence without prejudice, even he might agree?

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, Moral judgment and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

140 Responses to To Hell on a handcart

  1. ionzone says:

    “Do you think that, if Professor Dawkins were to study the evidence without prejudice, even he might agree?”

    Even though his wives outnumber his children, I really doubt he could ever “study the evidence without prejudice” or even bring himself to study it at all. Dawkens is well known for saying such disturbingly phrased things as (paraphrasing) “every young girl (child) has a right to use her clitoris (for random sexual pleasure)”. I can’t remember the exact phrasing but it had some pretty squicky and somewhat paedophilic undertones in context. You might notice in the quote in your article that he specifically and carefully steps avoids saying that sex was a very dangerous act for our ancestors. Dawkins, as you might have guessed, is extraordinarily slippery person who cannot be seen to say that sex has EVER had a downside. He especially cannot be seen to say or imply that church teachings on sexuality have a point, even if he thinks it is an outdated one. To tell people that for most of human history sex has equalled babies and STDs is to poke a major hole in an intricate web of fallacies and delusions that allows him and others to, for example, deny that babies are babies at all before they are born (and some even dehumanise them after).

    Atheists will always deny that sex has consequences and problems for the exact same reason they will always deny that babies in the womb are ‘real’, because sex is the earthly atheistic substitute for heaven (The equivalent to religion at large being expressing hatred towards religion). This says an awful lot about atheists at large and explains their absolute blind devotion to the idea that sex is always good and abortion is always justified – it’s all they’ve got.

    It’s kinda sad really.

  2. Peter D. Wilson says:

    It’s hardly surprising that cohabiting couples tend to split up; surely the essence of cohabitation is a lack of commitment.

    Gratifying as it may be that 97% of parents with 15-year-old children are married, I wonder how many are still with the same spouse.

  3. ann farmer says:

    What we are seeing is the democratisation of sexual libertarianism – Anne Boleyn lasted only 3 years as Queen, because King Henry was already tiring of her by the time they married. And of course lust very swiftly turned to cruelty. Now we see what used to be confined to monarchy and aristocracy spread throughout society; where once the poor could look down on the rich for their licentiousness, now the rich have ‘colourful love lives’ while the poor have ‘chaotic lifestyles’ – and the taxpayer picks up the bill. This will merely fuel calls for sterilisation in exchange for benefits – eugenics through libertarianism.

    • pnyikos says:

      I do get the impression from my readings in history that the aristocracy always did have a lax attitude towards sexual mores, at least to the extent that has now become prevalent everywhere in the Western world. Perhaps prosperity had something to do with it, and now even the poor of the USA have more creature comforts than many of the aristocracy did.

      The connection may have been slightly different. It was a fairly accepted thing for an aristocrat to have a mistress or, as they were called in other cultures, concubines.

  4. Nektarios says:

    In your argument, Quentin, you do not mention the failures of the Roman Catholic Church in its dogmatic approach to sex and marriage till now.
    In the old days, a woman could not say no to her husband if he wanted sex. This led to very large families that could ill afford to have them.
    Having 8 of a family was quite common then in Ireland, they were even proud of it, and confirmed to the RCC authorities and community they were following the rules.
    Some only stopped when on having ten or more. It would often be the doctor that would step in and tell them both, no more, because if she has another she may well die in childbirth. And I bet the RCC does not keep statistics of those women who have died having one too many children?
    It is also lopsided for only the male to have his sexual pleasure just when he wants it within a marriage.
    Also in your article, Quentin, you seem to give the impression that the deterioration morally can be put down to the want of conformity to the thinking of the RCC on the matter of sex and marriage.
    One would think this sexual infidelities and sin was something new, which of course it isn’t and has gone on since the fall.

    I also see your the reliance on statistics, to suggest, at the very least that the RCC’s position on sex and marriage is the only correct position that can be taken and adopted. What the RCC has to find out is, why all their brutality, enforced morality for the so-called good of the masses has failed?
    It is ludicrous that all the coercion, fear and other methods used by the RCC intended to make people moral, has not succeeded. How could it, built upon such cruelty to gain conformity? How could it be relationships built upon love in such circumstances? Only sorrow and misery follow in the wake of such approaches.
    The essence of this whole problem is not the RCC per se, but Man. The approach adopted
    by the RCC Church and other denominations is a very human one, seemingly logical and sensible rational,but it cannot do the one thing necessary, and that is, give a new life that does not operate
    out of the old nature. If the RCC and other denominations focused in on that, an approached it differently, then there may be a radical change, not just an outward religious conformity, which is meaningless.

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you, Nektarios for sharing your broad criticisms. We know you to be a friend of the Catholic Church, and so you bear a responsible witness to the views which many outside the Church hold.

      I hope that our erudite contributors will take you points seriously — and so provide responses. I look forward to seeing what they have to say.


    • St.Joseph says:

      Correct me if I have misunderstood your comment.
      But where does the Catholic Church teach that a wife should always have sexual intercourse on the demands of her husband.?..
      Husband and wife are always open to life ,and it is the husbands sexual desires that do not comply with the commands that ‘ Husbands should love their wife’s as God loves His Church’
      John Nolan comment says it all , for single or married people.
      The Catholic Church ‘can give new Life to one that does not operate’ -and She has done’ As you say it is up to man or woman to search for it- it is all there ,
      As I see it to-day women are as equal to men in their sexual activities.
      Where is modesty and chastity spoken about today only in the religious not only Catholics..
      I somehow think that large families were not the reason for the picture you paint.

      • milliganp says:

        It does not now but it was a common view before Vatican II that a man acquired a right to his wifes body upon marriage. In the 60’s there was an episode of Dr Finlay’s Casebook where a woman was sure to die if she became pregnant but her priest told her, in accordance with church teaching at the time, that she did not have the right deny her husband. I also know of a paricular case where a woman contracted VD from a promiscuous husband and the priest told her, in confession, that she did not have the right to refuse her husbands carnal desires -which had little to do with marital love.

      • St.Joseph says:

        It is a common view today that contraception is all right within marriage,!
        That doesn’t say that it is!

      • Singalong says:

        The examination of conscience before Confession in the old prayer books, always included, for a wife, words to the effect of, have I refused my husband his lawful needs? For us as children this was a mystery which had to be solved.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Singalong – St. Paul’s teaching on conjugal relations – that they should be suspended only for a limited time and by mutual agreement – might be interpreted as implying a husband’s right to indulge whenever he felt like it. Whether that was St. Paul’s intention is of course another matter altogether.

      • Horace says:

        My paternal grandfather was one of 12 children – and they were an Irish Protestant family.
        Also I seem to remember that, not too long ago, it was possible to bring a case in law for :
        “restitution of conjugal rights”!

      • pnyikos says:

        I believe St. Paul’s words not to deny each other for long applied both to husbands and wives. The one-sided custom being discussed here is an aberration, and I wonder how much it had to do with Catholicism in the first place.

        There have always been heretical priests who would put their own spin on Catholic teaching, sometimes out of sheer ignorance, sometimes out of malice.

        One of the worst examples, recounted by Warren Carroll in his multi-volume opus _A History of Christendom_, was the case of a Pope who had a mistress married to another man, who threatened to excommunicate the husband if he refused to let his wife go periodically to the Pope to satisfy his lust.

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        You are absolutely right, the Church the does not teach anything about a woman always to have sex on her husband’s demands. However, as others have commented, it is clear
        many poor women were pushed by the clergy in that direction.
        I agree, large families were more the norm in days gone by, because in those days most of the land was rural, farming and crofting which was labour intensive, hence large families
        to help do the work.
        You seem to think that our Lord gave His life just for the Church of Rome, the RCC. While that is true to a point, one needs to remember long before the RCC came into existence as such, the Church, the body of Christ, believers existed and the early Church grew.

        Many see, the whole sexual thing governed by a rather complicated sexual morality. Here we get down to the brass tacks of morality. It was a system to keep order, not only in the Christian world, but in the Islamic world, the Hindu world and the Buddhist world. It is also in the world of the atheists and the secularists, as seems to be pointed out by others.
        Love knows how to behave itself….it is not emotion or sentimentalism or even procreation as you seem to suggest. Love is right thinking, with right action, at the right time.

    • milliganp says:

      There is a theory, to which I would subscribe, that the only truly meaningful choices are the ones we make freely. Society and the Church have always acted to establish norms and punish non-compliance. In the past society’s norms and the Church’s strongly supported each-other. Today they differ greatly. It seems to me that the only way the Church can regain moral authority is by having it’s teachings freely accepted by free people rather than by imposition. Pope Francis is trying to show that it is possible to live the Gospel and in so doing is creating the moral authority of example.

      • Ignatius says:

        ” It seems to me that the only way the Church can regain moral authority is by having it’s teachings freely accepted by free people rather than by imposition….”

        I completely agree with this. When push comes to shove the church can impose nothing and if it has to then why must it be obeyed? This is a very interesting issue. I get the impression that as soon as the Church turns to a kind of physical authority then it tumbles on to secular ground and ,deservedly, fails because in essence the Kingdom of God is not of this world so worldly governance simply fails. It is a fascinating and knotty subject which has direct relevance to me at least.

      • Quentin says:

        What you say here is orthodox teaching, based on the doctrine of conscience (though this is not always made clear in practice). However, it must take into account that I may freely to choose to accept the teaching of the Church in many matters. This is no different from secular decisions where, often, it is more responsible to take the decision of the experts rather than rely on what may be my own ignorance or lack of judgment.

      • St.Joseph says:

        It is also down to common sense, just look at society to-day, it is an immoral mess.
        Thank God for the Church and Her teachings.
        We realise this when we look around us-There for the Grace of God!
        People are free to use their will for or against.

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, most of the aspects of moral teaching which you accuse the Roman Catholic Church of holding were held by every Christian denomination till the middle of the 20th Century; the difference is that the Catholic church has tried to hold true to what it believes are timeless values.
      The Anglican church condemned contraception in 1908, in 1930 it stated that sexual abstinence was the preferred method of restricting a family and it was not until 1958 that the general use of artificial contraception as a method of family planning was approved.
      Your singling out of the Irish as a specifc example of large families is, frankly, racially offensive.

      • Nektarios says:

        I am part Irish. I am not getting at anyone, but the abuses of power within the RCC
        when it comes to sex and marriage.

  5. John Nolan says:

    The point about pornography is not that it degrades women (if so, it degrades men as well), but that it portrays a mechanistic version of sex divorced not just from conjugal love but from every vestige of human affection. Casual or recreational sex is not far removed from pornography.

  6. John Thomas says:

    ” swimming against the tide” Were not Christians always swimmimng against the tide? Certainly, in our present society, if they’re NOT swimming against the tide, if they’re “going with the flow” of secular-materialist values, are they truly Christian? (A subject for your next article, perhaps – or maybe mine).

    • milliganp says:

      Drowning in sewage woud be a better analogy. Keeping one’s head above water is the best you can do in our society at the moment.

  7. Geordie says:

    Which comes first; atheism followed by licentiousness or licentiousness followed by atheism? I believe that many atheists become atheists because God puts restraints on sexual activity and they don’t want any restraints. They therefore spend their existence trying to find as many other reasons why we shouldn’t believe in God. They should just admit that they want to be libertines and they don’t want to think that a God will punish them for their lifestyles. They try to present to the world that they are intelligent intellectuals in order to disguise their baser instincts.
    All the evidence and all the statistics will not convince them marriage produces a better society.

  8. St.Joseph says:

    I have old prayer books going to back to my grandmother also my parents, and there is nothing in those to what you say.
    I am not saying you are not right, and of course it would be sinful if it was that the relationship was being abused by either partner. particular against Gods Will. and what the Lord intended.
    .That seems a bit obscure to me.I am sure there would be a reasonable answer to why if it was in the prayer book. How long ago do you know?.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      St.Joseph – I never saw anything on the subject in a prayer book, but in the 1950s came across literary references (probably American, which may be significant) to “refusing wifely duties” as a matter for confession.

  9. Singalong says:

    It was definitely in several prayer books which we no longer have, possibly the Key of Heaven or the Sacred Heart Treasury, 1940`s, or maybe not brand new, 1930`s or older. If I can locate one in the next few days I will quote verbatim .

    • Quentin says:

      It will be interesting to see what it actually says. Ultimately, the concept starts from the essential contract of marriage where the couple exchange sexual rights (which is why a man being unable to ‘perform’ cannot make a valid marriage). It used to be called the ‘marriage debt’, and it applies equally to both. However we can see how a ‘masculine’ Church might put the emphasis! But the request must be reasonable — which is of course a matter of judgment. Danger of death through pregnancy or danger of VD infection would be more than sufficient reason for refusal.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Also what would you think about forced ;
        ‘rape;? Or either partner being under the influence drink (although difficult for the male) o ,drugs and violence.;.

      • Quentin says:

        Well, what do you think St Joseph? Your idea of unreasonable demands (and indeed unreasonable refusals) by either partner is as good as mine.

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you,it is not in the Key of Heaven or the Sacred Heart Treasury, or in the Child of Mary although a very enlarged version of examination of conscience. Or in my fathers 1905 Irish one.
    It doesn’t really matter as we know the definition of it
    I did not see Peter Wilson’s comment until after I had posted .mine
    St Paul did say something like ‘take some time apart for prayer;As I said it depends on the circumstances..

  11. Claret says:

    We seem to be in danger of getting ‘side tracked’ down a path that ‘may or may not’ have some substance.
    Even if true it is hardly relevant to the matters raised. In a loving married relationship the man would never force himself sexually ( or any other way,) on an unwilling wife.
    The debate is surely about the value of marriage and not about , what would now be, marital rape and a criminal offence.
    Returning to the subject of this debate the figures make no reference to the fact that in a cohabiting relationship the lack of commitment generally comes form the man and the woman accepts such a relationship as ‘second best’ when she would prefer marriage.
    The very word ‘partner’ that is endlessly used shows that what is wanted deep down is not a ‘boyfriend girlfriend relationship’ but something with status. Marriage already carries that status.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I would always refuse to be called partner on documents.
      Also I am often asked now what did I prefer to be called Mrs or Ms.
      I always say Mrs but thinking about it now a widow, would that be right.?
      Am I still married in spirit to my late husband.Does anyone know the theology of that.
      According to Jesus’s words in scripture,to the question of the woman with 7 husbands after each died, who would she be with in Heaven.?
      I can understand His answer now, a widow, knowing I would never marry again, that I would want that relationship, as it is with the Lord now and can understand how priests and Nuns feel about their vocation and celibacy.Marriage is also a vocation.
      I wanted children and the thought of not having them would have been at the time something lost in my life. That is what marriage is all about really.I thank God I was gifted with 2 although lost 3.But I would have had to be in love with the man I married
      I probably would have adopted children if not able to conceive..

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph

        If Mary Jones marries John Smith she is styled Mrs John Smith. When her husband dies she keeps the Mrs but uses her own Christian name – Mrs Mary Smith. Leave Ms to divorcees and those in irregular relationships.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan,
        Thank you.I do that . And as the Sacrament ends when one spouse dies,
        I was just wondering about the legality of it, As lots of people I know put their wedding ring on their right hand.. Not that it matters.Only Jesus’s comment made me wonder,And thought of our soul,But it wont be like that when we die.Maybe we wont recognise each other. I left my husbands ring on him.

  12. Ignatius says:

    Last weekend I was at an international conference. It was great, I saw a few old college mates and met fellow workers from all over Europe. On the Saturday evening we all went out for a meal at a local restaurant, fortunate man that I am I found myself at a table full of pretty girls all mainly in their early 30’s and from several different countries!
    When it came to choosing the menu I found myself being advised from all quarters about what to eat and what not to eat. I commented that it was rather like being bossed around at home by my wife and daughter, this caused much mirth and the conversation turned to marriage and sexuality. The only other catholic at the table was lapsed and divorced. She was rather baffled about much of the church’s teaching which she had imbibed as a child in Europe then turned away from later in her youth.
    None of the women there were in stable relationships so we chatted about love, about how marriage was rooted in passion but supported by the will and the desire for the best for the other. We talked of the sacrificial nature of marriage and parenting. Every one at the table expressed their deep envy when I talked of my own marriage and how after 23 years I was still in love with my wife though we had both struggled with one another at times. We talked about how love was fundamentally an expression of Gods love. The catholic was by then in tears over her straying and her broken marriage yet hopeful of reconciliation with the church after I gave a little detail about anullments, confession etc.
    All of those women had experienced casual relationships, mainly they expressed a kind of bafflement as to why those relationships had failed or why they were currently single or at least not ‘committed’ to anyone. I have to say that none of them appeared to be licentious, lacking in the potential for commitment or wallowing in filth, rather I was moved by their predicament and by the touching way in which they seemed desperate to believe that love and marriage were still possible on this earth.
    One of the reasons I felt so keenly for them was that, at that age I had been in their footsteps. I was a child of the sixties imbued with the notion that sexual encounters outside of marriage were simply the done thing and the way relationships began. It took me many years much heart searching and the slow dawning of faith to see a different way – then 20 years of marriage simply to understand the beauty of committed love. Looking back, rather like the women I spoke to last week, I didn’t feel that I was a libertine or even especially an atheist – just confused and struggling along trying to stay warm. Rather than bewail the current state of society we need to get out into it and model that which so many are desperate to find, model it and not be afraid to champion it or to speak of the origin of its blessedness.

    • pnyikos says:

      Thank you for sharing this experience with us, Ignatius. You are only two years away from your silver anniversary. We made ours a very special one. I bought my wife a beautiful silver holy water “font” that fits in the hand and has a place in our bedroom ever since. The two of us acted out the scene from “Fiddler on the Roof” with the song that ends, “After twenty-five years, it’s good to know.” Our four daughters, who ranged from 14 to 23 at the time, loved it.

    • Singalong says:

      “Rather than bewail the current state of society we need to get out into it and model that which so many are desperate to find, model it and not be afraid to champion it or to speak of the origin of its blessedness.”

      Ignatius, I think this is part of the answer to my question, Nov.11th, 2.25, many more people speaking out in a friendly, sincere and enthusiastic way, as you were obviously doing, and showing how much better it is to live in the way Christ in His Church has taught us. The young ladies you met at your conference were very fortunate that you took the opportunity to talk about their concerns.

      “She was rather baffled about much of the church’s teaching which she had imbibed as a child in Europe then turned away from later in her youth.”

      Unfortunately, I think many young people are “baffled,” that is a really good way to describe their thinking. They do not seem to understand the reasons for what they have “imbibed,” another good description, and consequently, when they are surrounded by their peers, all acting quite differently, they see no strong enough reasons to keep to the way of life they have been taught.

      This comes back to the vital importance of first class teaching in the home, at school, in parishes and Catholic societies, and in marriage preparation. The harvest is plentiful and waiting.

  13. RAHNER says:

    I’m not really bothered what Dawkins thinks about any issue. And as regards changing and improving human behaviour, (that falls outside legal control), this is most likely done by example and the influence of close relatives/friends. Morality has to be internalised. So I doubt if reams of statistical information about marriage breakdown etc is likely to change behaviour in most cases. And I also doubt if having some doddering old cleric ramble on about the abstractions of the Natural Law will change how most people behave either.

  14. claret says:

    Ignatius’s experience as related above is further evidence of what I also posted that deep down most women do seek a permanent relationship that is marriage but end up with men who do not want the commitment it entails and society no longer supports the value of marriage so giving such men a ‘get out’ and women left with little choice.
    Marriage is not dead or dying but is under attack.
    The Church, in my experience, is strangely muted when it comes to supporting marriage. Perhaps the reason for not being more vocal is the fact of a celibate priesthood. (Ex Anglicans excepted.)

  15. Iona says:

    I think many people, men as well as women, still think of marriage and life-long commitment as the “gold standard”. And children whose parents are married and together are looked at with a certain amount of envy by children whose parents aren’t.

  16. pnyikos says:

    I was reminded of this blog theme when I saw Dawkins’s name listed in a review of the book,
    _Faith of the Fatherless_:
    “Vitz offers a radical new thesis about the psychological origins of atheism. By studying the lives of numerous famous atheists, from the old atheists Nietzsche, Sartre, and Freud to the new atheists Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennet, Vitz discovers a startling common pattern: atheism arises in people with dead, absent, or abusive fathers. By contrast, prominent defenders of religious belief-including Blaise Pascal, John Henry Newman, and G.K. Chesterton-were blessed with attentive, loving and caring fathers. Vitz’s provocative book raises important questions about psychology, religious belief, and the importance of fathers.” –from a review by Christopher Kaczor, Author, _The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church_.

    • Nektarios says:


      There may be some correlation between the fatherless and atheism statistically, but if that is the case, then I am an exception, which I don’t believe I am.

      • milliganp says:

        All generalisations are ultimately false. A whole generation of British gew up fatherless after the 1914-18 war without any major shift to atheism. One such was the PP who served our parish for over 25 years, his father died before he was born but he was raised to love hi father’s memory.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Not much hope for me then!
      Or my mother whose father my (grandad) died in the Somme being an only child.

    • Quentin says:

      True or not, this fits in well with Freudian psychoanalytic approaches. Here it is suggested that our morality is the outcome of our superego. The source of the superego is the father (or the father figure) whose moral principles are internalised in our early life. No doubt the argument would be that the atheist was either not subject to this influence or has succeeded in rejecting it. Thus he has no unconscious need for God — unlike us who have personalised, and learned to cope with, our superego by replacing it with God — the ultimate father figure.


      • Nektarios says:

        You don’t know, just how close you come here to the true, natural spiritual state of man and his happiness.
        But what you say here is a corruption. God’s laws are already written in the heart of Man. .
        He is already a moral creature.
        But this man idea of morality, is little more than set of rules to guide, and control. But we know man will break some or all of them in some form or other. That is why when the State builds cities, with houses, shops and industry, the State also builds prisons.

      • Peter Nyikos says:

        Only one hitch, Quentin: the book stands Freud on his head, and argues that it is the lack of a father figure that drives people to atheism.

        And don’t confuse atheism with agnosticism. I have fallen many times into the latter but never into the former. I’ll have more to say about atheism in your latest blog.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Read my comment Nov 8th 1.10 in reply to yours.
    Families had more children years ago either because they wanted them or because they did not understand their fertility.
    If you read my comment properly I stated ‘other religions’ not only RC.
    If you read Blessed John Paul’s Theology of the body, you will understand the teachings of the RC as in Pope Paul’s Humanae Vitae .
    Couples are able to plan their families as to how they can cope.
    Large families are wonderful. I would have liked more.
    Horace’s said about his large families years ago, My grandmother was one of 12 my father one of 11,my mother only herself. I think myself blessed to have been here from the past large Irish families or else I maybe would not. They were not landowners.
    Of course we are 2000 years since Jesus died on the Cross, however, the RC existed since then.
    All other religions have not advanced in ‘fertility knowledge’ only the RC.
    Can you tell me about the Orthodox teachings-I would be interested to know how many NFP teachers there are..
    Some husband and wives are not through their own fault childless, this is where NFP is used to become pregnant which I have taught equally to couples to conceive-it works both ways.
    I would not want children from someone’s else sperm I would adopt. People have a choice.
    But Marriage is for pro-creation if its possible between a husband and wife.
    Hence the sadness of changing the marriage laws to same sex!.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      For all the propaganda, neither the RC or the Orthodox Church as it came to be known
      was formulated as such in the early Christian Church. it would be a couple of hundred years before the Orthodox Church emerged and some time later the Latin Church. These externals of the Christian religion are well known, necessary perhaps, but it keeps one living at the peripherals, the externals of that life we have in Christ.

      Of course there was a broad spectrum of occupations where people had large families,
      but the point I was gentle hinting at, (don’t want to tread on your RC toes) the RCC were actively engaged not only in promoting large families, but controlling them in every aspect.
      I see this in some Orthodox countries too, where some will hardly breathe without asking the priest for a blessing. Oh some love to control, love the praise, love the position. In doing so such clergy are not giving one life, rather sucking it out of one and making one totally dependent.
      There are the good priests of course, those who are truly spiritually aware, and able to communicate such spiritual direction – but these are few and far between these days. Such spiritual gifts are not learned in a seminary or in the classroom. They are God given gifts for the Church for their edification and building up. But what is built up these days can be seen and it is not very spiritual,l despite all the propaganda to suggest that it is.

      Sorry, I cannot tell you how many NFP teachers there are or not within the Orthodox Church.

      • St.Joseph says:

        You seem to know more about Church History than I do. All I know is that St Peter is the head of the Church he speaks to the world not only to Catholics, The Pope is the visible head of the Catholic Church on ‘earth’- .
        I take my beliefs from that.
        Obviously we differ.which is a shame as we do have so much in common.
        How much have you read of Pope Benedict’s writings ,
        You seem to judge the RC by lapsed priests,or liberal clergy, do you not have any in the Orthodox.?
        I would never dream of writing and criticising your clergy.

      • Quentin says:

        I don’t think this is quite accurate. Irenaeus in the 2nd century noted that there were a number of Churches founded by the Apostles, which could confirm true doctrine. But he singled out the Roman Church because it had been founded by Peter and Paul. He gave the succession of all the bishops of Rome from Peter onwards. He is a saint in both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.. He referred to the Roman Church as the greatest and most ancient Church. (Against Heresies, c. 180)

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, some of your generalisations seem to betray a lack of detailed knowledge of early church history. While the Roman Empire was united there were individual church communities in major cities and some of these emerged into the modern Patriarchates. But in this structure Rome was accepted as the primal see.It was the move of the central administration of the empire by Constantine to his New Rome at Byzantium (later Constantinople now Istanbul) and the decline of the Western Empire that led to a weakening of the Roman supremacy. The Roman church changed from Greek to Latin in the same century due to the decline of the use of Greek language in Rome.
        The Great Schism did not take place till 1054 so until then there was genuinely only one Catholic Church and all Christians considered themselves both Orthodox and Catholic.
        Obviously the small, early communities woud not understand the definitions of church structures about which we now talk but it would be wrong to descibe either Orthodox or Roman Catholic structures as non-Apostolic.

  18. John Candido says:

    Marriage is the summit of committed and mature individuals, who freely bind to one another for life exclusively, for the good of each spouse, their children, as well as the good of society. This would be my way of beginning a tentative discussion on the issue of sexuality. To my way of thinking, nothing should undermine marriage, because marriage and family is the most important unit of society.

    This is an ideal which should not be sullied because of the failure of human nature. It is an ideal that our society and the Church, who can work together, must do all in their power to strengthen the marriage relationship. Divorce and separation are failures that sadly are unavoidable at times. The breakdown of marriages can be partially prevented by timely interventions such as premarital guidance and marriage counselling by qualified experts.

    Bounded within these considerations are the lives of innocent children. Part of our natural concern for preventing the collapse of marriages, is our concern for the children of such marriages. As innocent parties, their protection, guidance and nourishment to adulthood are paramount considerations.

    I don’t believe that marriage is a piece of paper, and therefore is optional. I would argue that as the marriage relationship is of obvious value in and of itself, and as children have their beginning (apart from adopted children) in families, this would place marriage (in an objective sense), at a more valued state generally speaking, than more looser cohabiting relationships. There are exceptions to this of course, when one sees happy cohabiting unmarried relationships that have children. The statistics in the introduction are quite interesting as they show that by the time a child has reached the age of 15, cohabitation is almost non-existent.

    My own bias is towards that all important ‘piece of paper’ being not only a legal document, but the potential basis of greater marriage stability and longevity. Again, the marriage relationship is of value in itself, as well as it being the conduit of the development of children. I include same sex relationships as equal in dignity to heterosexual relationships, which form the basis of the marriage relationship.

    I remember one Priest who was posted to my local parish many years ago, who has recently been seen by most in Melbourne as a champion of those who have been sexually abused by clergy through the media. He gave a rather interesting observation during a sermon about marriage and cohabitation that got me thinking. How valid is the assumption that underlies cohabitation as a test of marriage suitability? He said that you cannot have a trial marriage i.e. cohabitation is cohabitation and marriage is marriage. They are two very different relationships. It is therefore questionable how effective living together is in determining compatibility for the marriage relationship. Most people today believe the reverse. Are we headed to greater trouble, as Quentin has alluded in his introduction?

    I have a well-known bias towards development and change through knowledge and research, which of course includes theological research. I am not a liberal theologian, but there are theologians (such as Fr. Charles Curran and a host of others) who seriously question Church teachings on homosexuality, masturbation, and sexual activity outside of marriage for single people, such as cohabitation, from a variety of perspectives. I am afraid that I am not well read on these issues so there is a limit to what I can comment on, in these areas. However, the teaching on masturbation is nonsense on stilts.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      You make some very interesting and sensible comments,
      However just a few things I will point out for now.
      I have often wondered about St Paul saying that it is better for a man to marry than burn up with passion.
      This seems to me to give the reason for marriage to be for sex with a woman, somehow to make it right. to cool his sexual desires. Just my thinking maybe wrong.
      Also. masturbation is a immature lack of control for their sexual desires, perhaps they will be controlled as they mature.There is always confession.
      Also I wonder if it would be better for a male to masturbate instead of abusing a child or rape. Its easy for those who have taken strength from the Sacraments to use self control.
      We can not judge what people do on their own as long as no else suffers from their inability to control their passions.
      Marriage is the answer if one is in love.-not for convenience.
      Also If I am right the Church will not marry someone for the reason of being pregnant until the child is 6 months old.
      Society fails when the father is not held responsible financially for their offspring-having an abortion is not the answer.There is always adoption.
      I believe Civil Unions for same sex is the answer for those who want a committed relationship. Not the Sacrament of Marriage which is in union with the Blessed Trinity this ,also applies to male and female.outside marriage. One is not making judgement just on same sex-!.Just what is right.

      • milliganp says:

        Just a couple of very different points intended to add to the debate rather than make a specific point.
        St Paul believed the second coming of Christ was a near-term event and therefore saw procreation to maintain the human race as unnecessary; this inevitably colours his presentation of marriage and human nature. There were many apocalyptic sects at the time and some of them practiced collective celibacy and this has to be seen as a background to Paul’s writing. Any idea that marriage is cure for lust is not part of Catholic teaching.
        I attended a seminar on preventing child-abuse in the Catholic Church by screening candidates for the priesthood. The psychologist employed by the church indicated that masturbation is a sign of normal sexual development and its absence in an adult individual a cause for concern. Most of us were shocked because of our moral upbringing but perhaps we should be open to allowing “natural” developments in teenagers provided they are being guided towards an integrated understanding of human sexuality as part of the Divine plan.

      • Quentin says:

        I rely on memory here, but at least three decades ago Dr Jack Dominian, the distinguished Catholic psychiatrist who was an expert on sexual matters, gave it as a reasonable view that masturbation in the young was a natural part of sexual development. I don’t know that this was ever challenged but then he had formidable knowledge, and his love for the Church was patent to all. Not easy to challenge!

      • milliganp says:

        The current discipline of the church in England and Wales is that 6 months notice has to be given for a wedding so that adequate preparation can take place and to prevent forced or immature marriages. Like almost anything this can be dispensed by the Bishop but pregnancy would not normally be allowed as a cause to prevent a “shotgun wedding”.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Candido
      You are giving so much of what is generally agreed. Where I have a problem is on the issue of marriage as an ideal. Your argument is sound enough for marriage, but as an ideal is something else. There is no one size fits all ideal.
      You see, an ideal is an idea, or collection of ideas by an individual or more, projected into the future and never, ever met. Such is the problem of ideals.
      Once set up, however, the demand of society, the Church, regarding marriage is to enforce it with, not God’s Law, which is written in the hearts of men whether they like it or not, but Man’s laws, which is purely external and in the interests of Government.
      I would also remind you it is Government that sanctions one to be married, not the Church.
      The Church performs perhaps a marriage ceremony and gives its blessing, but it is the State that confers the privileges etc.

  19. Nektarios says:

    The early Christian Church is not the Roman Catholic Church as your historians would like to rewrite history. Sorry I don’t want to get embroiled in this aspect as it is a distraction from the topic.

    • Ignatius says:

      “….The early Christian Church is not the Roman Catholic Church as your historians would like to rewrite history…”

      I used to suffer from “early church syndrome..” too. This was on account of spending the first fifteen years of my church life in ‘house churches’ and ‘Christian fellowships’ in Britain and of course in China where they had the added kudos and frisson of being illegal.

      These days I flinch whenever I hear some local leader of a small and usually quite tyrannical house church banging on about trying to operate on the ” truly apostolic ,spirit led, 1st century church principle..” or some such.
      So I’m a reformed early churcher now, ..not cured you understand and liable to break out into a bout of tongues at any moment or even pray for persons and see them healed….but nonetheless I’m much better. For example I no longer suffer from the delusion that the Roman empire still exists or have to worry if I am in the ‘right’ church or whether so and so at the Church down the road is more anointed than my leader who isn’t nearly nice enough to me and doesn’t recognise my enormous spiritual talent and capacity to correctly discern the word of God so I may tell others what to do……..

      So I must be getting better…. mustn’t I ???

      • Nektarios says:

        I am not an egotist. I do understand all that you say in your posting as it reflects a lot of fact concerning some individuals within small churches and house groups.

  20. Iona says:

    Nektarios – how do you mean, “sanctions” one to be married?

    • Nektarios says:

      From a society point of view, and to obtain the legal and benefit rights of a person who is married it is the State that says you are married. But before anyone else wants to jump in defence of the Church, the State Churches, that is those that are accepted by the State,
      work hand in hand on this one.

  21. Ann says:

    Do i hear right, catholic people here say that impurity is not a mortal sin? I have been on another forum site and if anyone tries to suggest that impurity is natural they are told its a disordered! The CCC even states that it is, along with same sex relationships. I don’t agree, but can a person call themselves a catholic and have their own opinions?

    • St.Joseph says:

      CCC 1456 and 2352. disordered yes; but mortal only God decides that.
      It could apply to anything we do with ‘evil intent’ against another.
      Correct me if I am wrong!

      • Ann says:

        I wouldn’t want to say you are wrong, nor would i say i am right! But the church tells us its a mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God, and prefer ourselves over God if we choose to act upon it. I would agree God is the only one to decide what happens to our soul if we from time to time slip into impurity. We can not say, “if i’m not hurting anyone else then its ok” because we in some way hurt God, by harming our souls……

    • milliganp says:

      Is it now a mortal sin to say that something might not be a mortal sin?
      For a sin to be mortal requires severity, knowledge of the severity and free will in carrying out the action. Thus someone who is immature, ignorant or acting out of a disordered will cannot commit a mortal sin.
      It is a sad reflection both of the development of our society and of peoples’ knowledge of God’s will (which is not co-terminus with the CCC) that far fewer human actions reject God with the knowledge and will required to cause spiritual death of the soul.

      • St.Joseph says:

        We will be judging God next!!

      • Ann says:

        So would you say that all the single mothers and fathers in the world all have dying souls? Or people who decide to have relationships just for sexual reasons?
        Many people think that they have to have sexual relations just to be in a relationship. Gone are the days for most people i know, that you wait until you are in love and married.
        People no longer believe its sinful to be living together before marriage, nor do we say a child born out of wedlock is a sin. Does it mean the church is now wrong about this, the people have spoken sorta thing?
        I think its a great thing to try and remain holy and pure as Christ told us to be, but the world has moved on from that thought process (ok not everyone i’m sure).

      • Singalong says:

        It seems to me that mortal sin does not arise for people who are ignorant of the wrong that they are doing, because they have not been taught clearly enough, or at all, even in catholic families and schools, and the prevailing culture prevents them from considering any vestiges of traditional morality which they may have inherited.

        How can we teach our young against such a strong prevailing culture, and all the temptations when they leave home, and especially go to University? Even the faith and prayer and encouragement of strong Catholic families often does not seem to be enough.

        Will it ever be possible to retrieve the situation now that Pandora`s box has been opened?

  22. Iona says:

    Some people do call themselves Catholics while disagreeing with some of the Church’s teachings as expressed in the CCC. And in a sense I suppose they are Catholics if they have been baptised and confirmed as Catholics. But to insist on being bona fide Catholics if they are in fundamental disagreement with some of the Church’s teachings, – that seems to me a bit odd. I suspect they are the tail trying to wag the dog.

    • Ann says:

      Is anyone a bona fide Catholic really? I mean, you can follow all the rules and take all the sacraments, but we are still sinners because of O.S.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Ann.It is not a case whether one is Catholic or not
        Catholics are not some superhuman beings.
        .Christian’s have received the Grace to know God through Jesus. That does not mean that we are incapable of sin.
        Read Ignatius’s comment on the 10 at 8.55 and Mililganp,
        Although Milliganp’s’ I am not too sure what he means on the 10th 10.52.!whether we judge for God or what?
        I think the best way to look at sin and that is, ‘sins against God’, ‘sins against our neighbour’ and ‘sins against ourself’..The way we were taught to examine our conscience as a child.
        Obviously all sin is an offence against God and that could be open to discussion, but if we sin against ourselves we only do ourselves damage to our soul and it is easily mended with the Sacrament of Confession,but if we sin against our neighbour or directly to God,it does need us to make atonement for our sins. There is so much impurity about that it is difficult for our young people. to escape from it.
        I hope I am not confusing you!

  23. Ignatius says:

    “…. The psychologist employed by the church indicated that masturbation is a sign of normal sexual development and its absence in an adult individual a cause for concern. Most of us were shocked because of our moral upbringing but perhaps we should be open to allowing “natural” developments in teenagers provided they are being guided towards an integrated understanding of human sexuality as part of the Divine plan…..”

    Masturbation is a bit like comfort eating is it not? Starts out with relish and ends in near full blown reflex habit with a whole variety of destructive side effects. Obviously the CCC speaks against it because the whole teaching of the Catholic church is towards an integrated and self controlled person able to please God in all their ways rather than themselves in a tiny proportion ways. So of course any teaching which has self control at its centre will not be best impressed by recourse to a habit it views as disordered and oriented to self pleasure. Interestingly enough Daoist and Buddhist practice is similar as far as I understand it. Many years ago when I practiced soft style Chinese martial arts and yoga, self control in sexual issues was strongly emphasised due to the perceived ‘enervating’ effects of excessive masturbation. The CCC 2352 does give some comment on the matter thus:
    “To form an equitable judgement about the subject’s moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”

    The implication here should be quite clear …masturbation is something that we tend towards in youth but need to grow out of as we mature and become more aware of our true identity – but we know this is an ideal and things aren’t quite so straightforward so we need to operate a little cautiously with the issue….
    The CCC here seems pretty accurate to me.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius-you got there before me!!

    • Ann says:

      So you would be quite comfortable in the knowledge that anyone who slips into impurity even in adult hood would be sent off to hell? We know God knows us better than ourselves, but for our church to tell us its a sin along side, adultery, murder seems extreme in our times. I’m not saying its fine to do this but nor can i see it as death of the soul.

      • Ignatius says:

        Ann, who are you speaking to here? Who is the ‘you’? and what it]s the ‘it’?

      • Ann says:

        The question was for you, the “it” is impurity. Sorry i wasn’t clear enough. I’m trying to understand others opinions, as some people seem to so clear on their understanding of our churchs teaching, but they like to quote the ccc and scripture at others with out saying what they really think. Its like we should not believe anything other than what the church tells us, which on one hand maybe correct, but on the other people want to make up their own minds.
        PS, i’m not referring to anyone on here!

  24. milliganp says:

    Can I correct any implication in the post that that masturbation is considered “normal” other than as part of the process of growing up. I agree wholehartedly with Ignatius’ summary.

  25. St.Joseph says:

    Years ago before women knew the development of a baby in the womb,it was thought that if one missed a menstrual period, if they had a mustard hot bath or drank a lot of gin it would bring on a late period.
    It seems unbelievable now that women were so ignorant of how their body worked in conception..

    Is ignorance bliss!.
    That is why I believe pictures of babies torn apart are not allowed to be shown.
    Perhaps we need to show them, we see all sorts of horrific happenings on the web and films, are people just getting immune to violence.?
    The 40 days of Life has proved how many babies have been saved from destruction by abortion with the presence of the brave pro-live prayers outside clinics.
    How we not know about.?

    Masturbation is not helped by the disgusting literature ,books magazines computers, obviously young boys will be influenced with all this
    So who is to blame.?.
    As one says it is a part of growing up. etc Maybe it is but it can progress into a lifestyle of sex and violence
    Where is the turnaround point.?
    So if parents find these magazines under their sons bed, do they take it as natural and a part of growing up or what??

    • Ann says:

      I would say watching porn excessively for a teenager is going to be some form of influence on the mind. We all naturally had a curiosity of sex and sexuailty when we came the age for it. Today unfortunately obtaining sexual images is very easy for children, the mobile phone for example. Even music videos are so full of sexual intent and lyrics i can’t bare to watch any of it.
      Sex is everywhere, so is murder and violence, but i’m not sure if people have become immune to murder/violence, but it seems they tolerate it…..

      • milliganp says:

        I think if you look at modern gang culture there is a part of society immune to the morality of murder and violence; similarly the murder of a perfectly innocent man wrongly identified as a paedophile shows a decline in absolute values – and that’s before we talk of terminating the lives of the unborn.

  26. John Nolan says:

    “Masturbation – don’t knock it. It’s sex with someone you really love!” (Woody Allen).

  27. Nektarios says:

    I am looking at all the postings here. Some want to become holy, pure, moral &c.
    Others accept they are what they are. Others judge and condemn. What I am hoping to discover through this topic is a genuine honesty and spiritual understanding which is not built on a whole load of self-righteous rubbish and dogma.
    Is the present Pope Francis putting out this call to Bishops to find out what people think about sex and marriage &c, if so he will get less than the truth just like here..
    I don’t think it is right of course on a blog of any hue, to bear ones soul on it. Perhaps that is why we are leaping around mentioning the RCC, the CCC and one or two writers and Saints, Don’t we know ourselves? You are the only authority, that truly knows yourself.
    The Church’s dogmas and judgements etc are all instilling fear, making one helpless, compliant, dependent and so on.
    We will never get to what actually is on this or any other personal and spiritual matters, playing around with games like this, in fact it is spiritually damaging.

    • Ann says:

      I’m not sure if this questionarie the Pope is sending out is for Bishops/priests to fill in or Lay people? From what i’ve heard, some of the questions on it won’t be understood by the regular person in the pews, me included!
      I believed I knew myself very well until I discovered somethings my church teaches, but doesn’t scream about it, were not inline with how I viewed myself and the world. So my quest began in searching and learning, unfortunately from other catholics by internet rather than a face to face chat.
      I started to see a fear and control of people from the churchs teaching, but also much love. I also discovered many people are very confused about their faith. How the church will address any of the problems within our lives I have no idea…..

  28. St.Joseph says:

    Just one question-How are we all spiritually damaged.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      I suppose you are going to tell me mankind is not damaged? By spiritually damaged, I mean that which distracts one, pulls away from, focusses on that which is in spiritual terms
      is judging, condemning, fruitless workings of ones thought process, which gives rise to ego and pride. We could go on, but I think you get the point?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for your reply.
        No I don’t get the point, I asked how you think we are spiritually damaged on SS blog,by our comments?.

  29. Iona says:

    I should like to know that, too.
    Also (Nektarios), do you include yourself among those who you feel are “playing around with games” on this blog, or do you feel you are speaking from a vantage-point which the rest of us don’t have access to?

    • milliganp says:

      I think that if we went back 2 weeks to “You’re a real character” we would all realise we present faces whenever we interact with others. Most of us blog commentators are fairly sure our point of view is right but that means our posts inevitably resonate more with personal opinion than the Gospel. Jesus didn’t walk round with a catechism or beat people up with scripture but he also didn’t change a jot or title of the law, despite constantly criticising those who held absolute intepretations of the same law.
      Part of the mystery of God is that absolute truth exists but that, perhaps, in the end we can never attain it, just our personal attempt.
      What I believe the Gospel certainly teaches us is not to judge others. That is perhaps the hardest thing not to do.

    • Nektarios says:

      Dear St. Joseph & Iona
      Ego, pride, stops the access to spiritual reality. One speaks of God, but does not know Him. Dwell in God and one finds one goes beyond Ego, Pride, even the mind and one dwells in the spirit… we do have one you know!.

      I don’t see myself from any vantage point the rest of you don’t have access to.

  30. Ignatius says:


    Thanks for clarifying your questioning earlier.
    “…Its like we should not believe anything other than what the church tells us, which on one hand maybe correct, but on the other people want to make up their own minds….”

    We are an argumentative lot on here and this blog has its own style which can be a bit combatitive at times and so we like to make a point. We also need a bit of a referee so we often use the CCC as a kind of baseline for our arguments which will maybe give you the impression we have rigid beliefs Most folk on here have been here for awhile and ‘know’ one another well enough to put a point quite forcibly then to try to back it up, but its only our own opinions dressed up a bit when all said and done. You will probably find when you get used to us all that we are pretty much the same as you! Here’s a bit in your first post I didn’t understand:

    ” ..So you would be quite comfortable in the knowledge that anyone who slips into impurity even in adult hood would be sent off to hell?….

    No!! in fact the mere idea of It would be enough to cause howls of disbelief when you think about it….God so loves the world that he gives his only son to die an agonising death on a cross… only in order to consign half the world to hell for playing with itself in a moments stress or weakness.???!!! Doesn’t really sound right does it somehow… I was at seminary a month or so ago for a days training in preaching. We had quite a high flying Dominican priest for the day and one of the most interesting things he had to say about the catechism was that it set the bar very high in its consideration of what humans were capable of and should aspire to. That I think is why in the catechism there are so many caveats -to make it applicable to the world that is as well has the world that should be!
    I would say to you Ann that this blog is a place to observe and to join in with but above all to understand that we just like to chew things over a bit that’s all. I’ve learned a lot on here over the past couple of years but I don’t take any single contribution too seriously because behind it is some one sitting at a table tapping away at a computer just like I am doing now and pretty largely making it up as they go along!!!…so welcome to the house of the puzzled!

  31. Ignatius says:

    Don’t be fooled by our frosty CCC quoting demeanour…we are all staggering round in the dark just as much as you! We mainly use the CCC as a kind of referee and a guideline…then occasionally as a stick to beat one another over the head with in true catholic fashion!! No I don’t believe that I am consigned to hell at all for my many failings, nor are you. It would be an odd God whoso loved the world that He sent his only son to die an agonising death on a cross mainly in order to consign us all to hell when we stumble and fall in our weaknesses!
    Keep asking questions Ann, if you can put up with our quarrelsome and rancorous company long enough you might come to like it here!

    • Ignatius says:

      Whoops-two replies above saying pretty much the same thing…I thought the first one had got lost so wrote a briefer version…take your pick!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        I thought that only happened to me! Never using a computer until I started on the blog 2010.
        Couldn’t even switch it on!However you have all been good company since my
        husband died.I learned something the other day from my 10 yr old grandson-the spell check on the right button!! One is never too old to learn something new!

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        St. Joseph – don’t trust the spell checker uncritically! It doesn’t always get the right word, let alone the British rather than the American spelling. On our Remembrance Sunday order of service, it had evidently converted an attempt at “treasure” to “reassure”.

    • Ann says:

      Ignatius, Thanks for your reply. Why i asked the question was because you said you thought the ccc was pretty accurate on the subject of impurity, but from what you responded with cleared that up for me. I’m always asking questions at the moment! 🙂

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Ann, Yes it is pretty accurate but only if you take into account the small print! Also worth bearing in mind that we have 2000 years worth of teaching bits of which tend to come in and go out of currency according to the spirit of the times.

  32. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wilson.
    Thank you for your info.I will go back to the Dictionary.

    • John L says:

      The trick about a spell checker is that it checks if a word is spelt correctly, and only that. It cannot check if it was the word you intended to use!
      Carry on blogging St J.

  33. Nektarios says:

    St. Joseph,
    You presume too much by inferring I hold the Key.
    However, I feel you perhaps want a bit more detail on what we have been discussing on this topic, yes? Well let me give my take on it.
    It seems we spend a lot of time on this- the body, function of the body, misuse and abuse of the body, sexual immorality and all that. OK.

    As I said earlier, God has written in the hearts of men, that is mankind His laws Exodus 20.
    All scripture is directed ultimately to dwelling with him- Right?
    So why is mankind not obeying God’s laws that leads to his happiness and peace?
    Since the fall, man was alienated from God and his mind darkened. He could not ascend to God
    and death was at the end of his miserable life.
    So mankind operated not out of his spiritual aspect, but out of his physical and mental aspects.
    Where once his joy and delight was to walk and talk with God – that was gone, and man did not retain God or his laws in their hearts at all.
    Vestiges however remained, and God periodically sent prophets and seers and holy people
    to talk with them reminding them that God ruled, they were His creatures and they did this with signs and wonders.
    But with a fallen nature, separated from God and a darkened mind from God, what was man to do?
    He did then as they do now, `invent’.
    Also in nature of man, the now corrupted natural instinct, man sought a different pleasure
    than God, a different happiness – essentially it was food and sex.
    This was the realm of a mere animal whose whole existence is food, sex and rearing young.
    The loss of the spiritual side of man means the body, the ego, the self and so on become all important.
    This is why the attachment is so intractable to deal with. There is the re-inventing of a sort of moral code that takes great deal of pleasure in and of the body and sex .Much of mankind are living out their lives in their animalistic nature.
    I will stop here or Quentin will be rapping my knuckles for a over-long posting

    • St.Joseph says:

      I think you will find that we have discussed all that you say in ‘greater detail’ within the different topics that Quentin has posed for us over the years.Using all the letters over and over again a million or more times It takes three words to spell God but a life time to get to know Him.
      A very intellectual priest said to me many many years ago ‘if God revealed Himself to us in one go it would blow our brains out’ .

      • St.Joseph says:

        BTW In case you are wondering- Father Son Holy Spirit.!.

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Of course it would blow our intellectual brains out if God revealed Himself in one go, but not so in the spirit. For there, we are like Him, hear Him, and receive from him.
        As I said earlier we either choose to live in the lower nature of the body with all its attachments; the mind with all its is ponderings and searching; or the intellect with all its illusions and delusions and limitations; or we can live in the spirit with its God given life, truth, love, peace and happiness such as this world cannot give.

  34. Ignatius says:

    “…..I don’t see myself from any vantage point the rest of you don’t have access to…..”
    Therein, alas, lies the tale.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I don’t believe you understand evangelization.
      Are you implying that we blogger’s on SS are ‘not’ living in the Spirit.

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        I understand not only what evangelization is, but also the calling and practice of an evangelist.
        I cannot speak for all the bloggers on SS whether or not they are living in the Spirit or not.
        I am sure you can tell if you personally are walking in and living in the Spirit or not?

    • Nektarios says:

      Oh do tell.
      What do you mean by `alas’ and
      what do you mean `the tale’?

      • St.Joseph says:

        I can well understand your difficulty in understanding Catholic Evangelization-if you did you would not be implying that this blog is not in the Spirit -in the way we are discussing the topics on this site.
        Go out to the whole world and spread the Good News..
        We are not Bible bashers-there are Truths as too how we understand the Bible as taught by the RC Church.
        Catholics have listened to the Bible times over for years in our Worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the readings of the OT and NT. etc.
        We presume that nearly everyone has heard the Word -however not many understand it.
        I and many others are (I think) on the SS to learn and place our understanding through our own experience in life.
        I somehow believe that you are on SS to educate RC’s on the Orthodox Church without listening’.
        The difference between you and me -‘I would not go on a Orthodox blog to educate you ‘against your beliefs’ .
        I hoped for the future that maybe some unity could be resolved between us as we share the same Eucharist.
        That is where the Spirit that you speak so much about comes into it..

  35. Nektarios says:

    St. Joseph,
    I shall not rise to your accusations and judgments of me, it is too silly for words.
    I am on the blog because I was invited on to it.
    Will start reading soon Martin Veth and Blessed Columba Marmion.
    I also have discussions with a very erudite RC priest here at home one a fortnight when he brings Holy communion to my RC wife.
    Our unity is in God alone. I accept your experience is yours and that is fine, but that is not the
    Unity we have in the body of Christ. It is spiritual, operates out of that and practically functions
    according to the guiding and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and outwards to our fellow man.

  36. Singalong says:

    Nektarios, I do not quite understand your interpretation of living in the Spirit either.

    As I see it, and I think this is orthodox Catholic belief, God made us physical as well as spiritual. God the Son became man to redeem us and share our human life. Et Incarnartus Est, He became flesh, He took on himself our physical existence in the flesh, He was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, He sufferred physically and excruciatingly in His flesh, as well as in His spirit. Carnus means meat or flesh.

    His gift of Himself in the Eucharist is His flesh and blood. Those who found this too difficult to accept walked away from Him. He did not call them back to say that what He is giving us is spirit, not flesh. I was taught that it is the resurrected Christ that we receive, but He is resurrected physically, and continues to be a real human person.

    I do not fully understand this either, but I know that our physical life is God given and important to Him.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Yes you have put in in the right context.

      Naktarios maybe you can tell me your beliefs on Our Lady being called the ‘Mother of God’.
      I seem to think the Orthodox do not believe that expression. Can you correct me if I am wrong.
      We need to get some understanding here or we will never be able to unite as I am sure the Lords wants it to be.
      We can act like Christians on this. We have gone so far.!

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph,
        Yes, we Orthodox venerate the Holy Mother is much the same way as RCs do, at least externally.
        We do differ in some of the more extreme views of Holy Mother Mary such as co-redemptrix, or sinless and did not die physically, as we know she did, for St. Luke was at her funeral service. But all this is leading away from the topic don’t you think?

  37. Nektarios says:


    I do not differ from you in belief very much at all.
    Spirit is God in Life. The Life of Christ is also life in the Spirit and also the communication of the Life of Christ to us, that is why the Holy Spirit was given to us who believe, is among us, a Comforter and a teacher, enabler, friend and God being part of the Holy Trinity.
    and so on.
    All Scriptures lead us onwards to a closer walk with God, Who is Spirit!
    Life in heaven is not a patch up of this life at all, it is completely different, so-much-so
    that the life we are given in Christ is called ` a new creation’. Old things are passed away and behold all things become new.
    One does not interpret life in the Spirit. To have it, is to live it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      It is not getting away from the topic. ‘You say ‘One does not interpret life in the Spirit’-.
      Isn’t that what you are doing?’Hopefully this blog is helping us to understand ‘how to live it’!
      Your comment to Singalong above is just what we discussed in the past. A new Creation.!
      I seem to think Our Lady died first the Assumed Body and Soul into HeavenHaving a funeral did not deny that.
      Maybe someone will know different!
      Also read 964-975 CCC.

  38. RAHNER says:

    “As I said earlier we either choose to live in the lower nature of the body with all its attachments; the mind with all its is ponderings and searching; or the intellect with all its illusions and delusions and limitations; or we can live in the spirit with its God given life, truth, love, peace and happiness such as this world cannot give.”

    Pious claptrap……..

  39. Iona says:

    Nektarios – “St. Luke was at her funeral service”… I’d never heard that before, where does the information come from?

    • Nektarios says:

      It comes from the Holy Tradition on the Dormition of the Mother of God – the Dormition
      and Assumption. We only know what the Church teaches and we understand that the Dormition and Assumption of the Mother of God is part of the Church’s `Inner Tradition’.
      This teaching on the Holy Mother of God did not appear until the fourth century.

  40. Nektarios says:

    It is disappointing if you come to the conclusion that what I said was `pious claptrap’ to quote you.
    I understand the limitation of words, the descriptive. It is even more difficult to explain such spiritual reality than it is to explain the `Lamb of God’ to an Eskimo who has never seen or heard of a sheep.

    Personally, I am not hurt or offended by your remark. There is a limit to what one can say about
    spiritual matters theologically, religiously for so much of that is educated guesswork and not in contact with reality we call God, only the limited conceptions of the mind and the intellect.
    So my dear, Rahner, I am sure I and others will all benefit from your reasoning and anything more solid on the topic we are discussing? The floor is yours.

  41. Ignatius says:


    “I am looking at all the postings here. Some want to become holy, pure, moral &c.
    Others accept they are what they are. Others judge and condemn. What I am hoping to discover through this topic is a genuine honesty and spiritual understanding which is not built on a whole load of self-righteous rubbish and dogma.”

    Looking back through the unfortunate turn this thread has taken it becomes clear that we are not ‘discussing’ anything but rather reacting to the tone of this earlier post of yours..oh and then some odd ideas you have about Luke and Mary at a funeral. I am not surprised by Rahner’s concise and quite precise interjection in the proceedings because it is apparent here, as so often before, that when you give yourself to quasi religious philosophising what comes out is clearly a personalised understanding that is opaque to the rest of us. Nothing wrong with having a personalised and skewed grasp of who God is Nektarios, we all have one, trouble is that you manage, as you invariably do, to give the impression that yours is the voice of enlightenment which it patently is not.. Sorry to butt in here by the way but as far as I can see the floor here is open at Quentin’s behest so not within your gift to bestow.

    • Nektarios says:

      You are wrong on most if not on all counts of what you understand of my comments.
      I am not giving the impression that I am the voice of enlightenment. If you knew what enlightenment was, anyone who truly has it has no pride or spiritual arrogance about it.
      I cannot be responsible for your personal views on my comments, or be responsible for
      for your own impressions.
      I have been in a Christian for over 40 years, served in full-time ministry, done the work of
      a evangelist, trained many in the same and seen many come to the Lord….
      I am nothing, a serve God. Apart from being a Christian and a member of the Orthodox Church, I claim nothing. But since you look for you measure of things, I am well read, trained biblically, theologically, pastorally and practiced in all three. As well as being a health professional for over 20 years. A Justice of the Peace.

      What you claim I am responsible for ` the turn this thread has taken’, is common on the
      blog as you well know.
      If your comments on the blog concerning my comments on the blog represents you all,
      then It might be in the your interests I left the blog?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Nektarios – for goodness’ sake don’t leave the blog. I may find your comments quirky or hard to understand, but they’re always worth close attention. It’s good to get a perspective from other than the western church.

      • Ignatius says:

        Nektarios, I’m sure I’ll get told off for this but I just can’t resist drawing your attention to the words of a famous evangelist:
        “..I shall not rise to your accusations and judgments of me, it is too silly for words.
        I am on the blog because I was invited on to it….”

  42. RAHNER says:

    Thought for the Day:
    “Those who know they are profound strive for clarity.Those who would like to seem profound strive for obscurity” . Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

  43. Singalong says:

    It is rather late in the Blog week, but I have just reread this article by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, written over 20 years ago, which I think has some ideas and thoughts relevant to the original discussion
    The title is, The Traditional Ideal of Love and Marriage under Siege

    • Quentin says:

      I think the Rolheiser piece is excellent. I am currently reading “What is Marriage? (Girgis and Anderson). Published by Encounter Books. It is a defence of traditional marriage which carefully avoids either relying on religion or making any critical comment on homosexuality. It was, I understand, extremely popular in the US.

  44. Ignatius says:

    Yes it is an attractive article. Probably represents a pastoral norm one way or another since most of us, by now, have probably twigged that divorce is not the end of the world. From my own experience and that of my peers however it is also the case that love ‘deepens’ through the many years and so is up to the added years. But I think Rolheiser softens a few hard edges here and does it well.

    • Singalong says:

      For us, I am afraid, divorce does seem like the end of the world. A member of the family left their completely devastated spouse, nearly 3 years ago, with no warning, and for no reason that anyone else can understand, and even with no children involved, and the possibility of an annulment, it is still a continuing nightmare for 2 families. I am sure break ups like this must affect other families in the same way.

  45. Ignatius says:

    Yes and I think that is the defect in Rolheisers view in that he doesn’t really look at the level of fallout that may be involved. There was a slot about this on the Jeremy Vine show a day or two ago and those who rang in were clearly devastated as you say. Sorry about your hurt.

    • St.Joseph says:

      There used to be a saying long ago that ‘marriage’s were made in heaven’
      Maybe that is where true marriages ‘are’ made.
      With the marriage of the Lamb and The Blessed Trinity.
      It can be hell for some!.
      Any thoughts?

      • St.Joseph says:

        I have a few more thoughts on that-‘marriages made in heaven’

        Thinking about the ‘masks we wear’ in the last couple of posts, and bringing to mind when I mentioned the corrupt society we are living in..
        What comes to mind is many years ago remembering the Profumo Affair and Christine Keeler-her book ‘Secret and Lies’.. Also John Major and his affair with Edwina Currie.Ok these things happen there are so many-however what amazes me is they do not hide the fact just write books about it, make a lot of money,are we surprised that society is in a mess.What kind of example does that show who are supposed to be in responsible positions.
        I feel the same way about the Prime Minister who think’s he can change laws to make something respectable! So much corruption.
        Nektarios speaks about the Spirit, that is all very well, however we need to show ourselves as Christians -if we do not defend morals where is the Spirit of Truth?And keep something that is slowly being lost. Although hopefully not all lost yet.
        I would like to think that when I die and the Lord asks me ‘what have you done to change the face of the earth’? I wont say to Him , ‘nothing there was no need to Lord-did you not die for that?

  46. claret says:

    St Joseph,
    How right you are. We enter some kind of moral abyss and to justify it make it law. It is a sad irony that we obey the law, as where would we be without it ? I suppose it depends on ones point of view and they rarely correspond with another, but law can be manipulated to use it for perverse ends.

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