Shame on you

“The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; its secondary end is mutual help and the allaying of concupiscence,” read the 1917 Code of Canon Law. But the 1983 Code of Canon Law reads: “[Marriage is] a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”

The dates matter. Between them came Vatican II, the discussion which preceded Humanae Vitae, and then the encyclical itself. A definition once worded in terms of primary and secondary purposes was now expressed as a sacred process in which the unity of marriage is both a good in itself and inseparably connected to procreation and its responsibilities.

It may seem that there is little real difference between the two. After all, the question of the moment – the unlawfulness of contraception – remained. But significantly, the 1917 definition harmonised with a contemporary theological description, by Hieronymus Noldin SJ, of sexual intercourse as res in se foeda – a thing filthy in itself.

Was this theologian a man with a problem? If so, he was not alone. It was common 100 years ago for theologians to categorise the parts of the body as the decent, the less decent and the indecent (partes inhonestae). You can work out which. Edward Genicot, in his moral theology (1931), assured readers that such “shameful” acts were lawful to married people. This oxymoron reads strangely, although we may be helped by Pope St Gregory’s comment that, although these acts are not sinful in themselves, it is in practice not possible to avoid sin as a result of enjoying them.

This preoccupation with shame and the sexual act was established early on. Faulty Aristotelean biology implied that Original Sin was actually transmitted through sexual intercourse. And it was sometimes argued that the apple was a metaphor for the first, forbidden sexual encounter. Canaanite myth associated the serpent with lust, and sexual shame was, of course, Adam and Eve’s first reaction after the Fall. It fitted with Psalm 51: “For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.” Seminarians were reminded in the 17th century: “For the manner of thy begetting is so foule that the name, nay the lightest thought of it, defileth the purest minde, so that our B. Sauiour refused none of our miseries but onely that [one].” We might no longer see this as sound preparation for pastoral care, although we cheerfully sing: “The one spotless womb in which Jesus was laid.”

Speaking as a former occupant of a spotted womb, I wonder how this sense of shame, by no means confined to the religious, came about. A possible cause is that the organs of evacuation and generation are closely located. Indeed, the formation of both is triggered by the same genes. The association of evacuation with disgust is encouraged in human young for sanitary reasons, and it may be that this early association contributes. As the old Latin writer remarked: Inter urinas et faeces nascimur omnes. Following Gibbon, I leave this in the decent obscurity of a learned language.

But this does not fully explain a shame that seems to lie at a deeper level than the shame of other passions. The Garden of Eden story suggests that sexual concupiscence best typifies the loss of control brought about by the Fall. It is actually built into the sexual act since the response of the male organ requires the presence of sexual passion to be able to function. Thus passion itself is an arational but fundamental element in the sexual process. It is a lack of control which we are reluctant to broadcast about ourselves. This was Augustine’s view – and he knew about sexual passion.

Against the background and the traditions of the time, the 1917 definition of marriage is understandable. It appeared necessary to give precedence to the one purpose which could excuse such a distasteful activity. Procreation in itself could hardly be faulted. And the patronising claim that an incidental benefit was an allaying of concupiscence suggested only that marriage offered a safer channel for a regrettable tendency.

The 1983 definition recognises that marriage is a fundamental relationship of committed love. For married people, the expression of that love in all its aspects is the most proximate way through which they work out their salvation. We are Christ to each other, night and day. Within that intimacy, sexual passion is a welcome servant to be valued for its capacity to promote closeness – in its spiritual, psychological and biological aspects.

That is the background needed for the awe-inspiring task of sharing in God’s creative powers through the conception of new, immortal life, and in preparing that life “to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next”.

About Quentin

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

86 Responses to Shame on you

  1. John Nolan says:

    By way of comparison here are the causes for which Matrimony was ordained according to the Book of Common Prayer:

    ‘First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
    Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
    Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.’

  2. John de Waal says:

    Many Christian writers down the centuries seem to have had an ambivalent attitude to marriage and yet there are many examples of support and healthy endorsement. Tertullian said that marriage “enjoys the protection of Divine Grace” and that it is “blest by God as the seminary for the human race”.

    St Augustine is usually portrayed as antagonistic and yet while supporting sex for procreation condemns it if used solely for “the gratification of lust.” He added: “it is certainly not fertility only, the fruits of which consists of offspring, nor chastity only, whose bond is fidelity, but also a certain sacramental bond in marriage which is recommended to believers in wedlock.” (On marriage and concupiscence, book 1, ch.5)

    St Ambrose wrote positively of marriage saying it was “sanctified by Christ” and describing it as “a heavenly sacrament.” (Letter to Pope Siricius, 389AD.)

    Above all we must remember the context in which people write – often in reaction to some extreme heresy such as Manichaeism or the sexual excesses of a dying Roman Empire. Likewise, at the start of the 20th century whilst modern psychology has much to teach us we have also to avoid the extremes of Freud.

    Having said all of that I think there has been a healthy development of doctrine which we should welcome. Ant yet we also live in an age of sexual excess and need to exercise caution before jumping to conclusions one way or the other.

  3. Vincent says:

    It may be relevant that, throughout the ages, the sexual rules have been made by a celibate clergy. This means that their personal experience of sexual passion has always been in a potentially sinful context. In theory that shouldn’t influence rational decision, but we all know that strong feelings have a habit of affecting conclusions.

  4. John Candido says:

    Of course it was not just the Roman Catholic Church that had this unhealthy peculiarity with or negative view of sexuality, marriage and women. These sorts of attitudes are also seen in Protestantism and in society throughout past eras; history is littered with examples of unhealthy notions of sexuality, marriage and women. Greek philosophy is similarly affected. The same can be said of racism and human slavery.

    Plato (Born: circa 428/427 or 424/423 & Died: circa 348/347 BCE) & Aristotle (Born: 384 & Died: 322 BCE) had notions about marriage, sex and insulting characterisations about women that are at the basis of St. Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

    St. Augustine is an important source of the church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality and women, as well as the recently discussed doctrine of original sin. The influence of a triumvirate of Plato, Aristotle and Augustine on the Catholic Church has not only been profound, it has also been deleterious.

    In the late Fr. Richard P. Mcbrien’s ‘Catholicism’, he quotes from Plato’s ‘Republic’.

    ‘Sexual desire is referred to as a diseased aspect of the personality.’ (‘Republic’, pp. 402 – 405, in McBrien, 1994, p. 560).

    ‘The well-balanced person is one that sublimates his sexual energies in intellectual pursuits.’ (‘Republic’, p. 485, ibid. McBrien).

    ‘A woman, according to Plato, ‘is a mutilated male.’’ (‘On the Generation of Animals’, p. 737a, ibid. McBrien)

    Also, ‘The male is by nature superior. He commands; the female obeys.’ (‘Politics’ 1,254b, 1,260a, ibid. McBrien)

    Augustine thought that ‘the sexual impulse is a sin and a shame.’ (‘City of God’, 17: 14 – 18, ibid. McBrien)

    ‘The genital organs are indecent and dishonourable.’ (partes inhonestae, ibid. McBrien)

    ‘They (human genitalia) are the bodily instruments for the transmission of Original Sin.’ (‘On Marriage and Concupiscence’, 1: 13, ibid. McBrien)

    Augustine thought that the ideal society was one that does not possess or exhibit passion, and that sexual intercourse for procreative purposes was not achieved by passion but by an exercise of a husband’s and wife’s will. (‘City of God’, 14: 26, ibid. McBrien)

    Anyone would be amiss if they did not accord some measure of understanding for these figures from antiquity, from the medieval era or of a later period. I only say these things in hindsight of course and with the benefit of life straddling the 20th & 21st centuries. While I acknowledge this, it still behoves the Roman Catholic Church to gather its not inconsequential intelligence and learning and seek to reform doctrines that are clearly in need of adaptation in the light of current theological insights and contemporary knowledge.

    • Brendan says:

      It already has John C. ‘ Familiaris Consortio ‘ – 1981 , Pope St. John Paul ii , for one ; Building on ‘ Humanae Vitae ‘- Blessed Pope Paul vi.

  5. John Nolan says:

    I do think that the over-emphasis on the sixth commandment (which influenced Irish Catholicism to an unhealthy extent until quite recently) is misplaced. On the other hand, a perusal of the court cases reported in the newspapers would indicate that the motivation for criminal acts is money, or sex, or both.

    The attempt to sacralise the marital act is ludicrous. The late Auberon Waugh once remarked that the one thing that would take all the pleasure out of it would be the idea that Father O’Bubblegum was nodding his approval in the background.

    In the 18th century Lord Chesterfield summed it up. ‘The pleasure is momentary, the position is ridiculous, and the expense damnable.’

    Also, as an experience, sexual intercourse is overrated. There are some human experiences where the anticipation is outdone by the reality; sex is not one of those.

    • John de Waal says:

      John Nolan says the “attempt to sacralise the marital act is ludicrous.” I disagree.

      Throughout Christian history the pendulum has swung one way or the other – from being too materialistic to being too spiritual. Everything is from God and all He has created us “very good”. I remember a parish mission many years ago in which the good Redemptorist father was speaking of marriage. He started by quoting the Beatitude : ” Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” He suggested – in the context of marriage that we should reverse the sentiments :”Blessed are those who see God for they shall be pure of heart.”

      • Brendan says:

        I agree with the general approach to the ” marital act ” that John de Waal takes and see John Nolan’s claims as indicative ( leaving aside the shortfalls in historical Irish Catholicism ) of the current de-sacralisation of family life in general overtime, resulting in the moral chaos epitomised by the ‘ Ashley Madison ‘ situation ; to the extent that those seemingly far from God appear without ‘ shame ‘ to justify this pagan on-line ritual.
        What is totally lost here – echoing Quentin and John de Waal – in the legitimacy of the sexual act within marriage , is the unitive effect of total giving by man and woman which ‘ reproduces ‘ , by the couples mutual self-giving , something of the relationship that exited between God and his Creation in total self-giving ( Love ) – or a … ” sharing in God’s creative powers ” .. – before the corruptive effects of sin took PARTIAL ( not completely damned ) hold on human nature. The unhealthy caricature of the debased effects of the procreative act post -Fall which negatively accompanies ,and is a result of experiencing ‘ shame ‘ ( fall from grace ) , are all around us today.
        To that extent sexual activity IS ” overrated ” in just the ‘ physical ‘ act . Transformed by man and woman .. ” Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and His people ” – Familiaris Consortio. ” – in this ‘ divinised ‘ ( God -willed ) context ‘ shame ‘ has no place and indeed has no meaning .

    • milliganp says:

      One ‘fault’ we can place at the door of the church is the extension of the commandments beyond their original intent. The primary purpose of the sixth commandment was to ensure the integrity of marriage as a life-long monogamous union.This elevates the status of sexual union within marriage by debasing that sexual activity which undermines the life-long bond. There is little evidence that the people of Israel fretted over what was the proper place of sex within marriage. However the Jewish laws of ritual purity meant that man and wife separated during the woman’s menstrual cycle and there is evidence that this temporary interval every month strengthened the bond of marriage. Finally the priestly caste were expected to abstain from their wives in preparation for ministry in the temple, so there is some root of celibacy in the Old Testament.

    • Quentin says:

      “Also, as an experience, sexual intercourse is overrated. There are some human experiences where the anticipation is outdone by the reality; sex is not one of those.”

      I fear John that your remark requires me to insert one of my poems.

      Post Coitum Tristis

      You did not meet my expectation
      But then I knew you never would;
      No single part of all creation
      Matches my imagination –
      Nor ever could.

      Of course our midnight celebration
      Confirmed the tenets of my creed:
      That joy lies in anticipation,
      Thought provides the delectation –
      And not the deed.

      But all the wonders of sensation
      That roam the channels of my brain
      Do not survive on cerebration;
      They need an act of consummation –
      Now and again.

  6. milliganp says:

    Perhaps someone more studious than I will research at what point the fruit tree in the garden of Eden became an apple tree. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and discovered they were naked they put on fig leaves, which one presumes were the leaves which were closest to hand. Every Jew was promised their own vine and fig tree in the promised land. The ripe fig has been used in literature as an metaphor for the feminine allure and thus a snake and a fig complete a more complete metaphor for the first sin being sexual than a snake and an apple.
    Given that in the other account of creation our first parents were told by God to go forth and multiply the simple act of sex could not have been, of itself, sinful but there is obviously something deeper about going against what God had intended.

    • John Nolan says:

      Interesting one. I don’t really buy the idea that it is a pun on ‘malum’ (evil, but with a long ‘a’, apple). Venantius Fortunatus in his celebrated hymn Crux Fidelis (c.570) has ‘quando pomi noxialis’ (pomum is another word for apple).

      I suspect it’s the imagination of artists.

  7. St.Joseph says:

    The related subjects What really Happened’ that Quentin noted in the end of his comment on ‘Shame on you’ would tell us a lot on the Sacrament of Marriage’ and where we have gone wrong.
    Bringing us up to date the extreme and most wicked ‘ Planned Parenthood’ activities and latest video on the baby whose heart was still beating whilst disecting its brain!
    May the Lord forgive us all, have we thought of those souls or spirit who will no doubt have been denied their life on earth,.
    Shame on us!

  8. John Nolan says:

    I was of course being mildly provocative. As John Candido points out, the philosophers of antiquity (and St Augustine, don’t forget, was a figure of late antiquity) saw the sexual urge as irrational and therefore reprehensible – like being chained to a madman. Kingsley Amis described the loss of libido when he turned 70 as liberating.

    Brendan’s point is also made in the BCP preamble to Matrimony: ‘an honourable estate, instituted by God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church …’

    • milliganp says:

      One of the problems with being human is that we are anthropomorphic, we project human characteristics onto non-human entities, whether it be seeing a face in a cloud, imagining that our cat is smiling at us or, in the case of God projecting a human understanding of the divine plan.
      The BCP pre-amble on marriage would imply that God’s original plan was for Adam and Eve to be celibate, which would imply God was happy with a human race of only 2 and that sexual intercourse was part of the original rebellion against God. This makes every child born another sin. This might satisfy Augustine and the author of Psalm 51 but does not resonate with Jesus saying “suffer little children to come unto me”.

  9. John Nolan says:

    Socrates’s advice on marriage – either get a good wife or become a philosopher.
    He also said that if women were given equality with men they would in fact be dominant. How right he was!

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Just out of interest .’A good husband in God’s opinion is St Joseph.!

  11. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph, it’s German (children, kitchen, church). Rather cynical, a bit like Martin Luther’s comment that ‘if it doesn’t go into a woman, it goes into your shirt’.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John, what has Martin Luther’s comment got to do with a good wife?what has that to do with a good wife,I am still puzzled.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John I looked that up and it is nowhere like what Marther Luther’s quote.
        More for his celibacy opinion on the Church.
        There are some good and Holy Priests, or do you know something I dont know.

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph: Luther, a former monk, married a former nun. The cynicism of his comment is in his assumption that all celibates indulge in self-abuse and the implication that marriage is a way of avoiding the ‘solitary vice’.

        The fact is that married couples are as likely to indulge in masturbation (mutual or otherwise) as anyone else and probably more so than those who have embraced celibacy (and the continence which goes with it) as a matter of choice. Ghandi would test his continence by lying with naked women. What they felt about it was immaterial (relief, probably). Mind you, Ghandi was a humbug.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan. Thank you.
        Although it ought not to be assumed because’ oneself/ does something that others do it too
        That is I suppose why females can fall in love spiritually with The Lord, they dont need ‘sex'[.
        If priests fell in love spiritually with Our Blessed Mother they wouldnt; either.!

  12. Horace says:

    I see nothing wrong with the 1917 Code of Canon Law
    “the procreation and education of children” is fairly obviously the ‘primary end’ of marriage.
    Things only become a little difficult when we consider “mutual help and the allaying of concupiscence”.
    The idea of ‘mutual help’ again should be fairly obvious – here we are assuming that there are two individuals responsible for the procreation of a child and if these individuals are married then this will help them to carry out their joint duty of subsequently caring for the child.
    Then we come to “the allaying of concupiscence”; I must confess that I am not entirely certain but I think this means that if they are married then they can have sex with a clear conscience!

    As regards the 1983 version.
    Here we start by emphasising the indissolubility of the marriage contract but then vaguely refer to “ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses” before finally arriving at the important clause – “the procreation and education of children”.

    As regards ’shame’ Quentin mentions “partes inhonestae” ; when I was studying medicine this was referred to as the “pudendal region” (‘pudens’ is the Latin word for ‘shame’).

    • St.Joseph says:

      Am I reading this right, are we relating ‘shame, with male homosexuals?

    • milliganp says:

      If we look up concupiscence from its Latin root it means ” is an ardent, usually sensual, longing.” For Christians since Augustine it has meant sexual desire or even the natural sexual urge – worse still it has become almost co-terminus with all sinful orientation.
      I’m not sure why you regard “ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses” as vague, all church documents are written in Latin and use words with precise meanings “ordered” means “as God intended” and disordered means “contrary to God’s intent”.
      The fact you find something vague does not mean a Canon lawyer would find it vague.
      One of the downsides of church documents being widely available in English is that those reading them do not necessarily have the training necessary to grasp their intended meaning.
      This is not about elitism but any doctor will tell you of the problems created by patients with no medical training reading medical websites.

      • Horace says:

        I didn’t intend to refer to ‘ordered’ as ‘vague’ – to me “the good of the spouses” is rather vague. Do you think it actually means ‘mutual help’ as outlined by Iona below?
        Or would you agree with Vincent below “the relationship is prior. It is cause, and conception is the, accidental, effect.”?

    • Vincent says:

      The 1917 definition. That procreation is the primary purpose of marriage is surely only true in the technical, structural, sense. Scripture has it that “the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” Given that the Hebrew word ‘knew’ means full knowledge and experience of someone, it would seem that the prevailing act was the total expression of their relationship, and the conception was the outcome of this. So, understood in the human sense, the relationship is prior. It is cause, and conception is the, accidental, effect.

      • Vincent says:

        If I take that thought to the next stage, we have a question. Is it lawful to have the marital embrace while deliberately avoiding conception. The Church ruled that it was when she approved the use of the ‘safe period’ in the 1930s. Is it lawful to take actual steps to avoid conception. The papal commission advised yes — there was no moral obligation to methods preventing conception. The Church said no — both to barriers which prevented the course of the seed and withholding fertility – either temporarily or permanently. Her basis was that the marital embrace was structurally related to conception. To remove that relationship artificially was to denature the act and therefore to go against the natural law expressed in the structure of the act.

  13. Iona says:

    Mutual help – not just in bringing up children, but in supporting and caring for each other even when times are hard. Some married couples don’t have children even though they want them, but that doesn’t mean their marriage is meaningless.

  14. Ignatius says:

    I guess these things are difficult to discuss sensibly but I’m a bit concerned about the way sex is here discussed in its purely mechanistic form. Here is a brief quote:
    “If the gift of a body is the sacrament at the heart of our prayer then it is not surprising that one of the most profound ways in which we express who we are is by giving our bodies to someone else. Each says to the other: ‘Here is my body for you’ it is a profoundly eucharistic act. This may sound blasphemous, but the links between sexuality and the Eucharist are deep within our tradition. The First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians is principally about the Eucharist and sexuality. He moves back and forth, from one topic to the other, throughout the letter. We can only
    understand our sexuality in the light of the Eucharist, and vice versa. ” p94

    from What is the point of being a Christian? Timothy Radcliffe OP( Master of the Dominican Order English Province ) Burns &Oates2005

    Practically the entire adult population of the planet will be, at one level or another, aware of the power sex in terms of its wholesome or destructive impact on human relationship. Plainly obvious too is the relationship between disciplined self control and hopeless dissipation in life and particularly in the sexual sphere. It shouldn’t be too difficult to see how religious teaching, and individual religious thinkers on sexuality can get things hopelessly wrong at times, particularly when the subject is deeply woven into the fabric of life. How easily an outer veneer of holiness can be defeated by the visceral impulse and how unsurprising then that the object of such impulse, the object of desire, may become so roundly despised. None of this is rocket science is it?

    • Ignatius says:

      oops sorry everyone… should read:
      “at one level or another, aware of the power of sex in terms of ….” etc

      • Brendan says:

        Ignatius – Your point about the ‘ mechanical ‘ applied to sex is well met. In my piece Aug. 22 ; 7.24am. – Am I expressing something of that ‘ eucharistic ‘ union you discern , in ‘ Familiaris Consortio ‘ ?

    • milliganp says:

      There are two issues of concern for me in your post. Firstly, although I enjoy the writings of Timothy Radcliffe, he is most certainly not in the mainstream of Catholic theology and often highly speculative. The second is that specifically linking the sexual dimension of marriage to the Eucharist is somewhat tenuous.
      Perhaps we should not try to decompose marriage into its constitutive elements; there is no doubt that the sexual expression of love is of the essence of marriage but if we look at the totality of a marriage it forms a relatively small component. It takes 5 minutes to make a baby and 21+ tears to raise the child.

      • milliganp says:

        Correction, 21 years, I can’t claim 21 tears as a Freudian slip as the tears are thousandfold , tears of wonder at the birth and tears of joy and sorrow as we raise the child.

      • St.Joseph says:

        You say ‘Perhaps we should not try to decompose marriage into its constitutive elements”
        Can explain what you mean by that

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, I do not mean to answer for milliganp but to speak about what your comment has made me think of…
        I have often wondered if the the Church’s obsession with contraception might reflect something deeper which is troubling her conscience. When I go to the Eucharist, I have often seen from my PP and from some other communicants what seems a genuine openness to Christ: fear of God and love of God. And yet I am driven to confusion to find how again and again this communion does not survive (or at least not effectively) in human spirit outside of mass. And if I am speaking accurately/honestly here, I’m not quite clear, I think my eyes are weary.

  15. overload says:

    Returning to the hot topic of Matt 19, Our Lord says:
    “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    Does this mean that the marital bond—the union of husband and wife as one body—is broken by any act of adultery?

    • overload says:

      Mark 10 omits the above exception and says: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.”
      If a man seeks to divorce his wife because she has committed adultery, then in reality she is already no longer his wife, so if he divorces her he is not divorcing his wife?

    • milliganp says:

      We may have been here before on a previous blog but we need to be careful understanding both the Greek word used porneia and the underlying Mosaic laws on divorce and adultery.
      The mosaic law implies more than an incident of marital infidelity but something closer to what might be called ‘wanton behaviour’.
      That’s before we discuss if Jesus was really creating an exception.

      • overload says:

        milliganp, no you have thing the wrong way round… I am not so concerned right now with establishing what does and does not constitute ‘porneia’ (even if this is more in line with the current topic), but the point of contention here is that our Lord says there is an exception—as also in Matt 5. As I understand it Jesus certainly did not ‘create’ an exception since this already existed… according to Mosaic law, was not an adulterous spouse to be stoned to death?

      • overload says:

        2381: “[adultery] undermines the institution of marriage by breaking the contract on which it is based.”
        2384: “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract [of marriage].”
        There is a point of contention here if we consider the supposed indissolubility of marriage. Man is commanded not to break the bond; this does not mean that man cannot break it (ie. 2381 above), and neither does it mean that God cannot break a marriage bond.

      • overload says:

        Note, IMPORTANT(??):
        Again returning to the subject of divorce and remarriage (re. praying for the coming Synod), a few days ago I came across what looks to be a valuable and very in depth study by an American (Protestant):
        “Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View”
        (There is also a free downloadable PDF if you google for it, though I’m not sure if this is the same edition.)
        I don’t think I personally have got the space or desire right now to read all of this myself, however flicking through instinct says that this is right ‘on the button’. Don’t be put of that it is not written by a Catholic (it has a whole section on the Church Fathers).

      • overload says:

        Having said that I am not intending to read “Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View” with it’s 200+ pages, I might add that were Quentin to deem this worthy of his time and pre-propose to start a discussion on this paper, I might then be willing.

        Having said that, it is not so much a matter of what I think I am or might be up for or not, but rather what the Lord wants of me, to read it or not—to which end I am, as often is the case, not quite sure whether I am coming or going.

        Of course, I would not be so presumptuous as to expect to get any response to this ‘crying in the wilderness’ (if indeed I may be so bold as to use this analogy), but I can at least cry to cry, and see what happens…?

  16. Ignatius says:


    Yes I think you are. Most couples, I would think are aware of the healing power of sexual intimacy. This is particularly the case when circumstance of life has, for a time, created a barrier to communication and brought distance into the shared life.

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for that Ignatius. That’s why I see intimacy with God in Eucharistic Adoration and Reception and the direct link spiritual and natural ( fulfillment of Gods natural law in matrimony ) with the healing power of the central act of Love ordained by God in openness to pro-creativity , with Him.
      The ‘ act ‘ CAN be the the nearest thing to to a ‘ grace-filled ‘ ( holy estate ) moment shared by man and woman in union , they will ever experience in this life. In any case it is always life-fulfilling – however imperfect its execution . I suspect even confirmed atheists may acknowledge something of the uniqueness of this intimate union albeit they may attribute the effect to more carnal desires.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan and Ignatius.
    I have posted this often on SS, you may be interested, Communion Eucharistic and Marital.pdf.
    An updated version of John F Kippley Reprinted by permission from Ave Maria Magazine.1967.
    Before HV and Theology of the Body.!

  18. John Thomas says:

    I’ve tried to suggest, more than once, that Christianity remains good, wholesome and reasonable – in its effects – when, and only when, the principle of balance is adhered to: go to far to one extreme or another, stress one part of faith to the detriment of its opposite, and badness quickly comes – a good example is sex: it is neither utterly wonderful, the only thing worth human attention (as much of society seems to see it, today), nor is it evil, sinful, wicked, etc. Get the balance right, and it assumes its rightful place (and I do mean right). (Giving our attention wholly to this life/world/society, and none to the next world/life, is another example).

  19. St.Joseph says:

    John Thomas.
    In the next world, that is’ when we enter into Paradise’ (God Willing) sex wont be discussed.
    Our hearts will be pure ,our spirits will be united fully to The Lord, we will want for nothing, as it is ‘possible’ in our earthly life here on earth,by cooling our passions, with the help of prayer and the Eucharist,
    It needs to be worked at or else do as they did in the days when the religious lived on Mount Carmel.

  20. Ignatius says:

    MilliganP re 24th August 7.08am

    “..Dominican priest Fr Timothy Radcliffe has been appointed as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican Radio reported on Saturday…”
    Catholic Herald April2015
    He’s not that borderline it seems.

    I don’t think the link between the things you mention is at all tenuous theologically speaking. I have often read of the link and only chose the Radcliffe quote because I happen to be reading his book at the moment. The link between Eucharist and the sexual dimension of marriage is deliberately, and sensibly underplayed to avoid excess or alarmism, but that link, within the Christian mystical tradition, is by no means unusual.

  21. John Nolan says:

    It’s precisely Radcliffe’s views on sexuality that make him a controversial figure. ‘Justice and Peace’ (how dated this 1960s cliché sounds now!) seems like an ideal pasture for this old liberal dinosaur who can now prattle on to his heart’s content surrounded by like-minded cronies, and no-one will take any notice.

    His appointment seems to be based on the fact that Turckson for some reason thinks highly of him and that Pope Francis’s appointments so far seem deliberately designed to balance left and right. The Pope knows that the Church is polarized and sees himself as a bridge-builder (pontifex).

  22. St.Joseph says:

    On the morning after my wedding,my husband and I attended Holy Mass in the Church where the Soho Mass is celebrated as we were staying the night of our wedding in a Hotel nearby,
    It was the first Sunday morning that we had worshipped together on a Sunday as a married couple.As we could not have Holy Mass on our wedding day,’he being a non catholic in those days’.
    I was in London on my wedding anniversary on my own as my husband had died.I think it was our 45th Anniversary,So I did go to the Mass that Sunday that the homosexuals were attending.
    Fr Timothy Radcliffe on the way out asked me why I was there,I told him the reason and added that things had changed in 45 years. His reply to me was ‘about time too. I felt very sad during Holy Mass.
    Not because of homosexuality,but of the way it is confused with the Sacrament of Matrimony and pro-creation, also I became pregnant on my honeymoon. I felt very uncomfortable with the whole situation especially as the women next to me wanted to be ‘friends’ and was trying to chat to me during Mass, !! It was true what Fr Timothy Radcliffe said, ‘How times have changed. comparing it to my marriage.It did not seem real as if in a dream!
    We love the sinner but not the sin! But it is still a shame; It can not be a Sacrament.Maybe someone will tell me different.

    • Brendan says:

      There is no shame in being homosexual ; but there is in confusing the ‘ Eucharist ‘ with the politics of homosexuality. More Catholic clergy could do more to quell this often ‘ media ‘ driven confusion – in the way of a pastoral duty – even among’st homosexuals themselves.

    • John Nolan says:

      Are you referring to the ‘Soho Masses’ celebrated for six years fortnightly at OLOTA, Warwick Street? These were discontinued in 2013 and the church given over to the Ordinariate of Our lady of Walsingham.

      The Dominicans, like most of the religious Orders, went off the rails in the wake of V2 and Radcliffe is a relic of that era. In the USA the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters ditched their habits and embraced a liberal feminist agenda with a congruent ‘liturgy’. As a result they have no vocations and will no longer exist in ten years’ time. Those congregations who have re-embraced tradition are thriving and have little difficulty in attracting and retaining recruits. All the Dominicans I have met over here, two of them recently ordained and all younger than I am, are orthodox and their distinctive rite or more correctly Use, which predates Trent by 300 years but was unceremoniously ditched in favour of the Novus Ordo, has been revived.

      Radcliffe is only 70, and will probably live to see many more changes, both in the Dominicans and in the wider Church – but I doubt he will be saying ‘about, time, too!’ as he contemplates them.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan.
        Yes the Mass at The Church of the Immaculate Conception, was stopped ,it was said to be handed over for more pastoral care at the catholic church at Farm Street.
        Cardinal Nicholls has celebrated Holy Mass that welcomes ‘gay people and their families’. at Farm St.
        Every Holy Mass welcomes ‘gay people and their families!!God turns no one away.
        By categorising themselves and making a statement, wanting special provisions that are drawing attention to it, is it any wonder why people are upset by ‘gay masses’.
        I am pleased that they were stopped as they were causing a scandal .
        Homosexuals were seperating themselves within Holy Mother Church and bringing shame down on the Sacrifice of Holy making a statement.
        It is not who they are but what they do- the same as a marriage between male and female which is disordered.
        A mass for contraceptive couples, a mass for abortion couples, or a mass for IVF couples etc etc etc!!!
        The people dont call the tune.God doesnt dance to ‘our tune’!!

      • Martha says:

        St. Joseph, 5.25, you have put that very well. The gay lobby pushes its agenda on to everybody in the secular world, gay pride marches, gay men’s choirs, but there should be no need in the Church. As you say, “Every Holy Mass welcomes gay people and their families!! God turns no one away.” Perhaps we have been lacking in charity and not making it clear through our behaviour that we accept them as they are and in their struggles with what they do, as we all struggle with our own sins and temptations. I suppose the difficulty is with those who would like what they do or want to do to be declared legitimate.

      • overload says:

        “I suppose the difficulty is with those who would like what they do or want to do to be declared legitimate.” … “Yes it is saying ‘Not your Will but mine Lord'”

        It is a confusing scenario that the Church declares the Law (built on 10 commandments plus doctrinal law built on Baptism and Eucharist)…

        Some may consider that to some degree or another her declaration of the Law is fallible.

        Some may say that it is necessary the established Church declare the Law, some might say essential, some might say utilitarian(?).

        According to the nitty-gritty of the Gospel (ie. whole NT), it might seem we need the Law as a reference point, and must be careful not to water it down, obstruct, or ‘condescend’ it. Yet the Law itself is not the Gospel—in Christ we are NOT UNDER the law, we are free from the law. But how difficult to not misunderstand (or overlook) this paradox?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes it is saying ‘Not your Will but mine Lord.

  23. Brendan says:

    You come quickly to make the point John N., thank you for fleshing it out . Unlike the Established Church, the Catholic Church should not feel in any way politically hampered by ‘ cultural ‘ issues in Britain. The Gospel trumps ecumenical politics every time. Unfortunately, the C of E being political
    in its inception will always in the final analysis gravitate towards ‘ the law oh History ‘ seemingly eschewing mutable laws of God . Sadly, this has infected for all to see , the high ranks of The Catholic Church post- Vatican ii. We are seeing this even in the Princes of the Church – ‘ law of History ‘ descending into moral relativism.
    Sadly, those of a homosexual tendency trying to live their life congruent with church teaching are not being helped while the Church is at variance with its own Teaching.

  24. John Nolan says:

    Brendan, the issue of homosexuality is a side issue. What is really at issue is the extent to which those who openly dissent from Church teaching are regarded as being in good standing, are invited to address Catholic congresses, are given official posts in the Vatican and so on. Radcliffe is on record as approving homosexual acts and even suggesting there is a correlation between these and the Eucharist. He supports the ordination of women and has identified a new post-V2 Catholic who stands in stark contrast to his pre-V2 counterpart and is axiomatically superior. It’s all very specious and clever in a typically Oxford way which sees condescension as a right.

    I regard him as a heretic and a buffoon, but who am I to judge?

  25. Ignatius says:

    John Nolan,
    “..I regard him as a heretic and a buffoon, but who am I to judge?..”

    That in itself is an interesting question:

    “What is really at issue is the extent to which those who openly dissent from Church teaching are regarded as being in good standing, are invited to address Catholic congresses, are given official posts in the Vatican and so on…”

    If Radcliffe is, as you say, regarded as being in good standing and given official Vatican posts, how then can he be seen as being at odds with the Church?

    • John Nolan says:

      Ignatius, that’s the whole point. There are many who are at odds with Church teaching, but not it seems at odds with the Church, and Radcliffe is not the worst example in that regard. Monsignor Basil Loftus, for example, who writes a column in the Catholic Times, is openly heterodox on quite fundamental issues and does not allow facts to get in the way of his polemic. I dare say the CDF has a file on him but for the time being he is allowed to dissent publicly and traduce those he doesn’t like (including some English bishops).

      • overload says:

        JN, it may be necessary to be at odds with Church teaching; at least as much as teaching unrighteously contradicts itself (ie. contradicts the Gospel) and this is apparent, in which case how can one agree with it? On the other hand one does not need to be self-righteously divisive in ones response to such a problem, which seems to be what you are attributing to Radcliffe and Loftus?

  26. Iona says:

    St. Joseph, Martha – absolutely; I echo what you say.

  27. Brendan says:

    John N. – I don’t see homosexuality as a side issue in the Church – proponents of a distorted chastity who want it centre stage in society ,in destroying the Church ( religious influence ) in daily life , know that they ( as Satan’s hapless/willing lackeys ) can further weaken traditional family bonds in the area of marriage and nurturing of children . This is the rude reality in the lives of parenting today.
    Pope Francis and recent Popes know this through their persistence in opening up this pivotal area of concern in The Church. Yes, Pope Francis may have made poor judgement sometimes ; but in opening up and letting the so called ‘ buffons ‘ and ‘ heretics ‘ have their say , that eventually their questionable posturing – by the Churches ability through The Spirit of God to see through such false idols – and hubris will be seen for what it is ; empty , lifeless rhetoric. Even giving such persons ‘ minor ‘ posts in the Vatican to feed their sense of importance may be a way of getting such people off the lecture circuit and the faithful out of harms way. This is a sure way of rallying the forces of Truth by the time of the General Synod. Secularists might call this the ‘long game.’
    The Bishops conference of Ghana is an example to us all of the Spirit in action today.

  28. overload says:

    Further to my comment (August 25, 2015 at 9:07 pm) linking to “Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View”; here are some very interesting snippets I have extracted from the forward to the book, I hope sufficent to whet someones appetite…

    As a student at Trinity I entered into a spirited debate with Norman Geisler in the field of Christian ethics over the subject of whether or not the laws of God conflicted in a fallen and finite world. He contested that God’s absolutes did conflict and I argued that they did not.

    I was impressed with the pervasive influence of the Ten Commandments not only in Deuteronomy, but also in the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians, and the first four books of Moses.

    (1976-1986) I felt moved to write on the subject of divorce. But my impetus did not come from teaching ethics per se. It came out of that debate with Norman Geisler mentioned above. Through various papers.. I believed that I had shown the theoretical necessity of a non-conflicting view. In my teachings at Moody I believed that I had shown the general harmony of biblical rules. But I felt that it was time to tackle the issue from a topical approach. I decided to take the most complex ethical issue I could find in the Scriptures and show how the passages related to it harmonized. I chose divorce. So you can see the work began as a sort of apologetical, theological study.

    I was working with Exodus 21, to show how God protected abused women.

    Perhaps, if Christ “tarries” I will be able to write a complimentary “case study” approach which will apply the teachings of this book to hypothetical situations that people face all the time. Sometimes this book gets so academic that I am afraid my readers will become confused and find application difficult. That would be a shame.

    I knew that the work would be controversial. My friends warned me not to make divorce the subject of my first published work, but I didn’t listen. Perhaps I should have. I also knew that the conclusions of the book might be difficult for a conservative school such as Moody to accommodate.

    one of the troubling reactions to the first edition was the criticism it received over the issue of polygyny. You would think from reading my critics that I was some kind of closet fundamentalist Mormon apologist. A posture I strongly denied in the book.

    I decided first of all to do my best to bring out the meaning of the text, not put my theories into it. I had my own ideas, but I wanted to do an inductive study, employing what is known as the “Analogy of Scripture”.

    When I arrived at the teaching of the Mosaic Law on the sin of adultery, I anticipated doing a quick and easy subject. But, in my attempt to define “adultery” in Old Testament terms, I was surprised to find that its definition was always related to the woman’s marital status, never the man’s. As I worked, I fought the conclusion that it was it was defined that way to accommodate multiple marriages for the male. Not in the sense of making it easy for him to have more than one wife—on the contrary such marriages were more or less forced upon him due to extenuating circumstances in ancient Hebrew Life. Old Testament professors I consulted seemed embarrassed by the subject, but few denied it.

    I realized that if plural marriages were morally accepted by God at least up to the days of Jesus, it had to be taken into account in understanding His teaching on adultery and remarriage. What didn’t seem reasonable was that God suddenly changed the rules of marriage half way down the historical pike.

    • overload says:

      Sorry Quentin and anyone else who doesn’t like long comments, so assuming you didn’t read the one above, here’s a shortened version—an extended snippet from the author’s forward:

      “I entered into a spirited debate with Norman Geisler in the field of Christian ethics over the subject of whether or not the laws of God conflicted in a fallen and finite world. He contested that God’s absolutes did conflict and I argued that they did not.” …
      “I believed that I had shown the theoretical necessity of a non-conflicting view.. the general harmony of biblical rules. .. I decided to take the most complex ethical issue I could find in the Scriptures and show how the passages related to it harmonized. I chose divorce.”

  29. Brendan says:

    Overload – This is interesting from the point of view of two Protestant Evangelicals ( Free Church ) discussing Biblical texts. While it is too academic for me to enter into useful discussion, it may be useful to refer you to Matthew 19: 1-9. Christ’s own words are clear to me present day , whatever others may construe from Holy Scriptures.

    • overload says:

      Brendan, thank you for telling me that you think it’s interesting for the Church to be free, but that you believe the Church is a robot and not free…?!?

      Brendan, I’m glad you find that the Lord speaks to you plainly in Scripture, however I’m not quite sure what YOU are trying to say… Matthew 19:1-9 is a bit of a loose end… do you mean to refer me upto v.12, when He has finished speaking on the matter? Or even v.15 perhaps, when he has allowed the children to come for a blessing rather than have them sent away?

    • overload says:

      Brendan, I in turn refer you to the sermon on the mount, if you will. Before Jesus speaks about adultery He talks about the law (see Matt 5:17-20).
      Our Lord tells us how to be not the least important in the kingdom of heaven! Oh, and at the end of this passage He gives us a measure concerning if one is to get into the kingdom at all.
      How does the church read this, I wonder, if we look to the coming Synod?

  30. John Nolan says:

    Overload, you have probably come close to answering my question. Pius X may have been humble and saintly, and Pope Francis has a great veneration for him, but it has been argued that his reign stifled Catholic intellectual thought both in theology and biblical exegesis. In the first decade of the 20th century the Church (which had become Ultramontane to the extent that it worried the impeccably orthodox John Henry Newman) seems to have succumbed to a form of paranoia.

    In the second half of that same century (which had already seen collaboration in Biblical studies among Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars, and an understanding of Christian theology which took into account both Catholic and Protestant scholarship) there was an understandable resistance to forcing intellectual enquiry into a doctrinal straitjacket. The example of the two great tyrannies of the age (Bolshevism and National Socialism) which had done this in the secular sphere with murderous results served as a warning.

    Those with a historical perspective also knew that it was Western Christianity (and the Catholic Church in particular) which had encouraged scientific enquiry after its main rival (Islam) had reverted to obscurantism, in which lamentable state it continues to this day.

    The Church is therefore in something of a quandary. She does not want to discourage speculative theology but at the same time does not want the faithful to be misled. She is charged with handing on doctrine but does not wish to appear unmerciful. It’s not an easy call.

    • overload says:

      John Nolan,
      I imagine it would necessarily be a bit of a bombshell to the faith/conscience of many Catholics, and spark a full-on revolution amongst the traditionalists, if the Pope was to officially admit any possibility of error in matters of faith & doctrine. But even if so, does this mean that God wants any errors that may be in doctrine to remain—unchanged, untouchable—in the CCC, in teaching, and in practice; even in the event that such error(s) were to be (or already have been) clearly identified and exposed as such in the Magisterium (ie. in a Synod)?
      My own thoughts, based on the conviction that there are errors, I wonder if there might be subtle but clear ways of highlighting any errors/confusions and drawing emphasis away from them without tearing the whole building down. And yet I think the Magesterium might do well to confront the (real) possibility of the whole building being torn down—to be more open to end-times prophesy in Scripture, to be humbled about the identity of the Church, to let go of worldly attachment, and embrace a here-and-now ready-for-anything fear and love of the Lord (which we all need!).

  31. John Candido says:

    There has been some public debate between Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, and the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) about the changing realities of marriage and family life. A recent submission to the second Synod on the Family in Rome, which is to be held in October 2015, by ACI, included the following points for discussion.

    1. ‘The need for a review of the marriage annulment procedure.’

    2. ‘The question of marriage breakdown and second relationships. Archbishop Martin noted that there are many grey areas, as not all breakdowns are black/white.’

    3. ‘Access to the sacraments for those in second relationships.’

    4. ‘Pastoral care for LGBT people, their parents and families.’

    5. ‘The need for the teaching on birth control in Humanae Vitae to be revised.’

    It is acknowledged by ACI that as the synod’s discussion will be limited to the involvement of celibate bishops and other clergy; this is a limiting factor as to their authority of personal experience of marriage and family life, as husbands and fathers. There was a need for the inclusion of married laity as advisors during the synod’s sessions.

    Turing towards the church in Ireland, there was a ‘pressing need’ to reach out to youth and all others through dialogues that have become ‘disenfranchised from the institutional church’.
    ACI representatives suggested that it would be appropriate if ‘an all-Ireland assembly of the church’ was established in order to participate and aid the church on these pastoral issues. Archbishop Martin said that the Irish church needed to ‘find different ways of being Church today’. The church without the involvement of the laity is a church breathing with one lung.

  32. John Candido says:

    Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is a very interesting character. He gave a speech at the first Synod on the Family in 2014 which sparked my interest. He said that the Synod must demonstrate to the entire church that the church’s teaching can develop in order to assist Catholics in difficulty. That is a very interesting statement. Half way through the synod he told journalists at a briefing,

    ‘This synod can’t simply repeat what was said 20 years ago, it has to find new language to show that there can be development of doctrine, that there has been a willingness to listen to what emerged in the questionnaire that went out and what was said at the synod itself.’

    He cautioned,

    ‘There can be a development of doctrine in the sense that we can understand the same doctrine in a different way, but a change whereby, overnight, you say that what was wrong is now right, that is just not on the cards.’

    Martin has said that the dynamics of the Synod session in 2014 has been radically different from previous synods, and he has credited this to the intervention and leadership of Pope Francis. The synod has featured genuine dialogue and has exhibited a smattering of heated debate between some participants.

    He has said that the Pope has ‘given no indication as to where he stands on anything’ due to the fact that the synod has a three year process to complete. Francis is expected to reveal his thoughts in a post-Synodal apostolic exhortation, which will occur after the end of part two of the synod in October 2015. He has also said that it would be incorrect to suggest that the Synod on the Family will lead to immediate change in issues such as homosexuality and communion for the divorced.

    If you may recall, the questionnaire that was used asked Catholics throughout the world a set of questions based on their experiences of family life, including issues such as divorced Catholics and remarried couples, same-sex unions, as well as their concerns about contraception.

  33. Iona says:

    Point 4 in the submission to the second Synod on the Family, by the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), quoted above by John Candido, leads me to wonder whether LGBT people are really currently excluded from pastoral care. If someone goes to his/her priest with a query or anxiety related to hsi/her sexual orientation, doesn’t the priest listen and try to help as best he can? Is she / he specifically excluded from Confirmation classes, or the confessional, or the sacrament of the sick?

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