Stoic vice or Stoic virtue?

So, a fuss in the newspapers last week — on the Catholic rights and wrongs of homosexual practice. There appears to be an assumption that Pope Francis had changed the rules when, in 2013, he said of a homosexual man “Who am I to judge?”. I gather that some bishops have allowed blessings of such partnerships. This of course is a mistake: the Pope was talking about the private conscience of this homosexual, not the objective morality of the activity.

The Church’s long term rule on homosexuality is based on the Natural Law. And this approach is fundamental to several of the Ten Commandments. Quite simply: the male and female sexual organs are clearly structured for bisexual activity. Similarly, the argument versus artificial contraception is based through the same principle.

There is history behind this.  A  form of philosophy developed in ancient Greece was called Stoicism. The name relates to a building in the marketplace of Athens. It was later taken up by the Romans (think Cicero), and significant in the early Church. Put simply, it taught that we should obey the principles of nature in all our activities. The enemy of Stoicim was feelings, passions and so on. These human rexponses were always a danger to the rationality of Stoicism. Nowadays the term is often used as a criticism: a tendency to hold on to our decisions rather than to be flexible and human.

Personally, I have alwatys been drawn towards Stoicism. But I am not prepared to condemn feelings and passions. What is necessary, I claim, is to distinguish between the feelings which support reasoning and those which lead us to irrational decisions.

As a plain example, think of marital bereavement.  Yes, the feelings are strong. But I argue that they are rational because passion is proper, and usually necessary in marriage. But, if the strength of feelings prevents the survivor from taking the necessary actions brought on by bereavement, damage will be done. 

So, back to Pope Francis. Here, we should take into account that the condemnation of homoxual relationships was initially based on the assumption that human beings, and their natural characteristics, were created directly by God. Ergo, homosexual behaviour was out. But now we know that the physicality of homo sapiens was a product of  evolution. We may still judge that homosexual behaviours are damaging to society and so should be condemned.Other might argue that accepting homosexuality, including ‘marriages’, leads to a more peaceful society and reduces the dangers to health which develop from casual homosexual activity.

My conclusions here are similar to the views of good Catholics who argue that the use of contraceptives is permissible, and in certain circumstances obligatory. The levels of fertility in modern women were developed through evolution when the high mortality of the young required the conception of enough children to replace mortalities. The Stoic argument might be that we have inherited brains which are capable of matching new circumstances, and so we can (must?) alter our behaviour to fit the new situation. I am of course aware that contraception leads to other important changes, but not necessarily good ones, in our society.

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36 Responses to Stoic vice or Stoic virtue?

  1. FZM says:

    The challenging aspect of this issue is that, as far as I know, Revelation is considered the definitive exposition of the content of the Natural Law and Revelation deals directly with the issue of homosexual behaviour in a way it doesn’t deal with that of contraception. When God communicated these moral teachings He must have been aware of how he had brought humans into existence, this is probably one reason the Catechism is so clear on this topic.

    • galerimo says:

      So when we read in Exodus 21:7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go free as male slaves do.”

      Do we need to consider this as a definitive exposition of the the content of the Natural law becoming aware in the process that God has communicated these moral teachings aware of how he has brought humans into existence?

      Why does the catechism not give us any clarity on this topic?

      Or when likewise in Exodus 35:2 it says “On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be sacred to you as the sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death.”

      God’s moral teaching sounds pretty clear in Revelation here too – and we don’t hear too many protests about failing to carry out such executions in God’s name and in accordance with God’s Revelation!

      Perhaps some other factors must need to be taken into consideration!

      • FZM says:

        Is the teaching of the Catechism on Homosexuality limited to the repetition of the commandment from Leviticus: ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them’.?

        If not (and it isn’t) what’s the motivation for this as a response to it?

        Apart from seeming to say that because the Catechism does address the issue of slavery but doesn’t gloss the specific law in Exodus you happen to be interested in you are free to ignore it?

      • milliganp says:

        In Matthew 5:38-40 Jesus says:-

        38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;

        So here we see Jesus directly contradicting the law given by Moses as he does with the woman take in adultery or his own rejection of Mosaic divorce.

    • milliganp says:

      I thought the whole point is that the natural law is the law “written in our hearts” and is accessible to all even and apart from Divine Revelation.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/ ) :

    // But now we know //

    Four little words. They would make a good title for a book exploring how the material has practically eliminated the transcendental in the modern mind. We live in a digital, dissected, utilitarian world constructed entirely by the mind of man. The more we think and talk the more we build, and the more we build the less is our ability to believe in first principles. One might even say that, as we now know, there can be no first principles.

  3. ignatius says:

    Quentin writes:
    //So, back to Pope Francis. Here, we should take into account that the condemnation of homoxual relationships was initially based on the assumption that human beings, and their natural characteristics, were created directly by God. Ergo, homosexual behaviour was out. But now we know that the physicality of homo sapiens was a product of evolution. //

    Try as I might I can’t make any sense of this paragraph. Whose assumption is being referred to here? Is it the Spirit inspired word of scripture? Is it the mind of the writer of the scripture? Who is assuming what?
    Then we come to the discussion of evolution, in what manner is ‘evolution’ i.e that which comes to be on the face of the earth any different from ‘direct creation’? I directly create a clay pot means I make the thing via the process of moulding clay, God directly makes humanity by the moulding of life which takes place in time, that we call it ‘evolution’ makes no real difference.

  4. ignatius says:

    FMZ writes:
    //The challenging aspect of this issue is that, as far as I know, Revelation is considered the definitive exposition of the content of the Natural Law and Revelation deals directly with the issue of homosexual behaviour in a way it doesn’t deal with that of contraception.//

    Yes, I agree with this. Natural Law is a secondary issue, Revelation is primary. The case against homosexual behaviour is written in both Testaments and remains fairly constant despite modern attempts to change the cultural basis by re examining the context of scriptures when being written. Thats why it is so challenging.

    • galerimo says:

      Well you better be warned!

      You ignore the context at your peril!

      St Paul can still find a rule in nature that makes no provision for Covid restrictions on going to the barber!

      … Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (1 Cor 11:14)

      Shame on the Beatles! Didn’t they know that Revelation is primary!

      • ignatius says:

        Galerimo, The odd line taken out of context and made into a joke is a little insubstantial don’t you think? There are several arguments about the contextualisation of scripture which attempt to nullify the various passages which appear to denounce homosexual activity. For example the attempt to say that the drift of Genesis ch 19 v4-8 is a condemnation of homosexual rape not of homosexual sex itself.

        The point I was trying to make is that none of the countering arguments made in the church, by those who seek to legitimise homosexual erotic attachments, appear to have gained much traction even yet. This is simply because the scriptural case, when taken together, is difficult to assail.
        Thats why the challenge remains, that’s why it is still a difficult problem for the Church worldwide.

      • FZM says:

        I was also thinking that there are a lot of strong arguments for the kind of position on homosexual acts outlined in the Catechism, especially if you are Catholic.

        Apart from the content of scripture, there is the long tradition of interpretation of these teachings found in the church fathers, councils and the saints, there are the arguments from Natural Law and reason and finally, if needed, arguments from human evolutionary history. Together they make a significant case.

  5. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/ ) :

    // The Church’s long term rule on homosexuality is based on the Natural Law. And this approach is fundamental to several of the Ten Commandments. Quite simply: the male and female sexual organs are clearly structured for bisexual activity. //

    I think this could benefit from more examination. I’ve seen it reported on, I think, more than one occasion that the Church has no problem with men who are sexually attracted to each other living together so long as, um, what? FZM ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63034 ) quotes Leviticus:

    // If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination //

    What exactly does “lies with” mean? I think it must be a metonymy, a perhaps squeamish way of referring to anal intercourse. True? Does the Church – does the Bible – simply condemn anal intercourse? If so, why not say so?

    • ignatius says:

      //What exactly does “lies with” mean? I think it must be a metonymy, a perhaps squeamish way of referring to anal intercourse. //
      ‘Lie with’ is used quite widely in the OT and I think mainly in referrence to what might be termed as ‘normal’ relations between men and women. As far as I understand it just means ‘have sex with’

  6. galerimo says:

    In response to your question – I opt for Stoic Vice!

    For Stoics, God was not transcendent and above nature, but instead was synonymous with it. Their pantheism held that each of us shared in the divine fire.

    Anyone who holds that the Natural Law is the basis for morality would find much in the rationality of Stoicism to support living his or her faith in an orthodox way.

    The ancient Romans loved it too. Not hard to see its appeal to the Anglo Saxon temperament either!

    And there is noting wrong with the great enterprise and adventure of Philosophy. It continues to provide substructure too much of our traditional and recent Theology.

    St Thomas owes much to Aristotle, Paul Tillich to existentialism and Karl Rahner to Heideggerian thought.

    Strange! Jesus being a speaker of Aramaic and living a life steeped in his Hebrew culture yet the records of his life and how it was experienced by the early band of his followers are all recorded for us in Greek.

    Early Greek Christian writers sought to frame much of Christian revelation using Gnostic and Stoic frameworks of understanding. They used the basic language and concepts of these pagan philosophers.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa, was one who drew heavily from both Platonic and Stoic writers. Followed later by St Augustine.

    But one major and fundamental point of difference was the central place of a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, who not only manifested Divinity in flesh and blood but also invited everyone to a personal relationship with Himself.

    And this personal relationship forms the basis for behaviour in the world for his followers. Not just the cold logic founded on our perception of nature and the world around us but the direct revelation of a personal God.

    And through His gift of the Holy Spirit our living in Him is not confined to ages gone by. It is meant for our age too and the ages to come.

    All you need is love.

    And I imagine for any ardent Stoic that would be considered vice.

    So, I’ll choose that one!

    • ignatius says:

      //Early Greek Christian writers sought to frame much of Christian revelation using Gnostic and Stoic frameworks of understanding. They used the basic language and concepts of these pagan philosophers.//
      No. Hebrew was still the language of sacred scripture and ritual but Greek was by then the main lingua franca. Obvious then that Greek would be used widely by the educated, not just the philosophers.

  7. John Thomas says:

    :Feelings/Reason – well, in our present age, it’s Zillions to Feelings, Zero to Reason (vide Meghan & Opra, Diana and the flower tributes, etc.). I believe that – as in so many, many things: a balance has to be struck, but primarily, I’m for reason (yup. a Stoic like you, Quentin).
    :”Who am I to judge?” – surely, being a Pope should at least give/require an ability to judge, where it may be necessary. The suggestion here is that Francis wouldn’t be able to manage it, which is a rather damaging assertion for a Pope. Francis, like so many “top people”, should be very cautious of the things he says, and how they might sound/be (mis-)interpreted.
    :”But now we know that the physicality of homo sapiens was a product of evolution”. – Is this your view, I wonder, Quentin, or are you merely reporting it? Does not this view assert that “now we know that the physicality of homo sapiens” was actually NOT created by God …? Does this assert that simply the PHYSICALITY of homo sapiens, but not homo sapiens as such, was not created by God? Or does it mean that homo sapiens ‘period’ were just a product of evolution? Surely, if homo sapiens was merely “a product of evolution” (not God), then the Church (and no one else) needs to worry very much at all about the “rights and wrongs” of anything (eg ‘damage to society’). Perhaps we (Christians) just make a rod for our backs once we bring evolution into it …

  8. Iona says:

    Galerimo thinks it strange that although Jesus was “a speaker of Aramaic and living a life steeped in his Hebrew culture yet the records of his life and how it was experienced by the early band of his followers are all recorded for us in Greek”.
    Wasn’t Greek the lingua franca of the time, all around the Mediterranean area? So anything written in Greek would be accessible to a wide audience, whereas Aramaic less so.

  9. Quentin says:

    We have an issue here.The lower animals have brains, and so do we. But how did our brains develop into a much larger and more effective tool? It just so happens that an interesing new study arrived on my computer this morning. See below.
    But the key question remains. How can free will emerge solely from neurons?

    https://www.livescience.com/human-ape-brain-evolution-differences.html?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=LVS_newsletter&utm_content=LVS_newsletter+&utm_term=4006531

    • ignatius says:

      Aren’t we here flogging a very dead horse? Either we accept the theory that multiple neurons produce multiple synapses and thus multiple choices which appear to resemble ‘free will’ but are not. Or else we posit that ‘Freewill’ resides outside of physiology but has biochemical levers.

  10. David Smith says:

    At the risk of prolonging something that no one but me thinks it wise or appropriate to discuss here, I’ll have another go at the question I asked at https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63045 .

    ignatius replied ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63057 ) :

    // ‘Lie with’ is used quite widely in the OT and I think mainly in referrence to what might be termed as ‘normal’ relations between men and women. As far as I understand it just means ‘have sex with’ //

    But doesn’t that merely replace one circumlocution with another? What, precisely, is the Church telling male homosexuals they must not do? If I were a Catholic male homosexual who wanted to understand the Church’s position on this very prominent issue, I’d want – I’d need – an unequivocal answer. If the Church has given it, where is it? And if it has not, why not? My sense is that the hierarchy are content to seem to be condemning *something* without ever having the courage and honesty and decency to spell it out. This seems to me a major issue that a hapless, or a dishonest, or perhaps a cowardly Vatican is simply, blatantly ignoring, evidently hoping that no one will force them to take a clear stand. For me, it’s suddenly become a litmus test.

    If no one wants to follow this up, that’s fine, and I’ll go no further. I just wanted to be clear that I don’t think it’s a minor matter.

    • ignatius says:

      David writes:

      //But doesn’t that merely replace one circumlocution with another? What, precisely, is the Church telling male homosexuals they must not do? If I were a Catholic male homosexual who wanted to understand the Church’s position on this very prominent issue, I’d want – I’d need – an unequivocal answer. If the Church has given it, where is it? And if it has not, why not?//

      Here is the unequivocal answer you seek:

      Congregation for The Docrtine of the Faith (CDF)

      CDF 1986:”The Church cannot bless sexual unions outside the marriage of one man and one woman, the document said. However, blessings can be given “to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”
      CDF 2003 “the Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”

  11. Geordie says:

    David Smith writes the following:
    “My sense is that the hierarchy are content to seem to be condemning *something* without ever having the courage and honesty and decency to spell it out. This seems to me a major issue that a hapless, or a dishonest, or perhaps a cowardly Vatican is simply, blatantly ignoring, evidently hoping that no one will force them to take a clear stand.”

    David,
    When I see the hierarchy side-steeping those things that we think are important, my nasty mind goes into overdrive. I ask the question : “What are they hiding?” If they stick their heads above the parapet, they will be shot at and when that happens they may have some rather unsavoury events in their own lives which may come to light.
    For example, we all know they covered up sexual abuse and immoral behaviour for years. When that came to light, thanks to the mainly secular press, then they had to admit that they fell short of the moral laws which they championed.
    Then there is the question money laundering which has been denied and investigations are still going on in the Vatican. In my own parish we had a parish priest who was lining his own pockets with our money. He had been doing it for years in other parishes. When the laity complained, there were investigations which found that he had no case to answer. When some parishioners threatened to involve the civil authorities, he was gone within three weeks. My question is “Are there other priests who keep quiet about these crimes because they are doing the same thing?” I am only asking because I would like to know.

    • ignatius says:

      Geordie writes:
      //When some parishioners threatened to involve the civil authorities, he was gone within three weeks. My question is “Are there other priests who keep quiet about these crimes because they are doing the same thing?” I am only asking because I would like to know.//

      Geordie,
      In South Manchester at St Luke’s there is a small unit which deals with the psychological assessment of would be ordinands to diaconate and priesthood. We all go there for a 3day process of interviews and psychometric testing as an initial scan of our mental/ psychological health. The unit also acted as an assessment and treatment centre for priests who had become alcoholics .Given that the Catholic church has around 1 million priests at any given time the answer to you question is undoubtedly and overwhelmingly a yes…but what else would you seriously expect?

  12. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63073 ) :

    // Here is the unequivocal answer you seek:

    Congregation for The Docrtine of the Faith (CDF) //

    Thanks, ignatius, but that’s still equivocating. It’s just bureaucratese. Circular. Self-referential.

    I think I’ve failed to make my point. But I’m willing to let the matter rest.

    • ignatius says:

      Certainly something hasn’t gelled. To me the CDF, like it or not, is quite clear. The Church does not sanction homosexual activity, meaning sexual congress, meaning all forms of sexual behaviour. Hard for me to see the statement as meaning anything else. I’m puzzled as to understand what is it you believe to be equivocal?

  13. David Smith says:

    Geordie writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63068 ) :

    // My question is “Are there other priests who keep quiet about these crimes because they are doing the same thing?” I am only asking because I would like to know. //

    Tip of an iceberg. Smoke suggesting fire. One tool of power is the silence that leaves the accusation hanging in the air to die, as it fades away into the background noise.

  14. galerimo says:

    Pope Francis never ceases to inspire.

    Can you believe his visit to Iraq? At the great age of 85, he goes to give support to the persecuted Christians of one our most ancient Churches.

    And despite his mobility limitations, his personal safety and the world-wide pandemic. Many doubted it would ever happen!

    In 1987 there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today the number has fallen by over 80% to less than 250,000.

    Even though Christians fared relatively well during the rule of Saddam Hussein, after the U.S. invasion, in 2003, events took a turn for the worse with large-scale persecution of Christians leading up to the terrible blood-shed of the ISIS reign of terror.

    The Trump administration has helped with a rebuilding programme between 2017 and 2019.

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as you point out, has issued a “Responsum” to the “doubt” surrounding the use of sacramentals such as the Blessing of same sex relationships.

    Acknowledging in such relationships “The presence of positive elements, which in are in themselves to be valued and appreciated” the CDF does not consider them “legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing”.

    You do have to wonder how using the same sacramentals such as the blessing of weapons (Benedictione Armorum) of mass destruction, military equipment as well as guns and rifles could ever have merited legitimacy when they are carried out.

    But the Pope has given great solace to our brothers and sisters in his many statements concerning the need for the Catholic Church to welcome and love all people, regardless to sexual orientation. Himself blessing a gay couple in July 2015.

    To the Catholic parents and grandparents of gay men and women this may finally redress some to the grief and loss they have long suffered when the failure of our Church in its charity contributed in ways, no matter how small, to the suicides of homosexuals who felt such rejection to be ultimate.

    As Church today, at least we no longer refuse the right burial in our cemeteries.

    We are making progress, but slowly.

  15. John Nolan says:

    It would be useful if Galerimo were to stop using the term ‘same sex relationships’ and spell out exactly what he is referring to.

    Everybody has relationships with those of the same sex, those of the opposite sex, and often with animals (of either sex). Does the Church need to bless the relationship between a man and his dog? Or between close friends or relatives? Of course not.

    Strictly speaking the Church disapproves of any sexual acts between married couples that do not culminate in full (i.e. penetrative) intercourse, and would claim that masturbation, mutual or otherwise, is a mortal sin, despite the fact that nearly everybody has indulged in it.

    Glance around the congregation at the Solemn Latin Mass at Brompton Oratory. You can spot the ‘gay boys’ a mile off. Yet they are ‘traditionalist’ otherwise they wouldn’t be there, and they troop up to Communion with everyone else. Do they need special Masses at Farm Street? I think not.

    What they get up to in private is their own concern, as long as they don’t frighten the horses.

  16. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63088 ) :

    // Strictly speaking the Church disapproves of any sexual acts between married couples that do not culminate in full (i.e. penetrative) intercourse, and would claim that masturbation, mutual or otherwise, is a mortal sin, despite the fact that nearly everybody has indulged in it. //

    Nicely put. Thank you.

    Problem is, the Church can’t have it both ways and not be thought ill of by the modern mind. As you say, the Church positively condemns masturbation as damning one to eternal punishment and yet in fact it looks the other way and pretends it doesn’t matter. That is flagrant hypocrisy, openly indulged in. Such behavior guarantees heresy and schism. And it makes a mockery of the magisterium and of the papacy.

    • milliganp says:

      When the priestly sexual abuse scandal came to the fore and our bishops started implementing measures to reduce (prevent is impossible given fallen human nature) such abuse they introduced mandatory psychological profiling of candidates to reduce the possibility of admitting men with repressed unnatural sexual urges to orders.
      I attended, as a deacon delegate, a conference on candidate selection. We had talks from a moral theologian and a psychologist. The psychologist assured us that masturbation was a normal part of sexual development and he would be wary of a candidate who denied ever having committed the act.
      The words normal and abnormal have very confused usage in modern language but one could argue that, because of the fall, sin is normal to human beings. This does not make it right but must inform how we treat and talk about sin and sinners.

  17. ignatius says:

    /Problem is, the Church can’t have it both ways and not be thought ill of by the modern mind. As you say, the Church positively condemns masturbation as damning one to eternal punishment and yet in fact it looks the other way and pretends it doesn’t matter. That is flagrant hypocrisy, openly indulged in. Such behavior guarantees heresy and schism. And it makes a mockery of the magisterium and of the papacy//

    Sorry, there’s something very wrong here. The church does not damn anyone to eternal punishment, for anything, let alone masturbation. In fact the catechism on masturbations says this:

    2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”138 “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”139To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ 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, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

    Notice the phrase ‘to guide pastoral action’ which is quite a far cry from ‘damning one to eternal punishment’
    “That is flagrant hypocrisy, openly indulged in.”
    What do you expect us all to do, David ..go round banging on each others doors and sniffing each others sheets?!!!!

  18. David Smith says:

    ignatius quotes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63091 ) :

    // To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ 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 can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. //

    Wow. So there is no sin if the would-be sinner meant well – or was confused – or was cognitively challenged – or was a victim of his circumstances – or had been misled – or simply could not help himself. Got it. No wonder the Western Church is shrinking. There’s no longer any there there. I suspect most of the congregation of our local Jesuit parish would be relieved if the Pope were to discard just about all traditional Catholic dogma and moral teaching, since they no longer believe it anyway. They’re effectively Catholic Unitarians – cultural Catholics who think Jesus was pretty enlightened for his times; he meant well and was on the right track. But if he’d lived today, in our enlightened times, he would have understood things so much better.

  19. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63091 ) :

    // What do you expect us all to do, David ..go round banging on each others doors and sniffing each others sheets?!!!! //

    It’s not about instituting a theocracy, but about providing *clear* guidance in a morally thoroughly confused age. Merely “following the science” amounts to scarcely more than letting current trends in psychiatry and psychology shape Catholic moral teaching.

    • milliganp says:

      We always end up discussing sexual morals because they are the ones where church and society mostly collide.
      We could equally look at gluttony or drunkenness or drug abuse where there is little mood for everybody making up their own rules. Once we’ve agreed that these excesses are not conducive to human flourishing we can then discuss sexuality and family life and ask questions like “do we have obligations to raise our children?” or “does raising a child in a chaotic family make a difference?” or even “should we have children?”.
      We would certainly more rapidly realize “anything goes” is no more acceptable in sexual behavior than it is in anything else and then go on to ask “how can we know the right thing to do?”.
      Until the introduction of Cartesian doubt, that’s what philosophy and theology were trying to do.

  20. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/23/stoic-vice-or-stoic-virtue/#comment-63111 ) :

    // We would certainly more rapidly realize “anything goes” is no more acceptable in sexual behavior than it is in anything else and then go on to ask “how can we know the right thing to do?”.

    Until the introduction of Cartesian doubt, that’s what philosophy and theology were trying to do. //

    The Church’s moral backbone was broken by the Enlightenment?

  21. ignatius says:

    //The Church’s moral backbone was broken by the Enlightenment?//

    Rather at the reformation. When, along with moral backbones, many other bones were first broken then burnt. The end of all that came, as I remember, with Elizabeth promising the church would no longer pry into the hearts of men .
    The catholic catechism I quoted regarding masturbation for example is, in my view an excellent exegesis. It attempts to strike the balance between doctrinal ‘law’ and pastoral ‘grace’. As far as I can see it makes most aspects of catholic morality fairly clear while emphasising that culpability does indeed come in grades according to the subtlety of human responses to the call of discipllned mercy.
    As to ‘clear’ guidance in a morally confused age, one has to genuinely seek guidance from any ‘wise person’ In other words one should seek with seriousness and listen with respect then act in accordance with one’s conscience, as it were ‘according to one’s lights’ This is not especially easily managed but those are the requirements for any genuine freedom of choice. In this ‘morally confused age’ it is probably worth remembering that those who criticize the church so highly usually neither believe in her faith nor care for her authority. But, alas, search elsewhere as many do (and believe me I have looked with the best of them) there is nothing else to find.

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