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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Benedict on the Family and Sexuality

There's a missing year.
There's a year gone, where my life was such that I hadn't time for all the things I'd hitherto thought were an inherent part of living.
So now, I'll hear some outrageous piece of news and think, nonsense, if that had happened I would have heard about it when it.... oh, yeah, I'll realize, nope, I just missed it.
Or, what a magnificent soprano, can't wait to share.... oh, you all saw her at the Met when.... oh, right, I wasn't paying attention then

My Mother once told me that there's a seven year stretch when apparently presidents were elected, disasters happened, the Church changed in thus and such a way, this remarkable thing was invented and then became passe - and she doesn't remember a bit of it, she never noticed any of it.
(Of course, I know that her mind at the time had been like a blasted computer, remembering which of the... eight? children she had at that time didn't like ketchup, and who wanted her grill cheese sliced diagonally, and which one was allergic to the shampoo all the others used, and who needed the knees reinforced before a pair of pants could be won the first time even to Mass, and who would happily gobble down corn and peas but wouldn't touch either if them if they so much as touched on the plate, and some how keeping everything, and all of us going. She was remarkable.)

But there are recompenses when there are such lacunae in ones awareness of the greater world -- undiscovered treasures await, while the rest of the civilization has already had the last they'll get of, say, a now silent novelist.

So often during the past two weeks, reading, hearing about the Synod I have yearned for someone at the helm  more aware of words, more careful of expression, more precise of thought, more ... Benedict.

That's what I wanted, someone more Benedict.

I wanted Benedict to be the relator, I wanted Benedict to be the secretary general , I wanted Benedict to be the Vatican press officer, I wanted Benedict to head up every small discussion group, I wanted Benedict to be the roman-collared talking head on the national news....

(Even now, I want someone to scamper over to his domicile under cover of darkness, with a great sheave of papers, and whisper, quick, Pope Emeritus, what's a better way to say this? how should we put this? give me a better phrase for....)

I am tired of hearing know-nothings acting as if until this week, the Church had called for drawing and quartering any sinner who came to Mass, and I was actually just going to post some random thoughts about and quotes from letters from the CDF, and Always Our Children, and the CCC, and documents from earlier Synods...

And then, there it was, one of those treasures, new to me because of my Lost Year, the former Holy Father's letter to the Curia from Christmass of 2012.

"Quoting from" is problematic with Benedict's writing, it does not lend itself to snippets and sound bites, it is dense with thought and information and at the same time so attractive, and comprehensible.

Where to stop? As Salieri says of Mozart's music in Amadeus, "displace one note and there would be diminishment, displace one phrase and the structure would fall." (I don't claim, as Salieri goes on to of Mozart's music, something like, "I was listening to the voice of God." ;oP)

As one reads Benedict's homilies or letters, every word seems essential, and every thought not only necessary but suddenly seeming so obvious, so indisputable that one must read on, and as here, quote on.

But I won't.
Just a snippet. Or a few snippets. Okay, a big chunk. (Read it all yourself, if you haven't. But you probably have, because you had that year I missed. ;oP)
Despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. It was noticeable that the Synod repeatedly emphasized the significance, for the transmission of the faith, of the family as the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence.
This is something we learn by living it with others and suffering it with others....
There is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself....
Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated... essential elements of the experience of being human are lost....
the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.....
The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned....
likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him....from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.
(One cavil, I don't know much about de Beauvoir, but surely her assertion is not that achieving her gender is somehow optional - the option is adulthood, one doesn't get to decide between male and female, but between puerility and growing up.)

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