Saturday, February 09, 2008

New Site, New Address, New Posts

I have decided to move my site over to  I have copied all the previous posts and comments over to the place.  I have retitled my site and will attempt to write more for the new site as time allows.  I will continue to focus on Moral Theology.  I have two new posts up as of today.

You can visit my new blog site at A Holy Endeavor or copy

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On the "The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting"

Most news sources have picked up the story I first saw that the New York Times did on July 31, 2007 entitled "The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting" (free registration may be required to access the story). First of all, the New York Times article title is misleading. It refers to the "Whys of Mating" when the study done clearly refers to the "Whys of Sex." Mating typically refers to the act of reproduction. Whereas this study clearly did not seem to equate sexual intercourse with reproduction. But I digress.

The New York Times piece concerns a study done by psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin who surveyed nearly two thousand people and came up with a total of 237 reasons why people have sexual intercourse. As the NYTimes story points out, these reasons run the gamut "from 'I wanted to feel closer to God' to 'I was drunk.' They even found a few people who claimed to have been motivated by the desire to have a child." The Times piece says that "The researchers, Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, believe their list, published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, is the most thorough taxonomy of sexual motivation ever compiled. This seems entirely plausible." How this can seem plausible is a point of contention from my perspective. More on this later.
The researchers collected the data by first asking more than 400 people to list their reasons for having sex, and then asking more than 1,500 others to rate how important each reason was to them. Although it was a fairly homogenous sample of students at the University of Texas, nearly every one of the 237 reasons was rated by at least some people as their most important motive for having sex.

The best news is that both men and women ranked the same reason most often: “I was attracted to the person.”

The rest of the top 10 for each gender were also almost all the same, including “I wanted to express my love for the person,” “I was sexually aroused and wanted the release” and “It’s fun.”
Without getting much further into the study, I wanted to point out something very important about the volunteers in this study. As the study notes (you can find the study linked on the New York Times website in the form of a .pdf), the majority of those who took part in the survey and were tested with the Why Have Sex questionnaire, were undergraduate students (1,549: 503 men and 1046 women) and they ranged in age from 16 to 42 years of age and the mean age was 19. Of this group of 1,549 participants, 4% of the women were married and 2% of the men were married. These psychologists were clearly not motivated to tie together marriage and sexual intercourse. They were more interested in the sexual habits and reasonings from mostly sexually-active single people who live in a hook-up culture where sex is amusement and pleasure and with the body something to be used.

I might say more about the study as I read further into it. For now, this is all I want to say.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Sign of Contradiction Remembered

Today is a date that I do not forget during the calendar year. It happens to be one of my patrons feast days, St. James the Greater. Also, something I do tend to forget, according to the older calendar of 1962, today also happens to be the memorial of St. Christopher. Finally, today is also the 39th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae vitae. Maybe not surprising, it was the last encyclical he ever wrote even though he continued as pontiff for another 10 years.

It is helpful to revisit some of Paul VI's words in this encyclical, to remind us in part of how truly visionary his words are, but also as a reminder of what is at stake. In paragraph 17, Paul VI elaborates on three consequences he sees as the evil results of the contraceptive mentality. First he envisions "
marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards." Sadly this first consequence is easily seen in the rates of divorce and infidelity among married couples as well as its overwhelming repercussions for the notion of marriage and morality in the public square. Second, Paul VI sees
man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Coupled with the outpouring of pornography, women and men have been reduced to instruments for use and eventual disregard. How often is love portrayed in our culture simply as dealing with physical pleasure and emotion? How often does one get the notion of love as self-sacrifice and care for another without such physical pleasure or emotion? As a result of the contraceptive mentality, one loses the meaning of love.

Finally, Paul VI has concerns about the contraceptive mentality invading public policy.
Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
You almost get a sense that Paul VI envisions a "Brave New World" on the horizon when the contraceptive mentality becomes so much a part of the very fabric of existence that the government begins to regulate fertility and impose such regulations on everyone. Fortunately this last consequence has not come to full fruition, at least in regards to the United States. But such a government solution always could lurk around the corner. You begin to see such encroachment upon the consciences of doctors and pharmacists who refuse to offer such things as the Morning-After Pill. Let us hope and pray that this last consequence does not come to a full realization.

In paragraph 18, Paul VI recognizes that the teaching of Humanae vitae will be difficult.
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction."(Luke 2:34) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men."(Paul Vl, encyc. letter Populorum progressio: AAS 59 (1967), 268 [TPS XII, 151])

I find these passages to be very moving, especially the first paragraph. He calls attention to the Church and subsequently its members that they are to be signs of contradiction like Christ himself. And as a sign of contradiction, the Church presents the divine law in its entirety in order to protect the dignity of man. So much is at stake with the contraceptive mentality and how it can destroy the dignity that God has given to the human person.

Let us pray and hope that more people see the beauty in the Church's teaching on marriage and help the Church build a truly human civilization in which the dignity of each human person is not degraded but rather respected and uplifted befitting our call to be the sons and daughters of God.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It All Starts in the Church and the Home

I won't bother linking to the many stories and headlines I have seen in the past day concerning a "new study" which tells us that abstinence education does not stop sex. The headline might as well have read: new study tells us that telephones do not stop sex. When will educators, politicians, media outlets, etc. finally realize that just because you present and educate someone with "information" that does not mean the now "educated" person with new information actually will use that information.

The development of good life habits, regardless of whether it deals with sex or the care of teeth, will not simply happen due to the presentation of information. How many of your parents told you first off that you needed to brush your teeth because of all the health benefits? You probably were told it was something you had to do.

Notice the irony about sex education: you only need to glance at the trends in sexual education and the rates of those infected with sexually-transmitted diseases and realize that those moments of education and information at schools did not make a difference either.

Truly educating someone about good life habits requires constant teaching and effort. Think about the Twelve Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous and how much effort and constancy it requires of individuals following and at times enduring those steps. What does that First Step teach? It teaches us complete dependence on God for all things. This First Step should provide us with a hint about how most approaches to education in sexuality go wrong.

Without a young person realizing how his sexuality is to be meaningful with a God-centered life, it is hard to see how a plea for abstinence with an information-deluge or a sex-education-deluge will do anything other than presenting a false impression of actually doing something. If abstinence and a life of chastity doesn't start with the Church and the Home, then I don't see how a school will do any better.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Just Thought I Would Share

Over at a Dominican run website, you can find several great theological lectures given during the past year. The website is for Dominican vocations, and as a tool I presume, they post videos of lectures. Several of the video lectures involve the series at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC concerning Man and the Image of God. I have linked below several of the lectures. You can view the lectures online or you can download them for later. I use the Podcast link and download the videos through iTunes. Enjoy!

The Image of God in a Post-Genomic Age given by Rev. Nicanor Astriaco, O.P. Assistant Professor of Biology and Instructor of Theology at Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island. Consultant to the Committee on Science and Human Values of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Image of God & The Sacraments of the Church given by Rev. Romanus Cessario, O.P. Professor of Systematic Theology and Coordinator of Masster of Arts at St. John's Seminary School of Theology in Brighton, MA.

Charity's Knowledge: The Relationship Between Knowledge and Love in Aquinas' Account of Human Action given by Rev. Michael Sherwin, O.P. Associate Professor of Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

The Marian Role in the Restoration of the Image of God given by Rev. John Corbett, O.P. Assistant Professor of Moral Theology Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C.