Further to my previous posts trying to "break apart"
the difficulties the Church seems to be experiencing in
getting her message across in the matters of human sexuality...
I had written previously: "In my next post I would
like to break apart further what I have written here to
discuss the purely temporal considerations concerning the
consequences of sexual acts. What I am endeavouring to do
in approaching the subject in this way is to leave standing
in stark relief the considerations which, it seems to me,
ARE important in the theological realm."
Looking at the AIDS epidemic causing so much devastation
in the world today, and particularly in the third world,
I cannot see how any person could not be drawn to the conclusion
that any society, for its own protection, does need to create
laws, social customs, taboos or rites of passage that place
some curb on the unrestrained human sexual urge. I would
argue that such laws, customs, taboos or rites of passage
need not necessarily be derived from any theological law
or moral law. They are purely the same sort of "necessary
law" as any society needs someone to lay down a definitive
rule as to whether, in this place, we are going to drive
on the right hand side or the left hand side of the road.
In the natural order of sexuality we can observe from other
species, as well as from what goes on in reproduction at
the inanimate or less biologically sophisticated levels
of the cosmos that there are a set of "rules"
that operate to regulate the reproduction, transmission,
and evolution of new life.
One could argue that, at the natural level, it is self-evident
that there is some sort of hierarchy of laws and rules that
operate at the biological, chemical and, in the higher primates
and species, at the emotional level that tend to bring order
into the business of how life is organised and how it reproduces
What I have written in the foregoing paragraph might seem
to be self-evident and some might question why in the dickens
I have wasted the energy on making such glaringly obvious
Going back to the very beginning of where I am "coming
from" in my arguments, I remind myself, that my ultimate
quest is two-fold: (a) in trying to understand what my ultimate
purpose, and destination, is as a spiritual being; and (b)
in trying to understand the "manner" or "way"
or "the rules" by which, or through which, I
the individual reach the things mentioned in (a).
At the society-wide level, the Church exists principally
as an organisation to assist the individual, and the community,
to discern what (a) and (b) are.
I do not believe it is self-evident to a lot of people,
either in the Church or in wider society, that there is
a significant difference between the laws, social customs,
taboos or rites of passage that a society might need at
the purely temporal and social level to organise its affairs
and the higher level theological and moral imperatives that
a sophisticated human person might need who has begun to
discern that life in fact does have such a thing as a "theological
or moral objective". It is self-evident in society
that many people simply would not have a clue that they
in fact have a "theological or moral objective".
Just go out into a shopping centre and ask a few people:
"do you have a theological or moral objective?"
If most of them didn't punch you on the nose, they would
certainly look at you in a funny way for even asking such
a question. Young children, for example, would not understand
what the question even meant. It takes time as a human being
to begin to appreciate that life does have a "higher
purpose" simply than eating, sleeping, farting, belching,
and smiling in the way a baby does.
As I said in the second paragraph, what I am gradually
trying to do in this series of posts is arrive at the place
where the "laws, social customs, taboos or rites of
passage" that are important in the theological sense
are standing in stark relief to even the most unsophisticated
There is so much to write about on this subject and, in
this series of posts, I am trying to condense down a whole
lot of complex thinking to draw out particular general points.
In this post, the general point I am trying to make is that
the human family generally recognises the need that we all
have to regulate our sexual behaviours. One doesn't need
any "high falutin'" morality or "what God
says" to come into the equation as to why this needs
to be so. Society recognises that there are health considerations,
and that children require a long period of nurture if they
are to fully achieve their potentials as adult individuals
and as citizens.
In one of my earlier posts I wrote: <<The Church
ought to give itself a medal that it has managed to so successfully
screw up holistic thinking about the relationships between
men and women and turn it into a power play to such an extent
that common sense has flown right out the door for millions
of people across the face of the earth. Through our own
feelings of self-loathing and guilt we have turned millions
of people away from being able to see their maleness and
femaleness in a balanced and holistic way.
Some people grasp onto rules and worship them as though
they are God Himself. The rules are not God. They are a
means by which we can start to plumb the depths of the Mystery
that is God. It is God who is worshipped not the rules by
which we might reach into the Mystery.
Rather than giving people guilty consciences and great
long lists of thou shalt nots, we need a new list of what
thou shalt do in the spirit with which Christ approached
his work. Instead of giving fear-filled lessons on the negative
sides of sex, why is the Church not leading the world in
showing people how to express their God-given sexuality
and love in the fullest of ways, including positive lessons
about the sexual acts themselves? Yes, there are things
we need to be careful of regarding this at times frighteningly
powerful passion that lives within each of us but, at the
same time, there is much of the Divine and stuff that is
wholesome and good in this most beautiful of the human attributes.
This is not a call to laissez faire attitudes or indifference,
neither is it a call to deny that there is a sixth commandment.
It is call to all of us to get all the commandments into
a much more holistic and balanced perspective.>>
What I am trying to do in this series of posts is approach
the sixth commandment issues from a completely new direction.
I am arguing that most people do not need the Church screaming
down their necks what God might think about the way they
use their sexuality. Those things can be discerned from
other places without the need to drag God, theology, or
morality into the equation. They can be arrived at from
common sense. What I would argue is that one of the reasons
why "common sense" has been abandoned in large
sectors of society (illustrated, for example, by the scale
of the AIDS epidemic) has been because some people ‚ and
particularly the Catholic Church ‚ have been trying to beat
the world over the head with an overly sophisticated theological
argument when they would have done far better to have argued
the case merely at the level of common sense.
In my next post on this subject I am going to try and explore
the places where the theological arguments ARE important.
I believe the Church does need to recapture control of the
discussion that goes on in society about human sexuality
but not as a "power thing" for herself but because
the human sexuality question is connected somehow intimately
to the very highest objectives of what "being human"
is all about. Quite apart from all the mundane questions
and regulations that a society needs in place for its own
good about sexual behaviours, what I am arguing, is that
there are also a separate set of moral or theological imperatives
that do need to be treated quite distinctly. Grahame Fallon
directs our attention to this is his frequent references
to our need for "an apprenticeship in self-mastery".
In the next part of the discussion I hope we might be able
to explore this more.
What I will be arguing is that if the Church is really
serious about seizing back "the moral high ground"
in civilisation she needs (a) to move much of debate about
human sexuality back down to the level of "common sense"
or "common law" and, (b) at the same time, she
does need to delineate far more clearly the sorts of things
that Grahame (and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) would point
us to where questions concerning our sexual nature do rightly,
and necessarily, intersect very directly with our theological
nature (ie our relationship to the spiritual or Divine order).
The ground has become muddy for too many people.
I do want to make a couple of other practical points in
this post but I will post them as an addendum to this main