No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

Category: Materialism

Love in the Time of Materialism

I have noticed a trend wherein most discussion of dualism veers into Gnosticism — the soul trumping the body.  This article is about the reverse problem of dualism where the body trumps the soul.

In this tabloid story, a man considers himself “married” to a doll, and keeps another doll as a “mistress”.  This is a result of his consideration that women are, “an enormous investment of time, money, and emotion, and I’m not interested in having someone in my life who may bail at any time, or who transforms into someone unpleasant.”  In these words we can hear a man too afraid to risk anything for actual love, and so make-believes love with a bit of silicone.

It's silly to "marry" silicone.

It’s silly to “marry” silicone.

The whole story is quite disturbing because it considers the best woman as one who is without any desires of her own.  The website to order these dolls even boasting, “never complains” and “always available”.  “Marrying” dolls dehumanizes actual women by creating this evil ideal where women are simply the playthings of men.

This contrasts greatly with Catholic teaching on authentic love, which is necessary for joy in life.  A man in love goes so far as to lay down his life for those he loves.  Manly love is about sacrifice to help others and not about using people as things to meet ones own desires.  This is not love:

He stubbornly clings to his own desires and doesn’t sacrifice himself for his wife.  It is not manly love to demand others lay down their hopes for you.  Manly love reaches out beyond oneself to the other.  In doing this laying down of selfish pride to meet the needs of those we care about we paradoxically can find contentment and peace.  This sacrifice of self is why this man learned that his child with down syndrome was “the light in the darkness”, and why he ended up happy his wife had the child despite his pressuring her to abort the child’s life.  The sacrifice of true love brings us to joy.


Internal Dispositions and Refraining from Babies

Overpopulation has many different bits to talk about, but this article makes me want to focus on one, Contraception and Natural Family Planning.

One of the aspects of materialism is that we reduce our physical actions to meaninglessness.  Outward actions become no indicator of interior intent.  When our world is seen materialistically, there is no interior difference between the latest scientific form of birth control and the rhythm method, all that is different is the degree of effect.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Because the goal of Catholicism is communion, it should come as no surprise that the Church teachings on sex inside of marriage are based upon her understanding of communion.  There are two basic and common approaches used by science to avoid pregnancy: separating spouses and destroying health.

Condoms, cervical caps, and so forth are all used to separate one spouse from another.

Not exactly a good example of "sexy times"

Not a good example of “sexy times”

By separating spouses, these methods betray the unity of the marital act.  The subtext of the action is “I need my space; we can be intimate, but not wholly intimate”.  Just as the sheets covering the heads in Magritte’s “The Lovers” betrays the intimacy of a kiss, so too do barrier methods betray the intimacy of sex. The canard is that Orthodox Jews can only have sex through a hole in a sheet, but the truth is that modern people have sex with a sheet covering the one bit that even in myths Orthodox Jews would leave uncovered.  Irony abounds.

The common alternative science offers is the destruction of a healthy body part though methods like the pill, vasectomies, or tubal ligation.  In these methods the spouse has part of their body destroyed or distorted.  This is much like Body Integrity Identity Disorder, a.k.a. apotemnophilia.  In this disease people don’t feel right unless they are not whole, so healthy body parts are sometimes removed to make the person feel better.  In a similar way, healthy body parts are made to be unhealthy or removed so that pregnancy might not occur.  The subtext of the action here is, “I love you, but not your fertile part”.  A certain portion of the spouse must be done away with before sex can commence.  The rejected bit removed or temporarily disabled so that the spouse may be loved.  This is not love, since love embraces the whole person.  It violates communion with a person to not seem them holistically.

These two main approaches of science contrast with the one “Church approved” approach of science, that of Natural Family Planning (NFP).  In this approach, knowledge of a woman’s fertility is used to time sex so that pregnancy is achieved or put off.  This is not your grandma’s rhythm method, but modern science applied in real life to achieve results on par with the other mentioned scientific methods of postponing pregnancy.


At root, this method is derived from the fact that no one, not even married couples, are required to have sex.  To force a spouse to have sex is rape, and there is no place for that in civilized society.  So a couple may always choose to refrain from sex when a woman is fertile.  This method uses the knowledge imparted by science to determine when a woman is fertile, and applies that knowledge to the decision making process about sex.  Sex, when it takes place, embraces the other person in their entirety without a barrier and without destruction of healthy body tissue.

Externally the effectiveness is similar, and if that was all that was looked at NFP would just be another method of contraception.  However, in regards to contraception it is not postponing or avoiding pregnancy that the Church has a problem with, but rather how the method effects communion between two lovers.  What the Church teaches is wrong are those methods which break down communion and fellowship, not those methods which stop pregnancy from occurring.  To reject a healthy wife in favor of disabling her fertility, or creating separation between people in their most intimate moments of love, these are what the Church disapproves of because these are actions of people not maximally open to communion and love.  Natural Family Planning is the only scientifically devised method of birth control that retains respect for the communion of husband and wife, and that is why the Church is in favor of it while opposed to other methods.  Catholicism practiced at its best is laser focused upon increasing love and communion between people, and so love is the standard by which scientific techniques are judged good or bad to practice.


Do you really want to live forever, forever young?


While this isn’t so much news, it is interesting.  As a way to “live forever” one might hope to create something that goes on forever.  Sadly, that is unlikely to ever happen.

First, it is unlikely to happen because the vast majority of us are normal people.  While Darwin might be remembered, Sarah Wedgewood (his and his wife’s grandma — ewwww!) isn’t. The vast majority of us are people like Sarah, not like Darwin.  We go about our ordinary lives doing ordinary things, and won’t be remembered beyond a few years past our deaths.

Secondly, Darwin himself isn’t so much remembered as the truth he discovered is.  I mean, I have no idea whether he like port or sherry with with dinner.  Could he skip rocks?  What did his favorite pajamas look like?

I'm thinking he liked the batman pajamas best.

I’m thinking he liked the batman pajamas best.

The details that make up his life are forgotten, only his discovery remains.  And of this, it’s only an accident he was the guy who discovered it!  If Darwinism is true, then some other guy before or after him might just as easily discovered it.  The truth never remains hidden to all but one person.  If it is the truth, it lies open for all to discover eventually.  The fact his name is attached to the idea is entirely coincidental.

Lastly, at some point everything will cease to exist.  Most scientists accept that all we build with our hands or minds will die in the heat death of the universe, as all potential energy runs out.  Without an afterlife, does it really matter if my ideas stay around 2 years or 2 billion years?  Either way, all I have put my hands to will cease.  It is a false hope to think one might live forever in this material world, even in ideas.  It is far better to face the fact that death will come for all we do and all we are.

Memento Mori!

Remember that you will die!


“You are just a robot”

In this disturbing article we find out schools teach 9-10 year olds that their bodies can be treated as merely tools for pleasure.  While the teaching will include “beliefs and opinions may vary”, by not condemning treating bodies as things, it implicitly teaches that one permissible belief is to use people as things.  This is a dangerous and demeaning idea.

Masturbation, at it’s core, is Materialist.  The body is only a thing that can be used or not used at will.  A natural outcome of teaching bodies are things to be used is shown in this song called “Robot” by Nada Surf (at least PG13 for themes):

In the song, the main character is called a robot, because of how he blindly follows his impulses and uses people as things for sexual pleasure.  This is what masturbation is: using a body for pleasure.  If I may treat my own body as a thing, what would stop me from treating another person just as poorly?

In contrast, Catholics teach sexual pleasure is a good shared between people.  If the wife or husband is reduced to merely a sex toy, a body to use, then the good is no longer shared.  A communion of persons is a meeting of body and soul.  If only bodies meet then there is no communion, there is only robotic physical action to satisfy selfish lust.

We are people, not robots.  Materialism teaches our brains are only physical neurons firing off, just a robotic mind controlling a robotic body.  What a sad view of humans.  Catholics teach we are more than just our flesh and blood, and that is why masturbation is evil.  It is not an evil because God arbitrarily wants to deny us pleasure (that would be what Nominalism suggests), but it is an evil because it hurts our communion with ourselves and others by treating bodies as things rather than as persons.

The dead are asleep,0,5767278.story

In this story, the author seems to not fully understand Catholic belief as he writes about the “memorial” service.  As Catholics, it’s up to the family do memorial services with eulogies, if it is at the church with the priest presiding, it is a Mass for the dead.  There is a very good reason for this, and it is that our faith teaches us we live in Christ even if we die.  The sacrifice of a Mass isn’t just a remembrance of things and people gone by, but a promise of meeting them again in the future by our union with Christ, who has already risen from the dead.

St. Paul dealt with the heresy that we aren’t going to live on in his first letter to the church at Corinth, so this is about as old as our faith.  It also could be seen in more modern terms as an expression of Materialism, where there is no soul to arise at the end of time.  All faith and reason teaches us our souls were made for eternity.  At the end of time, we believe everyone will rise up out of their graves.  Some will rise up having lived an earthly life desiring communion with God and their friends.  These are resurrected to a life of eternal communion (perhaps after grinding off the rough edge of hating one’s enemy by a temporary stay in purgatory).  Others dislike the impact their neighbor has on their life, as Sartre wrote “hell is other people”.   These will have what their earthy life showed they desired: solitude and lack of communion.  Truely being forever alone.  This burning loneliness is pictured with fire in our iconographic tradition, but the young kids are using the updated iconography below:


That’s what I was going to say!

Sometimes my work is done for me, and the above post is one example.  Governor Christie’s signing into law a bill to ban helping those who experience same sex attraction does express our countries increasing fondness for the heresy of gnostic dualism.  As the article states, it “confirms the growing gnostic assumptions about human reality, enshrining feelings and impulses as sacred, while instrumentalizing the human body”.

Gnostic dualism splits the person apart into body and soul.  In this particular article, it sees the soul as “feelings and impulses”, which is a bit different from historic gnosticism, which saw the soul as mainly knowledge and will.  Regardless, the soul needs to triumph over the body, which is why the article talks about “instrumentalizing the human body”.  For Gnostics, the body is a thing to subject to the soul, because the body is material and therefore imperfect.  While I doubt modern dualists would say the body is imperfect, there does seem to be a clear understanding that the body needs to match the soul, and never vice versa.  So with the Pill, the soul doesn’t want children, so the body must be made sterile.  Or with people who are transgendered, the soul dictates what the body should look like.  This even is true with most cosmetic surgeries, which don’t restore damage from an accident but rather take away the signs of how old the soul is.

That said, the article might go too far in their support for conversion therapy.  Science seems to suggest an epigenetic component to homosexuality.  Recognizing what a body is and what its desires are is important.  One shouldn’t follow Marge Simpson’s advice:

“It doesn’t matter how you feel inside, you know. It’s what shows up on the outside that counts. Take all your bad feelings and push them down, all the way down past your knees, until you’re almost walking on them. And then you’ll fit in, and you’ll be invited to parties, and boys will like you. And happiness will follow.”

This would be to take dualism too far in the other direction, where the body dictates everything to the soul.  It is the heresy of Materialism, which places the whole of a person in the body and excludes the soul as a source of truth.

To attain the middle between Gnostic and Materialistic dualism, the Church teaches that “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” (CCC 2359).  They aren’t called to change their attractions, but to have the Courage to live chaste lives, just as all people are.  Priests sometimes talk about the “Sublimation” of their personal desires.  Because priests are people, they have sexual urges.  The approach used is not to push that urge away (which might make the urge express itself in an impure way), but to recognize the urge for what it is, and then use that sexual energy in another and holier way; such as to go for a run, or do some repairs around the rectory, or pray.  In this way, priests can be authentic to who they are while dissipating that energy in a positive way.  The body is recognized for it’s influence, the soul is recognized for its influence, and the person as a whole acts in a pure manner.