Saturday, January 29, 2011

After Catholicism: Pedophilia and Queer Theory

It is difficult to discuss pedophilia and pederasty without using terminology that is in itself judgmental.  "Sexual abuse", "perpetrator" and "victim" are the most common terms of reference.  Media reports related to adult men who are accused of having sex with boys almost always refer to the boys as "young boys" despite the fact that the "boys" in question are subsequently described as having been fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years of age.  In other contexts people of the same age would more likely have been referred to as "young men" or "teenagers".   Referring to them as "young boys" just adds to the sensationalism.  Proponents of what they term "boy love" and some queer theorists argue that even the terms "pedophile" and "pederast" are derogatory since they're pseudo-medical designations, much as "homosexual" was used for gays and lesbians.  However linguistically awkward it may be, I'm going to attempt to use less judgmental language.

The transition from writing about Catholicism to the topic of adults sexually involved with children is obvious.  The insistence on a celibate clergy and increasing homophobia in the Church continue to make the priesthood a refuge for those with confusion, discomfort and shame regarding their sexuality, whatever it be.  In addition, that refuge provides ready access to children and adolescents in what often remains a position of power and trust.  The current focus on screening homosexuals from seminaries adds to the problem.  Firstly, it will not be very successful in screening out candidates who, while identifying as heterosexual may, when under stress and unable to have an adult sexual partner, turn to children, whether boys or girls, to satisfy their desire.  Boys are the more likely choice in those situations because there is generally easier access to them and they are seen as less likely to report an approach. Secondly, such a policy re-enforces the likelihood that those who have a clear sense of their identity as a sexual minority and a positive self-esteem would not even apply to a seminary and were they to do so would most likely be rejected.  On the other hand,  those candidates with minority sexual identities who are most troubled, least likely to acknowledge their sexuality to themselves or others and least likely to have outlets for their sexuality would be most likely to be accepted.  Psychological testing of candidates is known to be rather ineffective.  Anyone with half a brain,  knowing the attitudes of the Church,  would anticipate the answers that an interviewer wants to hear.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pontius Pilate and Freud....continued

Thanks, John, for your intelligent comment.  I believe the fact that there are intelligent people amongst believers and non-believers supports my contention that religious belief has nothing to do with intelligence or rationality.  Most people in all cultures are not very reflective.  They simply absorb and follow the beliefs of their particular culture and family and assume such beliefs represent Truth.  That reality contributes to one of the most pernicious influences of religion: it's potential to generate division and conflict.  Religion as a factor of self-identity becoming an invitation to exclusion of the other, just as nationalism does. It represents one of the weights about which I wrote that accompanies religious belief.

More reflective believers, however, can attempt to understand and compare their particular religious beliefs to those of other peoples and cultures.  It is possible, indeed likely, that such a reflective stance will lead to the perception that there are many, equally valid ways of arriving at an understanding of the transcendent.  Part of the openness I admired about John XXXIII was his acknowledgment that there are other, valid ways to God than Catholicism.  Religion need not involve the assertion that only my faith is the Truth.

Which brings me to an important factor that I haven't mentioned previously: the appreciation and attraction toward a sense of the transcendent.  Religion speaks to and attempts to facilitate access to that sensibility much as architecture, painting, sculpture speak to and access an aesthetic sensibility.  Just as people vary in their experience of aesthetic sensibility and the importance it has in their lives, so people differ in regard to religious sensibility. It may be the case that those who might be called "rationalists",  such as Russell and Dawkins, feel little in the way of religious sensibility.  Experiences of transcendence, for example, might just have no attraction to them.  Did you ever go to a movie with a friend by a director such as Bunuel, Passolini or Bergman, and come out of the movie feeling profoundly moved, while your friend was bored and complains that "sheep don't act that way".  It's evident that they just didn't get it.  That the film spoke to them not at all.  Is it possible that rationalists in questioning (often more like attacking) the rationality and "truth" of believers are performing their own division of self from other.  Contending that their particular world view is the true one, while others are not.  A performance that has led the more unreflecting to their own acts of violence when it has prevailed in Marxist societies.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Faith and Pyschosis

Thanks, John, for the comment and your patience in posting it.  It's amusing that we're talking here given  our parallel political involvement in the 60s and 70s.  That collaboration, you'll no doubt be pleased to hear, will probably be the subject of future postings.

I think the acceptance of those "pesky little things" you mention, such as transubstantiation, the resurrection and the existence of God is related to one's understanding of them and to the world view within which they are situated.  They are irrational only if understood as akin to empirical facts.  If such tenets of faith are viewed as metaphores within a certain tradition that are not to be taken literally, acceptance of them wouldn't be any more irrational than any other poetic understanding of the world.  Some Christian faiths adopt such an approach, but not Catholicism or fundamentalist Christians.

It once seemed possible, perhaps still is, to understand those beliefs neither as metaphors nor empirical facts, but as having their own, unique meaning within the world view or language game that is Catholicism.  As such what those beliefs mean and their particular truth is to be found within the teachings of the Church.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Catholicism. My experience

I was born into a family of no particular religious affiliation, though they were of the protestant persuasion.  An indication of that is my father choosing for his funeral arrangements a few words from an Episcopalian priest, a drinking buddy, not a Church he'd ever attended, to say a few words at his grave site.  My mother wanted no service at all.  In fact, she threatened to come back and haunt me if any religious service took place at her grave. Catholicism first attracted my attention as an undergraduate through its intellectual history.  I had never associated any religion with a substantial intellectual tradition.  As a student  I was mostly interested in classical philosophy, in particular, Plato and Aristotle.  Reading Aquinas led to curiosity about other philosophers identified with Catholicism from Augustine through Teillard de Chardin including more esoteric thinkers such as Meister Eckhart and Simone Weil.  Much later Wittgenstein's lectures on religion became a part of that intellectual evolution.

Just as important were the aesthetics of the Church in drawing me towards it.  The architecture, art, music and poetry formed part of a comprehensive world view.  While much of that  aesthetic was drawn from Medieval and Renaissance periods, much was contemporary.  The religious architecture of Corbusier, the music of Benjamin Brittin, the poetry of T.S. Elliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins, the films of Passolini spoke to the reality that contemporary Catholicism (and I'm including Anglo-Catholicism in this perspective) was culturally vibrant.  As was the case with my intellectual interests there were other, not very well known influences that were important to me, such as the California beat poet Brother Antoninus and the Benedictine monks at a small priory outside of Los Angeles.

Intentions and Hesitations

 As I enter my seventieth and perhaps final decade, I want to articulate how the givens of my life, my genetics, the family into which I was born and what has simply happened to me have been shaped into the individual I now am.  Responses to those givens,  choices made,  directions taken with the opportunities and limitations they've provided, shape a self that my have developed in an infinite number of different ways.

I am doing this partly for myself.  To situate myself for myself at this point in my life.  I don't like lecturing or being lectured to, though I have done enough of both.  It is also important to me to engage in dialogue with people who share my interests.  One of the choices I've made is to continue to be open to growth, change, new experiences.  I've searched for those people amongst other bloggers or readers without success and hope that they'll come forward as I share myself.