In general religious discourse (at least in the context of the Abrahamic religions), modesty, particularly for women, is considered to be a key virtue. While both sexes are theoretically supposed to be modest in terms of dress and behavior, modesty, like chastity, tends to be seen as a uniquely feminine trait. Within conservotrad Catholicism, we see an emphasis on cultivating “Mary-like purity” among the young, as well as disseminating a gender essentialist view of relations between the sexes as outlined in Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body. John Paul II, author of the afore mentioned TOTB, spoke a great deal about “the dignity of women” as well as “the feminine genius,” concepts that were supposed to lead Catholics to respect women and avoid secular notions of feminism. It is this concern with the female modesty that lead the Pennsylvania bishops to ban male/female wrestling in Catholic schools, which I wrote about previously (https://extraecclesiamestlibertas.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/women-who-fight-and-the-bishops-who-disapprove/). I was discussing this incident on another blog, and one of the male conservotrad participants asked why traditionally-minded men couldn’t be taken at their word that they were truly honoring women by being concerned with female modesty and by trying to be a “gentleman.” What follows is my answer to him.
To be honest, the Christian story of the virgin birth always kind of freaked me out. So much so, that when I was a kid I asked my mom if God raped Mary, which in tern freaked her out (it didn’t help that we were in a public place at the time). Despite the assurances that nothing untoward happened to Mary, the whole virgin birth affair still struck me as unsettling. As a Catholic, I dived headfirst into the Mariological aspects of the faith, even as I wondered about the wisdom of having Mary be so far removed from the experiences of “regular women.” While Catholic theology places a great deal of emphasis on how Mary’s “yes” to God canceled out Eve’s disobedience, it’s not clear to me that this “yes” was really what I would consider to be an example of enthusiastic consent.
Since the killings of the two Brooklyn police officers by a deranged cop-hater on Saturday, there has been a rush to link the event with the nascent anti-police brutality movement that has arisen since the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Thompson, Jr., and Tamir Rice. The New York City Police Union has been very vocal about linking the protests with this violent act, even going so far as to say that NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands” for his past criticisms of some of the actions of the police.
I recently found out about this story from October, in which Pennsylvania’s Catholic hierarchy decided to take a brave stand against the perceived scourge of male/female high school wrestling:
“The diocese therefore believes that it is incompatible with its religious mission and with its efforts to teach Gospel values to condone competitions between young men and women in sports that involve substantial and potentially immodest physical contact,” said Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg in a letter to students.
Some time ago, I saw a documentary on the Jonestown Massacre and recall hearing a survivor say that he decided to travel to Guyana against his better judgement because he thought that living on the agricultural compound would mold him into a better person, and help him become overcome the shortcomings that he perceived to be present in his life. While Jonestown is an extreme example, I think this general sentiment of putting one’s hope in an outside organization or guru-type figure to help “straighten one out” is common, and is one reason why so many people are attracted to groups, religious or otherwise, that are categorized as “high demand.” In the context of Catholicism, I think that the rigors of monastic life or what I call “high demand lay spirituality” can be attractive for people who are suffering from some kind of mental illness or emotional imbalance.
Sometimes, during my more melancholy moments, I feel like I “failed at religion,” much in the same way I failed at basketball when I was in seventh grade. My inability to continue in religion certainly wasn’t from lack of trying; I went to the most “traditional” parish in the archdiocese (at least until I got blackballed), prayed the rosary every day, did Louis de Monfort’s “Consecration to Jesus through Mary,” read about theology, liturgy, apologetic, and the saints, etc. But in the end, it still wasn’t enough, because nothing I did could resolve the doubts I had accumulated. I had hoped that “finding religion” would help solve some of my existential crises, as well as my ever-present anxiety and depression, but I soon discovered that adding theology to the mix not only gave me new things to be anxious/depressed about.
I loathe the word “charitable” with the fury of a million supernovas.
Let me clarify that I do not hate charities, those non-profit organizations that exist for the purpose of helping and bettering society. Nor do I have a problem with charity, or the practice of giving to those in need. It’s people who use charity and its many related terms as a mask for their own hypocrisy that gets on my nerves.