22 June 2015

Groins and minds since the Fall

The Elephant in the Room during all this endless talk about the Synod's Agenda, is, surely: Has Human Nature changed? Did humans never, before today, suffer from sexual temptation? Are Fornication, Adultery, Sodomy, problems only of our own unique and spectacularly sui generis age? What did the New Testament writers mean when they talked about porneia, moikheia, malakia? Is there something crashingly new about the capacity or incapacity of modern human beings (whether with or without Grace) to resist temptation? What is supposed to be so different about our groins and minds compared with the groins and minds of every other human generation since the Fall? What has so privileged us that we are (apparently) free to claim exemption from the Divine Commands, entolai, which were considered to bind former generations since the dawn of history?

What is different about our age; what does set it apart from all previous ages?

Not, surely, human sexual organs or the human minds which have to cope with them. The only change is the spread of the curse, the heresy, of thinking that humans have a Right to Autonomy, free from obligations to God or even to the age-old genetic and social inheritance of our long history as a species; "free", in S Paul's terrifying phrase, "from Righteousness". In other words, the amoral individualistic wickedness of the Enlightenment Chicken is at last come home to roost and to befoul its roosting place.

If you will allow me yet again to belabour you with the Anglican Patrimony, I will remind you of C S Lewis's fictional snapshot (1945) of an atheist 'freethinker', a Professor Churchwood, "an old dear. All his lectures were devoted to proving the impossibility of ethics, though in private life he'd walked ten miles rather than leave a penny debt unpaid. But all the same ... was there a single doctrine practised at Belbury* which hadn't been preached by some lecturer at Edgestow? Oh, of course, they never thought that anyone would act on their theories! No one was more astonished than they when what they'd been talking about for years suddenly took on reality. But it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own. ... Trahison des clercs. None of us is quite innocent." (This theme, surely, is what That Hideous Strength is all about.)

And try putting that together with blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey's perceptive and prophetic analysis in the 1830s (unpublished Papers in the archives of Pusey House): We must bend our minds and conform them to the teaching of Holy Scripture, or men will end in bending Holy Scripture to their own minds, and when it will not bend, will part with it. For a time a person or a generation may go on with this discrepancy unsettled; and a person of strong faith will go on to the end undisturbed, satisfied on this or any other point, that there is some way of settling it, though he knows not of it, yet ... for a Church, wherein men of every sort are gathered, it is a dangerous state to take a direction in any respect varying from Holy Scripture."

And finally, from Dorothy Leigh Sayers, an Anglican scholar whose genius is insufficiently recognised or remembered, in a paper she read at Oxford in 1947: "Right down to the nineteenth century, our public affairs were mostly managed, and our books and journals were for the most part written, by people brought up in homes, and trained in places, where [the Scholastic] tradition was still alive in the memory and almost in the blood. Just so, many people today who are atheist or agnostic in religion, are governed in their conduct by a code of Christian ethics which is so rooted that it never occurs to them to question it. But one cannot live on capital for ever. However firmly a tradition is rooted, if it is never watered, though it dies hard, yet in the end it dies."

That is precisely where we are now.

*The first syllable ('Bel' is, I presume, a LXX/Vg transcription of Ba'al) indicates the significance of this fictional placename.


Joshua said...

I do hope, Father, that you will accompany, as his peritus, a bishop to the Synod - if Papa Francesco hasn't invited you to attend himself.

If nothing else, we could expect some intriguing blog posts.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Why, oh why are these Pusey papers unpublished?
This quotation is a gem and his voice needs to be heard.

David Chislett said...

What a great Post, Father, one that could well be expanded, published and distribute widely.

Liam Ronan said...

“But you can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can't last.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

God bless you, Father. Your musings and references put me in mind of one of Bradbury's 'living books' enduring in an age when all books, doctrinal and otherwise, are being put to the torch.

RichardT said...

Father, is the problem not even worse?

It seems that people indeed wish to do as they will, but rather than merely wishing to be "free from Righteousness", they demand to be regarded as Righteous whatever they do.

"I do this, I am a Righteous person, therefore this must be Righteous", or so the logic seems to go. Hence the desire to change teaching, not to enable sin to happen (it seems to happen anyway), but to deny that it is sinful.

The difference from the past seems to be not in our groins but in our loss of the concept that we are all sinners and can all be forgiven.

B flat said...

Dear Father,
The point you make is crucial, in my very limited worldview. I have been seething in impotent anger for years because of it. The insolent separate themselves qualitatively from their forebears - have we then, somehow evolved the image of God into something different? The psalms no longer apply as authentic prayer to God for us; sin is not our problem, hell is a myth; Christ's Incarnation was into a different humanity; ancient rites and the Sacraments are no longer desirable means of Divine Grace for the new humanity. The list of possible railing against the Eternal Wisdom and providence of God grows longer in the inhuman mind of the idolatrous Modernist.
How prescient was LeoXIII in ordering his supplicatory prayers which were cut off prematurely. This inimical spirit you describe so well, prevailed for more than half a century in liturgical circles, and have managed to cut off the innocent People of God from their way of life in Him.
Who will save us from this slow death unless He come quickly?

Anonymous said...

The reverse side of the autonomy coin is that we are to respect the autonomy of others, and the resulting guiding moral principle, which is undeniably deeply inculcated in the modern world, is the need to balance our individual autonomy with the autonomies of others.

The advent of easy contraception has removed a lot of the practical considerations that a traditional moral code addressed with respect to marriage, family, and the social role of women, and the continued value of this code has subsequently been brought into question. As Christians, we need to be able to answer such questions as, "why is sex outside of marriage wrong?", without merely retorting: because the Church or Bible says so. Many people today have had many sex partners before finally settling down to marry and successfully rear their 1.8 children, or whatever the standard is, and, they would say, "thanks very much, but we're fine and morally responsible people and who, and why, are you to say differently?"

I see customs change, but I do not see evidence of any repudiation of the will to live morally. For example, many young women would not bat an eyelid at the thought of aborting a human embryo, but would be aghast at the idea of smacking a child. This is because they genuinely do not see a human embryo as a yet constituted human being, but view a child rather differently from an adult-in-formation, as your form master might have, and deserving of the occasional character-forming cuff to the back of the head.

David Sullivan said...

I'm sure this has all been pointed out before but based on this single excerpt (I simply must read the book itself), I would hazard to guess that Churchwood = G. E. Moore, Belbury = Cambridge, and Edgestow = Oxford.

Raider Fan said...

repetitio est mater studiorum

For quite some time the timeless moral truths were repeatedly taught before sappers prepared by the Frankfort School (amongst others) infiltrated the Academy and successfully undermined the universal and objective moral order and many who found their theories a convenient excuse to fornicate were then left to exercise authority with guilty consciences with predictable consequences - the guilt was suppressed by etoh/drugs or rationalised away via the latest social theory to come rolling down the intellectual pike.

And while this mephitic movement, which had been slowly building up momentum, began to achieve critical mass in the 1960s, The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church (see opening address to Vatican Two - said to have been written by Montini) chose that moment to abandon discipline and placidly endure error thinking (what were they thinking?) that in the long run truth would prevail over the error man would come to recognise as error on his own owing to the obvious consequences of the error.

There have not been a few Catholic authorities who have intellectually fornicated with the enlightenment and their monstrous progeny have been allowed to ransack the remains of the once Catholic day and we have long been abandoned ever since, in a speech to the Roman Clergy, Pope Paul VI averred he could exercise discipline but that he preferred to be loved.

We are now in the time of this execrable ecclesiastical epoch when men have to realise that they have been abandoned and that they have the duty to keep the Faith once delivered alive in the domestic church for the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has quit the battle and has increasingly surrendered nearly all of its moral turf to the enemy.

There is not one, not one, Roman Catholic Traditionalist alive in the Prelature whose possession of Catholic Tradition is of sufficient strength that it could be applied as a force against our Inertia Into Indifferentism.

We are in the midst of an historic collapse as bastion after bastion has been razed by those who vocation it was to strengthen them and, far more often than not, the man who sees and points out the reality is decried as pharisaical and one who is hurting the Faith.

Lod have mercy.

Jesus established His Hierarchal Church and the failure began at the top and all of the rapidly declining objective measurements of Catholic life beginning in the 1960s can not be placed at the feet of the laymen who search for love in the ruins of a once glorious church; and if that love can be found in a Cave of Covadonga that is in union with the local Bishop and Pope, hip hip hooray.

But, not a few of us find ourselves in the local Franchise of Dead Diocese America, inc. constrained to maintain the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine, and Authority as best we can in our own microway of the Cross.

Raider Fan is the same age as Israel and the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church that he was born into is invisiblium even as Jesus was invisibilium to the world while He was in the Tomb and because Jesus is always the Head of His Church, he has nowhere else to go - he stands with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross even when Peter flees out of fear for the Jews.

And, the final and funny thing, Raider Fan would not have it any other way for it is the will of God that he be alive at this time in these circumstances for as Saint Vincent of Lerins teaches, this is how God tests us to see if we love Him.

Anonymous said...

Sigrid Undset wrote something similar to the Sayers quote in her "Reply to a Parish Priest", an essay first published in the early 30's and included in her recently reissued Stages on the Road. The whole "Reply" is chock-full of the good stuff -- but here is the money quote, accented in the original:

...we have no right to assume that any part of European tradition, cultural values, moral ideas, emotional wealth, which has its origin in the dogmatically defined Christianity of the Catholic Church, will continue to live a “natural” life, if the people of Europe reject Christianity and refuse to accept God’s supernatural grace. One might just as well believe that a tree whose roots were severed should continue to bear leaves and blossoms and fruit.

Jeff Mirus also highlighted this quote some time back, quite usefully since I do not have the book at hand.

Jacobi said...


Fallen Human Nature hasn't changed. In my opinion, and I have said this many times, what has changed is that Reforming heretics in the Church have changed the basic understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, from one of commemoration and re-enactment of that Sacrifice by the Ordained Priest acting "in persona Christi" into a protestant-style communion service of bread and wine. A denial of the Real Presence, and lets face it, a denial of sin.

We truly have, as Malcolm Muggeridge said back in the seventies, a new Reformation on our hands.

We must get back to the idea of receiving Holy Communion not routinely, or out of vain glory or for a desire for human respect by sodomists or adulterers, contraceptors and others, but only when free from mortal sin and in a state of grace.

Anonymous said...

Exactly so Father. A member of my own family who has been a proselytising atheist for some years told me recently that they were shocked by the moral (or rather immoral) attitudes of their children on some issues. I reminded them that the same children had grown up being told that there are no absolutes, nothing higher than their own minds and opinions, no ultimate meaning to life. So while I shared their sadness, I was neither shocked or surprised. (I was told I was being "unhelpful"). Revolutionaries always seem to think that their revolution will only go as far as they intend or imagine. But the culture of perpetual revolution ("pushing the boundaries", "breaking the taboos") means that one generation starts where the previous one leaves off and over time things always play out to their logical conclusion.

Marcus Josephus said...

Dear Father, An excellent post! You have stimulated my interest in Pusey. Is ther unpublished works of his that should see the light of day? If so are there any plans to bring them forward?

Melinda said...

Exactly. It was obviously easier to be celibate and pure, or married and chaste in the Roman Empire of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, et al. No temptations or cultural struggles for Christians there.