Catholicism is Characterized by Another Trinity.
The Unholy Trinity:
Self-loathing, Dishonesty and Hypocrisy
My iPhone died on the way home from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tonight. This is an unremarkable fact of course but it did deprive me of the excellent, often hilarious podcast Thomas and the Bible. Having nothing else to listen to, I decided to listen to some religious programing on the drive. Blog fodder of course, and I do enjoy the arguments I can have with Christian fundamentalists. I'm not averse to calling in. Tonight I couldn't call in, despite how deeply annoyed and saddened I was by the subject of the show (at least the segment I -briefly- listened to).
It is, almost anywhere in the US, exceedingly easy to stumble on to religious programming. There are at least ten fundamentalist Christian radio stations in my area here in Maine. It is impossible not to notice that there are no liberal Christian radio stations. Tonight, my torture took the form of a call-in advice show on a Catholic channel. I don't know if the host is certified psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist of any kind. Whatever her credentials her advice and preachments were prescriptions for personal disaster.
I would not like what heard there.
A father called in, in desperate need of advice. I think the show was called Catholic Answers. He wasn't quite sure what to do with his five year old girl. Apparently she masturbated on the couch occasionally. He said they had asked their pediatrician what they should do. The pediatrician replied, sensibly, that this was natural, there was nothing wrong with her, and that they should have a talk with the girl about hygiene and doing such things in private. No panic, almost sanguine the good doctor seems. The contrast between the pediatrician and the host of the show is stark, troubling and unpleasant.
The host was immediately displeased. The doctor, she said, was wrong. Masturbation, she informed this idiot parent was a sin, it was an actual evil. It was only normal in that many people did it. "That's what doctors really mean when they say normal." "But just because lots of people do it doesn't make it right, does it." The host continued, "You need to tell your child that it is wrong, and we don't do that." This broad and robust assertion about masturbation being a sin, and a moral evil was made without even a hint of irony or self reflection. Is it too easy to point out what a spectacularly bad idea it is to be getting advice on childhood sexuality from an organization whose sexual transgressions against children and the vulnerable give news cycles the world over fresh new atrocities to report almost weekly? Listening to the host you might actually think that the Roman Catholic church and its army of apologists had something important to say on the subject of human sexuality.
Of course they don't.
According to Catholic Advice Lady (hereafter CAL) the little girl was too young to hear why masturbation was so wrong, evil and sinful. However, CAL was able to explain to listeners why it was wrong. No, strike that. She was able to assert a suite of pseudo reasons for this ancient stupidity concerning masturbation. Later when the child attained the age of reason CAL suggested that the parents teach her that masturbation was evil and that masturbating was greedy. It would deprive her from giving herself to some one else, and cause her to not bring pleasure to her husband. Masturbation, catholics learn, subverts natural human instincts to give themselves to a mate, for their mate's pleasure, and, oddly, God's. Does God watch all this marriage bed fucking? One has to wonder. And does he get bored while watching devout Catholic fucking? I have an opinion. If CAL has an opinion on this, she is keeping it too herself, which, as it happens, is probably for the best.
"Train your child to do something else when she feels these urges." Apparently CAL used to make her son, who had this "problem," run whenever he felt these greedy, carnal urges. Teach that little girl that it is wrong to touch herself to bring herself pleasure. Have her do jumping jacks when she gets that "tingle."
Father-of-the-year was on board, but he had a follow up question, which I will paraphrase. It is all well and good to apply Catholic reasoning to my child when she is on the couch, but what about when she is in her room?
It was at this point I simply turned off the radio. I was worried CAL was going to suggest some horrific invigilation of this child while she was in her room. I imagined CAL was going to say something like, well you will have to be in there until she goes to sleep. I didn't want to hear whatever life crushing advice she was going to give, so I flipped the channel off and thought about coyote ecology.
Of course every single thing CAL said was wrong. Or merely unprovable. Given the preponderance of masturbation in the lives of nearly every human on the planet, CAL's hypothesis seems, at best, implausible. I'm not going to bother exploding it further. The experience of everyone one reading this probably does that, sadly, necessary work for me.
While CAL and her ilk osculate the rump of human dignity as if it can possibly justify a single claim they make about human sexuality, lets reflect on a few salient features that make this call-in show a perfect example, in microcosm, of almost everything that is wrong with Catholic moral reasoning.
The Church teaches human beings to be self-loathers, liars and hypocrites. It does this from a very young age, making it a way of life. While any examination of Vatican leaders and the Councils of Bishops makes this abundantly clear, imagine the beginnings of this cycle, through the eyes of the five year old girl at the heart of this ugly vignette. What will she learn from CAL and Father-of-the-Year (FOTY)?
Of course CAL and FOTY are deluding themselves that they are going to stop their children from masturbating. So where does that leave a catholic child? No where pleasant.
Unavoidably there will be self-loathing accompanying the act (especially if the parent is zealous in the preaching the sin and evil of self pleasure). This may carry over into future sexual relationships. Indeed it probably will, given that the Catholic Church seems to frown on the very idea of pleasure during sex (to be fair, the Church sort of talks out of both sides of its mouth here). Unsurprising, given that its priests are not permitted to openly engage in that sweet act openly. If they must feel dirty every time they have sex with themselves or others, I suppose there is a certain logic in wanting to see everyone else's good time dashed on the rocks. And so we find CAL enthusiastically suggesting that guilt and shame are to be heaped on this girl for an act which hurts no one, and might conceivably provide her insight into her own body.
Since the child is very likely going to continue to masturbate she will have to add dishonesty to her bag of tricks. This means, within the Catholic paradigm, a life time of lying about masturbation. A life time of faux shock, and faux disgust at even the suggestion of masturbation. This lying will also produce some guilt and shame. So kind of a double whammy there.
Hypocrisy. The child will likely grow up, and spout this same line to their children, to their friends etc, all the while continuing to engage in the same act. This isn't mere theorizing on my part. While I never heard this kind of nonsense from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad!), I did see the unholy trinity of self-loathing, lying and hypocrisy play out among many of my Catholic School peers at the parochial school I attended. While my views on human sexuality weren't exactly sophisticated in those years (fourth to eighth grade) it was impossible not to notice these salient features of Catholic teaching on sex. Now as then the verdict on these teachings is and was clear.
Unhealthy nonsense, all of it.
Labels: Roman Catholic Church