Why is “making out” unjust?!

Last week, I was giving a talk to children in our religious education program.  I was trying to explain genuflection, and why a bodily act of adoration in the presence of God was not only appropriate but also a requirement of justice.  The reasoning is very simple.  God is God.  We are not.  In justice, we adore Him.  Why?  “Justice”, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor.”  

Fair enough.  Justice requires that we will to give God His due.  But why are bodily gestures important?  Because human beings are integrated creatures – composed of body and soul.  The separation of these two is only effectively accomplished by the pains of death.  If we attempt to effect a bodily succession from the union, we will undergo an internal battle with personal carnage to match the ravages of the Civil War. 

The things that we do with our bodies should correspond with the disposition of our hearts.  Think about it: if I am meeting up with a friend and they reach toward me with an outstretched hand, smiling, I know I am being invited to shake their hand.  If I turn and walk away without saying a word, my body language has been sufficiently insulting to damage the relationship.  As someone professing friendship, my body language has been a lie.  It has not been in correspondence with the disposition of my heart. 

The same is true of the most intimate of friendships – those tending towards spousal union.

Let’s think about this in context.  What is the disposition in the heart of a person whose body is “making out”?  Well, interaction which causes or intensifies sexual arousal has a defined goal.  That goal is a completed act of sexual intercourse.  Anything short of that is simply incomplete and frustrating.  Now – before anyone starts suggesting that this article says a dating couple should never touch each other, please note that the key word is “arousal”.  It is possible to kiss someone or touch someone in a loving, chaste manner that does not lead to arousal.  (If you have to ask how far you can go, you are going too far.)  

So, if you cannot lawfully complete an act of intercourse, “making out” is unjust.  (Here, I use the term “lawfully” to refer to the laws of God.  A lawful act of sexual intercourse is within the bonds of marriage, between a man and a woman, with nothing done willfully which would thwart the procreative potential of the act, namely no contraception or sterilization.)  Why is it unjust?  Well, what did the Beatles say in “Day Tripper”?  “She’s a big teaser – she took me half the way there.”  If you buy a ticket, you expect to be taken to your destination.  If the conductor throws you off of the train half way through the journey – or perhaps even a few hundred yards before reaching the platform – you have been treated unjustly.

No one has a right to use another human being for the sake of pleasure.  To do so is unjust.  Women can be especially guilty of this when they desire to “make out” but, technically, remain a “virgin”.  Such a course of action is not chaste.  To exact the maximum pleasure out of a physical encounter with a man only to cut it off cold turkey before completion is really like waving a glass of ice water in front of a person dying of thirst.  It’s just mean.  And obviously, we can only be that mean through a lack of charity.   In other words, we are not treating the one we claim to love in a loving manner.  What we are doing with our body does not correspond to what we claim the disposition of our heart truly is.  Using a person we are with because he does things that cause pleasure… well, that is treating a human being like a piece of chocolate cake. This defies the virtue of justice which calls me to have a constant and firm will to give my neighbor (in this case, my beloved) what he is due.


Timely words from Pope Benedict on Beauty, Truth, Goodness and the Arts


Cautions Against Valuing Mere Appearances

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The search for beauty without truth and goodness can drive young people to fly toward artificial paradises that simply hide interior emptiness, says Benedict XVI.

For complete text of this article, please visit Zenit:   http://www.zenit.org/article-24363?l=english

And the same story covered by Catholic News Service:

Superficial beauty is fleeting, fails to inspire, pope says
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Beauty that is only skin deep cannot last, cannot lead people to seek what is really true and good and cannot respond to the human longing for something that inspires genuine awe, Pope Benedict XVI said.

In a message to the joint session of the pontifical academies Nov. 25, Pope Benedict said the lives of individual Christians as well as the work of Christian artists, writers and poets should help people see that authentic truth, beauty and goodness are always intertwined.  
   (Click the CNS link above to read the full article.)


* As you can tell from the review on this site, this is a timely message in the wake of The Twilight Saga books and movie…. In his address, Pope Benedict quoted Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists” in which he called upon artists “to stir up awe at and desire for the beautiful, form the sensitivity of souls and nourish the passion for all that which is an authentic expression of the human genius and a reflection of divine beauty.”  Crass exploitation of the passions is not elevating.  It does not form a sensitivity to beauty in souls.  In fact, it desensitizes and manipulates.  

Real love and real beauty go together…

If any of you have heard of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, I think some of their efforts have been a little misguided – but this video really hits the nail on the head.  What is fantasy doing to our ability to relate to reality?  Girls: do you like what happens in this video?  Do you think it is fair?  If not, why not?  

“Twilight” – success at the box office spells trouble.

From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES —  The vampire romance “Twilight” drained the box office in its opening weekend, taking in $70.6 million.

Catherine Hardwicke’s film also enjoyed the biggest opening ever for a female director, blowing away the previous standard of $41.1 million set by Mimi Leder’s “Deep Impact” in 1998.

Drawing from its huge fan base of teenage girls, who fell for Stephenie Meyer’s novel of forbidden love between brooding vampire Edward Cullen and bookish high schooler Bella Swan, “Twilight” made a whopping $20,636 per theater, according to Sunday morning estimates….

The tremendous take for “Twilight” far exceeded expectations, which had been set around $50 million.

“Teen girls rule the earth,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. “If you look back at the `Hannah Montana’ movie, how well that did, and now this movie, the teen girl audience will never be ignored again or underestimated. It was always teen boys who were the coveted ones, but someone finally caught on to the idea that girls love movies, too, and if you create something that they’re into, that they’re passionate about, they will come out in big numbers and drive the box office.”

Look out parents – this trend is going to continue and it is aimed right at our daughters.  Take a stand now before things get any worse. 

I just saw “Twilight”, the movie…

Having just seen the movie, here are some basic impressions:

There is a sense in which seeing “Twilight” the movie is a relief after reading the books because you get spared all the disturbing descriptive language. The film is not as intense as a consequence.  Edward’s nightly nocturnal visits to Bella’s bedroom really only amount to two brief occurrences on screen – one in which we get a thankfully brief introduction to the passion between Bella and Edward, which Edward cuts off quickly.  I was very grateful that there was no audio of Bella’s thoughts during the whole thing – which we are unfortunately never spared in the novels!  There is no way they could put the contents of the books in this movie and keep it a PG-13, so I suspect that’s why the sexuality had to be toned down.  Fewer parents could be duped into taking their young girls to see an R rated film, and poor Stephanie Meyer wouldn’t even be able to view her own picture if her claim to have never seen an R rated movie is true.  The violence in the story came off as much more intense than in the book, however.  You see why you never want to get on a vampire’s bad side.  The other thing I noticed is that on the screen, the story comes off sillier than the book because when you take a human being and try to make him fit the unattainable description found in Meyer’s novels, it just doesn’t work.  In one scene, I actually burst out laughing (when Edward appears ill at Bella’s arrival in Biology class) because it seemed so dumb.

My overall feeling watching the movie was one of sadness for Bella.  

She moves to this little town in Washington in the middle of March during her junior year of high school because her mom has got a new man who plays minor league ball and the happy couple are moving down to Florida together for Spring training.  Bella speaks of how her mom had stayed home for her in the past, but she was obviously unhappy, so Bella wanted her to move on.  The selfishness of the mother is palpable. 

Plenty of “normal” kids try to welcome Bella and make her feel at home, but she simply isn’t interested in them.  She is fascinated by the guy who isn’t very nice to her.  It’s definitely weird – I guess it is that smoldering “bad boy” appeal.  She actually says to him early on “Your mood swings are giving me whiplash”.  He does seem moody and, frankly, unattractive.  They just seem to be physically attracted to each other from the start and everything is predicated on that.  Bella can’t enjoy spending time with anyone else – girls, boys, her dad… she really is obsessed.

I think the most telling scene in the film is when Bella figures out that Edward is a vampire.  He explains that she does not fear him because she believes a lie.  He tells her “I’m the world’s most dangerous predator… everything invites you in… my voice, my face, my smell… I’m designed to kill… I’ve killed before”.  And what is Bella’s emphatic response?  “I DON”T CARE!”  Her only fear?  LOSING HIM.

At that point, my internal radar was firing off – this is downright SATANIC! 
The angel of light has come and she will end up selling her soul for him by the end of the series.  That is terrifying!  What is more terrifying still is the fact that millions of girls feel the same way, and their mothers are claiming that Edward is an example of a virtuous gentleman… the deception is a powerful one!

And it doesn’t stop there.  The Cullens (Edward’s “family” – comprised of other, non-blood related vampires who live under one roof with father figure, Dr. Cullen, and his wife) are so welcoming to Bella – they invite her in to their beautiful, airy, spacious and modern home where art hangs on the walls and classical music beckons.  We find this happy family in a kitchen they have never used before (vampires don’t eat, of course), eyes on a television cooking show as they work together to prepare a special Italian meal for their guest.  You get the feeling that no one has ever shown Bella this amount of hospitality in her life.  They take her out with the family to play a game of vampire baseball and rally round to protect her from wicked vampires who seek to take her life.  It reminded me of the attraction young men can have to gangs.  They will join a group of dangerous people – who cares what they do? – and even want to become one of them just for that sense of belonging and family.  Yes, the Cullens try to avoid killing humans, but they are still VAMPIRES!  And Bella definitely wants to become one of them…

That is left for the obvious sequel. 

Today, I saw girls as young as 7 or 8 in the theater.  I suspect the movies, like the books, will continue to get darker.  (Please see the review on the book series “The Twilight Saga” on this page.)  I can’t see how they’ll get through all four without an R rated picture – but maybe they are just counting on the fact that most of their audience will be old enough to get in by then…

Roger Ebert doesn’t think Edward is virtuous, either….

Here is the beginning of his review….

By Roger Ebert

If you’re a vampire, it’s all about you. Why is Edward Cullen obsessed to the point of erotomania by Bella Swan? Because she smells so yummy, but he doesn’t want to kill her. Here’s what he tells her: He must not be around her. He might sink his fangs in just a little, and not be able to stop. She finds this overwhelmingly attractive. She tells him he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. I don’t remember Edward ever saying that to her. Maybe once. He keeps on saying they should stay far, far apart, because he craves her so much.

Should a woman fall in love with a man because he desires her so much? Men seem to think so. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the man’s desire. We all know there is no such thing as a vampire. Come on now, what is “Twilight” really about? It’s about a teenage boy trying to practice abstinence, and how, in the heat of the moment, it’s really, really hard. And about a girl who wants to go all the way with him, and doesn’t care what might happen. He’s so beautiful she would do anything for him. She is the embodiment of the sentiment, “I’d die for you.” She is, like many adolescents, a thanatophile.

If there were no vampires in “Twilight,” it would be a thin-blooded teenage romance, about two good-looking kids who want each other so much because they want each other so much. Sometimes that’s all it’s about, isn’t it? They’re in love with being in love. In “Twilight,” however, they have a seductive disagreement about whether he should kill her. She’s like, I don’t especially want to die, but if that’s what it takes, count me in. She is touched by his devotion. Think what a sacrifice he is making on her behalf. On Prom Night, on the stage of the not especially private gazebo in the public gardens, he teeters right on the brink of a fang job, and then brings all of her trembling to a dead stand-still…

you can read the rest at http://www.rogerebert.com

Twilight’s Message re: Marriage and Family

As we continue to examine The Twilight Saga in the light of the Gospel, it is worth noting the negative treatment given to marriage and family life in the series. 

To begin, it is essential to know that Bella is the child of divorce, but has sought no healing for that wound.  The ongoing ramifications of her parents’ divorce permeate the story, but Bella does not seem to be aware of the impact it has had in shaping, or in this case, deforming her character.  Without healing, dysfunction breeds further dysfunction.

This is clear in Bella’s attitude toward both of her parents.  She refers to her parents by their first names. They do not hold a position of authority over her.  She treats them as somehow less than peers – almost as if they are her children.  This is what she says about her mother:

“I’d spent most of my life taking care of Renee, patiently guiding her away from her craziest plans, good-naturedly enduring the ones I couldn’t talk her out of.  I’d always been indulgent with my mom, amused by her, even a little condescending to her.  I saw her cornucopia of mistakes and laughed privately to myself.  Scatterbrained Renee.  I was a different person from my mother.  Someone thoughtful and cautious.  The responsible one, the grown up.  That’s how I saw myself.  That was the person I knew.”  (Eclipse, p.45)

Her mother, Renee, abandoned her father, Charlie, when Bella was only a few months old.  Renee took Bella with her, but allowed her to spend a month with her father every summer.  But her mother’s irresponsibility is one key to Bella’s problems: “I didn’t relate well to people my age.  Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate well to people, period.”  (Twilight, p.10)  When a child is forced to parent their own parent, the world is turned upside down and the ability to relate to others is damaged.

This lack of a father is equally problematic for Bella.  She arrives at her dad’s house, greeted with “an awkward, one-armed hug” (Twilight, p. 5).  She walks in to see “a wedding picture of Charlie and my mom in Las Vegas, then one of the three of us in the hospital after I was born, taken by a helpful nurse, followed by the procession of my school pictures up to last year’s.  Those were embarrassing to look at… It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over my mom.  It made me uncomfortable.  I didn’t want to be too early to school, but I couldn’t stay in the house anymore.”  (Twilight, p. 12)  When Bella’s father brings up a friend they would go fishing with during their summers together, she can’t remember the man, saying “I do a good job of blocking painful, unnecessary things from my memory.”  (Twilight, p. 6)  The memory of her parents’ marriage, the thought of her father’s vulnerability or pain, the lack of his presence growing up – this is all too much for Bella.  So, she has become adept at blocking things out – a skill that contributes enormously to her willingness to enter into an unhealthy (deadly) relationship.  In addition, we have this sentiment expressed by Bella when her father gets up early one morning to put snow chains on the tires of her truck: “My throat suddenly felt tight.  I wasn’t used to being taken care of, and Charlie’s unspoken concern caught me by surprise.”  (Twilight, p.55)  A show of concern makes her throat feel tight.  She has been so deprived of appropriate parental care that the experience of some causes a physical reaction.  That is serious.  However, the author never makes reference to Bella being abnormal or dysfunctional – but she is clearly both.

Is it any surprise, then, to witness Bella’s reaction to Edward’s desire to marry her:  “So you can ask for any stupid, ridiculous thing you want – like getting married – but I’m not allowed to even discuss what I…” (Eclipse, p.443) She never quite overcomes this sentiment that marriage is stupid and ridiculous, but she does consent to it in order to get Edward to agree to engage in sexual relations with her and allow her to become a vampire.  Shortly before the big day, we get some insight into her mind:  “I briefly contemplated my issues with words like fiance, wedding, husband, etc.   I just couldn’t put it together in my head.  On the one hand, I had been raised to cringe at the very thought of poofy white dresses and bouquets.  But more than that, I just couldn’t reconcile a staid, respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept ofEdward.  It was like casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in any commonplace role.” (Breaking Dawn, p.6)

And Bella’s attitude to becoming a mother?

“I’d never imagined myself as a mother, never wanted that.  It had been a piece of cake to promise Edward that I didn’t care about giving up children for him, because I truly didn’t.  Children, in the abstract, had never appealed to me.  They seemed to be loud creatures, often dripping some form of goo.  I’d never had much to do with them.  When I’d dreamed of Renee providing me with a brother, I’d always imagined anolder brother.  Someone to take care of me, rather than the other way around.”  (Breaking Dawn, p.132)

This is so, so very unnatural!  But it is consistent with her upbringing.  The girl spent her childhood parenting a parent.  Why would she want to be a parent again?  Nevertheless, she does seem to make an exception for Edward’s child, “This child, Edward’s child, was a whole different story.   I wanted him like I wanted the air to breathe.” (Breaking Dawn, p.132)  She uses the frightening term “wanted” – a common term used by pro-abortion forces –  “Every child a WANTED child” – as if the value of a child can be determined by the fact that it is wanted by the mother.

So for Bella, marriage is stupid and ridiculous, a husband is dull, and babies are loud creatures dripping goo (unless, of course, the child is WANTED).  Her painful, unhealed wounds left from her parents divorce shatter her concept of what is true, good and beautiful – and she is then held up as the heroine in the story in spite of life choices which amount to abject failure.  So tell me again – WHY should we let our daughters read this?