Sunday, 27 February 2011

How the Pope became infallible - Part 2

We now pass on to accounts coming from a critical perspective.

How the Pope became infallible - Part 1

In the next couple of posts, I want to gather together (and, where necessary, translate) some of the accounts of the promulgation of the dogma of papal infalliblity at the First Vatican Council.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Catholic ultra-traditionalism

In this post, I want to look at the phenomenon of Catholic ultra-traditionalism - a movement of Catholic clerics and laypeople that opposes the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, a worldwide council of the Catholic Church which carried out important work in updating Catholic teachings and practices for the 20th century.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The evolution of some Christian doctrines and practices

Religious doctrines and practices rarely appear fully-formed - they are generally the product of lengthy reflection, refinement and development.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The New Testament - A critical introduction

1.  What is the New Testament?

The New Testament is the collection of religious literature that goes together with the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament to make up the Christian Bible.  It consists of 27 separate books, which have traditionally been divided up as follows:

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A traditional Catholic theologian on religious liberty

I've recently posted a number of items on Counter-Enlightenment thought and classical Catholic theology on this blog and my other blog.  To accompany them, I have translated the following sections on freedom of conscience from the Summa Philosophica of Cardinal Tommaso Maria Zigliara, a widely used theological textbook first published in 1876, at the tail end of the conservative pontificate of Blessed Pius IX.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Papal Encyclicals of the Nineteenth Century

Update: see also now here.

A couple of my recent posts have dealt with Counter-Enlightenment thought, and in this post I want to look at some of the key texts of 19th century conservatism - the papal encyclicals of the day.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

John the Baptist, apocalyptic literature and the Day of Yahweh

From the information provided in the gospels and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, we can identify a few basic facts about John the Baptist (see e.g. Mt. 3.7-12, Mk. 1.1-8):

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A traditional Catholic theologian on sex in marriage - Part 2

Cross-posted at Reggie's Reviews

This is the second extract from Chiericato's teachings on marital sex.  The penultimate section is interesting insofar as it preserves contemporary medical ideas about how conception comes about.


The third question is how many conditions are to be observed by spouses when they have intercourse so that they do not commit any sin

The experts reply that four conditions must be observed by them.

The first is that they are impelled to have intercourse for a good purpose.  This will be the case if their intention is to keep faith with themselves, to perfect the meaning of the sacrament of marriage, to avoid fornication, and to produce children for the glory of God.  It is a venial sin if they intend to produce children purely out of a desire for heirs and to propagate their family.

The second condition is that they show respect for the times of solemn feasts, Lent, days of fasting and days of public prayer.  This is in accordance with these words of the Apostle (1 Cor. 7): "Do not defraud each other, unless you do so by consent, with a view to the time, so that you might be free for prayer".  Although this condition regarding time is, according to the common opinion of theologians, a matter of advice and not of requirement, nonetheless spouses must abstain from sex on a day on which they are to receive Holy Communion.  This is because they cannot be excused of venial sin if they have sex on such a day due to excessive carnal lust or in order to derive pleasure from it, for the outcome that arises is great distraction and dullness of the mind.  The same is true of sex after Communion on such a day, unless there is a serious and pressing reason which excuses them from such irreverence.  Confessors should take note of the distinction between a spouse who requires the martial debt on the day of Communion and one who pays it.  The latter is always free from blame, but not the former.

The third condition which spouses must observe in marital intercourse relates to location.  They must obviously not have sex in a public place or in a sacred place.  They must not have sex in a public place or in the presence of someone else because such public behaviour would be scandalous and would be a mortal sin.  After the sin of Adam, acts of conjugal intercourse are carried on in private places out of modesty, the origin of which is that a human being blushes to know that he is subject to carnal desire.  For this reason, Adam fastened together fig leaves to cover his body when he realised that he was naked, and hid himself in the Garden of Eden when he heard the voice of God, for he felt the movement of desire in his veins and felt great embarrassment.  If it is carried out with other people watching, sexual intercourse is highly sinful, unworthy and abhorrent because of the disgrace involved.  It seems difficult to believe that there have been heretics - the Nicolaites, the Gnostics and others - who claimed that it was permissible to have intercourse in front of everyone, and did it in streets and squares.  St Ephrem the Syrian was asked by a prostitute if he would have sex with her, and he replied that he was willing to do so, but only in a public square.  She said, "What!  What are you saying?  In a square, in front of everyone?  I am appalled!"  St Ephrem replied: "Why are you appalled at humans watching, but not at the presence of God, who sees men's deeds everywhere?"

Intercourse should also not be carried on in a sacred place - that is, in a church.  A church is legally defiled if human blood or semen is spilled within it.  The same legislation requires that a church be reconsecrated and rededicated if human semen is spilled in it.  There are debates among scholars as to whether a church is defiled only if this spillage of semen is illicit, as a result of fornication, or if the same is the case with other kinds of sexual conduct.  It is also debated whether it must be public and notorious.  However, it is generally taught that marital intercourse does not defile a church and is not sinful if it is carried on in the church out of necessity - if, for example, the husband or the wife or both are held enclosed in the church for a long time and they are unable to leave the sacred place.  In such a case, if they are assailed by desires of the flesh they can have marital intercourse there without incurring culpability.  The term "church" does not include a cemetery, a cloister, a sacristy or a bell-tower, nor an unconsecrated private oratory.

The fourth condition relates to the manner of the act.  When having marital intercourse, spouses must observe the natural manner.  This method requires the woman to be lying underneath and the man to be lying on top of her.  This means that spouses must not be standing when they have sex, or sitting, nor can they have intercourse in a reversed position in the manner of animals.  It is even less permissible for the man to lie underneath and the women to lie on top of him.  This is because, in the case of all these methods, it is a mortal sin if there is a danger that semen is ejaculated outside the natural vessel.  If this danger is absent, it is at least a venial sin to behave like this unless there is some honourable reason that provides an excuse, such as fear of miscarriage if the wife is pregnant, or if the husband is too fat.


The fourth question is whether spouses sometimes sin when engaging in the actual act of sex

Three cases are to be distinguished in this regard.

The first is when the man produces semen but not the woman.  In this case, the experts say that the husband can stop having sex without incurring any culpability, both because the woman's seed is not considered necessary for conception according to the opinion of theologians (with which, however, doctors disagree), and also because the woman can inseminate herself by touching herself after the man has ceased to have sex with her.  Such an act is complementary to marital sex.

The second case is when the woman passes seed but the man does not.  In this case, the man cannot stop having sex with her, but must complete the act by inseminating her unless some urgent reason forces him to stop - for example, if some person comes into the bedroom, or some danger threatens regarding the house or the neighbours, or some enemies interrupt him.

The third case is when the sex has commenced and neither the man nor the woman passes seed.  In that case, by common consent, they can stop having sex without insemination having occurred unless there is a danger of semen being ejaculated outside the vagina.


Finally, the fifth question asks what spouses are allowed to do without sinning in relation to touches, embraces, looks and loving words that offend against honourable behaviour

In this area, scholars make a distinction.  When they are oriented towards sex without any danger of ejaculation, all the foregoing things are allowed.  When they are not oriented towards sex, but purely towards pleasure and carnal enjoyment, they are venial sins, and even mortal sins if there is a danger of ejaculation.  This is the case to an even greater degree if one spouse is away and the other touches their own impure parts and thinks about past acts of sex, resulting in the provoking of sensual titillation.