Sunday, September 7, 2014

Morality isn't Just About "Morality"

Where I grew up, on the Minnesota-North Dakota border, quite a few folks said "morality" when they were talking about ethics and sex.

Their "morality" apparently focused on some zipper issues, plus a few cultural values. That myopic view of morality helped inspire stories of Chickenman's battle against "crime and/or evil," and that's almost another topic.

"Morality of the Passions" — Emotions, Ethics, and All That

The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't have particularly catchy titles for the different sections. For example — Part Three, Life in Christ; Section One, Man's Vocation Life in the Spirit; Chapter One, The Dignity of the Human Person; Article 5; is is called Morality of the Passions.

Some of these "passions" might involve sex: but what the word means here is "emotions:"
"The term "passions" belongs to the Christian patrimony. Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1763)
Emotions aren't either good or bad, by themselves. It's what we decide to do about them that makes a difference. Feeling emotions is part of being human: but we're expected to control them with our reason and will. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1762-1770)

Folks for whom "morality" was how a person handled his or her sexuality may have missed the big picture. Sex is important: but there's more to being human than that.

I sometimes use the word "ethics," where I mean moral behavior in any aspect of being human.

"... A Law of the Mind ..."

"If Vulcans had a church, they'd be Catholics" — John C. Wright said that, or maybe it was some other chap. Either way, the quip has a point. Catholic teachings are quite logical.

The Catholic Church doesn't have a problem with emotions, though. They're part of being human.

Conscience, for example, is "a judgment of reason." I may notice an emotion: and realize that a decision is needed. That's where reason comes in. Feelings are fine: but we're expected to think.
"Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
"Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50"
(Catechism, 1778) [emphasis mine]
Made "in the image of God," each of us is basically good. Thanks to consequences of an appalling decision made by the first of us, though, we have a hard time acting like good creatures. (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 355-378, 396-409)

My conscience starts with an echo of that original goodness — but like nearly everything else humans do, I have to work at forming my conscience. (Catechism, 1776-1794)

New Rules, Unchanging Principles, and Twitter

I've had to learn new rules over the last half-century. What's appropriate on, say, Twitter, can annoy folks on Google Plus: and 'proper' behavior on both doesn't quite fit the customs I grew up with.

On the other hand, some things haven't changed: and won't. It's wrong to do evil, even if good would result; the Golden Rule always applies; and so does charity. (Catechism, 1789)

Human-made rules, like what side of the road I drive on, are important: but they change as our societies and technology change. Over the last few centuries, those changes have often been rapid. The trick is learning to tell the difference between rules we've made up and universal principles. (August 31, 2014; August 29, 2014)

Diversity, Dance, and a Distant Dream

As a Catholic, I am part of an outfit that's literally καθολικός, universal: a united and diverse people, embracing all cultures and all times. It's about as close to living in Tennyson's "Federation of the world" as I can hope for in my remaining years:
"...Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world....

"...And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law...."
("Locksley Hall," Tennyson (1842, rev. 1865) via
The Catholic Church has "universal law:" rules that apply to everybody. They boil down to 'love God, love your neighbor, see everybody as your neighbor.' (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

How we apply this universal law depends on how and where we live. The Åsædesret, for example, mattered for some of my ancestors: but isn't how the family operates today. On the other hand, I think we're influenced by laws of the Brehons and the Cáin Adomnáin, and that's another topic.

The Church doesn't try cramming everyone into one cultural or political mold. As long as political systems and cultural norms respect the "legitimate good of the communities" and "fundamental rights of persons," we can have queens, emperors, presidents: whatever. (Catechism, 24, 814, 1901, 1957)

The same applies to how we worship. The last I heard, for example, liturgical dance was still on the 'don't do it' list for my part of the world. In places like Gokwe and parts of Oceania, dance is an integral part of Catholic worship.1

I've seen video of liturgical dance done where worship without dance would seem as odd as Mass without music would here. I think it's a great idea, but — I've seen liturgical dance tried here in the Upper Midwest: and agree with our bishops. We're not ready for it. Not yet.

Maybe the children of my children's children will dance in the aisles: and that's yet another topic.

More of my take on what doesn't change, and what does:

1 Worship in the universal church:
"The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church's mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture:..."
(Catechism, 1202)

"Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc."
(Catechism, 1674)

"...Our Liturgies of the Eucharist are well attended and constitute a real feast and celebration with an active participation from the faithful expressed in joy, song and a dignified dance...."
("The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church," H.E. Most. Rev. Angel Floro Martínez, I.E.M.E., Bishop of Gokwe (Zimbabwe); Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin, XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2-23, 2005))

"...Traditional stories and symbols, music and dance, rites and celebrations, all of which are expressions of human memory and imagination, are deeply part of the cultures of Oceania. Through a proper application of inculturation, the Church seeks to incorporate elements of a particular culture into Her liturgy, devotional practices, catechesis and sacred art. In this way, She expresses faith in God and communion among the faithful...."
("Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life Lineamenta," Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Oceania, 11 (1997))

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.