Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jesus approaches

Today's Gospel (Mt. 28:16-20) for Trinity Sunday reads:
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
The Trinity is an unfathomable mystery. Much has been written of Our Triune God's unity in trinity. Today I'd like to focus on a humbler mystery, more suited to my station. Our Lord tells us today that He is with us "always, until the end of the age." But we don't always feel that He is, do we? Well, it says of the disciples here that
they worshipped,
but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached....
Consider that. Although they doubted, they worshipped anyway. And Jesus approached.

In his Pensées, in the section on "the means of belief," Pascal warns of
Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.
Reason only is insufficient:
The reason acts slowly, with so many examinations, and on so many principles, which must be always present, that at every hour it falls asleep, or wanders, through want of having all its principles present. Feeling does not act thus; it acts in a moment, and is always ready to act. We must then put our faith in feeling; otherwise it will be always vacillating.
Indeed, Pascal admonishes us that
It is superstition to put one's hope in formalities; but it is pride to be unwilling to submit to them.
Why? Because
The external must be joined to the internal to obtain anything from God, that is to say, we must kneel, pray with the lips, etc., in order that proud man, who would not submit himself to God, may be now subject to the creature.
By contrast,
Other religions, as the pagan, are more popular, for they consist in externals. But they are not for educated people. A purely intellectual religion would be more suited to the learned, but it would be of no use to the common people. The Christian religion alone is adapted to all, being composed of externals and internals. It raises the common people to the internal, and humbles the proud to the external; it is not perfect without the two, for the people must understand the spirit of the letter, and the learned must submit their spirit to the letter.
And that is the secret of how the doubting worshipper makes straight a path for Jesus to approach:
For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much automatic as intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by which conviction is attained is not demonstrated alone. How few things are demonstrated? Proofs only convince the mind. Custom is the source of our strongest and most believed proofs. It bends the automaton, which persuades the mind without its thinking about the matter. Who has demonstrated that there will be a to-morrow, and that we shall die? And what is more believed? It is, then, custom which persuades us of it; it is[Pg 74] custom that makes so many men Christians; custom that makes them Turks, heathens, artisans, soldiers, etc. (Faith in baptism is more received among Christians than among Turks.) Finally, we must have recourse to it when once the mind has seen where the truth is, in order to quench our thirst, and steep ourselves in that belief, which escapes us at every hour; for always to have proofs ready is too much trouble. We must get an easier belief, which is that of custom, which, without violence, without art, without argument, makes us believe things, and inclines all our powers to this belief, so that out soul falls naturally into it. It is not enough to believe only by force of conviction, when the automaton is inclined to believe the contrary. Both our parts must be made to believe, the mind by reasons which it is sufficient to have seen once in a lifetime, and the automaton by custom, and by not allowing it to incline to the contrary. Inclina cor meum, Deus.
You cannot reason your way to faith. That is not because the Faith is false, but because you are blind.

In his discussion (ST, IIa-IIae, Q.153, art. 5) of the "daughters of lust," Aquinas instructs us that
When the lower powers are strongly moved towards their objects, the result is that the higher powers are hindered and disordered in their acts. Now the effect of the vice of lust is that the lower appetite, namely the concupiscible, is most vehemently intent on its object, to wit, the object of pleasure, on account of the vehemence of the pleasure. Consequently the higher powers, namely the reason and the will, are most grievously disordered by lust. 
Now the reason has four acts in matters of action. First there is simple understanding, which apprehends some end as good, and this act is hindered by lust, according to Daniel 13:56, "Beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thy heart." On this respect we have "blindness of mind." The second act is counsel about what is to be done for the sake of the end: and this is also hindered by the concupiscence of lust. Hence Terence says (Eunuch., act 1, sc. 1), speaking of lecherous love: "This thing admits of neither counsel nor moderation, thou canst not control it by counseling." On this respect there is "rashness," which denotes absence of counsel, as stated above (Question 53, Article 3). The third act is judgment about the things to be done, and this again is hindered by lust. For it is said of the lustful old men (Daniel 13:9): "They perverted their own mind . . . that they might not . . . remember just judgments." On this respect there is "thoughtlessness." The fourth act is the reason's command about the thing to be done, and this also is impeded by lust, in so far as through being carried away by concupiscence, a man is hindered from doing what his reason ordered to be done. [To this "inconstancy" must be referred.] [The sentence in brackets is omitted in the Leonine edition.] Hence Terence says (Eunuch., act 1, sc. 1) of a man who declared that he would leave his mistress: "One little false tear will undo those words." 
On the part of the will there results a twofold inordinate act. One is the desire for the end, to which we refer "self-love," which regards the pleasure which a man desires inordinately, while on the other hand there is "hatred of God," by reason of His forbidding the desired pleasure. The other act is the desire for the things directed to the end. With regard to this there is "love of this world," whose pleasures a man desires to enjoy, while on the other hand there is "despair of a future world," because through being held back by carnal pleasures he cares not to obtain spiritual pleasures, since they are distasteful to him.
It might be objected, Aquinas anticipates
that the daughters of lust are unfittingly reckoned to be "blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world and abhorrence or despair of a future world." For mental blindness, thoughtlessness and rashness pertain to imprudence, which is to be found in every sin, even as prudence is in every virtue. Therefore they should not be reckoned especially as daughters of lust.
but Aquinas replies that
According to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 5), intemperance is the chief corruptive of prudence: wherefore the vices opposed to prudence arise chiefly from lust, which is the principal species of intemperance.
Now, perhaps lust is not your besetting sin. Excellent. Nevertheless, unless Our Lord or His Mother is reading my blog now, you, dear reader, are a sinner. And sin, via the body, via the will, darkens the intellect.

What worship does, via the body, via the will, is create in you a docile heart, by which Christ, Our Liberator, may enlighten the intellect. You cannot completely reason your way to the Faith, because without the grace of Faith, your mind remains in darkness. The preambles of faith can lead you--and should lead you--to the precipice. But then you must leap.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Smoke of Satan

(Note: This is a post about libertarianism, which is a very bad ideology. It does not contend that all libertarians are necessarily bad people. When not mistakenly advocating for wicked policies, many of them are lovely people personally.)

Via Via Meadia, we learn from Gallup that 
Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.... In contrast to the way Americans describe their views on social issues, they still by a wide margin, 39% to 19%, describe their views on economic issues as conservative rather than liberal. However, as on social ideology, the gap between conservatives and liberals has been shrinking and is lower today than at any point since 1999, with the 39% saying they are economically conservative the lowest to date.
Social liberalism is ascendant, but laissez-faire economic ideology is still more than holding its own for the moment. We are living in a "liberaltarian" era. Mercifully, this too shall pass: perhaps a view of economics that grants a role for state aid to the poor will continue rising, or there will be a backlash against the squalor of today's porn-addled Sodom.  But this Liberaltarian Era is our political moment, the beige dictatorship of our new power elite, and we must make sense of it if we are to be of any use in the public square right now. So let's take a look at this rough beast slouching toward us.

When Brink Lindsey coined the term "liberaltarian" back in 2006, he wrote of the attractions of such a project that
it has become increasingly clear that capitalism’s relentless dynamism and wealth-creation—the institutional safeguarding of which lies at the heart of libertarian concerns—have been pushing U.S. society in a decidedly progressive direction. The civil rights movement was made possible by the mechanization of agriculture, which pushed blacks off the farm and out of the South with immense consequences. Likewise, feminism was encouraged by the mechanization of housework. Greater sexual openness, as well as heightened interest in the natural environment, are among the luxury goods that mass affluence has purchased. So, too, are secularization and the general decline in reverence for authority, as rising education levels (prompted by the economy’s growing demand for knowledge workers) have promoted increasing independence of mind.
Yet progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally. In particular, they are unable to make their peace with the more competitive, more entrepreneurial, more globalized U.S. economy that emerged out of the stagflationary mess of the 1970s. Knee-jerk antipathy to markets and the creative destruction they bring continues to be widespread, and bitter denunciations of the unfairness of the system, mixed with nostalgia for the good old days of the Big Government/Big Labor/Big Business triumvirate, too often substitute for clear thinking about realistic policy options. 
Hence today’s reactionary politics. Here, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the rival ideologies of left and right are both pining for the ’50s. The only difference is that liberals want to work there, while conservatives want to go home there. 
Can a new, progressive fusionism break out of the current rut? Liberals and libertarians already share considerable common ground, if they could just see past their differences to recognize it. Both generally support a more open immigration policy. Both reject the religious right’s homophobia and blastocystophilia. Both are open to rethinking the country’s draconian drug policies. Both seek to protect the United States from terrorism without gratuitous encroachments on civil liberties or extensions of executive power. And underlying all these policy positions is a shared philosophical commitment to individual autonomy as a core political value.
This ideology is really just libertarianism simpliciter, with Lindsey's coinage serving only to emphasize the tactical benefits to libertarians of moving from Meyer-style fusionism with the G.O.P. to alliance with the Democrats, and to indicate a laudable willingness to countenance some kind of safety net for the poor, which latter deserves its own post here sometime.  I borrow the term because it highlights the growing edge of libertarian ideology in our time, which is sexually libertine and smugly secularist--indeed, laïque and anticlerical.

Contra Lindsey, I yearn for both the traditional families and the vigorous union-driven broad prosperity of the 1950's. I'm a voice in the desert of today's surreal Sodom against onanism and sodomy, and I am an unabashed "blastocystophile," (as Lindsey puts it) who loathes Moloch as much as Ishtar. Indeed, I increasingly think molochism ought to be my new word for the murder of the unborn, to match sodomy and onanism: you coin your words Brink, I'll coin mine.

So just what is a Catholic who strives for orthodox submission to the authority of the Magisterium on both "life" and "social justice" issues to make of this liberaltarian libertarianism? Consider that troll-sown kudzu of the comboxes, the Nolan Chart:

Now, the economic and cultural individualist is of course the libertarian, seeking to enable corporate rapine and cultural poison. And the seamless garment Catholic--that is to say, the orthodox Catholic, submissive to the Magisterium--works pursuant to the Gospel of Life for a cultural focus on community (traditional family open to life, flourishing parish, political subsidiarity and a patriotism of the local, a MacIntyrean Benedict Option in which to learn and incarnate virtue, etc.) and pursuant to the Gospel call to social justice, for an economic focus on community (universal destination of goods, preferential option for the poor, solidarity, distributism, unionism, guilds, co-ops, "small is beautiful," care for the "least of these," etc.).

The Nolan Chart is plain enough: the libertarian takes a stand that is the polar opposite of the doctrine of Christ and His Church.  The version of the Nolan Chart I've pasted above is kind enough to call Christ's will for us "communitarian." Other variants, more popular among libertarians I've encountered online, dub the pole of the Chart where the Cross is planted to be "populist," or "statist," or worse, "authoritarian" or "fascist."

That the libertarian runs all of these disparate movements together both with each other and with the teaching of Christ and His Church shows a typically libertarian shallowness of mind, a kind of autistic flattening of perception which one encounters ubiquitously among both libertarians and among eliminative materialists, who indeed are often the same people, given how attractive a package the two diabolical doctrines are to such deformed minds as are so prominent in our culture that autistically worships mere technological toys like a phallic cult of propeller-headed rocket-science.

The metaphysical underpinnings of liberaltarian diabolism are precisely what you would expect, given the diabolical consequences of nominalism. Liberaltarian blogger Will Wilkinson has decreed, with the smug glibness typical of his jejune coterie, and indeed of many of his coddled peers in the new clerisy that Metaphysics is Boring When You Know the Answers, the answers of course being Quinean scientism, nominalism, and other sorts of answers that are both the polar opposite of the wisdom of the Church. Of course, Wilkinson's precisely wrong, pernicious and faddish philosophical preferences are perfect for our moment: they are the sort of thing that the Quine and Parfit and Rorty reading likes of bien pensants like juicebox mafioso Matt Yglesias are sure to nod with approval at when Wilkinson hits a Beltway cocktail party, right before Yglesias makes the autistically economistic observation that churches should lose their tax exemption because "there's no reason to believe that religion-related expenditures enhance productivity" which is exactly the sort of derp, as these cool kids say, that centuries of nominalist materialism has made respectable, and so perfectly encapsulate our very autistic, very liberaltarian moment funded by techbro extropian John Galts.

But the "glibertarian" is at least frank: Christ is his enemy, these odd worshippers of Chrestus a mere populist rabble of authoritarian elitists, effete pacifist communitarian hobbits, all warlike fascist orcs, an unsettling, disrespectable (even trashyanarcho-monarchist chimera, led by a troublesome priest of Melchizedek of whom some enterprising proconsul, preferably a nice, sensible nominalist, ought to rid the American Empire. The only thing that's clear from this mush-minded muddle of pejoratives is that the libertarian (and thus the "liberaltarian") knows the Church for what it is: his foe.

Given the pejoratives ("fascist," etc.) flung at us from the Nolan Chart-brandishing side, I shall not shy away from naming the libertarian position for what it is: the pole opposite the Cross, and so by its own definition the position of the Enemy, of Satan. (The satanist has been a Nazi and a Nero and lots of other things over the centuries, but I write of the present moment.) Libertarianism's frankly satanic position is precisely, literally-as-to-etymology diabolical, in the sense Rod Dreher recently highlighted in a deeply thoughtful and richly rewarding post on the symbol/diabol distinction:
 Rieff’s prophetic point is that Western culture has renounced renunciation, has cast off the ascetic spirit, and therefore has deconverted from Christianity whether it knows it or not. In bringing this up with my priest friend, I asked him why he thought sex was at the center of the Christian symbolic that has not held.
“It goes back to Genesis 1,” he said. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then he told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ We see right there in the beginning the revelation that male and female, that complementarity, symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and in their fertility they carry out the life of the Trinity.”
In other words, from the perspective of the Hebrew Bible, gender complementarity and fertility are built into the nature of ultimate reality, which is God. Our role as human beings is to strive to harmonize our own lives with that reality, because in so doing we dwell in harmony with God.
“Do you know what the word ‘symbol’ means in the original Greek?” he asked. I said I did not. 
“It means ‘to bring together,’” he said.
“To integrate,” I replied.
“Yes. Now, do you know what the antonym for symbol is 
“It is diabolos, which means to tear apart, to separate, to throw something through another thing.” 
“So when something is diabolic, it means it is a disintegrating force?” 
“You could say that, yes,” he said. “All the time I’m dealing with the fallout from divorce and families breaking up. Kids who don’t know their fathers. You should hear these confessions. It’s a huge deal. You can see the loss of the sense of what family is for, and why it’s important.”
He said that the students he works with are so confused, needy, and broken. Many of them have never seen what a functional, healthy family looks like, and have grown up in a culture that devalues the fundamental moral, metaphysical, and spiritual principles that make stable and healthy family formation possible — especially the belief that the generative powers of sex, within male-female complementarity, is intimately related to the divine nature, and the ongoing life of the Trinity. Nobody has ever explained it to them, he says. If they’ve heard anything from the Church, it’s something like, “Don’t do this because the Bible says not to” — which is not enough in this time and place. And many of them have never, or have rarely, seen it modeled for them by the adults in their lives.
The Judith Butler essay brought that conversation to mind this morning, and reflection on the symbol/diabol distinction sent me online looking for more. Lo, the Google results give me this entry from a dating website, in which the author quotes from a bestselling 2004 book The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. From the website:
In the book, Greene talks about the importance of language in seducing someone. Seduction, as you know, is a matter of how and what you communicate to your target, and is thus, extremely important in your interactions.
Greene makes the distinction between two types of languages – symbolic and diabolic language. To quote him here:
“Most people employ symbolic language—their words stand for something real, the feelings, ideas, and beliefs they really have. Or they stand for concrete things in the real world. (The origin of the word “symbolic” lies in a Greek word meaning “to bring things together”—in this case, a word and something real.)
“As a seducer you are using the opposite: diabolic language. Your words do not stand for anything real; their sound, and the feelings they evoke, are more important than what they are supposed to stand for. (The word “diabolic” ultimately means to separate, to throw things apart—here, words and reality.) The more you make people focus on your sweet-sounding language, and on the illusions and fantasies it conjures, the more you diminish their contact with reality. You lead them into the clouds, where it is hard to distinguish truth from untruth, real from unreal.” 
As an indirect seducer, you must focus on using diabolic rather than symbolic language. Your goal is to stimulate your target’s imagination, enveloping her into your spirit. Do this, and she will not be able to resist you.
There you have it. If nothing is real, then there is nothing but lies — that is to say, the manipulation of reality — and the pursuit of power. A worldview that believes in nothing real, only the will to power (expressed, for example, in deciding that your gender is what you say it is, and nothing more), is intrinsically diabolical. It scatters, it disintegrates, and makes the song of the world into senseless cacaphony....
This civilizational madness will have to run its course. We now have our leading scholars saying that women can have penises — and this is considered the highest wisdom. It is on the basis of this wisdom that our laws are being changed. It is diabolical, in the sense of being fundamentally about dis-integration. Depending on your point of view, it is diabolical in every sense of the word. You hear in Judith Butler the voice of the Seducer, the voice of the Diabolist. Hers is no longer a marginal voice, but rather one increasingly magnified by our mainstream media....
The denial of Logos as an ordering principle, and asceticism as an ordering function, is leading to the disintegration of all things, including the family, and ultimately the human personality. The world accepts this. Even many in the church accepts this. If you are going to be part of the resistance, and one day far into the future, when the lies fail, a renaissance — then you had better make provision for surviving and thriving in the long defeat.
Now, Judith Butler (a dangerously radically nominalist "queer theorist" but also a person of the Left) is no libertarian. But the precisely "diabolical" seduction strategy of Robert Greene, the quoted venereal Screwtape in Rod's post, is the seductive siren's call of the Market, of Mammon, of Venus, of the Nolan Chart's disintegrative, anomie-promoting "individualism," of oily men photographing gape-mouthed, wide-eyed girls to glance come-hither at the camera to sell you poisonous junk food and corpulent gas-gluttonous giant trucks, of Don Draper and Ayn Rand, of P.T. Barnum and Larry Flynt, of the voice that Rage Against the Machine warned me long ago is always there tempting the fighter for justice, seductively whispering:
come and play,
come and play, 
forget about the Movement.
Well, Christian, the Church is the Movement Christ founded. Don't let the whispering Serpent seduce you from your pilgrim's progess, and don't let his sirens tempt you to desert Christ the King and go over to the Enemy.

Now we've stared into the abyss--let's not linger. Soon, I hope to post on the political tactics of cultural and economic guerrilla resistance that any Benedict Option will need for a successful subversion of the empire of this Beast.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Single Life

Over at Rod Dreher’s, commenter Turmarion asks social conservatives what the heck our endgame is with regard to the optimal societal status of same-sex attracted people:
I tried on another blog once to get some socons to come right out and say what they thought the ideal status would be
Here's my attempt as a "socon" to answer his question (with further quotes from his comment indented as blockquotes):

Turmarion, yours is really a question that same-sex attracted orthodox, traditionalist Christians need to lead the way on, I think. The Church has affirmed vocations like, e.g., monasticism, but the contours of monasticism were created and discovered by the pioneering monks of the Egyptian desert and their imitators elsewhere, not just invented by abstract a priori noodling about it. I imagine that whatever functional, flourishing lives same-sex attracted orthodox, traditionalist Christians are able to build will be models for sainthood that they have to discover, not that us straights will get to impose on them after reading some Thomist manual or something. (Not that I dislike Thomist manuals, which get a bad rap.)
Should gays go back in the closet?
Absolutely not. Same-sex attraction appears to be at least partly innate, and same-sex attracted people can’t build really deep supportive relationships with friends and family if they’re hiding something like that. OTOH, chaste gays might be prudent to be careful how they partipate in gay cultural events, just as the rest of us need to exercise prudence in similar situations. Here’s what I mean by that: there ought to be no shame or stigma attached to being same-sex attracted, any more than to being straight. But just as straights shouldn’t have an “Adultery Pride Parade,” orthodox traditionalists need to be sure that when we, say, march alongside the pride float at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, or attend a gay friend’s Unitarian wedding, or some such, that we are seen to be affirming the dignity of homosexual persons, or the depths of our friendship for the wedded gay friend, or what have you, rather than the acceptability of homosexual acts. I expect people like Eve Tushnet to be great examples in how to navigate this stuff going forward.
Should they have domestic partnerships?
IMHO it would take nigh-superhuman chastity not to have that turn into a near occasion of sin, so I think it would be extremely imprudent (just as I think Gandhi’s notorious habit, IIRC, of sleeping naked beside naked girls to hone his chastity was not only exploitive of the girls but evinced hubris regarding his own virtue). But such arrangements are an example of something that chaste trad gays are going to have to lead the way on; it’s not my place to pronounce on anything other than my own hunch of how it would go. That said, I think Tushnet’s desire to restore “vowed friendship” to cultural prominence is salutary in the extreme, and not just for gay people. Something like adelphopoiesis, on Tushnet’s rather than Boswell’s understanding, would be a tonic against the loss of homosocial friendship that not only marginalizes chaste gays, but also impoverishes so many straights (especially straight men) of the simple, vital pleasures of deep homosocial friendship once common to folks like, say, the Inklings. This is an important example, IMHO, of a gift that same-sex attracted people like Tushnet can provide for the whole Church, by leading the charge on issues like this.
What place do gays have in your view of how society ought to be?
Society ought to cherish each and every child of God.
There’s a big debate on this in celibate gay circles. Eve, Wesley Hill, and others argue for a positive view in which being gay is a part of one’s identity that can be a blessing, and in which sexuality is not denied. Rather, it is sublimated into the community and into friendship. She has also advocated for the revival of vowed friendships, as a way for gay people to have a lifelong but chaste bond with another. On the other hand, some like Daniel Mattson strongly oppose this, insisting on using “homosexual” instead of “gay”, opposing a view of their orientation as even minimally positive, and insisting that the grace comes through resisting the urges of their damaged nature.
Well, the Magisterium has called same-sex attraction “disordered,” and on a natural law understanding that’s inescapable. But one can celebrate the unique, vibrant contributions of, say, deaf people, autistic people, people with Downs, etc., as “blessings” (which in that sense they very much are) without also engaging in any Orwellian obfuscation of the plain fact that such conditions are departures from normative human nature. Likewise, I share Mattson’s wariness that affirmation of the ways in which the unique emotional, artistic, etc., gifts of same-sex attracted individuals are treasures for all of us, and thus rightly thought of as blessings, can shade into a celebration of same-sex attraction as somehow “just as valid,” just as rightly ordered toward human flourishing, as heterosexuality.

In sum: one side of this debate tends to accuse the other of being “homophiles,” while non-traditionalist observers will tut-tut that traditionalists are homophobically “heteronormative.” My take is that Christian charity requires us to affirm the blessings each person brings with them, and yet Christian charity also requires us to upbraid the sinner and to speak up for the proper ecology (as Benedict XVI so fruitfully put it) of the human family. Thus, we need to find a way to be “heteronormative homophiles,” if that makes any sense, to celebrate and cherish and affirm the unique gifts (if not, perhaps, “charisms,” as a technical terminological theological matter) our same-sex attracted peers bring without ceasing also to celebrate, cherish, and affirm a heteronormative theology of sacramental marriage and of rightly ordered human sexuality.

All of this opens up on a much deeper point that I think you’ll appreciate, Turmarion: One of the accusations flung at Thomists like Ed Feser (whom I admire) by the likes of DB Hart (whom I also admire) is adherence to a kind of “two tier” system of nature and supernature, of natural human flourishing and super-added grace. As a (poorly versed, autodidactic) Thomist myself, I think this accusation ultimately unjust. But, but:

Christ Crucified teaches us that the sort of normative human flourishing delineated by Aristotle—in which a wise man contemplates the divine while securely ensconced in a life charmed with natural goods like rank, wealth, and progeny—is not the truest, deepest model of human flourishing. The Crucified was not “flourishing” by Aristotle’s lights, and yet He incarnates for us what God’s telos for humanity really is.

I take Aquinas to have integrated this rather Augustinian thought into his Aristotelianism. YMMV, and I think does, IIRC. That’s fine. But Aquinas’ opinion being what it may have been (which question I leave to historians), it is my own humble opinion that any Catholic natural lawyer has to integrate these things, at grave risk of embodying the caricature of the arid neo-Thomist manualist if he does not.

On the one hand, those of us who make our living in the City of Man, especially those of us called to the vocation of marriage, rightly aim at human flourishing in something like Aristotle’s sense. OTOH, all Christians are called to sainthood. Part of sainthood is taking up your Cross, whatever that might be. Taking up one’s Cross ought not to mean, say, breaking your own leg, or imitating Gandhi’s chastity-testing sleeping arrangements, or refusing to take your antibiotics, just so you can rack up merit (like some Calvinist caricature of a Catholic) for how well you deal with the pain you cause yourself.

But while we should seek human flourishing, we must also shoulder any Cross that comes as an obstacle in the way of that flourishing, whether it be same-sex attraction, infertility, disability, poverty, or whatever. Relatedly, some of us do not have a vocation to marriage, or a calling to a career in the City of Man, but are instead called to abandon that “natural,” Aristotelian sort of flourishing for the “supernatural” flourishing of renunciation of natural goods like marriage and wealth in favor of full time consecration to the works of the City of God.

As Charles Taylor points out, our Protestant and secular heritage in the modern West makes it hard for us to accept a division between flourishing in a normative natural life and flourishing in a “supernatural” life of renunciation, as it seems to draw an invidious distinction between schlubbish laymen and spiritual athletes. Instead, the post-Hildebrandine reformist trend has been to insist on sanctifying ordinary life, and in the Protestant case, to denigrate renunciative vocations as hubristic counterfeits.

Now, I of course think we go wrong to condemn the ordained and consecrated vocations. But the reformist is right that valorization of renunciation can lead us to neglect the need to sanctify the ordinary life, and relatedly (but not identically) to a gnostic contempt for the real goods praised by the likes of Aristotle. The need for the theologian is to find a “Middle Way” between cynical scorn of sanctity and gnostic scorn of fleshly flourishing, just as Siddhartha is said to have found one between the hubristic “ascetic athleticism” of the mendicants and the enslavement to the satanic principalities and powers of Kama-Mara characteristic of the unawakened, or more relevantly, just as our paradigmatic God-man knew when He ought to fast in the desert, and when He ought to let Himself be taken for a wine-bibber. “Both/and” is as usual the Catholic answer. Taylor’s “Reform” tendency is right that we are all of us called to sainthood, but wrong to think that there cannot be different ways to incarnate that call.

All that said, the position of the same-sex attracted orthodox traditionalist Catholic, called, per the Magisterium, to a chaste “single life” is undefined and unexplored as yet (although the likes of Tushnet are bravely exploring that terra incognita for us, thanks be to God), and is liminal between the natural flourishing of heteronormative marriage (which rightly orders, by uniting, the unitive and procreative natural goods of human sexuality) and the Cross taken up by those with vocations to the ordained or consecrated life.

Called to celibacy, the exclusively same-sex attracted Catholic called to the single life is in that regard a renunciant. But not a consecrated renunciant. Here, a riff on Tushnet may help: “vowed friendship,” “spiritual friendship,” etc., is not a “vocation” or a state of life or a sacrament in the way that marriage or ordination are. But it is a natural good, just as are many of the other life events (launching a ship, e.g.) that the Church has been happy to provide blessings for. What distinguishes the friendship that might rightly be celebrated in a non-sacramental rite of adelphopoiesis from the sacrament of marriage is that while marriage unites the unitive and procreative natural goods of a couple, “friendship,” qua friendship is a strictly unitive good.

In the sense that the chaste same-sex attracted Catholic is called to attain sainthood in part through taking up the renunciatory Cross of celibacy, there is something akin to consecrated life there. In the sense that natural flourishing through the unitive good of friendship can be an enriching, central part of the single life, there is something akin to the vocation to marriage there. The discernment in our time of the vocation to the single life is a quite new development in doctrine. I look forward to the ways that both the Tushnet/Hill and the Mattson perspectives from within that sector of the Church will craft new ways to follow the whole of Christ’s teaching without abandoning either our orthodoxy, or our humanity.