Monday, August 15, 2011


Our culture today is very materialistic and many seldom focus on the life of redemption of body and soul, but rather live life with reckless abandon, using and abusing the gifts that God has given us, including our body and soul. While the Catholic Church has no problem with adorning one’s body to enhance its looks, even in death, we do teach that one should not intentionally mutilate one’s body. A tattoo here and there and a place for modest "piercings" certainly fall within the parameters of what is benign. However, we know that today’s culture of piercing bodies and tattooing them to the point of disfigurement betrays a hostility to the body and views it as a temporary commodity that one can do with as one pleases, that our bodies and souls belong to us rather than to God. Catholic teaching emphasizes that we belong to God, body and soul and that we come from God and will return to Him.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Body and Soul into heaven illustrates the sacredness of who we are, not just our souls but also our bodies.

Like Mary we belong to God completely not just partially. Realizing this should enable us to appreciate the material things that God gives us, our human flesh being primary. Just as we should take care of our souls and bodies, we also take care of the good earth. The green movement and ecological concerns throughout the world are not incompatible with Catholic teaching or the doctrine of the Assumption in anyway whatsoever.

Also, we build magnificent structures like our churches and care for them as a sign of the kingdom to come which is not only spiritual but tangible as well since in the heavenly realm there contains the Risen Body of our Lord as well as our Blessed Mother’s redeemed body.

We know that it is a sin intentionally to mutilate one’s body but also to do the same to the good earth and the environment in which we live. We were all appalled with the senseless murder of Lauren Giddings (the Mercer University Law School graduate in Macon and a member of St. Joseph Church) and as Catholics we were appalled with the manner in which her body after death was treated and desecrated by dismemberment.

In fact we use the term "desecration" of her human body because in baptism Jesus consecrated her body a temple of the Holy Spirit and thus she was made holy. In death, we honor our bodies with Christian burial. We prepare them for viewing and adorn them to make them beautiful, not to mask the reality of death but to show forth in a symbolic way the "resurrection" of our bodies at the end of time. In death, Christian bodies are "religious relics" because they have been made holy in Baptism and thus should be disposed properly as we dispose properly blessed items that have run their course like statues, rosaries and the like.

Catholics have always appreciated the arts that glorify the body. There is a big difference between art and pornography. Art shows the human form in a way that does not degrade or offend, for example Michelangelo’s David or art depicting the child Jesus suckling from the exposed breasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even nudes are to be found in the Sistine chapel and other Catholic churches throughout the world.

Pornography on the other hand turns the human person and its image into an object of lust, to be used and abused for one’s own selfish gratification. The sin of pornography is the exploitation of people who are depicted and those who view it which leads to the most crass form of selfishness for personal gratification.

I always advise people, men in particular, if they have a problem with the sin of lust that they should view those who tempt them not as objects for their lustful purposes, but as God’s work of art to bring our hearts and minds to what heaven will be like. By God's grace lust which is a deadly sin, is transformed by God's grace into passion, the redemption of lust.

The Assumption is all about heaven and what heaven will be like which will have also a tangible element beyond all comparison with what we can see, touch, see, hear and taste here on earth. The ultimate tangibility will be seeing the living God in the Divine Person of the Most Blessed Trinity with our tangible eyes and with those same eyes seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints redeemed in the Blood of Christ.

At every Mass through the material and tangible elements of the church, altar, people, bread and wine, we experience the holy and see the gifts of the earth which show forth in a tangible, sacramental way, the invisible presence of the Risen Lord and all the angels and saints.

Given the theology of what I articulate above, what comparisons do you see in these two images as it concerns the Catholic understanding of the human body?


Nancy A. said...

While strictly speaking, the David is more 'graphic' and revealing of the human anatomy, it's obvious to me that the intent of the two works are entirely different. The statue of David celebrates the strength and power of a young man as he prepares to do battle. The other is an homage to woman as sex object. No, she's not nude, but the skirt blowing up is suggestive and titillating: the 'accidental,' near-revealing pose emphasizes the violation of modesty and the thrill of the forbidden. To me, the most chilling aspect of this pose is her smile. It seems to send a message that it is fun to be exposed and ogled. While our society seems to want women to accept that message, and sadly many have, it's not fun. It's creepy. And it's sad to have such as a glorious creation as the human body turned into a tool for prurient, cheap thrills.

Templar said...

The first image, while clothed, portrays lust and seduction and is more pornograhpic than David despite the nudity of the later.

Gene said... we have to choose? I mean, surely that first statue has some artistic value...surely, well, maybe...perhaps...

Anonymous said...

I had a friend whose family was from Italy. When she was 18 and graduated from high school she got to go to back Italy for the first time since she was born and visit her grandparents and cousins. One morning they went to the beach. She being a stylish and pretty Italian girl (what other kind is there?) she had brought what she thought were the proper clothes to wear, including a shawl, hat, and bikini. When she came out of the changing room she was shocked to see her cousins topless and ready to run into the surf. In fact, they teased her mercilessly because she refused to take off her top, and in fact stayed on the beach wearing her hat and sunglasses to hide her embarrassment.

Later, they were going to mass at the church where her parents had been married. Again, she wore an outfit purchased just for the occasion, a sundress, shoes, and again her hat. This time it was grandmother was scandalised. "Cover your shoulders!!! What sort of girl did they raise you to be!!!" As much as my friend loved Italy she never did manage to break the dress code.

I agree with the tattoo thing, it has reached the point I think it is actually an expression of mental illness. On the other hand, I think a lot of what we conventionally view as proper, or not, is context and personal restraint. There are people who will use even the most conservative dress as sexually stimulating.

A few years ago I set the goal to be able to appreciate things without desiring them. So, I wondered, why can't a woman bathe naked in the ocean without me lusting after her? Why can I not simply enjoy her beauty along with the ocean, as a spiritual event similar to a Renaissance painting? Dang hormones. It ain't easy, but God has given me the faculty to elevate myself above the animals and this is just one of the tasks on that path. The good news is that success is not rewarded with the conceit of attainment, (or exhaustion, as did Cephalus) but a greater appreciation of the beauty God's works.


Anonymous said...

"David" certainly celebrates masculine strength and power, in this case, in preparation for a strategic military operation.

"Marilyn," too, represents strength and power. As a woman, however, her "power" was expressed in a decidely different way.

While male power is expressed through bulk and agility, female power is expressed through seduction and, to a degree, cunning.

Both are examples of strength and power - both accomplish the goals of those who express it.

I, like rcg, am glad David eschews the tattoo.

Gene said...

RCG, "Why can't a woman swim naked in the ocean without you lusting after her..." Because you are a concupiscent dog, that's why! LOL! I, on the other hand, have risen above such adolescent drives and have achieved a higher level of understanding. So, I can assure you that my, appreciation for Kate Beckinsale is purely Platonic and of an aesthetic nature...

Anonymous said...

I understand that Southerners are fond of cast iron cookware, Mr Kettle. Heh.


Gene said...

Anon, Fair enough...but might a different kind of female power be expressed through maternal love and nurture, through motherly compassion and loyalty, fierce protectiveness and the wisdom to raise her children before God and within the arms of the Church? Is there not, indeed, a profound and subtle power in Mary's response to the Angel...the power of an obedience which acquiesces to and relies upon the power of God?
Is female power all about sex and seduction? What a cynical view of women...and men.

Anonymous said...

It's not at all cyncial - it is realistic. Of the top generals of World War II, how many were women? Of the greatest natural philosophers of the late 1700's and 1800's, how many were women? Currently, how many women serve as CEO's of the Fortune 500 corporations?

You can ignore reality, or you can recognize that, due to the dominance of males throughout human history, women have used the power that they were allowed to use, the power that men were powerless to remove from their armamentarium.

Both Marilyn and David are expressions of power and agility. One can conquer a nation through military prowess or one can conquer a king through sexual prowess. Both expressions of power have been and are misused.

Is a woman's misuse of her power less offensive than a man's misuse of his power?

Gene said...

Ignotus, you really just don't get it, do you...

Nancy A. said...

So woman's power lies in seduction and cunning... I suppose that's why Marilyn committed suicide: she was such a powerful woman. Certainly she wasn't deluded, used and manipulated for others' pleasure and greed, was she? I'm not so silly as to suggest that women are never seductive or cunning but that kind of power is the wrong kind, just as any use of lying and manipulation is wrong. We're called to cherish one another, and our failure to do so is reason to keep trying, not to shrug and say that's just how it is.

Anonymous said...

Nancy - Fr. McDonald's question was "...what comparison do you see of these two images. . . ?" The comparison is Marilyn and David.

No one said "woman's (globally) power lies in seduction and cunning." However, in the case of MM, it did. Other women use other powers for good and for ill.

The evil domination of one gender over another or one person over another, which is in no way God's plan nor the Chruch's teaching, is just that - evil. Acknowledging it doesn't equate to accepting or endorsing it.

Gene said...

Ignotus, the only thing you mentioned in your post was sexual power and cunning. Your statement was, indeed, global. You did not qualify it like you are attempting to do now on second thought. And, you just had to throw in that "evil domination of one gender over another or one person over another" business. Keep those progressive gender/class war politics always in the forefront don't you?

Anonymous said...

pinanv525 - So pointing out the evil oppression of women by men is an act of keeping "progressive gender/class war politics" in the forefront, eh?

I suppose I'd better never mention the oppression of African-American slaves by white slave owners, or you'll accuse me of playing the race card.

I hope you get to mass this weekend...

Anonymous said...

I am not against cunning. I consider myself cunning and work hard to develop that trait. It's what you do with it that is the problem.


Gene said...

Yes, Ignotus, in your case it is. I am sure you employ all the "progressive" tactics in your attacks upon tradition and values.

I'll bet you are a great race-baiter...why even mention slavery? There haven't been any slaves in this country for 150 years. I don't know any slave you? Neither my parents nor grandparents held slaves, and no negroes currently alive are slaves. None of their parents or grandparents were either.
On the other hand, there are dozens of nations in the much adored by libs Third World that you never seem to mention. Funny that.
Oh, and this "African-American" thing...I don't know any African Americans. I know some negroes or Blacks...whatever their current preference is. Why don't you ask some of these "African-Americans" to speak some Swahili or Bantu for you. Ask them to make you a clay pot or kill, dress, and cook a Tapir or an antelope. Gee, seems all the Blacks here buy their groceries from Kroger and speak English, sort of. Please...

Gene said...

In my above post, I should have said, "dozens of slave-holding nations in the Third World." The libs and progressives never talk about these or condemn them; they only choose to hark back to US slavery which hasn't existed for nearly 150 years...gee, wonder why?