Showing posts from June, 2014

Holy Sex!--Part 3.1. Fun with NFP

Chapter 10 is about Natural Family Planning or NFP.  To keep the topic together, I am also going to skip ahead and also cover Chapter 15 in Part 4, entitled "When NFP is Too Hard," which deals with problems and objections involving NFP.

For those that might not be familiar with NFP, the idea is that the woman monitors certain physical signs in her body to determine when she is or is not fertile, and then the couple avoids sex at those times in which she is fertile.  The mechanics of how this is done varies depending on which of several methods are employed.  As NFP supporters are eager to point out at every opportunity, it is not the "rhythm method," in the sense that it does not exclusively rely on counting out the days on the 28 day ovulation cycle.  It does involve attempting to map out that cycle in detail, using those physical symptoms to plot where the woman is in the cycle at a particular point in time.  I think it is fair to think of it as "Rhythm Met…

Holy Sex!--Part 2.2. The Third Rail

For a long time, the "Third Rail" of American politics was Social Security.  It was called a "third rail," because politicians were afraid to touch this electrified rail, for fear of receiving a (political) shock.  No one could say anything about amending or modifying Social Security, for fear of sacrificing their political career.  Other topics may be on the table, but not this one.

Catholicism's Third Rail is its opposition to artificial birth control.  The American Catholic Church has hired Jones Day, one of the largest (and most expensive, though the Church is probably getting a break on fees) law firms in the country to defend the proposition that it won't pay for birth control and it can't be made to.  Jones Day and the Catholic Church is filing suit after suit all around the country in defense of this position.  No effort is being spared.

But it is not just the American church.  This morning, the Vatican released the preparatory document for the …

Holy Sex!--Part 2.1

Part Two introduces us to the Five Powers of Holy Sex, which should not be confused with the five stages of Holy Sex, or the eight ingredients of Holy Sex we've seen earlier.  They are:

Holy Sex makes the common holy.Holy Sex has sacramental and redemptive power.Holy Sex is a physical sign of God's passion for us.Holy Sex unites the couples.Holy Sex is creative. I'm going to save the last one (which is about birth control) for a separate post, because he has a lot to say about it, and so do I.
It's a bit hard to talk about these chapters, because they are more than a little bit inchoate.  It took me a little while to figure out that Popcak views these as descriptive categories as opposed to prescriptive categories--these are qualities of Holy Sex, as opposed to things you should do in order to achieve Holy Sex.  Popcak goes out of his way to emphasize that these qualities are not present at all with "eroticism."  So, if you do not experience these things in yo…

Holy Sex!--Part 1.3. Dr. Popcak Loves Lists

We'll handle the rest of Part One--Chapters 3 and 4--in the post.  Be forewarned:  there are a bunch of lists in these chapters.

We start off in Chapter 3 with the promise that Popcak will explain what he calls the "eight ingredients" of Holy Sex.  But before we get to that, he has a brief section where he reiterates that Holy Sex is awesome and eroticism is terrible.  Then he says:

[Being an Infallible Lover] means that if you are struggling sexually, the root of the problem most likely has more to do with your character or relationship than it does with mechanics and proper lighting.  Your sexual relationship is a microcosm of everything good and bad in your entire relationship.

See, this is precisely what I was worried about in my previous post.  Can relationship problems lead to sexual problems?  Absolutely.  Are relationship problems more often the source of the problem than technical problems?  Maybe.  Are relationship problems more often the source of the problem …

Holy Sex!--Part 1.2. I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means

Let's start with some definitions.  The word "eroticism" comes from the Greek word "eros," which referred both to the cherubic, winged deity that shot arrows at people to make them fall in love (better known by it's Roman version, Cupid) and to physical, sexual desire more generally. The closest single English word is probably "lust," but without the connotation of sinfulness that lust has.  "Sexual desire" is probably the best overall translation.  So, "eroticism" might be defined as "relating to sexual desire."

Similarly, the concept of a "straw man" is defined as "a fallacy in which an opponent's argument is overstated or misrepresented in order to be more easily attacked or refuted."  Rather than point out objections to the actual argument or situation being considered, a person creates a "straw man," which may look superficially like the actual argument or situation but is really…

Wrong/Right is More Important than Hateful/Not Hateful

Salvatore Cordileone, shown right, is the Archbishop of San Francisco.  He is also the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) effort to oppose gay marriage.  Cordileone has been on the barricades of the gay marriage issue for a while now.  In fact, it is hard not to see his appointment to San Francisco a couple of years ago as a poke in the eye to the city and its famous gay community, but that's really neither here nor there.

As part of his effort to oppose gay marriage, Archbishop Cordileone will be attending the "March for Marriage" tomorrow in Washington, D.C.  This event is sponsored by the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, both prominent anti-SSM organizations.  Both organizations are, as well, classified as "Hate Groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Given the status of the sponsors, a number of civil and religious leaders in San Francisco--most notably Rep. Nancy Pelosi--called on t…

Holy Sex!--Introduction and Part 1.1

No one could ever accuse Dr. Popcak of laboring under, in a phrase former President George W. Bush memorably coined, the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.  Here is what Dr. Popcak promises, on the first page of the Introduction:

In Holy Sex! you will discover what it takes to celebrate a toe-curling, eye-popping, mind-blowing, deeply spiritual, and profoundly sacramental sexuality--a sexual relationship that is both fully sensual and fully equipped to move beyond sensuality so that it can become an authentically transformative, spiritual encounter.  Heaven will be wedded to earth as you and your spouse walk the path toward becoming Infallible Lovers, the kind of lovers who can infuse their marital lives with a passion that reaches biblical proportions.  Literally.

Wow.  Those are, needless to say, pretty bold claims.  And I will confess, right up front, my skepticism.  That skepticism is based, in part, on stories I have heard from many conservative Catholics.  These stories tend to go …

Holy Sex!--Prelude

Ever since I read Frank of "Letters to the Catholic Right"'s brilliant walkthrough of J. Budziszewski's On the Meaning of Sex, I've been itching to try my hand at an extended book review.  The key to making something like that work is that you need the right book.  I kicked around the idea of doing George Weigel's Evangelical Catholicism, but I thought that spending that much time in Weigel-land would be bad for my health.  So, I was on the look out for something good.

Like many good things, inspiration came from an unexpected place.  I was wasting time looking through Amazon a couple of days ago, and I saw a link to a book entitled Holy Sex! by Dr. Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D.  The subtitle of the book is, and I quote, "A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving."  It took me about ten nanoseconds to hammer the "purchase now" button--an impulse buy, but an impulse buy of the best possible kind.  Obviously, this was the b…

Rethinking (or Restoring) Heaven

I have some friends that are worried about me.  It's very well meaning worry, and I am grateful for it.  But, it is misplaced.  You see, I have some friends that read this blog, and they think I am having a crisis of faith.  The fear, I suspect, is that I am going to be lost to the great darkness (as they see it) of non-belief of the broader culture.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is true that I am having some grave doubts about Catholicism, and my place in Catholicism.  But if you pull back one level, but faith in Christianity is as strong as it has ever been.  In some ways, it is better--my prayer life, for example, is the best it has ever been.  There are certain things that I understand far more clearly now that I did before.  My views may be changing, but they are changing in the direction of a greater sense of comfort with Christian doctrine, and a greater appreciation with its teachings.

Take, for example, a very basic question of Christianity--what happens w…

Blogging the Lectionary--Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2: 1-21
Psalm 104
1 Cor 12: 3-13
John 20: 19-23

The disciples knew, or at least had some idea, that this was coming.  Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit was coming.  But they would have been forgiven for thinking that this was going to be a private experience.  And it was a private experience, in the sense that it was just them in the room when the Holy Spirit came.

But it didn't stay the way for long.  As soon as the Spirit arrived, the disciples went out and spread their message to the multicultural gathering of Jews in town for the feast of Pentecost.  But even that was not the full scope of what was happening, as Peter quoted from the prophet Joel:

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophes…

Counting the Cost

This Sunday, the Irish Sunday Mail published a horrifying story.  A couple of kids were playing around on a property formerly known as "The Home" in County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland.  From 1925 to 1961, "The Home" was a facility for unmarried, pregnant girls and their children, much like the Magdalene Laundries that were shown in the recent movie Philomena.  The boys accidentally broke through an old septic tank and discovered the bones of what might be as many as 800 infants and children.  They were buried together in a mass grave, with no identifying markers.  A Galway historian discovered contemporary health inspector reports that described the children in this facility as "emaciated," "with flesh hanging loosely from their limbs."  The children, who did nothing other than being born to an unmarried mother, were referred to as "inmates."  Clearly, these children were neglected, and then almost literally flushed down the t…

Quick Hits--Doings in the Baptist Camp

The most recent dust-up in the evangelical world involves the upcoming meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC").  To give the short version--a pastor of a SBC church in Southern California "came out" as being gay affirming, first to his son (who, in turn, came out as gay) and then to his congregation.  The congregation voted not to fire the pastor, and instead to become a gay affirming church.  Al Mohler, the head of a key seminary for the SBC and a general big-wig, basically laid down a marker that the SBC needs to vote these folks off the island.  Various folks responded.  Etc.

A few thoughts.