“Miracles” Do Happen by Jacalyn Duffin

7 09 2016

jaclyin
Kingston, Ontario — THERE was no mistaking the diagnostic significance of that little red stick inside a deep blue cell: The Auer rod meant the mystery patient had acute myelogenous leukemia. As slide after slide went by, her bone marrow told a story: treatment, remission, relapse, treatment, remission, remission, remission.

I was reading these marrows in 1987, but the samples had been drawn in 1978 and 1979. Median survival of that lethal disease with treatment was about 18 months; however, given that she had already relapsed once, I knew that she had to be dead. Probably someone was being sued, and that was why my hematology colleagues had asked for a blind reading.

Imagining an aggressive cross-examination in court, I emphasized in my report that I knew neither the history nor why I was reading the marrows. After the work was submitted, I asked the treating physician what was going on. She smiled and said that my report had been sent to the Vatican. This leukemia case was being considered as the final miracle in the dossier of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, the founder of the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal and a candidate to become the first Canadian-born saint.

As in the case of Mother Teresa, who was canonized Sunday by Pope Francis, miracles are still used as evidence that the candidate is in heaven and had interceded with God in response to a petition. Two miracles, usually cures that defy natural explanation, are generally required. For Mother Teresa, the Vatican concluded that prayers to her led to the disappearance of an Indian woman’s incurable tumor and the sudden recovery of a Brazilian man with a brain infection.

The “miracle” involving d’Youville had already been overturned once by the Vatican’s medical committee, unconvinced by the story of a first remission, a relapse, and a much longer second remission. The clerics argued that she had never relapsed and that her survival in first remission was rare but not impossibly so. But the panel and her advocates agreed that a “blind” reading of the evidence by another expert might provoke reconsideration. When my report confirmed what the Ottawa doctors found, that she had indeed had a short remission and then relapsed, the patient, who had prayed to d’Youville for help and, against all odds, was still alive, wanted me to testify.

The tribunal that questioned me was not juridical, but ecclesiastical. I was not asked about my faith. (For the record, I’m an atheist.) I was not asked if it was a miracle. I was asked if I could explain it scientifically. I could not, though I had come armed for my testimony with the most up-to-date hematological literature, which showed that long survivals following relapses were not seen.
When, at the end, the Vatican committee asked if I had anything more to say, I blurted out that as much as her survival, thus far, was remarkable, I fully expected her to relapse some day sooner or later. What would the Vatican do then, revoke the canonization? The clerics recorded my doubts. But the case went forward and d’Youville was canonized on Dec. 9, 1990.

That experience, as a hematologist, led me to a research project that I conducted in my other role, as a historian of medicine. I was curious: What were the other miracles used in past canonizations? How many were healings? How many involved up-to date treatments? How many were attended by skeptical physicians like me? How did all that change through time? And can we explain those outcomes now?

Over hundreds of hours in the Vatican archives, I examined the files of more than 1,400 miracle investigations — at least one from every canonization between 1588 and 1999. A vast majority — 93 percent over all and 96 percent for the 20th century — were stories of recovery from illness or injury, detailing treatment and testimony from baffled physicians.

If a sick person recovers through prayer and without medicine, that’s nice, but not a miracle. She had to be sick or dying despite receiving the best of care. The church finds no incompatibility between scientific medicine and religious faith; for believers, medicine is just one more manifestation of God’s work on earth.

Perversely then, this ancient religious process, intended to celebrate exemplary lives, is hostage to the relativistic wisdom and temporal opinions of modern science. Physicians, as nonpartisan witnesses and unaligned third parties, are necessary to corroborate the claims of hopeful postulants. For that reason alone, illness stories top miracle claims. I never expected such reverse skepticism and emphasis on science within the church.

I also learned more about medicine and its parallels with religion. Both are elaborate, evolving systems of belief. Medicine is rooted in natural explanations and causes, even in the absence of definitive evidence. Religion is defined by the supernatural and the possibility of transcendence. Both address our plight as mortals who suffer — one to postpone death and relieve symptoms, the other to console us and reconcile us to pain and loss.

Respect for our religious patients demands understanding and tolerance; their beliefs are as true for them as the “facts” may be for physicians. Now almost 40 years later, that mystery woman is still alive and I still cannot explain why. Along with the Vatican, she calls it a miracle. Why should my inability to offer an explanation trump her belief? However they are interpreted, miracles exist, because that is how they are lived in our world.

Jacalyn Duffin, a hematologist and historian at Queen’s University in Canada, is the author of “Medical Miracles” and “Medical Saints.”

Article Courtesy of the NewYork Times





Miracle Saves a Little girl’s leg: A story

28 05 2014

 Miracle Saves a Little girl's leg: A story

Bombilla de Petare is one of these poor neighbourhoods in the city of Caracas. This is where Rosa C. lives. She is a young black woman, married and the mother of four children: Tito, Juan, Grecia and Roomel. She works in the surgery of Dr Luis M. in the colonial zone of Petare.
The story centres on little Grecia, who was four years old at the time. On Saturday 8th February 1992, at eleven o’clock in the morning, she was being carried on the rack of a bicycle ridden by one of her brothers. By accident, one wheel went into a manhole which had been left half open. The heavy cover toppled right over onto the little girl’s left foot, which started to bleed copiously. Her brother lifted her up and carried her straight home, where their mother held the foot under a running tap. After a while, as it did not stop bleeding, she wrapped her daughter’s foot in a towel, and with a neighbour’s help, took her to a nearby medical clinic for poor people.
On Saturdays the number of people going to such clinics always increases greatly. Not surprisingly, when Rosa arrived with her little girl, she found the place crowded out. When their turn came, the staff just cleaned the child’s wound and sutured it, considering it to be of little importance. At her parents’ insistence, they took an X-ray that showed a fracture of the first phalanges of the second and third toe of the left foot. They prescribed anti-inflammatories and antipyretics, and the girl was then taken back home.
On the following day, 9th February, the front part of Grecia’s foot was badly inflamed. Her mother saw a yellowish discharge from the foot, and took her back to the clinic they had gone to the day before. The staff prescribed her some antibiotics, but by the evening the child had a temperature of 39 C.
On 10th February, seeing that the child was no better, her mother decided to take her to Dr Luis M’s surgery. It was one-thirty p.m. The doctor examined the patient, and saw that Grecia’s whole foot was swollen, purple-coloured and in a generally bad condition, she had a temperature of 40C. “The foot was very swollen,” the doctor writes, “and blackish in colour, looking very bad … The mother also brought me the X-ray … It looked dreadful, like gangrene; I said to her mother: Rosa, this looks very bad to me, I hope they don’t have to amputate her toe’, although inwardly I was hoping it would not be her foot they would have to amputate.”
The doctor proceeded to give intra-muscular injections of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and he himself took the child to the J.J. de los Rios Children’s Hospital in Caracas, where she was given minor surgery to drain the blister and take a sample of its contents. The hospital decided to admit her immediately, having made a preliminary diagnosis of a fracture of the first phalanx of two toes and bullous or blistering cellulitis on the back of her left foot. Antibiotics were administered intravenously.
Naturally, Rosa did not leave her daughter’s bedside. The day after she was admitted, the doctors announced that the only remedy was to amputate the two affected toes, because she had gaseous gangrene and it was resistant to the antibiotic treatment. The longer the delay in carrying out the operation, the greater the danger of the gangrene spreading
Her mother takes up the story: “On Tuesday morning Dr O., who was resident houseman for the ward, called me aside. He asked me whether I was alone and I said I was; he told me they were going to have to operate on the child to remove two of her toes because she had a gaseous gangrene, and I should call my husband … Dr Mary Carmen, who was the one who spoke to me most, and another doctor, said the same thing.”
Grecia’s parents, who were extremely distressed, could not decide whether to give their consent for the operation. It was only when Dr Luis M., whom they trusted completely, arrived that they signed the authorisation form. By then it was too late to carry out the surgery that day, so they decided to do it next day.
The gangrene disappears
For a long time Rosa had had devotion to Monsignor Josemaría Escrivá, and she had even encouraged other people to have recourse to his intercession in times of difficulty. That day, seeing her distress, a friend encouraged her to place the child under the protection of the Founder of Opus Dei. “The day before she had given me a prayer card of Monsignor Escrivá. That Tuesday, in the evening, Tere said to me: Rosa, pray to Monsignor Escrivá and you will see how he helps you.’ I then turned the prayer card head down and I told him that I was putting him like that, as though I was punishing him, because (people said) he helped the whites and people with plenty of money, but that he must take action and help me with my daughter, because I worked for Dr M. who has great devotion to him, and I had gone for several years to his Masses on the day of his anniversary in the church of the Chiquinquirá.”
After praying like this, Rosa laid the prayer card on the child’s foot and left it there all night. Then she recited the prayer for private devotion several times over.
The reference to Mgr Escrivá helping “the whites and people with plenty of money” was the echo of some unfounded criticism that had come out in the press during those days. It was the result of a campaign that a small number of people had organised with the intention of preventing the beatification of the Founder of Opus Dei, which had been announced for May of that year. Rosa thought the cure of her little daughter would refute this falsehood.
Next day, Wednesday 12th February, early in the morning, they took little Grecia to the operating theatre. When the surgeon removed the bandage, he found that the situation had changed considerably; the extensive inflammation that had existed a few hours earlier in the toes and the front half of the left foot, had completely disappeared. The same had happened to the purplish colour of the skin and the discharge. There was no gangrene, and so the operation was cancelled.
Her mother says: “About an hour later they brought the child back from the other block and the lady doctor asked me, Who did your daughter’s dressing yesterday?’ I replied that nobody had touched the dressing. Then she told me they were not going to operate on my daughter because there was no need … When they undid the dressing they asked me again, Are you certain you didn’t put anything on it?’ And I repeated again that no-one had even taken the dressing off.
“What surprised me most,” she continues, “was that the doctor should say that somebody had changed her dressing that night, when I’m certain that nobody changed it, and if anything I was afraid to touch her little foot, because she screamed whenever anyone so much as laid a hand on her foot. I remember too that both on Monday night and Tuesday night she’d cried a lot with the pain, but on the Wednesday morning, before they took her to the other block, she was quite calm, and touched her leg herself.”
At four o’clock in the afternoon that same day, the clinical notes record that Grecia’s temperature was normal. The inflammation in her foot continued to decrease and although it was still bleeding, the dressings did not smell bad. As a precaution, they continued treating her with antibiotics and the doctors decided to dress the foot every two days, until they could operate to set the fractures. Although the danger of gangrene had disappeared, the toes were still fractured and the phalanges were deprived of blood circulation, so that there was a very high risk of necrosis of the bones.
Grecia was kept in hospital until she could recover from the heavy bleeding (which had left her very anaemic) and the fractures could be operated on. However, for various reasons, the operation was not carried out. Sometimes this was because the girl had not been adequately prepared, at other times because the operating theatre was not ready. The fact is that on the 12th March, the little girl was declared completely cured. The fractured toes had mended without any complications and she had totally regained the use of her foot.
Clinical evaluation
Grecia’s bicycle accident had two pathological consequences. One was the infection that started the gangrene; the other, the fracture of two toes. The fractures meant that the bones would normally be deprived of blood circulation, with the consequent danger of necrosis.
In the judgement of the trauma specialist who was consulted by the Postulation, the reversal of the gangrenous process cannot have any exclusively natural explanation, bearing in mind how sudden it was. There are three facts that certify to the presence of a serious form of gangrene. 1) The trauma was a very severe one, as it is not easy to fracture the toes of such a young child, because they are still quite soft and mobile. 2) The clinical manifestations were very serious: high fever, intense pain, anaemic reaction, as well as the physical examination of the wound, which presented the characteristic symptoms of gangrene. 3) The decision to amputate was take by joint agreement of several doctors and was confirmed after consulting the opinion of the plastic surgery department. It was not a hasty decision, but one that was fully justified by the course the infection was taking.
This is the judgement of a specialist after an attentive study of the case: “This serious gangrene was cured clinically (sudden disappearance of the pain, the fever, the signs of inflammation etc.); radiographically (it has left no subsequent radiological deterioration; completely (without amputation of the foot or any substantial loss); without any treatment (apart from the antibiotics, the girl was given no medication on the previous day and the fracture-dislocations had not been reduced); and immediately (on the Tuesday she presented all the symptoms, whilst on Wednesday morning she had only partial loss of function). She was only kept in hospital, in the department of internal medicine, as an obvious precautionary measure, given the intensity of what she had gone through.
“Having considered all these circumstances, I am of the opinion that from the medical point of view Grecia G’s cure is inexplicable, and I can well understand the surprise of my colleagues who observed this cure at close quarters.”
Grecia’s mother cannot contain her joy and gratitude for the great favour. She has seen with her own eyes how God looks after all his children independently of the colour of their skin or their social standing.
“When they told me they were not going to operate on her,” her mother writes, “I thought, God exists, God is great and he has helped me. Straight away I phoned Dr M. and I said to him, Doctor, Monsignor Escrivá has worked the miracle for me!’ … And after he had worked the miracle for me I handed out his little prayer card to everybody in the hospital, telling them how Monsignor had helped me.”





Why do good people suffer?

14 05 2014

Why do good people suffer?

A “Daily Encounter” reader shared how she heard a religious leader state that, “Christian women don’t have miscarriages.”
I remember hearing a college professor saying that Christians should never be depressed. And still others teach that every Christian should be healed.
Statements like these are totally false and can make some people feel very inferior, that they lack faith, that they’re not good enough for God to care about them, and can cause them to become very discouraged.
God used Paul to heal people, but God didn’t heal Paul. Paul didn’t say what his problem was, but he prayed three times and the answer he received from God was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead, but John the Baptist lost his head — and stayed dead!
The reality of life is that we live in a broken world, and everybody, at some time or another, is going to suffer either from loss, a broken relationship, physical suffering,
sickness, mental breakdown, etc., etc. And being a Christian isn’t going to save us from human problems.
True, some people suffer through foolish actions or irresponsible behavior, some suffer because of neglect, but many suffer just because suffering is a part of the human condition. And some people suffer because God allows them to be tested such as Job, who suffered from terrible boils and the loss of all of his children and said, “When he [God] has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NIV).
And God allows some people to suffer so that “the work of God might be displayed in their life.”
Take the blind man in the Bible for example. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:2-3, NIV).
The important thing to remember, regardless of the cause of our suffering, God wants to use our problems to help us grow and become stronger, more sensitive and healthier Christians. On the other hand, Satan wants to use our problems make us bitter and to destroy us. Then faced with trials, with God’s help we can become better, or we can just become bitter.
And that choice is ours.
Suggested prayer: “Dear God, when trials come to me, help me always to remember that you want to use these to help me grow and to become a better person, also that you will be glorified. With your help I choose to become a better person. Gratefully in Jesus’ name. Amen.”





Dismantling The Da Vinci Code by Sandra Miesel

19 01 2014

Dismantling The Da Vinci Code by Sandra Miesel

“The Grail,” Langdon said, “is symbolic of the lost goddess. When Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends of chivalric quests for the Holy Grail were in fact stories of forbidden quests to find the lost sacred feminine. Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned non-believers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine.”
—The Da Vinci Code, pages 238-239

The Holy Grail is a favorite metaphor for a desirable but difficult-to-attain goal, from the map of the human genome to Lord Stanley’s Cup. While the original Grail—the cup Jesus allegedly used at the Last Supper—normally inhabits the pages of Arthurian romance, Dan Brown’s recent mega–best-seller, The Da Vinci Code, rips it away to the realm of esoteric history.

But his book is more than just the story of a quest for the Grail—he wholly reinterprets the Grail legend. In doing so, Brown inverts the insight that a woman’s body is symbolically a container and makes a container symbolically a woman’s body. And that container has a name every Christian will recognize, for Brown claims that the Holy Grail was actually Mary Magdalene. She was the vessel that held the blood of Jesus Christ in her womb while bearing his children.

Over the centuries, the Grail-keepers have been guarding the true (and continuing) bloodline of Christ and the relics of the Magdalen, not a material vessel. Therefore Brown claims that “the quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene,” a conclusion that would surely have surprised Sir Galahad and the other Grail knights who thought they were searching for the Chalice of the Last Supper.

The Da Vinci Code opens with the grisly murder of the Louvre’s curator inside the museum. The crime enmeshes hero Robert Langdon, a tweedy professor of symbolism from Harvard, and the victim’s granddaughter, burgundy-haired cryptologist Sophie Nevue. Together with crippled millionaire historian Leigh Teabing, they flee Paris for London one step ahead of the police and a mad albino Opus Dei “monk” named Silas who will stop at nothing to prevent them from finding the “Grail.”

But despite the frenetic pacing, at no point is action allowed to interfere with a good lecture. Before the story comes full circle back to the Louvre, readers face a barrage of codes, puzzles, mysteries, and conspiracies.

With his twice-stated principle, “Everybody loves a conspiracy,” Brown is reminiscent of the famous author who crafted her product by studying the features of ten earlier best-sellers. It would be too easy to criticize him for characters thin as plastic wrap, undistinguished prose, and improbable action. But Brown isn’t so much writing badly as writing in a particular way best calculated to attract a female audience. (Women, after all, buy most of the nation’s books.) He has married a thriller plot to a romance-novel technique. Notice how each character is an extreme type . . . effortlessly brilliant, smarmy, sinister, or psychotic as needed, moving against luxurious but curiously flat backdrops. Avoiding gore and bedroom gymnastics, he shows only one brief kiss and a sexual ritual performed by a married couple. The risqué allusions are fleeting although the text lingers over some bloody Opus Dei mortifications. In short, Brown has fabricated a novel perfect for a ladies’ book club.

Brown’s lack of seriousness shows in the games he plays with his character names—Robert Langdon, “bright fame long don” (distinguished and virile); Sophie Nevue, “wisdom New Eve”; the irascible taurine detective Bezu Fache, “zebu anger.” The servant who leads the police to them is Legaludec, “legal duce.” The murdered curator takes his surname, Saunière, from a real Catholic priest whose occult antics sparked interest in the Grail secret. As an inside joke, Brown even writes in his real-life editor (Faukman is Kaufman).

While his extensive use of fictional formulas may be the secret to Brown’s stardom, his anti-Christian message can’t have hurt him in publishing circles: The Da Vinci Code debuted atop the New York Times best-seller list. By manipulating his audience through the conventions of romance-writing, Brown invites readers to identify with his smart, glamorous characters who’ve seen through the impostures of the clerics who hide the “truth” about Jesus and his wife. Blasphemy is delivered in a soft voice with a knowing chuckle: “[E]very faith in the world is based on fabrication.”

But even Brown has his limits. To dodge charges of outright bigotry, he includes a climactic twist in the story that absolves the Church of assassination. And although he presents Christianity as a false root and branch, he’s willing to tolerate it for its charitable works.

(Of course, Catholic Christianity will become even more tolerable once the new liberal pope elected in Brown’s previous Langdon novel, Angels & Demons, abandons outmoded teachings. “Third-century laws cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ,” says one of the book’s progressive cardinals.)

Where Is He Getting All of This?

Brown actually cites his principal sources within the text of his novel. One is a specimen of academic feminist scholarship: The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. The others are popular esoteric histories: The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln; The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, both by Margaret Starbird. (Starbird, a self-identified Catholic, has her books published by Matthew Fox’s outfit, Bear & Co.) Another influence, at least at second remove, is The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker.

The use of such unreliable sources belies Brown’s pretensions to intellectuality. But the act has apparently fooled at least some of his readers—the New York Daily News book reviewer trumpeted, “His research is impeccable.”

But despite Brown’s scholarly airs, a writer who thinks the Merovingians founded Paris and forgets that the popes once lived in Avignon is hardly a model researcher. And for him to state that the Church burned five million women as witches shows a willful—and malicious—ignorance of the historical record. The latest figures for deaths during the European witch craze are between 30,000 to 50,000 victims. Not all were executed by the Church, not all were women, and not all were burned. Brown’s claim that educated women, priestesses, and midwives were singled out by witch-hunters is not only false, it betrays his goddess-friendly sources.

A Multitude of Errors

So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth. A few examples of his “impeccable” research: He claims that the motions of the planet Venus trace a pentacle (the so-called Ishtar pentagram) symbolizing the goddess. But it isn’t a perfect figure and has nothing to do with the length of the Olympiad. The ancient Olympic games were celebrated in honor of Zeus Olympias, not Aphrodite, and occurred every four years.

Brown’s contention that the five linked rings of the modern Olympic Games are a secret tribute to the goddess is also wrong—each set of games was supposed to add a ring to the design but the organizers stopped at five. And his efforts to read goddess propaganda into art, literature, and even Disney cartoons are simply ridiculous.

No datum is too dubious for inclusion, and reality falls quickly by the wayside. For instance, the Opus Dei bishop encourages his albino assassin by telling him that Noah was also an albino (a notion drawn from the non-canonical 1 Enoch 106:2). Yet albinism somehow fails to interfere with the man’s eyesight as it physiologically would.

But a far more important example is Brown’s treatment of Gothic architecture as a style full of goddess-worshipping symbols and coded messages to confound the uninitiated. Building on Barbara Walker’s claim that “like a pagan temple, the Gothic cathedral represented the body of the Goddess,” The Templar Revelation asserts: “Sexual symbolism is found in the great Gothic cathedrals which were masterminded by the Knights Templar . . . both of which represent intimate female anatomy: the arch, which draws the worshipper into the body of Mother Church, evokes the vulva.” In The Da Vinci Code, these sentiments are transformed into a character’s description of “a cathedral’s long hollow nave as a secret tribute to a woman’s womb…complete with receding labial ridges and a nice little cinquefoil clitoris above the doorway.”

These remarks cannot be brushed aside as opinions of the villain; Langdon, the book’s hero, refers to his own lectures about goddess-symbolism at Chartres.

These bizarre interpretations betray no acquaintance with the actual development or construction of Gothic architecture, and correcting the countless errors becomes a tiresome exercise: The Templars had nothing to do with the cathedrals of their time, which were commissioned by bishops and their canons throughout Europe. They were unlettered men with no arcane knowledge of “sacred geometry” passed down from the pyramid builders. They did not wield tools themselves on their own projects, nor did they found masons’ guilds to build for others. Not all their churches were round, nor was roundness a defiant insult to the Church. Rather than being a tribute to the divine feminine, their round churches honored the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Actually looking at Gothic churches and their predecessors deflates the idea of female symbolism. Large medieval churches typically had three front doors on the west plus triple entrances to their transepts on the north and south. (What part of a woman’s anatomy does a transept represent? Or the kink in Chartres’s main aisle?) Romanesque churches—including ones that predate the founding of the Templars—have similar bands of decoration arching over their entrances. Both Gothic and Romanesque churches have the long, rectangular nave inherited from Late Antique basilicas, ultimately derived from Roman public buildings. Neither Brown nor his sources consider what symbolism medieval churchmen such as Suger of St.-Denis or William Durandus read in church design. It certainly wasn’t goddess-worship.

False Claims

If the above seems like a pile driver applied to a gnat, the blows are necessary to demonstrate the utter falseness of Brown’s material. His willful distortions of documented history are more than matched by his outlandish claims about controversial subjects. But to a postmodernist, one construct of reality is as good as any other.

Brown’s approach seems to consist of grabbing large chunks of his stated sources and tossing them together in a salad of a story. From Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Brown lifts the concept of the Grail as a metaphor for a sacred lineage by arbitrarily breaking a medieval French term, Sangraal (Holy Grail), into sang (blood) and raal (royal). This holy blood, according to Brown, descended from Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene, to the Merovingian dynasty in Dark Ages France, surviving its fall to persist in several modern French families, including that of Pierre Plantard, a leader of the mysterious Priory of Sion. The Priory—an actual organization officially registered with the French government in 1956—makes extraordinary claims of antiquity as the “real” power behind the Knights Templar. It most likely originated after World War II and was first brought to public notice in 1962. With the exception of filmmaker Jean Cocteau, its illustrious list of Grand Masters—which include Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, and Victor Hugo—is not credible, although it’s presented as true by Brown.

Brown doesn’t accept a political motivation for the Priory’s activities. Instead he picks up The Templar Revelation’s view of the organization as a cult of secret goddess-worshippers who have preserved ancient Gnostic wisdom and records of Christ’s true mission, which would completely overturn Christianity if released. Significantly, Brown omits the rest of the book’s thesis that makes Christ and Mary Magdalene unmarried sex partners performing the erotic mysteries of Isis. Perhaps even a gullible mass-market audience has its limits.

From both Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, Brown takes a negative view of the Bible and a grossly distorted image of Jesus. He’s neither the Messiah nor a humble carpenter but a wealthy, trained religious teacher bent on regaining the throne of David. His credentials are amplified by his relationship with the rich Magdalen who carries the royal blood of Benjamin: “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false,” laments one of Brown’s characters.

Yet it’s Brown’s Christology that’s false—and blindingly so. He requires the present New Testament to be a post-Constantinian fabrication that displaced true accounts now represented only by surviving Gnostic texts. He claims that Christ wasn’t considered divine until the Council of Nicea voted him so in 325 at the behest of the emperor. Then Constantine—a lifelong sun worshipper—ordered all older scriptural texts destroyed, which is why no complete set of Gospels predates the fourth century. Christians somehow failed to notice the sudden and drastic change in their doctrine.

But by Brown’s specious reasoning, the Old Testament can’t be authentic either because complete Hebrew Scriptures are no more than a thousand years old. And yet the texts were transmitted so accurately that they do match well with the Dead Sea Scrolls from a thousand years earlier. Analysis of textual families, comparison with fragments and quotations, plus historical correlations securely date the orthodox Gospels to the first century and indicate that they’re earlier than the Gnostic forgeries. (The Epistles of St. Paul are, of course, even earlier than the Gospels.)

Primitive Church documents and the testimony of the ante-Nicean Fathers confirm that Christians have always believed Jesus to be Lord, God, and Savior—even when that faith meant death. The earliest partial canon of Scripture dates from the late second century and already rejected Gnostic writings. For Brown, it isn’t enough to credit Constantine with the divinization of Jesus. The emperor’s old adherence to the cult of the Invincible Sun also meant repackaging sun worship as the new faith. Brown drags out old (and long-discredited) charges by virulent anti-Catholics like Alexander Hislop who accused the Church of perpetuating Babylonian mysteries, as well as 19th-century rationalists who regarded Christ as just another dying savior-god.

Unsurprisingly, Brown misses no opportunity to criticize Christianity and its pitiable adherents. (The church in question is always the Catholic Church, though his villain does sneer once at Anglicans—for their grimness, of all things.) He routinely and anachronistically refers to the Church as “the Vatican,” even when popes weren’t in residence there. He systematically portrays it throughout history as deceitful, power-crazed, crafty, and murderous: “The Church may no longer employ crusades to slaughter, but their influence is no less persuasive. No less insidious.”

Goddess Worship and the Magdalen

Worst of all, in Brown’s eyes, is the fact that the pleasure-hating, sex-hating, woman-hating Church suppressed goddess worship and eliminated the divine feminine. He claims that goddess worship universally dominated pre-Christian paganism with the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) as its central rite. His enthusiasm for fertility rites is enthusiasm for sexuality, not procreation. What else would one expect of a Cathar sympathizer?

Astonishingly, Brown claims that Jews in Solomon’s Temple adored Yahweh and his feminine counterpart, the Shekinah, via the services of sacred prostitutes—possibly a twisted version of the Temple’s corruption after Solomon (1 Kings 14:24 and 2 Kings 23:4-15). Moreover, he says that the tetragrammaton YHWH derives from “Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.”

But as any first-year Scripture student could tell you, Jehovah is actually a 16th-century rendering of Yahweh using the vowels of Adonai (“Lord”). In fact, goddesses did not dominate the pre-Christian world—not in the religions of Rome, her barbarian subjects, Egypt, or even Semitic lands where the hieros gamos was an ancient practice. Nor did the Hellenized cult of Isis appear to have included sex in its secret rites.

Contrary to yet another of Brown’s claims, Tarot cards do not teach goddess doctrine. They were invented for innocent gaming purposes in the 15th century and didn’t acquire occult associations until the late 18th. Playing-card suites carry no Grail symbolism. The notion of diamonds symbolizing pentacles is a deliberate misrepresentation by British occultist A. E. Waite. And the number five—so crucial to Brown’s puzzles—has some connections with the protective goddess but myriad others besides, including human life, the five senses, and the Five Wounds of Christ.

Brown’s treatment of Mary Magdalene is sheer delusion. In The Da Vinci Code, she’s no penitent whore but Christ’s royal consort and the intended head of His Church, supplanted by Peter and defamed by churchmen. She fled west with her offspring to Provence, where medieval Cathars would keep the original teachings of Jesus alive. The Priory of Sion still guards her relics and records, excavated by the Templars from the subterranean Holy of Holies. It also protects her descendants—including Brown’s heroine.

Although many people still picture the Magdalen as a sinful woman who anointed Jesus and equate her with Mary of Bethany, that conflation is actually the later work of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The East has always kept them separate and said that the Magdalen, “apostle to the apostles,” died in Ephesus. The legend of her voyage to Provence is no earlier than the ninth century, and her relics weren’t reported there until the 13th. Catholic critics, including the Bollandists, have been debunking the legend and distinguishing the three ladies since the 17th century.

Brown uses two Gnostic documents, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, to prove that the Magdalen was Christ’s “companion,” meaning sexual partner. The apostles were jealous that Jesus used to “kiss her on the mouth” and favored her over them. He cites exactly the same passages quoted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation and even picks up the latter’s reference to The Last Temptation of Christ. What these books neglect to mention is the infamous final verse of the Gospel of Thomas. When Peter sneers that “women are not worthy of Life,” Jesus responds, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male . . . . For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

That’s certainly an odd way to “honor” one’s spouse or exalt the status of women.

The Knights Templar

Brown likewise misrepresents the history of the Knights Templar. The oldest of the military-religious orders, the Knights were founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. Their rule, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, was approved in 1128 and generous donors granted them numerous properties in Europe for support. Rendered redundant after the last Crusader stronghold fell in 1291, the Templars’ pride and wealth—they were also bankers—earned them keen hostility.

Brown maliciously ascribes the suppression of the Templars to “Machiavellian” Pope Clement V, whom they were blackmailing with the Grail secret. His “ingeniously planned sting operation” had his soldiers suddenly arrest all Templars. Charged with Satanism, sodomy, and blasphemy, they were tortured into confessing and burned as heretics, their ashes “tossed unceremoniously into the Tiber.”

But in reality, the initiative for crushing the Templars came from King Philip the Fair of France, whose royal officials did the arresting in 1307. About 120 Templars were burned by local Inquisitorial courts in France for not confessing or retracting a confession, as happened with Grand Master Jacques de Molay. Few Templars suffered death elsewhere although their order was abolished in 1312. Clement, a weak, sickly Frenchman manipulated by his king, burned no one in Rome inasmuch as he was the first pope to reign from Avignon (so much for the ashes in the Tiber).

Moreover, the mysterious stone idol that the Templars were accused of worshiping is associated with fertility in only one of more than a hundred confessions. Sodomy was the scandalous—and possibly true—charge against the order, not ritual fornication. The Templars have been darlings of occultism since their myth as masters of secret wisdom and fabulous treasure began to coalesce in the late 18th century. Freemasons and even Nazis have hailed them as brothers. Now it’s the turn of neo-Gnostics.

Twisting da Vinci

Brown’s revisionist interpretations of da Vinci are as distorted as the rest of his information. He claims to have first run across these views “while I was studying art history in Seville,” but they correspond point for point to material in The Templar Revelation. A writer who sees a pointed finger as a throat-cutting gesture, who says the Madonna of the Rocks was painted for nuns instead of a lay confraternity of men, who claims that da Vinci received “hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions” (actually, it was just one…and it was never executed) is simply unreliable.

Brown’s analysis of da Vinci’s work is just as ridiculous. He presents the Mona Lisa as an androgynous self-portrait when it’s widely known to portray a real woman, Madonna Lisa, wife of Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. The name is certainly not—as Brown claims—a mocking anagram of two Egyptian fertility deities Amon and L’Isa (Italian for Isis). How did he miss the theory, propounded by the authors of The Templar Revelation, that the Shroud of Turin is a photographed self-portrait of da Vinci?

Much of Brown’s argument centers around da Vinci’s Last Supper, a painting the author considers a coded message that reveals the truth about Jesus and the Grail. Brown points to the lack of a central chalice on the table as proof that the Grail isn’t a material vessel. But da Vinci’s painting specifically dramatizes the moment when Jesus warns, “One of you will betray me” (John 13:21). There is no Institution Narrative in St. John’s Gospel. The Eucharist is not shown there. And the person sitting next to Jesus is not Mary Magdalene (as Brown claims) but St. John, portrayed as the usual effeminate da Vinci youth, comparable to his St. John the Baptist. Jesus is in the exact center of the painting, with two pyramidal groups of three apostles on each side. Although da Vinci was a spiritually troubled homosexual, Brown’s contention that he coded his paintings with anti-Christian messages simply can’t be sustained.

Brown’s Mess

In the end, Dan Brown has penned a poorly written, atrociously researched mess. So, why bother with such a close reading of a worthless novel? The answer is simple: The Da Vinci Code takes esoterica mainstream. It may well do for Gnosticism what The Mists of Avalon did for paganism—gain it popular acceptance. After all, how many lay readers will see the blazing inaccuracies put forward as buried truths?

What’s more, in making phony claims of scholarship, Brown’s book infects readers with a virulent hostility toward Catholicism. Dozens of occult history books, conveniently cross-linked by Amazon.com, are following in its wake. And booksellers’ shelves now bulge with falsehoods few would be buying without The Da Vinci Code connection. While Brown’s assault on the Catholic Church may be a backhanded compliment, it’s one we would have happily done without.

________________________________________





Obama Fights Little Nuns: War on Religion by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND

4 01 2014

nun1jpg-065cf5f65d3ed5ae_largeWASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Justice registered its opposition to a temporary injunction for the Little Sisters of the Poor, after Justice Sonia Sotomayor directed the administration to respond by Jan. 3, 10am Eastern.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order of nuns who care for the elderly and the poor, had petitioned the high court for an 11th-hour reprieve, and, on Dec. 31, Justice Sotomayor granted a temporary stay, while requesting the administration to respond to the petition within three days.
“The solicitor general, on behalf of respondents, respectfully files this memorandum in opposition to the emergency application for an injunction pending appellate review or, in the alternative, a petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment and injunction pending resolution,” stated the Justice Department in papers filed with the high court at the Jan. 3 deadline.
The administration’s stance underscored its commitment to upholding one of the most contentious elements of the Affordable Care Act, even when the plaintiff challenging the law was a religious order dedicated to sesrving the needy.
The brief, filed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., echoed many of the administration’s past objections to an exemption for religious nonprofits and restated the importance of providing contraception and other services free of charge to female employees. It further argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to the Little Sisters’ specific concerns, and it noted that not one court of appeals had ruled on the merits of cases filed by religious nonprofits.
The White House has provided an “accommodation” for religious nonprofits that object to the mandate on moral grounds but are not exempt from compliance with the federal law. Under the accommodation, the government requires objecting religious employers to sign a self-certification form that allows the mandate’s provisions to be implemented by a third-party administrator. The Little Sisters contend that signing the form makes them complicit in the provision of services that violate their deeply held moral and religious beliefs.

‘Permission Slip’ for Abortion Drugs and Contraceptives
“The government demands that the Little Sisters of the Poor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives or pay millions in fines. The sisters believe that doing that violates their faith and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the elderly poor they serve to the IRS,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Little Sisters, in a statement released after the Justice Department filed its brief opposing a temporary injunction.
The Obama administration has defended its “accommodation” as a reasonable solution for religious nonprofits that oppose the mandate on moral grounds, arguing that nothing more is required than for the Little Sisters and other plaintiffs to sign a self-certification form.
But Rienzi said that the government’s insistence that plaintiffs sign the form suggested that the action was important.
“The government now asks the Supreme Court to believe that the very thing it is forcing the nuns to do — signing the permission slips — is a meaningless act. But why on earth would the government be fighting the Little Sisters all the way to the Supreme Court if it did not think its own form had any effect?” Rienzi said.
“If the administration believed its contraceptive mandate was valid, it would join the Little Sisters’ request for Supreme Court review because the government has lost almost all of the cases in the lower courts. Instead, its brief today is devoted to trying to keep the court out of the issue, which would leave hundreds of religious organizations subject to massive fines for following their religion.”
For-profit and nonprofit employers have filed a total of 91 legal challenges against the HHS mandate. The U.S. bishops have pressed for a broad exemption that would shield all employers who object to the mandate on moral grounds.
The Becket Fund is representing a number of for-profit and nonprofit plaintiffs that have filed legal challenges to the mandate, including the Eternal Word Television Network. The Register is a service of EWTN.
The Becket Fund also represents Hobby Lobby, a large craft-store chain, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral argument for this case in March, with a decision expected by late June.

Government’s Arguments
In the brief filed with the high court today, the Justice Department was intent on explaining why the legal issues in the Hobby Lobby case were different from the lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters, with the apparent goal of discouraging the justices from taking up this case or granting a temporary injunction for all religious nonprofits that will face massive financial penalties if they do not comply with the mandate.
“Applicants are not … situated like the for-profit corporations that brought suit in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius. … The employer-applicants here are eligible for religious accommodations set out in the regulations that exempt them from any requirement ‘to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage,’” stated the brief.
The Justice Department’s brief further noted that the religious order was covered under a “church plan,” which meant that it was “exempt from regulation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).”
While ERISA is responsible for enforcement of the mandate, church plans are specifically excluded from its enforcement authority.
Since the church plans would not be subject to enforcement, the government argued, the religious freedom of organizations holding such plans was not under threat.
The administration offered the same argument in papers filed in a Brooklyn court, where the Archdiocese of New York and four New York-area Catholic nonprofits sought relief from the mandate.
In that case, Judge Brian Cogan provided two Catholic schools and two healthcare services with a permanent injunction. He said the legal challenge had merit, despite the fact that the church plans were actually shielded from ERISA’s enforcement authority.
According to Cogan, “Plaintiffs allege that their religion forbids them from completing this self-certification, because, to them, authorizing others to provide services that plaintiffs themselves cannot is tantamount to an endorsement or facilitation of such services. Therefore, regardless of the effect on plaintiffs’ TPAs [third-party administrator], the regulations still require plaintiffs to take actions they believe are contrary to their religion.”

Other Concerns
In its brief filed with the high court today, however, the Justice Department acknowledged the plaintiffs’ fears that the self-certification form could be used in the future to authorize enforcement of the mandate. Such enforcement could be put in effect, stated the Justice Department, “if Congress were to amend the Affordable Care Act … to grant the government ‘some authority outside of ERISA to enforce’ the contraceptive-coverage provision or if the departments ‘promulgate new regulations that apply to church for the courts.’”
While dismissing the plaintiffs’ concerns as irrelevant in the short term, the government’s brief noted, “if relevant new regulations were issued, applicants could renew their request for injunctive relief in light of the changed circumstances.”
During a Jan. 3 conference call with the press, Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel with the Becket Fund, also noted another reason for the Little Sisters’ concern about signing the self-certification form. The Little Sisters had also contracted with another third-party administrator, Express Script, Inc. (ESI), a prescription drug provider, which is not a “church plan.”
During a Jan. 3 interview with the Register, Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer with the Becket Fund, told the Register: “ESI provides pharmaceutical drugs, such as Plan B and ella, and they have made no such guarantees [that they will not provide it to patients covered under their plans] and have no religious objection to providing it.”
The self-certification form “authorizes whomever receives it that they have permission to provide the drugs, and it is the means of reimbursement for ESI. Until Express Script receives that form, they will not get paid for the cost of the drugs,” added Bloomberg, who noted that the government accomodation provides incentives for third-party administrators to offer such provisions when religious employers refuse to do it directly.
He noted that, in papers filed with a lower court, the government had dismissed the Little Sisters’ fears about signing the form as an “invisible dragon.” In fact, said Bloomberg, the LIttle Sisters had every reason to avoid signing a document that would trigger such provisions. And he noted that when criminal conspiracy charges are filed, those who “give material aid and assist someone to do wrong” are also held accountable.

Next Step Is Unclear
It is not yet clear what steps the high court will take now. Rassbach said during the press call that the Little Sisters’ lawyers would file a reply with the court, but he could not provide a timeline for when Sotomayor, or the entire court, might respond.
Douglas Laycock, an expert on religious-freedom issues at the University of Virginia Law School, told the Register, “A stay for three days after hearing from only one side tells you that she takes the issue seriously, but it doesn’t tell you what the whole court will do after they hear from both sides.”
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.

Courtesy of NCR





We Wish You A Merry Christmas ! May God Bless You

22 12 2013

 We Wish You A Merry Christmas ! May God Bless You

The various enemies of Christmas have managed to remove from the public gaze most of its once common external signs. We see few mangers. Everything Christian is swept out or sanitized. What Christmas is finds itself removed. One might argue that things like the Christmas tree itself, the Yule log, or even sentimentalized snow are, in fact, steps to remove any specific Christmas meaning.

Christmas has become a “winter festival,” whatever that is. “Dreaming of a White Christmas” shifted attention from the feast to its atmosphere. “Adeste fideles” and “Silent Night” we still hear, of course. We try to be “joyful and triumphant,” as if the event of Christmas had nothing to do with what causes the joy. We are to be festive without a reason. The increasing emptiness of the feast gnaws at our souls.

Christmas is now a feast without a cause. Folks do not, however, want to give up the days off, the presents, the good feelings, the “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” So they are kept without the religious mood that caused them to come about in the first place. We have gone through this elimination of the Christmas theme before. But what interests me is why Christmas in particular, by all odds the most popular of Christian feasts, has found itself under such attack? We cannot even have symbolic signs of its significance or meaning. Why is Christmas feared? Why is it dangerous?

One reason is, supposedly, that it “offends” the sensitivities of those of other religious persuasions. They have delicate consciences. The older notion of “I will tolerate your quirks if you tolerate mine” is not present here. Christmas is what offends. Why is this?

Chesterton’s poem, “The Wise Men,” reads: “Step softly, under snow and rain, / To find the place where men can pray; / The way is all so very plain / That we may lose the way.” Christmas is feared because it is true. If true, it is dangerous. We cannot just ignore it, much as we try. “So very simple is the road, / That we may stray from it. / … And the whole heaven shouts and shakes, / For God Himself is born again….” We may stray from the road.

How odd to have a plain road on which we can lose our way. This not-wanting-to-know about “God Himself” born again is a voluntary act. We do not want to be reminded of the manger. We do not want to see those who actually rejoice in the Christmas Mass, in the family unity about the Holy Family.

We have instead warm colors, winter fests, animals, snow, presents. We do not have the manger, the angels singing on high. And the Word made flesh to dwell amongst us? This we do not want to reckon with.

          No fear here: “The Nativity with God the Father and the Holy Ghost” 
        (Giovanni Battista Pittoni, c. 1740)

If Christmas is just a myth, we can let it alone. But what if it is a history, an event, an account of what happened in the time of Caesar Augustus, “when the whole world was at peace?” We do everything possible to prevent ourselves from considering the implications of this fact.

Christopher Dawson once remarked that, on the morning after the Nativity, the leading papers of Jerusalem, Rome, or Athens – had there been such – would not have announced it. It was not important. From the beginning, the Nativity was only known by a few. It is an event that is “too good to be true.” But that is precisely what it is not. It is true. Its good is something we should know and want to know. Indeed, within the Christian corpus is the sometimes upsetting mandate to make this event and its consequences known to “all nations.” Even if they do not want to hear of it? It seems so.

The fear of Christmas is something even more basic, or perhaps more sinister. Why is that? It is one thing simply not to know something because we have never encountered it or thought about it. It is another thing when, having heard of it, we refuse to allow it to be known. We organize our polity in such a way that every obstacle is put in the way of knowing it.

We are not yet like the countries which seek to prevent private expressions or celebration of Christmas. But with developments such as our increasing denial that marriage is of a man and a woman, we belong to the same mentality. We have taken the first step, and perhaps more than the first.

Christmas is a dangerous feast. We fear it. We do not allow ourselves to consider it. Yet, somehow, we still envy those who know this feast of domesticity. “Unto us a Child is born.” “What Child is this?” If this Child is indeed “Christ the Lord,” what happens to us who make every effort to prevent its truth from being known?..Robert Royal

 

 

 





Immodest Girls Distract Boys In School And Vv By Benjamin D. Wiker

16 12 2013

Immodest Girls Distract Boys In School And Vv  By Benjamin D. Wiker

A few years back, in California, there was a young man at a state university who insisted on attending all his classes wearing only a backpack. (If only he had worn a fanny pack!) He was nicknamed “the naked guy.” The presence of this statuesque youth was disturbing. He was not rude, loud, or aggressive. The difficulty? He was sans-culottes, and then some.

The only amusing thing in this matter was that the university could not come up with a violation to pin on him — let alone a place to pin it. After several weeks of cheek-by-jowl conferencing, he was slapped with a sexual harassment charge, even though his mode of “harassing” was entirely passive, and given the boot (and, we hope, a traveling suit as well).

Why could the university not simply invoke the obvious: young men have to wear clothes in public because human beings, especially young women, have trouble concentrating sitting next to a naked man? Why could the university not admit that sexual immodesty directly disturbs the intellectual life? Why could it not draw a hemline and say, “Thus far and no farther”?

Because it had, like so many other academic institutions, abandoned any restrictions in regard to how students must dress. Having embraced both the slovenly and near-naked, the university could not find a way to regulate the naked.

Another example is from when I was teaching at a college without a dress code. I was having students give presentations on the Roman Empire. In one group, a young lady was playing the part of Julius Caesar — do not ask why. She wore a miniskirt made out of less material than a standard eyepatch. Needless to say, the young men were not engrossed in her intellectual presentation. I doubt they heard anything she had to say. Her immodesty absorbed their entire attention. As far as they were concerned, she was all body and no mind.

Those who defend such immodesty usually argue that a young woman has a right to wear whatever she wants, and the young men have no right to ogle her. On the contrary: It is not a question of rights but rather of nature. Just as it was natural for young women to be flustered in the presence of “the naked guy,” so it was natural for young men to be flustered oglers in the presence of a near-naked young woman. If he was sexually harassing the women, was she sexually harassing the men?

The Natural and the Conventional

Those who defend such immodesty do not, of course, call it immodest. A little etymology will reveal why. The Latin modestus means “moderate,” as in “keeping within bounds,” and it is derived from modus, which means “a boundary or standard of measure.” Those who have rejected dress codes have done so because they have rejected any boundaries, any standards of measure in regard to sexuality. Standards of dress and sexuality stand and fall together.

The principle normally invoked by the intelligentsia for the standardless standard is that clothing is merely conventional, whereas (we assume) skin is natural. The amount and style of clothing differs so drastically from Aborigines to Elizabethans to Americans that any standard is arbitrary. So the argument goes.

But this argument is misaimed. The focus must shift from the clothes, which do vary, to the human beings underneath, who in their essentials do not. Unless we are entirely Gnostic — and I believe that many trendy moderns are, at heart, ancient Gnostics — we must recognize that sexual passion is a human given. It is natural and not conventional.

Further, sexual passion is like any other passion — anger, joy, hunger: it is not continually “on” but becomes aroused. Hence, the barbarous but accurate phrase, “He [or she] turns me on!” This sudden flutter and consequent flow of hormones is natural.

But we are not defined solely by our capacity to feel and express passions. Human beings are, by nature, able to think deeply and come to profound insights. As the politically correct crowd rightly points out, the intellect is not the sole possession of white, western males but is a human endowment, shared universally.

Passion Cancels Intellect

And now the pinch. Science may be brought in to confirm the following, but that would only be to vindicate what almost all of us know by experience. Thinking deeply (which is natural) and sexual desire (which is natural) cancel each other out (which is natural). Our intellectual and sexual attentions are inversely proportional.

This relationship is not confined to sexual passion. Such distraction of the intellect occurs with most other passions as well: “I was so hungry, I couldn’t think”; “I was so angry that I wasn’t able to concentrate”; “He was so sad that his eyes were just running over the page — he may as well not have ‘read’ the book.”

Imagine trying to conduct a seminar an hour past lunch when nobody has eaten since breakfast, when all of the participants are as mad as hornets, or when all are mourning over a fellow student’s recent death. Can we admit that these other passions disturb our ability to think but exclude sexual passion? If anything, sexual passion is a stronger distraction. Thus, the more immodesty, the more distraction.

Furthermore, admit it or not, sexual immodesty not only distracts, it reduces. It reduces especially the young women to something less than they really are. Regardless of the current attempt to equalize sexuality, it has always been the case that the female’s sexuality garners a stronger attraction. A man half-dressed in class will appear ridiculous to the women and disgusting to the men, an embarrassment rather than a source of temptation. But a woman immodestly dressed throws the young men into dry-mouthed confusion. If it were any other way, then selling-by-sex industries, from prostitution to advertising, would not be almost completely dominated by the immodesty of women directed to the insatiable sexual appetites of men.

It is this simple: We are rational animals. The rational aspect of our being distinguishes us as human beings. The animal aspect of our being is the source of the sexual distinction between male and female. The university purports to teach our rational nature, that which least distinguishes male and female, not our animal nature, which is the source of the sexual distinction and the passion of sex. It follows that immodesty exaggerates sexual difference, while modesty allows for the dominance of the intellect where there is the least difference between male and female.

Feminism’s Consequence

This is not an abstract argument. I have seen the difference it makes when the differences between male and female are hidden, so to speak, by the drape of modesty (i.e., because of a dress code). When a young woman would go up to the board to demonstrate a proposition from Euclid, all eyes were focused on the board, and all minds were attentive to her words. If she were wearing a miniskirt, for those who were watching, her natural intellectual powers would have been canceled by her natural sexual powers.

In this regard, and many others, modernity has things backwards. It tries to make sexuality common by making it public and rationality private by making it relative and particular. Thus, we are invited to display our sexuality to everyone (regardless of gender) as if it had, in its origin and goal, the universality of intellectual pursuits, and we are admonished to divide our rationality as if it had the particularities of the body, such as gender. Hence, women’s studies are declared an intellectual province, while philosophy is taken to be provincial.

But against this, modesty in academia allows for the pursuit of wisdom because it does not confuse the universality and commonness of intellectual things with the particularity and exclusiveness of bodily things. The intellect naturally tries to embrace the whole of reality; the body naturally tries to embrace another particular body. The mind is open for the sake of uncovering truth; the body is covered for the sake of opening up to another body exclusively, that of one’s spouse.

*This is not a Manichaean position. Modesty acknowledges the body. It does not hide the body because it is ashamed of it; it veils the body because its sexual power is not an appropriate object of public display. Is that not what feminists have been telling us, that they do not want women to be sex objects? They have been right to say so and should follow through with the natural consequence: modesty.

In regard to academia, the need for sexual modesty is a recognition of what should be an obvious, natural truth. Neither males nor females should be distracted from the primary purpose of the university: the formation of the intellect. Whether it be from the fall or from the inherent powerful nature of sexual desire (or both), the presence of sexual passion in the classroom displaces intellectual passion. Institutions owe it to their students to minimize such distractions. Even on the mean level of economics, students are paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend such institutions of higher learning. Why pay for sexual passion? The culture is already saturated with it, and most of it is free. If the university is “selling” itself as offering what cannot be gotten elsewhere, then its focus should be intellectual, not sexual.








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