All things being equal: a contrast between celibacy and sterilization

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I recently read a provoking article in the Metro newspaper, often found scattered about in our local buses and subway transit system. It is entitled “The mother of all double standards,” and it rallies against the medical system which it accuses of offering permanent sterilization for men more readily than for woman.

 

We are introduced to Andy Prosserman who, though he never got a vasectomy in his 20’s because he “knew that this would be irresponsible,” did in fact get one at the age of 30. While I was under the impression that the journey of self-knowledge takes a lifetime, apparently 30 was enough.

 

In lieu of having kids, Prosserman is seen posing, ready for his new life of liberty and indulgence: in one frame of a six part montage he is seen holding a bottle of Glenlivet 12 year old scotch, in another a Nintendo controller, and in yet another his passport.

 

When I looked at these images of what must be at least in part the ideal life of Prosserman, I could not help but be overwhelmed by a sense of deep regret for this man, for the trade that he has made.

 

My reaction can be explained by another incredible social phenomenon.

 

Do you ever wonder why Isis has managed to capture the imagination of so many youth?

 

It is because we live in a world that tells us that scotch and video games, in other words unlimited personal indulgence, is the pinnacle of our existence.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

If someone told me that the meaning of my life was to stuff my proverbial gullet with as many pleasures as humanly possible before I died, I would go join Isis too. At least they understand sacrifice on some level, though they have a very twisted idea of what that means. At least they understand what it means to serve a higher cause, even though what they call a higher cause is actually darkness and death.

 

Our brothers and sisters join Isis because at least in the sands of the middle east, or even within the borders of their own countries, these young souls looking for meaning can die for something, because even the illusion of a meaningful sacrifice is more tantalizing than the alternative.

 

Humanity is made in such a way so that our own gift of self to the point of self-sacrifice is the very pinnacle of our existence.

 

It is said that Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve.

 

Meanwhile, Prosserman is going to find at the bottom of his scotch bottle his own emptiness looking up at him. One day he will ask himself, “Surely there has got to be more than this.”

 

What is disturbing is that the author of the article, Sofi Papamarko, doesn’t give any concern whatsoever for the wellbeing and the interior life of these individuals. She does not so much as ask as to whether permanently destroying the body’s capacity to produce life is questionable.

 

Her only concern: equal access for men and women.

 

Think about what happens to a society that favours equal rights, or anything for that matter, over a love and appreciation of life.

 

In The Gospel of Life by Pope John Paul II, it is pointed at that “in the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing.” (44) Nothing is more natural for living breathing beings than to bring life into this world, to continue their existence through their progeny.

 

From the eyes of this ancient Jewish people, we are all clamouring over one another to have equal access to a curse.

 

No one seems to care, just so long as access is equal.

 

Undoubtedly, at this point, someone will remind me that the majority of Catholic priests (there are some married Catholic priests) and all Catholic religious live celibately, which is to say they do not marry, nor have sex, nor have kids.

 

The first difference between sterilization and celibacy is sex.

Sterilization in modern western society has one purpose: to be able to have sex while undermining its natural result, which is children. They want the maximum pleasure, with the least responsibility. Turning the pursuit and goal of sex into pleasure, however, naturally cheapens it and makes it into yet another item for consumption. Thus, the love within flees before an ever greedy appetite for personal gratification, at no cost.

 

Celibacy, on the other hand, is focused towards giving life. A priest or religious does not renounce marriage, and by consequence sex and children, because they fear responsibility, or because “they know what they want.” They do it because they want to dedicate their lives in the deepest way possible to the glory of Christ, which brings life in the fullest sense possible.

 

Take the priesthood as an example:

 

The man who does not have the desire to be a father, should never be a priest.

 

For a priest becomes the father of all, the caretaker and the intercessor for every soul. If he lives out his vocation, he gives up the luxury of caring about himself, and learns to die daily for those he loves.

 

Likewise, I was once told that to become a contemplative monk in order to flee the chaos of the world was a terrible reason, and a false one. Those brave monks and nuns live cloistered lives so that their life may bring fruit in the world via their heartfelt prayers to the Divine who participates in all life.

 

The difference is enormous.

 

Prosserman sterilized himself so he could he could pleasure himself; celibate priests, monks, and nuns refrain from the beautiful earthly pleasures of marriage and children in order to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.

 

The former sees only himself, while the latter see everyone at once.

 

What greater form of equality is there than to see others before myself?

Being Clothed in the Real “I”

Sliding into public awareness with a new intensity is the discussion over dress codes; what should, and should not be allowed in schools.
 

While some are outspoken against the methods in which dress codes are enforced, others attack the very existence of them. Discipline can take on an unhealthy form and efforts should always be made to right these excesses.
 

However, dress codes in and of themselves are a powerful witness to the dignity of our children.
 

One man quoted on thinkpress.org argued that “as far as I’m concerned, what a woman wears doesn’t give a guy a right to do anything to them [or] say anything to them.” This argument quickly gains an audience because it invokes emotion, but it completely sidesteps any meaningful point in the argument.
 

We can all agree that clothing says nothing of permission. It cannot be denied, however, that clothing can make an invitation, whether intentional or not. But even to discuss this is missing the point.
 

In the same article the author provided the suggestion that men and women just want to be comfortable in the summer heat. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts is not putting anyone in danger of overheating; not the point!
 

We could discuss the fact that men’s and women’s clothing choices do create distractions in the classroom, but even this is missing the point.
 

We could delve into how dress codes supposedly violate freedoms, but that’s a bit like saying I have the right to shop naked, or drive on the left side of the road if I please. Even still, this is not the point.
 

All of these arguments are straw man arguments in comparison to the heart of what really matters for both our children and for ourselves. 

There is a greater and more profound issue underlying both sides of this debate.
 

What is a woman or a man?
 

Is a human being a person?
 

Or an object, like a bowling ball?
 

Or, are we people with personalities, with love to give and receive?
 

What is unavoidable about clothing is that it alters how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Our clothing is a reflection of our self-worth.
 

Any man or woman is free to believe that their worth is derived from being sexually attractive. They are free to believe it, but that doesn’t mean it is not a lie.
 

We are greater than that.
 

Sexual attraction is a necessary and enjoyable part of a loving and devoted relationship. To treat it as the means to which we find love is a recipe for disaster, landing us in relationships with people who are emotionally or physically abusive, self-centered, and unloving.
 

Why would we encourage this understanding of our sexuality?
 

What message is a fourteen year old girl going to learn from being allowed to wear a miniskirt at school? What message will she take to heart when some of the boys at school pay more attention to her because of her choice to bear skin? Is that the attention that is filled with love and respect, the love and respect our children deserve?
 

Highly unlikely.
 

If the only factor which motivated someone to speak to me was the fact that I wore more revealing clothing, then I would be far better off without their company.
 

If my skin is what motivated them, then clearly they only have their own selfish ends in mind.
 

Lust; not love.
 

To confuse the attention we receive from being loved with the attention we receive from being lusted after is a great tragedy.
 

I am not arguing that sex or sexual attraction are bad things, quite the opposite. Sex finds its greatest fruition (and its greatest pleasure) in a loving, monogamous, and committed relationship. Neither am I arguing that we should neglect our physical appearance, for doing so would be to ignore a healthy part of living in a community.
 

I am arguing that our intrinsic worth demands more out of our clothing choices, and that this “more” is reflected by balanced dress codes.
 

Some feminists claim that men seek to control women by controlling their clothing choices, reducing women to objects, things in their area of influence.
 

However, men and women of integrity argue that dress codes should be in effect because men and women are more than objects.
 

What many feminists do not realise is that rules and regulations are often designed to protect and mature the very people who obey them.
 

I argue that a parent who encourages or is unconcerned with their child dressing provocatively both misunderstands this inherent value and hurries their child along a path which leads away from authentic love.
 

No human person knowingly would ever take this path, but if it is the only path we know, then we walk it willingly.
 

Having dress codes is a meaningful first step (one of many hopefully), to teaching our children that they have dignity and value, that they deserve to be treated with love and respect.
 

It is not about distraction, it’s not about freedoms, it’s not about permission or invitations, and it’s certainly not about being comfortable in the summer.
 

It is about understanding the true meaning of living within human dignity.
 

It is about living in accord with the undeniable and bottomless value that every human being has for no other reason than that they exist and that they are loved.
 

This value is never earned, never increased, never diminished, and definitely not altered in any way by our sexual or physical appearance.
 

To teach anything contrary is a lie.

Belief (Part 1 of 3): Something More

Someone once said to me, “There has to be more out of life…”

 

What is this more?

 

I have walked to the brink of despair, and said these very words: “there has to be more out of life…”

 

Is it more video games? More ice cream? More sex? More late nights watching movies? More work? More entertainment? More time spent with friends?

 

What is this more!?

 

This question burns in the hearts of so many searching souls.

 

For some this question turns into a lifelong pursuit, for others it means only a temporary interlude until they return to the same rat race as before which lead to the despair in the first place.

 

One thing is clear: there is a more!

 

It’s not more stuff, more notoriety, more friends, or more money. It’s not more recognition, more power, more wealth, or more sexual freedom.

 

This more is something beyond the senses, beyond the happenstance of our lives.

 

Lately there is a rising notion that the more we search for is in the literal sense of the word: extra, surplus, addition, enlarged.

 

The height of this illusion is expressed most fully by a billboard I saw advertising for a beauty clinic, “A woman should only ever be two things, who and what she wants.”

 

Unless technology has surpassed my awareness, since when did we get the ability to change who we are like a character in a video game? It is simply not possible. Further, coming from a place which alters surface appearances to make a woman more “beautiful”, that’s a desperately shallow statement. They might as well say, “Change your exterior, that’s all you really are anyways!”

 

Here is the more they are ignoring: A woman’s beauty is intrinsically tied with her actions, her thoughts, her love, her compassion, her womanhood, her motherhood, her strength, her choices, her beliefs, and her resolution. It is a shameful lie to suggest that exterior appearance changes who a woman is, or a man for that matter.

 

Yet this is the more that we are being offered everyday. “Be who you want to be!” “Choose and customize everything you like!” “Choose your expression, your identity, and your existence!”

 

Except all these customizations are just surface level clutter. Your cell phone cover does not identify you anymore than having knockoff corn flakes in your pantry does. Having a maple tree in your yard does not increase your worth as a human being anymore than having a Ferrari.

 

The more we are being offered involves zero personal change and expects everyone around us to bend to our will. “If they don’t love you at your worst, then they don’t deserve you at your best.” This is the motto of the stubborn, the loveless, the selfish.

 

There is a more but it requires change, and not superficial change. We must be honest, great good only ever comes from real change! You can’t change the cell phone covers of every rotten politician and expect the world to be a better place. Likewise, giving an extreme makeover to every hate filled extremist will do nothing for the good of human beings.

 

Minds and hearts need to be formed by something that is greater!

 

This formation takes the external appearance of conformity, which is treated like death by North Americans. Conformity happens in thousands of different ways. For example, feminists expect people to conform to the idea of equal wages for both sexes. This is a good thing, a form of conformity which is directed towards the good. Thus, not all conformity is bad.

 

Conforming because I’m too lazy or apathetic to search for answers myself is definitely a bad thing, but lets stick with the good for now.

 

The greatest possible thing that could ever happen in the universe today is that every human person should allow themselves to be formed by universal and perfect love. Goes without saying. It is easy to agree about this.

 

Problem is, this formation requires self sacrifice! This conformity requires us to acknowledge that some forms of what we call “individual freedom” are actually acts of hatred towards others, towards life itself.

 

This is a great problem indeed, because now its no longer the world of me.

 

What a blessing is the fact that the world is not centered on me, or you, or any one of us.

 

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The expression of self gift is exceptionally more satisfying than any number of hours spent playing video games. The
expression of my love is a million times more fulfilling, even if its painful, than a lifetime of relaxation and indulgence. Yet if the world is centered on me, then playing video games and relaxing is the only priority I will have.

 

It is time to start living for others.

 

There is more; there is more that we can give and receive. Until this becomes a reality the burning questions surrounding the statement “there must be more in life…” will plague us until the sun ceases to burn.

For The Love of Women

Most people have an awareness of the amazing power of a seed.

 

Within one small apple seed lies the potential for generations of fruit and produce, enough to supply a family for decades. Such power should never be made little of, for without the seed there would be no tree.

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Within human beings a similar process plays itself out again and again. The seeds in human beings, however, are not physical objects, but thoughts, beliefs, and actions. The woman who wonders what change might be possible in society one day, may find herself years later at the head of a national movement for change. A man observing with openness the suffering of the poor today, may be inspired to create in his now unseen future, an organization that will feed thousands of the hungry over generations to come.

 

But, as always, with the good, comes the possibility for the bad.

 

Murder is the perfect fruit of hatred. It is the greatest hope and aspiration of what hatred is capable of achieving. As the seed of hatred grows and overcomes all other emotions, it becomes more and more capable of its final production: death.

 

In the same way, the perfect fruit of pornography is rape.

 

Lust, the antithesis of love, is a sexual taking, as opposed to giving. It is claiming that I have the right to take and use another human being. This taking can occur solely in the mind, or externally as the act of rape. The person with hatred in their heart claims the right to end the life of another, and the person with lust in their heart claims power over the body of another.

 

In the same way that idle gossip or anger directed towards an individual has the possibility to become the seeds of darker and more fervent hatred. So in the same way, sexual fantasies about another individual, or perusing pictures on the internet, can lead to the mindset that sex is my right, not a gift I receive. As the activists on my campus have pointed out, rape doesn’t always appear to be violent on the surface. It can be taking advantage of an intoxicated person or forcing our way with subtle coercion and emotional pressure. These less obvious forms are the most common fruits of lust.

 

Since lust is something which grows from a seed into something larger and more formidable, I must ask the question: Why is lust wrong? What law does it break, or what harm does it cause our fellow brothers and sisters?

I believe an apt analogy can be made between lust and slavery.

 

The reason slavery was abolished is because men and women are not objects.

 

If human beings could be objects, then no one should have any qualm over the practice of slavery. Owning a slave would be no different than owning a dog. So why, if we detest slavery so much, do we happily support the use of other human beings as objects through pornography? What is even more bizarre is the modern reckoning of pornography. The slaves were willing to fight, to give their lives to end slavery, as was seen in the later years of the American Civil War.

 

There are many feminists who fight for the right of a woman to be a prostitute, or to work in the pornography industry. This is akin to a black slave fighting and giving his life to ensure that the blacks would forever be slaves and considered to be a lower rung of humanity.

 

Few things could be quite so backwards.

 

Just as slavery was destructive to the lives, the spirits, and the hearts of the blacks, so pornography is causing the decay of both the users and of those who participate in its making.

 

One cannot work as a slave, being denied basic human rights, and come out of the experience without great wounds, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So why do we expect that women should be unscathed by the objectifying process of pornography; or that men’s minds won’t be warped by the use of it? The reality that this is occurring is present for anyone willing to take a sober look at our societal values versus the worth of a human being. Everywhere you see examples of human worth being equated to one lonely attribute: beauty. To equate a human being to beauty alone is like saying the only value of the entire earth and all its creatures, is its oil reserves.

 

Pornography may feel like it’s right because it exploits this one God given gift, our capacity for beauty. Pornography’s use of beauty is no different than a slave owners abuse of his slave. We pretend to be the masters of beauty, we subject it, whip it, dirty it, and make sure it is so degraded and shamed that it will never have the strength to break free. Maybe then, and only then, will we finally have complete control over beauty for our own purposes. Such a life, however, is a cage. Instead of capturing beauty, we imprison ourselves. We become slaves to beauty, it becomes our master as opposed to the other way around.

 

This is not a prison unfamiliar to humanity however, because it is the prison of addiction.

 

One may recognize the futile logic of an addict in the voices of the men who make claims like, “I have needs, and my woman can’t fill my needs, so I use pornography.” This statement is rotten, decayed, and completely devoid of love. It makes as much sense as a drunk claiming that he needs drink, and cannot function without it. In fact, the exact opposite is true. He will never be free to function until he gets sober.

 

Now, I want to make something completely clear. There is a vast difference between a man who is addicted to pornography and is struggling to become free, than a man who openly uses it without a concern. The man struggling for freedom will stumble, but he recognizes the truth, even though he does not have the strength to live it out, yet. Like an alcoholic trying to achieve sobriety, he will falter in his pursuit and pick up the bottle again, but he must never lose hope. In our efforts to be free of our addictions, in our weakness, strength grows.

 

There is always hope.

 

My prayer is that all feminists, male and female, will come to understand the destructive nature of pornography and fight for its abolishment as the blacks did to destroy the practice of slavery. Any man or women who claims to support feminism, and at the same time supports pornography, is simply a liar. I do not mean that in a condescending way, but as a statement of fact. The two are completely incompatible, and the gains of feminism will continue to be reduced and shoved backwards, so long as the other remains.

The Slut Walk: A Step Backwards

Recently as I was riding the bus home from work I saw an infamous poster which I had heard about from a friend. It was a poster advertising a “Slut Walk.” This was rather a shock given the assumption I was under that feminists only want what’s best for women.

About a month later I noticed another large billboard in the subway station which displayed a pie chart and stated that the men who rape women are 100% responsible for rapes committed against women. Again I was confused by this advertisement.

I’ve read the story about the Toronto police officer’s off hand remarks about a woman’s clothing choices and protecting herself from rape. It appears the organizers of the slut walk are attempting to redefine the stigma attached to the word slut from, a woman who is sexually unrestrained to, “someone who isn’t ashamed of their sexual, consensual proclivities”. (1) The only difference I see between these two definitions is that one contains shame and the other does not.

Why does the word slut have a negative connotation?

A woman, her soul, and her body are beautiful and sacred things. Due to her intrinsic value what a woman does with her body matters. This intrinsic dignity belongs to men as well, when a man violates a woman he violates his own dignity. My point is, sex matters. Sex is a meaningful act which contains both the ability to give life and the ability to give pleasure and connection. To say I want the pleasure but not that other messy function is to say that I love part of a woman, but not the whole. Perhaps the word slut has a negative connotation because it represents someone, male or female, who has denied their own human value, who has taken less for what should be more.

I stand for a world in which we love the whole person.

Therefore, I am strongly opposed to the slut walk. I see the slut walk as an opportunity to continue and propagate the same negative connotation placed on women for far too long. Show me a Modesty Walk in which women show that they are not pieces of meat, but whole human beings deserving of complete love and nothing less. That is a walk I would support wholeheartedly.

If the goal of feminism is to empower, raise up, and free women from the inequalities that have been placed on them, isn’t it time to recognize what the real goal is?

Is removing all responsibility from women empowering them?

No, quite the opposite. When someone robs a child we place no blame on the child, because we know that the child doesn’t know any better. If a grown man walks through a rough part of town, late at night, with gold chains hanging out of his pockets, who would be surprised that he got robbed? Was it his fault? No, he committed no crime, but we can blame him for a lack of prudence and common sense.

A mature adult analyzes their life choices and mitigates their exposure to unnecessary risks.

Ensuring my emotional and physical health is more important than wearing provocative clothing. I would encourage any woman, especially those I love, to protect themselves, to be smart and empowered females. As far as is possible for someone who has never been raped, I understand the horror of such violence. My argument is for women not to confuse pseudo freedom for authentic freedom. The slut walk is an endorsement for false freedom. On the other hand, taking care of one’s emotional and psychological health is true freedom. Together, we must grow and recognize a horrible solution to a gruesome problem.

Quote Citation:

(1): http://www.blogto.com/city/2011/03/the_origins_of_slutwalk_toronto/ The origins of SlutWalk Toronto, Posted by Derek Flack, March 11, 2011