Saturday, May 24, 2008

Part III: Solidarity and Sexuality

We are now in a position to see more clearly the direct interrelation between sexual ethics and human solidarity. To summarize succinctly: “Failure to live the ordo exstasis leaves unaffected the violence toward self and others.” Showing his deep connection with Benedict XVI’s thought, McAleer argues for a “politics of the family” which he finds in embryo in John Paul’s II’s thought. Let us reiterate Benedict XVI’s “politics of the family” so as to better see the close interconnection of ideas here:
This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.
Benedict closely weds marriage to political peace. From McAleer’s analysis we can see the close interaction between the two ideas. The goal of the political order is to “moderate the lust to dominate.” It is precisely the “hospitality” of the family, of sexual ecstasy, that allows for the moderation of the lust for domination. There is no other solution to human domination except for the one placed at the center of human flesh, the family as a fundamental institution, an “institution of hospitality counter to the city of man’s lust to dominate.” And just as the family is not structured in its governance on principles of equality, so governance in human society is founded upon the privilege granted to receptive hospitality. The foundation of society must be the gift of self.

McAleer argues that this principle is fundamentally antithetical to the principles of classical liberalism. Liberalism proposes equality, not hospitality, as the foundation of political society. Yet the inevitable trend of liberalism is rule through fiat rather than hospitality. The great fear of liberal society is that one not have more than another. There is thus an enforced “sameness” paradoxically imposed upon democratic societies that attempt to protect the “rights” of each individual. Catholic political philosophy, on the contrary, “has always been anti-utopian, an effort to moderate domination.” This is not to say that it does not aim also for peace. Domination is not in itself an evil. However, it is only through the moderation of domination that peace can be attained. Legislation founded upon this principle must not be for the sake of equality, but for the sake of hospitality. The privilege of ruling is founded upon the capacity of ecstasy, the capacity for participating in the ecstatic structure of Being.

We now come full circle back to the puzzlement many feel when coming into contact with the Church’s social teaching and sexual ethics. McAleer makes this point from the exact opposite perspective:
The tension within Catholic social thought stems from a failure on the part of Catholic social thought to develop a politics congruent with the Church’s traditional theory of the body. When thinking about the body, sex, and social order the church relies on ideas of privilege and hierarchy, yet in its consideration of the political the language shifts definitively toward rights, even if the natural law foundation of democracy is a departure from liberal thinking.
I have argued, with McAleer that, thought John Paul II often used the language of “rights,” his own theology of the body and political philosophy were intrinsically congruent. Benedict has followed in these footsteps, articulating a profound interconnection between the theology of marriage and peace in the human community:
The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family. But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family.
The two are profoundly interrelated, insofar as they are both called upon to participate in the self-diffusive structure of being. As each member of the human community strives toward greater ecstasy according to the wounded gift-structure, he or she will be able to overcome the propensity of material individuation to absorb the Other into oneself in order to depart from his or own form into the Other. Such a profound unity is at the heart of God’s plan imprinted in the natural world. It is encountered in the third ecstatic moment – the moment following self-conservation and species-production – when rational self-government, directed toward the unity of the entire social body, humbly takes on a standard other than itself. In the resurrected body, the wound “scars as glory,” and the interpenetration of one with another becomes possible. Dostoevsky’s mysticism of the resurrection joins Thomas’s anthropology of the resurrection where all are truly responsible for all through a “metaphysical conversion” that overcomes the self-absorption of material individuation. Only thus will relationships of solidarity begin to take form within the human family.

Dostoevsky prophetically illuminates the move toward social individuation that is incapable of “seeing” the responsibility of all for all. John Paul II and Benedict, to the puzzlement of many secular and Catholic onlookers, have closely interrelated sexual ethics with Catholic social thought. In this paper I have shown the inner logical connection between human sexual love and solidarity. McAleer argues that John Paul II’s sexual ethics is richly infused by a Thomistic philosophy of the body. I have applied this thought also to John Paul II’s principle of solidarity. Benedict XVI concurs that marriage and peace rest upon the same self-diffusive principles. He argues that the human family must be modeled upon the principles of a community rather than an aggregation of individuals. Political community is modeled on principles of “rights” and “equality” that result in domination. In a community, however, each makes himself less than the other, hospitably receiving the form of the Other in a liquification of Being. It is upon this mystery of the Christoform body that solidarity is founded.

Markel, SJ

No comments: