Catholica Australia came into
being through a myriad of influences. Chief among them had been a mix
of both very positive and very frustrating experiences a group of us had
encountered in trying to conduct an open and inclusive discussion about
matters spiritual, theological and Catholic on the CathNews discussion
board. Another important influence though was a private discussion list
run by Professor Len Swidler in America that Milly and I were invited
to join by Professor Swidler following my meeting him in San Francisco
in 2004. He's named his list Katholica
and in fact the idea for our name came directly from borrowing Len's idea
in a name.
The characteristic that has most attracted me over the years on the Katholica
list is that here one has a collection of educated Christian people, predominantly
but not exclusively Catholic, who were discussing issues of faith, religion
and spirituality with enormous honesty and without "playing games"
trying to "please the Pope" or "please God" in the
hope or expectation of reward or career advancement. It was just "brutally
honest" discussion, quite often with serious disagreements in perspective
but overwhelmingly carried out in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood
and mutual respect even when one party disagreed with another. I think
in the entire time of my membership of that community I have only witnessed
one instance of "board wars" where Len and the moderators had
to intervene to get things back on an even keel. One of my dreams with
Catholica Australia has been
to try and emulate the atmosphere we have enjoyed in that cyberspace in
a more public environment.
Like Catholica Australia,
and all cyber communities and parishes I have ever belonged to, there
might be many members or, in the case of discussion boards, lurkers and
readers, in the main though the conversation is carried along by a relatively
small number of contributors. (In that place I am principally a lurker
these days but I do endeavour to always keep abreast of the roughly 20-30+
posts that appear in that place each day from all around the world. Katholica
has around 210 members and the conversation is basically carried by about
30 people who post and about a third of them would post every day.)
The other day I came across a post on Katholica
that I thought illustrated exceedingly well the sort of brutal honesty
we need back in our Church if it is to again re-connect to the people
whom it is meant to be serving. You'll find out more about the writer,
George Bouchey, through what he has to write. I have obtained his
permission to re-publish his posts here and he has in fact amplified them
so that they are free-standing outside the context of the original conversation
that triggered George to air these opinions.
The original context of his comments was a discussion on the Sexual Abuse
Scandal within the Church and in particulat discussion about the forces
that have triggered the abuse — and the cover-up. What he writes
also fits into the discussions we have had here on that subject from time
to time but also, more pertinently, to the commentaries we have published
over the last year on the subjects of marriage, relationship breakdown,
divorce as well as the changing perceptions educated Catholics bring to
their evaluations of what the institution might have to say on any subject.
These, I submit, are typical ofthe views of educated Catholics who have
"seen life", raised families through to adulthood, and who today
always synthesize what the institutional leadership might have to say
about any subject through the lens of brutal reality as they have experienced
it at the coalface of life. In the main the members of Katholica
are significantly older than myself and Milly and all of them have held,
and in many cases continue to hold significant positions of leadership
within the lay Church. …Brian
thoughts on the official Church attitudes to sex, marriage, relationships
and relationship breakdown, divorce by George Bouchey
I wonder sometimes if, in our culture, American Catholicism,
the idea of ''sex is dirty'', introduced to us early, is not a major culprit.
In contrast, Jung, who never made it into my K-12 curriculum, thought
sexual fulfilment was the closest humanity could get to God. I agree.
I'm inclined to think that most of today's teens have a healthier attitude
than when I was their age. Not all.
In a gender segregated talk by a priest in grammar school in 1944 we
boys were told there could be no pleasure in masturbation or illicit sex.
It ruined his creditability. All or almost all of us knew better. I remember
at the time that one of my friends breathlessly told us that masturbation
caused white hairs to grow on your hand and most of us immediately looked
at our dominant hand, while he laughed loudly. I never found out what
the nuns told the girls. They wouldn't discuss it. Probably no more credible
than what we heard.
I've often wondered if farm/rural children had a better attitude than
city children? Seems that observing farm animals would be educational.
Someone wondered if one could understand sex and sexuality without sexual
experience. Perhaps, but in the sense of looking through dark glass at
a bright object. Like understanding how a baby is delivered without doing
it? After sitting through labor five times I'm only sure I have a very
limited knowledge of what it feels like. It is the hardest manual labor
I've ever observed. And many mothers feel it is the most rewarding manual
In the time of Jesus, sex and sexuality was handled much more practically.
Betrothal was early, marriage was early teens, grandchildren arrived when
one was in their late twenties, and for many, death arrived in the thirties.
Teen sex was the norm and a necessity. This was relativity unchanged for
Today, puberty comes even earlier, the libido is intensively fed by society,
semi-nudity is in the underwear ads in the morning paper and everywhere
in the movies. Marriage is often, maybe usually, put off until after college
[age 22-25], or career establishment [age 25-35]. The libido doesn't turn
off. Attitudes are different. Hooking up when I was in High School was
primarily the pursuit of males after reluctant females. My observation
is that it has changed.
It's foolish to expect the libido to turn off until the middle 20s or
later. Society is different now. Females are taught to be full fledged
members of society, and while the percentage of males looking to hook
up is probably the same, my observation of teens over the last 13 years
is that the percentage of females has greatly increased.
teens, both genders, are in "love", but many if not most are
in ''lust''. Just as the males in High School 60 years ago scored and
thought "who's next", so too do today's teen females. I've identified
a few I thought were predatory. They learn from experience, thankfully,
and most become more judicious as they grow older, and get into the "significant
other" mode until they are ready or in preparation for marriage to
the "one". It's our God given human nature and free will in
action. Just say no? Doesn't work well at all. Libido and societal pressure
Am I approving or recommending unfettered sex because times are different?
Of course not. The younger one is physically and mentally when they achieves
sexual gratification, the less prepared they are to achieve its God given
benefits. There are psychological and physical consequences of unfettered
sex, not the least of which are confusion, disease or unprepared parenthood,
any or all life altering events.
Over the years I've come to believe that incompatibility in one or more
of Money, Sex or Children is/are the major cause of divorce. For some,
living together is an eye opening experience that may cause avoidance
of marriage problems. Some of course, do not learn, whether they marry
first or live together first, and have to try again, and again…
Our bodies, minds and societal custom seems to tell us
it's OK to have non-marital sex before marital sex. And there seems to
be a great deal of it, and the world has not ended.
Another difference in the time span from 2000 years ago is how should
we view the coupling of two people for life? At 75, I consider myself
in my fourth life. The first 25 as premarriage. the second 20 I was married
[didn't make the 25 year mark]. Then I was coupled again 'til I was 64
yrs, another 20 years, then 5yrs on my own until at 69, in 2000, I married
again. As I look back, I'm aware that I was a different character in each
segment. This was not a consideration when a life span was 35 yrs or less.
When I told Carole at 69 that I only had a 20 yr warranty,
she mentally did the math and said she wasn't going to worry about it.
I guess at 89 she didn't think I would do a drastic change like a trophy
wife. I think she's correct.
I remember reading a book review years ago, the author a woman who did
psych studies on Vietnam vets. She discovered a pattern of the men going
thru some kind of metamorphosis approx every 17 years.
I long ago decided that expecting spouses to always have a happy satisfying
life when the life spans were two or three times what they used to be
What are your thoughts on any of the issues
raised by Brian or George in this commentary? We encourage you to contribute
to the discussions in our forum. No changes can transpire in any community
unless people express their views honestly to those who set the policies
and culture under which each community operates.
Brian Coyne can be contacted at: Brian
Coyne <firstname.lastname@example.org> Brian is also happy to pass
on messages to George Bouchey.
[Sunday Reflections Archive]