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A Major Connection

We are back, safe and sound, from the somber journey to Peterborough and Wilton, two New Hampshire towns connected by the stretch of Route 101 that traverses a shoulder of Pack Monadnock. The weather was suitably awful, drizzling or pouring rain. After one of the worst nights of my life so far as getting some sleep goes, I had an even worse one through the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I had no idea, when it was time to get up (and for some time after), how I was ever going to make the trip back to New York. In the event, I'm thankful to say, the return was uneventful, and I find myself back at the project of renovating my life. The handwriting is on the wall: it's either that or a stroke. 

So here's what I've been thinking most about, when I haven't been worrying about myself and my aunt and my cousins.

From the very start, this Web log was intended, among other things, to help me to clarify big ideas by serving as a kind of sketchbook. In response to this or that newspaper story, chance event, or just plain sudden insight, I could doodle a few paragraphs and, later, see what worked and what the implications were, and then write something more comprehensive and coherent for a page in my Web site, Portico. For convenience's sake, I would archive sketches under the same rubric, such as "Against Television" or "The Augustinian Settlement." The latter group of entries concerns the sexual orthodoxy that was established in Western Christianity by about 450CE, and which, according to me, anyway, went unquestioned for centuries until breaking down under scientific and social onslaughts after World War II. Somehow, I never set up an archive for entries on the subject of Respectability, which, again according to me, was the code of public modesty and propriety that women in Western Europe utilized, inch by inch, to advance themselves toward equality with men. It was only last week that I saw how vitally connected the two issues are, and, in the process, saw how wrong I was to say that the Augustinian Settlement had gone unchallenged for fifteen hundred years. My very idea of Respectability began with the marriage of Martin Luther and Katerina von Bora in the white-hot 1520's. If that wasn't a challenge to Augustine's rules, I don't know what it was. It was also, I maintain, the beginning of the end of the old sexual orthodoxy that conservative evangelicals are now so frantically trying to preserve and to which they are determined to restore the force of law.

As I'm still a little tired and stiff, and also in the middle of putting together a bit of breakfast for the two of us, I will post this now and add to it later. I would just urge you to try to connect the authoritative writings of a Doctor of the Church, one and a half millennia ago, the rejection of clerical celibacy by a righteous Christian reformer, very nearly six centuries ago, and the mounting furor over homosexual equality, right now.



Souvenir of a comment spam storm, in which comments here were shut down by my Web host.

I am thinking about the question you posed, but have no coherent thoughts at present (perhaps later); however, having recently read the account of the proceedings of the Council of Trent in Diarmaid MacCulloch's Reformation, another parallel I'm pondering is the intrangisence of the papacy at that time and the exceedingly conservative position I perceive the Catholic Church to be adopting vis-a-vis current issues. Any thoughts?

There's no question that, from any imaginable liberal perspective, the Council(s) of Trent marked an enormous move in the wrong direction. As I recall, Mr MacCulloch traces a good deal of Catholic intransigeance to the characters of several important cardinals of the time. We tend to forget that the Church was a temporal power of no mean resources, and that it had at times in earlier centuries attempted to "enfeoff" secular sovereigns, so that the Pope would rule Europe in the civil sense as well as the spiritual.

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