Augustine’s Confessions: At a Distance from God

Sunday, April 10, AD 2011

In Book 3 we saw Augustine’s fall away from the Church, in Book 5 we will see the beginning of his return. Book 4, however, is focused primarily on his years as a Manichean.

This is where we get the fairly brief description which is nearly all we have on Augustine’s longest romantic relationship:

In those days I lived with a woman, not my lawful wedded wife but a mistress whom I had chosen for no special reason but that my restless passions had alighted on her. But she was the only one and I was faithful to her. Living with her I found out by my own experience the difference between the restraint of the marriage alliance, contracted for the purpose of having children, and a bargain struck for lust, in which the birth of children is begrudged, though, if they come, we cannot help but love them.

We also hear a bit about Augustine’s life as a hot shot young rhetorician. In addition to his Manichean beliefs, he falls into consulting astrologers frequently, in part to learn the auspices when he’s entering major academic competitions. At one point, a magician of some sort offers to assure that he will win a competition, but although Augustine finds the idea that that stars and planets can influence worldly events appealing (and has no qualms about consulting astrologers and books of astrology) he recoils at the idea of the magician sacrificing animals to dark powers in an attempt to secure a victory for him.

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2 Responses to Augustine’s Confessions: At a Distance from God

  • It seems to me that St Augustine left his concubine when he was ready to go on another road. There was nothing in his situation – if one excludes class or tribal considerations – that would have prevented him from regularising his relationship into a proper marriage. There are quite a few men like that, who having decided that they cannot handle both whole- hearted service to their destiny and an ordinary family life, choose to give up on the latter.

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Augustine’s Confessions: An Elusive Love

Tuesday, March 29, AD 2011

Book 3 finds Augustine studying in Carthage. On the personal front, the adult Augustine accuses his late-teen self of being consumed by lust, but he hasn’t yet found a specific person to get into trouble with.

I had not yet fallen in love, but I was in love with the idea of it, and this feeling that something was missing made me despise myself for not being more anxious to satisfy the need. I began to look around for some object for my love, since I badly wanted to love something.

Of course, from his authorial vantage point, Augustine sees that what he was searching for in the most final sense was God. Lacking God to love, he sought about for other things — sex first among them — which he thought would fill that lack.

Yet even acknowledging that God is our deepest and ultimate need, there’s also something that’s very familiarly human about Augustine’s phrasing here.

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Augustine’s Confessions: Sin for the Sake of Sin

Monday, March 21, AD 2011

In Book 2, we find Augustine (the character) as a teenager, while Augustine (the author) takes the opportunity to think about what makes us sin. The connection will be familiar to us all. Augustine talked about Original Sin in Book 1, that tendency which we can see even in very young children towards selfishness in which we can see the rooted tendency towards self over others which is at the root of sin. But that selfishness of childhood is largely unthinking. It is as we enter late childhood and early adolescence we attain the ability to think about sin in a way much like that of adults, but with the drives almost unique to adolescence. Augustine sees this in his past self and doesn’t like what he sees:

For as I grew to manhood I was inflamed with desire for a surfeit of hell’s pleasures. Foolhardy as I was, I ran wild with lust that was manifold and rank. In your eyes my beauty vanished and I was foul to the core, yet I was pleased with my own condition and anxious to be pleasing in the eyes of men.

In this book, the story of what’s going on in young Augustine’s life (versus his examination of the human condition) struck me, with the ways that it seemed both familiar and alien.

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4 Responses to Augustine’s Confessions: Sin for the Sake of Sin

  • Transgression for transgression’s sake is a lot like drug addiction in that it takes ever increasing doses to achieve that “high.” What’s shocking to one generation is quaint and amusing to later generations. This fact should give pause to all those who delight in being transgressive as a sort of antidote to bourgeois sensibilities. One can only deconstruct and break down barriers for so long — eventually there’s nothing left standing at all, except for maybe the sheer force of will. There’s a reason we seem surrounded by “man children” and adults stuck in perpetual adolescence; someday we might be talking about “adult toddlers” the way things are going. If I were a Freudian, I’d say the future is all Id.

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  • as I grew to manhood I was inflamed with desire for a surfeit of hell’s pleasures. Foolhardy as I was, I ran wild with lust that was manifold and rank. In your eyes my beauty vanished and I was foul to the core, yet I was pleased with my own condition and anxious to be pleasing in the eyes of men.

    Change manhood to womanhood and you have me my 20’s (although I wouldn’t exactly say I ran ‘wild with lust,’ I was not a chaste young woman. And the sad thing is that I read Augustine’s Confessions in college and didn’t see myself in them at all.

    Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

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Augustine’s Confessions: Growing Up Human

Wednesday, March 16, AD 2011

The second half of Book I (Chapters 7 to 20) deal with the earliest years of Augustine’s life, starting with his infancy. One of the things I find kind of charming about this section is the approach Augustine brings to examining his earliest years:

I do not remember that early part of my life, O Lord, but I believe what other people have told me about it and from watching other babies I can conclude that I lived as they do. But, true though my conclusions may be, I do not like to think of that period as part of the same life I now lead, because it is dim and forgotten and, in this sense, it is no different from the time I spent in my mother’s womb.

This is one of those fascinating things about Augustine. He’s never just talking about himself and his memories, even if that is the theme which drives his narrative. He’s perhaps more interested in the experience of being human, and of humanity in relation to God, than he is in telling us about his experiences in particular.

Of course, when Augustine thinks about the experience of being human, he immediately starts thinking about original sin, and some find him rather dour because of this. Augustine is one of the few people you’ll find talking about infants sinning:

It can hardly be right for a child, even at that age, to cry for everything, including things which would harm him; to work himself into a tantrum against people older than himself and not required to obey him; and to try his best to strike and hurt others who know better than he does, including his own parents, when they do not give in to him and refuse to pander to whims which would only do him harm. This shows that, if babies are innocent, it is not for lack of will to do harm, but for lack of strength.

Read in isolation, this can sound rather cold and severe. Of course babies cry, they have no other way of making their needs known! But Augustine recognizes this, and indeed notes that people never blame or scold babies for being selfish, because of course they can be no other way.

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Augustine’s Confessions: Contemplating the Infinite

Tuesday, March 15, AD 2011

Book I of The Confessions seems to me to fall into two parts: Chapters 1-7 grapple with the very concept of an infinite and eternal God, while Chapters 8-20 discuss the human experience of growing up and attaining some degree of youthful self awareness. I’ll cover this first half of the book today, and the second half tomorrow, so that each post can be relatively short.

Augustine sets out to tell the story of his own life in relation to and in relationship with God, and he opens the book by addressing God. Right here in Book I, Chapter 1 we run into one of the handful of quotes from Augustine that practically everyone has heard, whether or not they actually know it comes from him:

[T]hou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.

That restlessness will provide much of the matter for Augustine’s story, but here he asks the more basic question of why an eternal and perfect God concerns himself with all too mortal and fallen humans:

How shall I call upon my God for aid, when the call I make is for my Lord and my God to come into myself? What place is there in me to which my God can come, what place that can receive the God who made heaven and earth?

This idea of God being in something while also being both infinite and the creator of all things is something which an inquiring mind must necessarily poke at, and Augustine pokes with a sense of imagination which seems, in some ways, oddly modern:

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3 Responses to Augustine’s Confessions: Contemplating the Infinite

  • “The universe is not some separate thing, but rather is encompassed and contained by God.”

    Perhaps only a fleeting thought in the mind of God. When thinking of creation, God and infinity, I tend to get a feeling of dizziness after a few minutes. In Exodus where God calls Himself I AM, the name has always struck me as very appropriate, because I rather suspect He is the only entity that truly does exist, which makes the contention of atheists that God does not exist truly hilarious. All the rest of creation “exists” at all solely by the Will of God. The fact of creation demonstrates to me the love of God, as it was completely unnecessary from His point of view.

  • “Too narrow is the house of my soul for you to enter into it: let it be enlarged by you.” – Ch. 5

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Augustine’s Confessions: Getting Started

Friday, March 11, AD 2011

For several years running, I did a series of Lenten reading posts focused on Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s been a couple years, and I never did cover the last couple cantos of the Purgatorio, for which I am sorry. Perhaps some day the time will be right to go back to it. However, this year I had the itch to re-read Augustine’s Confessions, which is a conveniently Lent-length work. And so as a form of discipline, and also in hopes it may be interesting or helpful to a few people, I’m going to write my way through Confessions this Lent in a way similar to the Commedia posts of past year.

Before plunging in, a few brief notes on what we’re getting into. The Confessions was written by Augustine when he was in his mid-forties, in 397-398 AD, just a few years after he was made bishop of Hippo in North Africa. This was ten years after his adult conversion to Christianity which is the culminating even of Confessions.

Confessions is a very approachable work. It’s about 300 pages long in a paperback edition and although it deals with a number of philosophical and theological issues, its basic format is that of a spiritual autobiography written in the first person and addressed to God. It is not only perhaps the first spiritual autobiography, but also the first book-length personal autobiography in Western Literature. Other classical writers had written about themselves to one extent or another (perhaps most famously Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars and Civil Wars and Xenophon in his March Up Country) but had always done so in the guise of a third person, objective history.

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10 Responses to Augustine’s Confessions: Getting Started

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  • St. Monica, pray for us.

    I have read them twice many years ago, now. My mother (RIP, my St. Monica) had recommended them. I cannot find the book.

  • College freshman Western Civ reading. I remember laughing as I highlighted “Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” We could all identify with that.

    Now I want to go back and read it, just so that my only memory of it is not a vague image of pear trees.

  • I read this awhile back and as I recall Augustine was all in a twist over stealing some pears. Other than that, couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Is this the one where he famously cries, “Lord, make me chaste. But now right now.” ?

  • Joe, I have always thought that what upset Saint Augustine most about the pears was that it seemed to him to be an example of evil for evil’s sake. They destroyed the pears not because he and his fellow hooligans wanted to eat them, but for the simple joy of destruction. For Saint Augustine this illustrated that there is a disorder deep in the nature of Man which he traces to original sin.

    A first rate introduction to Saint Augustine and his many, many writings is Peter Brown’s superb biography of the Bishop of Hippo:

    http://www.amazon.com/Augustine-Hippo-Biography-New-Epilogue/dp/0520227573

  • Don, Perhaps I need to reread it. I slogged through City of God (most of it) and found parts very profound, others incomprehensible (kinda of like a Dostoevsky novel). : )

  • That book changed my life. I love and HIGHLY recommend the translation by Maria Boulding, it’s very lively and fast, much like the original Latin (as far as I can tell). Many older translations are far more ponderous than St. Augustine himself was! He seems to have written the book in one ecstatic rush, and it races from beginning to end as one big love song to God. IMHO, anyway.

    I would never start with Peter Brown’s monumental and dense book — which, despite my love for all things Augustinian, I have never plowed through. Start with the Confessions, or with Fr. Groeschel’s small book about him. Or start with a collection of his sermons, they are all wonderful.

    There is a lot more to the pear incident. I think one of his main points there was that he did it because he was having fun with his friends, and that friendship (a good) can impel one to do things that are wrong. Part of the fun was doing something wrong, yes. But more than that, it was doing something wrong together. It is easy to dismiss St. Augustine’s worrying about a couple of pears as neurotic, but that is reading with 20th century eyes. He picked that story precisely because it was petty and “no big deal,” because no one could mistake anything about it for necessity or confusion or being ill-informed.

  • I am inspired to join you and add this to my lenten discipline. My copy is around here somewhere…. ah, here it is. It’s a Doubleday version, translated by John K. Ryan, who apparently was at Catholic University’s School of Philosophy, around 1959. I guess I’ll try to get through 1 book (chapter) every three days or so.

  • “But since all things cannot contain you in your entirety, do they then contain a part of you, and do all things simultaneously contain the same part? Or do single things contain single parts, greater things containing greater parts and smaller things smaller parts? Is one part of you greater, therefore, and another smaller? Or are you entire in all places, and does no one thing contain you in your entirety?” – Book I, Ch. 3

    St. Augustine… father of set theory? 🙂

  • Augustine also said, rather ironically to God:

    “Thou hast counselled a better course than Thou hast permitted.”

    This sentence always struck me as a moment of letdown for him.

Rank and File Conservatives & The Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage

Sunday, August 15, AD 2010

The proposed mosque set to be built near Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 attacks has brought a sweeping condemnation from both rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia. Now that President Barack Obama has weighed in the matter, seemingly supporting the effort, one can only imagine how this will be used in the fall elections. However, a rift has appeared to have been opened concerning the views of the rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia following the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker over same-sex marriage. Many of the conservative intelligentsia, along with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has either been silent or voiced the view that the wished the whole gay marriage issue would simply go away. This has led to bewilderment from some conservative voices.

The best Catholic tie in with the efforts to build a mosque on Ground Zero came from the famed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is Jewish. In his opposition to the mosque being built near Ground Zero, he correctly pointed out that Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.

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27 Responses to Rank and File Conservatives & The Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage

  • Which members of the conservative intelligentsia who aren’t also rank and file Republicans, have expressed opposition to the mosque?

  • There are plenty of natural law and non-religious arguments against homosexuality. It is not a natural co-equal with heterosexuality. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Men and woman are complementary, not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically.

    Homosexuals have significantly higher levels of: mental health problems, psychological disorders such as suicide and depression, sexual addiction and coercion, promiscuity, STDs, violence, and addictions of all kinds including alcoholism and drug abuse.

    Almost every society, primitive and complex, has had laws and taboos against homosexuality. This isn’t just a Christian thing. There will always be a visceral reaction to homosexuality because it goes to the very heart of the survival of our species.

    Where homosexuality occurs in the animal world, it is primarily a temporary condition, and when the opportunity presents itself, animals will copulate heterosexually.

    Two-parent heterosexual families, despite the exceptions, are proven over history, across cultures, as the better way for healthy child development. Healthy children produce healthy societies.

    It’s time, in my opinion, for a Constitutional amendment that establishes once and for all that marriage is between one man and one woman. Then we can put this issue to bed.

  • I was rather hoping you would offer some analysis as to WHY so many self-described conservatives are backing away from the defense of traditional marriage. I suppose it is because Americans of all stripes have internalized the notion that it is “mean” to express “intolerance” toward homosexuality. Genuine intolerance, however, including intolerance toward Catholics, remains quite socially acceptable.

  • discarding Western Civilization’s definition of marriage (2,000+ years) is simply a non starter.

    As pointed out above, it’s not just Western Civ’s definition, it has been humanity’s definition since recorded history, and likely pre-dates that as well. try more like 5,000+ years.

  • From what I can tell, those members of the conservative “intelligencia” who aren’t members of Fox & Friends or proprieters of talk radio shows have mostly remained in favor of religious freedom — as they should.

  • Try on this one, Bunky:

    “Rank and file liberal catholics and the liberal catholic intelligentsia united in outrage over tax cuts for the rich, not so with abortion.”

  • I was rather hoping you would offer some analysis as to WHY so many self-described conservatives are backing away from the defense of traditional marriage.

    I suspect you usually could not do this without making evaluations of their personal disposition and conduct, as in noting that some folk appear other-directed by default (Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher) or have been married four times (Theodore Olson), or make use of the self-description ‘conservative’ to obfuscate (Conor Friedersdorf).

    Someone on the payroll of The American Conservative or the Rockford Institute can likely also supply a dismissive commentary to the effect that those resisting this burlesque have neglected some deeper cultural deficiency which these resisters are too shallow to detect and about which we can do nothing in any case.

  • “Rank and file liberal catholics and the liberal catholic intelligentsia united in outrage over tax cuts for the rich, not so with abortion.”

    Fits alright.

  • Homosexuals have significantly higher levels of: mental health problems, psychological disorders such as suicide and depression, sexual addiction and coercion, promiscuity, STDs, violence, and addictions of all kinds including alcoholism and drug abuse.

    Same can be said of blacks. I don’t find that a convincing argument. If you’re going to oppose gay marriage on secular grounds, I think you have to rest on the procreation argument.

  • I’d postulate that people don’t feel as threatened by gay marriage as they are by Islam. Homosexuals never killed 3000 people in my backyard.

  • Tide turning towards Catholicism? Just today I read a credible report saying that in the last 10+ Catholic marriages have decreased. One point of view is that the religion is too strict and another is that it is not needed with modern thinking. I just had a conversation with a liberal who said life is a pendulum goes from one extreme to the other finding it’s way in the middle. I do not believe this that societies do go by the wayside, that they undo themselves, with no virtue to survive pop trends.

  • I don’t find that a convincing argument. If you’re going to oppose gay marriage on secular grounds, I think you have to rest on the procreation argument.

    Why don’t you try making the case FOR it? Start with an explanation of why male friendships which do not incorporate sodomy as part of their daily practice should received less recognition than those which do.

  • Art Deco, I don’t know why you want me to make the case for it but you asked so I’ll try.

    The closer the relationship, the greater the rights and responsibilities between them are. If we want to legally protect expectation interests, we will want to recognize intimately committed couples in ways that we don’t recognize mere friendships. We may also want to legally recognize friendships but that’s not at issue here.

  • RR,

    We have an association that is sterile and undertaken in a social matrix where sexual activity is treated as fun-n-games. Why should this be honored? Why is it deemed ‘closer’ than the fraternity that bound my father to the man who was his dearest friend for 48 of his 51 years? What are ‘expectation interests’? Why do you want to protect them?

    My question was rhetorical. The gay lobby wants this as a gesture of deference. The only reason to give it to them is that they will be put out by refusal. Lots of people do not get their way, and public policy is enough of a zero sum game that that is inevitable. For some, it is incorporated into their amour-propre to regard some clamoring constituencies as composed of those who are So Very Special. Then there’s the rest of thus, who are not so well represented in the appellate judiciary.

  • AD,

    We have an association that is sterile and undertaken in a social matrix where sexual activity is treated as fun-n-games. Why should this be honored?

    It shouldn’t.

    Why is it deemed ‘closer’ than the fraternity that bound my father to the man who was his dearest friend for 48 of his 51 years? What are ‘expectation interests’? Why do you want to protect them?

    I assume your father and his friend didn’t rely on each other for financial support. When people form an association with the mutual expectation that they take on certain duties, it would be unjust to allow one party to escape their duties at the expense of the other(s). It’s why we enforce contracts. If your father and his friend did have such an arrangement, it should be enforced.

  • I’d postulate that people don’t feel as threatened by gay marriage as they are by Islam. Homosexuals never killed 3000 people in my backyard.

    Neither have illegal immigrants, but that hasn’t stopped an upsurge in hostility and resentment towards them as a group.

  • Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.

    Nobody would object if those wanting to building the mosque volunteered to build it elsewhere. But who is the more honorable person? The Jew who welcomed the Carmelites or the Jew who told them to go somewhere else?

  • Neither have illegal immigrants, but that hasn’t stopped an upsurge in hostility and resentment towards them as a group.

    They ignored the law and act to frustrate lawfully constituted immigration policy. Can we have a wee bit o’ antagonism, pretty please?

  • I assume your father and his friend didn’t rely on each other for financial support.

    I cannot say if they borrowed money from each other or not. Ordinarily, working aged men are expected to be self-supporting if not disabled.

    When people form an association with the mutual expectation that they take on certain duties,

    Human relations are not commercial transactions and the law does not ordinarily enforce amorphous and unwritten ‘expectations’ that someone else is going to pay your rent.

    Right now, RR, I am pricing insurance policies. I was offered (unbidden) discount rates by the agent if I was in some sort of ‘committed relationship’ with some other dude. Uh, no, nothing like that Chez Deco, ever. I inquired about purchases for my sister. No discount offers there.

    Maybe sis and I can manufacture an ‘expectations interest’ and get you and Judge Walker to work on our problem.

  • And if it is written?

    Are you opposed to insurance discounts for spouses or for discounts for siblings?

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  • This article has a lot of interesting points. However, it rambles all over the place. The essay would have been easier to understand if it was broken up into three mini essays.

    There’s no intrinsic connection between the Cordoba Mosque, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. Why lament that some conservatives have an opinion on one topic but not the other? You might (rightfully) argue that the establishment of a mosque near Ground Zero does not carry even a tenth of the socio-moral import of same sex marriage. But the logical independence of the two questions renders party lockstep on the two issues irrelevant. Let the GOP/right/conservative rank and file make up their own minds about the relationship between these two variables.

    Gratuitous aside: I know that you and other faithful/orthodox Catholic bloggers must boost reparative therapy. To not do so would negatively impact one’s orthodox Catholic street cred. Still, one can be a faithful Catholic, live morally, and not support COURAGE. Indeed, I found the meetings emotionally intrusive and psychologically manipulative. I wish that the Catholic orthodox/conservative/right would think twice before lavishing praise on an organization and therapeutic model that at the very least has emotionally troubled some participants. Sing your praises only after attending a meeting or two.

  • Sorta Catholic, the beauty of writing an article for a blog or newspaper column is that you have the freedom to write it as you see fit. Perhaps, some would like shorter columns, while others may favor longer columns, the choice is up to the writer.

    As for Courage, the group’s spiritual mentor is Father Benedict Groeschel, his credentials are certainly good enough for me. Perhaps, the meeting you attended was not run properly. I can only tell you that the group is trying to impart the Church’s teachings in a world that has become enamored with self, and not with faith.

    As for orthodox-minded street cred, we aren’t trying to impress anyone only help spread the message of Christ through His Church. We have divergent opinions on a variety of topics, but yet we fall under the same umbrella of supporting the Church’s teachings. The longer you submit to the will of God, the more you realize the wisdom of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church. It really does make you a more content indiviudal, free from the whims of the modern world. Take care!

  • It is a shame that the likes of Beck, Coulter and Limbaugh would let their libertarian views get the best of them when it comes to SSM. Divorcing that from their preaching for conservative values is not the charitable thing to do when the eternal salvation of those who engage in homosexual acts is at stake. Frankly, by doing so, they are committing the grievous sin of omission. A priest in Texas recently made that point clear when he said that Catholics have a moral duty to oppose abortion and SSM.

  • By the way, one of my favorite journalists, WorldNetDaily’s founder Joseph Farah, hits the nail on the head of this issue in offering his take on why some conservatives are “capitulating” to the gay agenda pushers: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=192761

  • Hi Dave,

    A person that bases his or her judgement of an organization on the perceived reputation of a founder/leader/mentor in that organization commits the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority”. Now, Fr. Groschel is an upstanding authority. I respect him as a religious leader even if I do not agree with many of his points. Even so, the absolute metric for any organization is its ideology/methodology. Perhaps you’ve provided a rigorous defense of reparative therapy elsewhere on your website. If so, point me there. Otherwise, an appeal to authority without prior analysis of an institution’s ideology or methodology is rather insubstantial.

    Appeals to authority or subjective statements such as “X is trying to impart the Church’s teachings […]” sometimes hide insufficient research. Also, “orthodoxy” (i.e. strict adherence to a religion’s dogma/doctrine) does not guarantee the success or failure of a particular therapy.

  • Hi SortaCatholic, I hope your day is going well. I must say that I find these sorts of exchanges very interesting. I don’t believe my “Appeal to Authority,” is some sort of man made or earthly authority. You see I have worked for the Church in a number of capacities. I have seen the good, bad and the ugly. There is some great people who work for the Church and some really inept ones. I have always felt with all of these inept folks, the Church would have to be who she says she is to have survived 2,000 years!

    Perhaps someone at Courage might come across this and answer some of your questions. I do know that God does help us and prayer does work, but rarely in the sort of miraculous way in which we would like it to happen. God sorts and sifts us. We all have our own sets of problems, blessings, gifts, talents and struggles. I have always found Christ’s words of seek and you shall find, knock and you will be heard to be very true (Matthew 7:7-11.) In addition, I have always found this Scripture reading from Hebrews about God showing us the way through trial and struggle very revealing in my own life (Hebrews 12:5-12.) Take care!