Thursday, November 17, 2005

When is an act of love anti-love?

No, really, I'm asking you. What do you think? When is an act of love anti-love?

I ask because of Footnote 11 in JPII's Love & Responsibility. I am fascinated by this quote, but I can't quite wrap my mind around what it means and how it plays out in our lives. JPII writes:
"It is, of course, not enough just to want to affirm the other person for the consequent act (of goodwill) to become also an act of love. It is necessary in addition for the action undertaken with the intention of affirming another person to be objectively suited to the role which the agent's intention assigns to it. Whether it is or is not suitable is decided by the objective structure of the person affected by the action. Only success in understanding the other person and allowing when acting for that person's specific traits ensures that the act will be recognizable as a genuine act of love. An imperfect understanding of the structure of the object person must, in consequence become the source of (inadvertent and hence involuntary) action to the detriment of that person. The danger is all the greater in that utilization of the other takes place in the name of love. The agent is unaware of his delusion, and so immune from blame. None the less, the agent is responsible for an act of 'anti-love' . . . . because he loves. Only constant awareness of the danger of disintegration of love in this way (emotionalization) can help us to avoid it. Cf. Introduction o the first edition (Lublin 1960), p. 6, where the author postulates the need for 'the introduction of love into love'."

So, my darlings, enlighten me! Tell me your thoughts or questions about this passage.


50 ways to use your lover

If it is not okay to use a person solely as a means to an end, then what do we do with other persons? We LOVE them! Love is the opposite of using. If "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage", what comes before love?

The sharing of a common good or aim.

JPII writes in Love & Responsibility:
"Obviously, I may want another person to desire the same good which I myself desire. Obviously, the other must know this end of mine, recognize it as a good, and adopt it. If this happens, a special bond is established between me and this other person: the bond of a common good and of a common aim" (28).

Whenever two people share a common good, each of his own free choosing, then they see one other in relationship as equals. One is not "subordinated to the other," but rather both are "subordinated to that good which constitutes their common end" (29).

Unlike animals, love is "exclusively the portion of human persons;" love is predicated on free will, which animals do not posses as we do. Interestingly, just because someone shares a good end with another does not mean that they are truly able to love those others. It is possible to be utilitarian and to view another with a consumerist attitude while striving towards a good. Just because a man strives towards a good (i.e. protecting the unborn) does not mean he is willing to consciously pursue that good with others, subordinating himself to the good for the other's sake and subordinating himself to the others for the sake of the good.

JPII gives the example of employee/employer relations. It is clear that an employer can use his employee in a utilitarian fashion, to accomplish a company goal, but not really care about or get to know his employee as a human individual. They are both working towards a common good, but there is no love or common bond between them. (We are not yet speaking of romantic love here. Hopefully, that's obvious. ;-D) But it is also possible that both parties could be so persuaded of the goodness of their common aim, that they work together in a partnership, with an attitude akin to love, a camaraderie.

In marriage, it is possible that the man and woman acting together in their common sexual life, becoming one flesh (see Genesis 2:24), can use each other primarily as an object for sexual gratification. Married sex can still be selfish. JPII says the married couple should recognize that they share a common end. When it comes to married sex, the common goal is procreation, the creation of a family, as well as deepening the relationship between husband and wife. Dr. Janet Smith (Contraception: Why Not?) summarizes this point by saying that sex is for babies and bonding.

The couple value one another as persons, and value their future children as persons, and they are most likely to treat one another in accord with their dignity as human individuals. When it comes to sex, it's funny because people can actually mutually agree to use each other (i.e. porn actors, premarital sex). However, they are not supposed to. Also, it is possible that one spouse could be engaging in sexual intercourse with the other for the sole purpose of creating a child, in a utilitarian sense. (Not to mention that we cannot technically force conception. God controls life.) This would be also a selfish act, stripping love of the other person and the desire to grow in intimacy from the sexual union. Is this what was commonly practiced among Puritans in the early American colonies? Sex is for babies, but also for bonding.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Get Schooled

"Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge... Hear, my son, and be wise: and guide your heart in the way." Proverbs 23:12, 19

The ability to think and make decisions for one's self are prominent attributes of the inner life of a human person. Every person is capable by nature of determining his own aims (Love & Responsibility 27). If we treat a person as a means to an end then we are violating their natural right to decide their own aims. Is it therefore wrong to seek to mold your children into godly men and women? Is it a violation of someone's natural rights to try to convince them of the immorality/morality of certain actions when they hold a differing opinion?

JPII notes that we must demand that every thinking indvidual seek genuinely good ends. In fact, "the pursuit of evil ends is contrary to the rational nature of the person" (27). Both the education of a child and mutal education between adults revolves around the seeking of real goods (true ends) and helping one another to realize those ends. In "Person and Act", JPII observes that freedom is not found in " absolute independence" but rather in "a self-dependence comprising dependence on the truth" (162) The function of the human conscience "consists in making action dependent on truth" (163).

In any activity where another person is the object, including education, we "may not treat that perons as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact that he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends" (28). So, we should not go so far in seeking to persuade, educate, or mold a person in godliness that we are actually forcing them to act according to our wishes. This is a violation of their conscience, their personhood. Of course, this is a general statement; it is okay if a parent "forces" his child to clean his room by refusing to let the child stay the night with a friend unless he finishes his chore. This is in fact part of the parent's duty in disciplining the child and teaching him to be responsible. And, if a man were going to shoot someone on the street, there would be no moral violation of personhood in disarming him by reasonable force.

God Himself does not use human beings as means to an end. (My Calvinist friends are gonna love that ;-D) The late Holy Father has written:
"On the part of God, indeed, it is totally out of the question, since, by giving man an intelligent and free nature, he has thereby ordained that each man alone will decide for himself the ends of his activity, and not be a blind tool of someone else's ends. Therefore, if God intends to direct man towards certain goals, he allows him to begin with to know those goals, so that he may make them his own and strive towards them independently. In this amongst other things resides the most profound logic of revelation: God allows man to learn His supernatural ends, but the decision to strive towards an end, the choice of course, is left to man's free will. God does not redeem man against his will" (27)

The Catholic view of the Annunciation (when Gabriel anncounced that Mary would conceive the son of God) is that God was not forcing Mary to bear the Christ child. Rather, God's message to her was one that came with a choice. She gave her assent, her fiat, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." She is the second Eve, as Christ is the second Adam. Through Adam sin entered the world, but through the one man, Jesus Christ, the world was redeemed. Eve exerted her freedom of choice, her will, in disobeying God (presumably because she disbelieved in His good intentions towards her in forbidding her to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). Eve is the woman who said, "Yes" and became the doorway to salvation. God did not merely use her as a means to clothe himself in flesh, but He loves her and invites us all to call her our mother. Don't you want to have a mother who teaches you by her example to say "Yes, be it done unto me according to Your will, Lord"?