A Double Standard or Just Plain Lack of Formation and Catechesis?

By Therese Ivers, JCL

For thousands of years, society held men less responsible for the sin of fornication.  Men “sowing their wild oats” was a “given” in society as opposed to the woman who was shamed because she was “damaged goods”.  The Catholic Church has always held that men and women are equally responsible for the sin of consensual fornication and adultery.  Today, we have an interesting societal phenomenon growing, in which women committed to perfect chastity are being held to a lesser standard of chastity than men who are committed to perfect chastity.  Along with this reversed double standard is the fueling of a false sense of scandal when public unchaste acts of women are discussed vs. those of men.

The practice of perfect chastity requires of both men and women from refraining from all unchaste acts, whether by themselves or with others.  Men and women who are formed for the reception of holy orders or profession of the vow of perfect chastity in continence in consecrated life are given years of formation to better understand this commitment.  The practice of perfect chastity is not limited to avoiding the sins of fornication, adultery, and sodomy.  Sins against chastity are multiple and include thoughts, words, and deeds.

When a person who is publicly committed to a life of perfect chastity in the Catholic Church (or who is otherwise a viable candidate for such a public commitment) has publicly acted in an unchaste matter and continues to defend that act, the very fact of doing so is the matter of scandal.  It is the very act against chastity that is the matter of scandal.  Pseudo scandal occurs when people wrongly attack those who discuss a public scandal, as if it were a sin against charity to discuss a public and scandalous matter. It is not a sin to discuss a public scandal.  The sin lies within the person who created the scandal to begin with.  They are the ones who sinned against charity of good example to the world by sinning against, in this case, perfect chastity.

The new double standard comes into play between the difference between the treatment of priest-scandals and those pertaining to consecrated virgins.  Take for instance, the scandals of the priest-pedophiles, priests who have been caught out soliciting for sodomous acts, and even the case of the priest wandering about a closed elementary school in his birthday suit [see here and here].  The news covered these scandals and numerous commentaries by Catholic theologians, laypersons, and others have discussed the public violations against chastity by ordained men.  The men have been disciplined, often laicized or required to do penance.

Then you take the cases of consecrated virgins.  For some reason, bishops and the faithful have been reluctant to require the same perfect chastity of them as they do of the ordained.  Consecrated virgins publicly state their resolve to remain in “perfect chastity” during the Rite of Consecration. They have the same or greater responsibility for exercising perfect chastity, in the sense that being a virgin is to embody all that is taught about virginity in a direct way.  However, the formation for fulfilling their obligation created by their consecration [not vow] is not standardized and often greatly lacking.  This, combined with a general ignorance of the vocation on the part of the hierarchy and laity alike contribute to the non-enforcement of perfect chastity of the consecrated virgins. Take the following as examples of this overlooking by the hierarchy and faithful of violations against the practice of perfect chastity by these women consecrated by God and who are required to be a model of not just chastity but virginity.

Last year, a woman who wrote about the unchaste love she experienced in taking off her top with her photographer [see here; warning: graphic images] was “consecrated” as a virgin [the validity of said consecration is in question due to the violation of the regulation that candidates must not have lived in public violation of chastity].  Giant blown up displays of the photograph of the said woman and others are displayed in galleries in countries around the world, and she is seen sans top with a scarf draping half of a private area [see here– warning: graphic images].  She is in a pornographic “art” collection objectifying the human female body in the name of showing people that women can be sexy despite having mastectomies.  This “art” collection in the galleries and in a book, includes fully nude women, many in provocative stances and some clearly lesbian.  The photographer was right when he said in shock on the news that he couldn’t believe a consecrated virgin would agree to be included in this collection [see this video of the photographer explaining her photo at the art gallery– warning: graphic images].

Another woman, a consecrated virgin, and professor of theology at a Catholic seminary, chose to promote nude photographs of athletes on her Facebook page in the name of artistic appreciation of the body.  Promotion of the dignity of the human bodies requires that they be clothed on this earth except for serious and moral reasons.  Photography and film of naked bodies for the delectation of the viewers is not a proportionate reason to unclothe.

While the violations are clearly scandalous in themselves, it is interesting that while those in holy orders are usually swiftly disciplined, some of those in consecrated virginity have not been [neither of the two highlighted above have been publicly rebuked by Church authorities or publicly retracted their support for their stances].  Both clerics and virgins are in public vocations in the Church and both are subject to discipline and oversight by the Church authorities.

Sometimes it takes public pressure for Church authorities to do the right thing.  We see this highlighted in the numbers of priests who got away with the abuse of minors until the bishops were confronted by lawsuits and public clamor to do what they should have done in protecting the faith and morals of their flock, and holding people committed to perfect chastity accountable for their actions.  The outcry is not forthcoming for consecrated virgins who publicly violate chastity by encouraging unchaste actions or participating in them themselves.

Perhaps a large part of the deafening silence is because many women are taught to “be nice”.  They are imbued with the false sense that to even discuss a scandal is sinful and “scandalous” or a “lack of charity”.  They do not realize that the scandal is in the violation of chastity and that the lack of charity is in the person who committed a public violation of chastity by the very fact that she is supposed to uphold a life of virtue.  When confronted with a public violation, they flee from discussion of it because of the discomfort they feel about condemning the violation because it may hurt the feelings of the violator.  They effectively do what the bishops and fellow priests did with the clerical abuse of minors, namely, they participate in the cover up of objectively sinful [and public] actions.

When will this double standard cease?  Let’s pray that it happens soon and that women be held by the Church to the high standards to which they profess.

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Consecration? We are all consecrated!

ship

 

With a click of the mouse, Ellen Campos posted the photos of her son online. She was bursting with maternal pride. A few thousand miles away on the other coast, Martina, Ellen’s cousin, saw the photos as she sat drinking her home brewed coffee. “Ben’s new uniform as a soldier,” was the caption she saw under the first photo of Ben Campos. Ben was in a crisp uniform with a stripe on his shoulders and a golden name badge. “Saluting the flag,” was another caption carefully typed by his doting mother. Martina almost choked on her coffee with a suppressed laugh as she caught a glimpse of that photo. In it, Ben was standing on the deck of a ship, facing the flag with his hand raised to his face. Only, as she knew, it wasn’t a salute. Looking at the shadows, it seemed more probable he was shielding his face from the sun.

Whipping her cellphone from the table, Martina put aside her hot beverage and began to text. “Ellen,” she began. Then she paused uncertainly. How does one tell a person very kindly but firmly that her son is not a soldier and that she might want to rewrite her captions? After a few moments, she decided it was better to call rather than text.

Ellen was not moved by Martina’s suggestion that she stop calling Ben a “soldier”. She hardly knew Martina since they had grown up in different states. In her eyes, Ben was a seafaring soldier. He had undergone training via DVDs and online videos, and read lots on how to become a soldier. Before signing up, he had practiced paintball shooting and even knew some martial arts. He had been a great scout, and could administer basic first aid. He had a very protective and caring instinct and whether he faced pirates, smugglers, or had to do a rescue mission, she felt he would do very well.

Suggesting that Ben was a private citizen was a tactical mistake on Martina’s part. In her world, private citizens were not the same as soldiers. Ellen triumphantly pointed out that there really was no difference between a private citizen and a soldier if they made a commitment, wore a uniform, and did basically the same thing. Thinking that reason and logic would sufficient to help Ellen see the difference, Martina appealed to the history of the armed forces, to the legislation creating them and governing them. Again, these were tactical errors. Ellen’s son was a soldier. It was his experience and it is experience that guides the tardy elites in the ivory towers, not the other way around. Laws? Too legalistic. Not patriotic. Patriotism demanded enthusiastic service in protection and rescuing and other duties on sea. Law and lawyers don’t know what they’re talking about.  The true patriot American soldiers are those who are led by their enthusiasm to wear uniforms, make commitments, and fight!  They are all American soldiers.

Patriotic Ellen put down the phone after the brief conversation with her cousin. She would keep the captions on the photos. In fact, since Martina seemed so full of herself and her navy shipman daughter, she would start writing about her son’s experience to show the world that it is unpatriotic to think that being a soldier is different than being a private citizen! She began to write on the internet about her “heroic American soldier son”.

There was a recruitment pamphlet on the dusty desk in Ben’s old bedroom. It was for the coast guard. Ellen’s eyes lit up as she read the pamphlet. “Proof!” She hurried to her trusty computer and began to furiously type. As the keys were tapped at the rapid rate of a firing squad, she kept thinking of the honor and feelings of her beloved son. He must not think that he had a second rate or inferior calling. No. At all costs his occupation must be defended as being the same as Martina’s or her daughter’s.

With great verbosity and mangled jargon, Ellen pointed out to the world on the wide web that Ben’s job matched the bullet points shown on the pamphlet. Fight smugglers? Yes. She could well imagine Ben keeping watch and fending them off. Rescue people? Ellen’s mind dwelt fondly on the mental picture of Ben rushing to the sea, kicking off his shoes and emerging a dripping hero. Serve his country? Of course, Ben as any other patriotic American was at the service of his country… Ellen’s efforts created a nano sized ripple in the internet wave…

Meanwhile, the daughter of Martina was stationed in an “undisclosed location” in the Middle East. She had not followed her mother’s footsteps in the coast guard, but had enlisted in the navy. Hers was the world of the tiniest of living spaces, mundane food, and tough watches. Her eye had caught Ellen’s posting and with great merriment and joking, she showed it to the other sailors. Salty wisecracks and roars of laughter were soon followed by mocking comments online. Soldier indeed!  The sworn and commissioned members of the country’s armed forces did not dream of how in Ellen’s mind there was precious little difference between them and Ben Campos.

As Mrs. Campos consulted critical sources online such as Moby Dick, Treasure Island, and a variety of naval literature found in her son’s footlocker, she became quite the expert on the armed forces. Her experience via her son informed her that the country was quite wrong to in a very “temporal” and “legalistic” short sighted manner insist on there being separate divisions of the armed forces and even subdivisions within them! The whole purpose was to fight and protect, she reasoned, so it is unpatriotic and wrong to have divisions. It only fosters a sense of inferiority with all these divisions of the navy, air force, army, coast guard, etc., and that isn’t right for the people with their feelings. Best to be truly patriotic and organize them in one group.

Recruiters in Ellen’s part of the country began to see her show up at their offices. She would picket them, derisive of the “unpatriotic divisions” caused by the separate forces. Her internet musings would burst forth from her passionately about how we should live peaceably together instead of instructing recruits about the differences between, say, the coast guard and the navy. Or, as her heart chilled at the thought, the difference between private citizens and the members of the armed forces. “My son is just as good,” she would console herself and would move on, denouncing the unpatriotic stance of distinguishing between the coast guard, navy, army, etc. They were no better than private citizens. An occasional politician would show sympathy, nodding at the meet and greets, or paying lip-service to the idea that soldiers are no different than private citizens. After all, nobody’s feelings should be hurt and we must be all inclusive!  Soldiers of all stripes and colors were soldiers provided they had the same goal!

People who were not connected to the military complex or idealistic youth would listen avidly to Ellen’s thoughts on private citizen soldiers. Ben was handsome in his uniform and he looked every inch the soldier sailor. Ellen may have mangled the military jargon, but she neither knew nor cared, and neither did her audience. For their part, the brass were so busy with real matters of urgency and could not fathom how she might get a devoted following that they forbore from official investigation and public censure of her opinions.

While she could have gone on in a career, boosted by the financial offerings of her fans, on a one-woman mission to eradicate all differences, divisions,and ranks, for the sake of patriotic love of the country, something happened to divert her thoughts. Ben was lost at sea! It had been a stormy night and he had been testing the lifeboat. Now he was nowhere to be found! She went to the navy seals because they leave no one behind. “Ben Campos?” They could not find Ben on their rolls. “Ben is as good as a navy seal so he is one,” his mother desperately demanded. Strangely, the navy was deaf to her pleas and would not initiate a search and rescue mission.

Ben’s mother was frantic with worry. She even went on board the ship when it docked and found a journal Ben kept. Contained in the journal were mysterious messages and symbols. Ellen, despite her sorrow and worry, could not resist the challenge of cryptography, that great art of communication which treated of the country’s greatest and dearest secrets! She pored over the journal, made notes, and began constructing a lexicon of her own. She borrowed from the scraps of military jargon she had heard of course, but as no language is ever too difficult for the determined, conquer it she would. Rapidly, within a few days, Ellen became the world’s foremost cryptologist and proclaimed it online. She began teaching her devoted followers – and all who were generally interested in the topic – and her writings now were half in English and half cryptic. She was the expert. Nobody who trained could equal her because she had experience to back her up. The cryptologists and famous ones of yore had nothing to her and should resign in shame.

The end.

Postlogue. The readers will be pleased to know that Ben Campos was rescued by the Coast Guard. He had been so exhausted battling the waves that it took a few days for him to use the emergency beacon. Ellen Campos was enraged because the reports read “Ben Campos” and he was not respected as an officer by the coast guard. She consoled herself with the thought that it was all temporal anyway and they were simply being unpatriotic in their treatment of her son.  She wrote gigabytes on the treason of the navy seals who refused to help their comrade at arms.

After his rescue, Ben quickly resumed his duties as a private security officer on the cargo ship.  One thing puzzled him.  He loved his pen and paper and never went on the internet.  So he could not quite figure out where he had left his jumbled notes on cartography.

Note: This is entirely fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living, dead, or fictional, is purely coincidental.

 

Discuss.

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Formation and Terminology

By Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV

Can a person persevere in a certain lifestyle?  Learn the charism of the institute or vocation?  Demonstrate ability to live the life in a generous manner freely without it being overwhelmingly difficult?  Learn the basics of the lifestyle?  Show promise of being able to flourish spiritually, mentally, physically, psychologically, [and for most vocations, socially]?  The Church requires formation for lifelong vocations, especially for candidates to the Marian and Petrine dimensions of the Church because it is not intuitive and to make sure that candidates are able to have balanced lives.

Those who do not undergo basic formation in institutes of consecrated life or the seminary are often ignorant of the theology and praxis of consecrated life or clerical life.  Moreover, they do not always understand the terminology or “jargon” that have specific meanings within the context of consecrated and/or clerical life and theology.  This is also occurs when, for example, a diocesan priest who isn’t conversant with the full theology of consecrated life attempts to found religious communities or societies of apostolic life without knowing the profound theological differences.  Misinformation can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Let’s look at some common errors people make who haven’t had a solid formation.

1)  The idea that chastity, celibacy, continence, and virginity mean the same thing.

2)  The idea that a person can have a profession of vows and not be a diocesan hermit or member of a institute of consecrated life.

3)  The idea that diocesan priests must be destitute to live up to their “vow of poverty”.

4)  The idea that secular institutes are an inferior vocation for men and women because by their nature they should not have members wear habits.

5)  The idea that religious brothers are clergy-lite and are a waste because they didn’t become clergy.

Can you spot what’s wrong in each of the 5 ideas?  Discuss.

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Jessica Hayes, Sacred Virgin (“Consecrated Virgin”)

consecration therese
My own consecration, August 15, 2009

by Therese Ivers, JCL

The news is replete with stories about Rev. Miss Jessica Hayes, one of the most recent virgins to be elevated to the Order of Virgins through the solemn Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity.  Of course, I took a great interest because she was consecrated August 15, on the 6th anniversary of my own consecration as a sacred virgin.  There was at least one other virgin consecrated on August 15th this year in the USA, but she hasn’t had nearly as much news coverage.  The media being what it is, and people not knowing what the vocation is, it is inevitable that people would not know what the vocation of a consecrated virgin is.  This is to help correct that situation.

What is the consecration of virgins?  First of all, this is a ceremony, where, after the virgin has expressed her willingness to accept becoming espoused to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the bishop prays a solemn consecratory prayer over her.  Through the ministry of the bishop and through that prayer, the Holy Spirit overshadows the virgin, and she becomes a sacred person, a Bride of Jesus Christ.  As the bishop  notes, the sacred virgin “renounces marriage for the sake of which it [marriage] is the sign”.  Yes, sacred virgins renounce human marriage to become legally married to Jesus Christ in the Church.  This is not a blessing on an already existing bond of marriage with Jesus, it is an overshadowing of the virgin by the Holy Spirit, and He bestows a “spiritual anointing” upon the virgin so that she becomes body and soul a virgin-bride of Christ.  Indeed, the Church teaches that the very first consecration of a virgin took place at the Annunciation, where the same Holy Spirit overshadowed a humble virgin in Nazareth.  Since then, countless virgins throughout the centuries have received this special anointing of the Holy Spirit and became the Bride of Christ.

Is this the same as being a nun?  No, it isn’t.  Jessica Hayes has not made a vow of anything in the solemn Rite of Consecration.  She proposed to observe perfect chastity, preserving her virginity for the remainder of her life (this Rite presupposes that one is a virgin because only virgins can mirror the Church fully as Virgin-Bride).  But the real action came from the Holy Spirit, who made her a Bride of Christ through the consecratory prayer of the Bishop.  Nuns make vows.  These vows help the nuns to get to Heaven.  They are a means to an end, and their usefulness will end at death.  Some nuns are able to receive this great grace of consecration of virgins at their solemn profession of final vows or a number of years after (like the Carthusian nuns).  This consecration to a life of Virginity is different than religious profession because it establishes an indissoluble legal nuptial bond between the virgin and Christ.

That means, unlike the nun with just solemn vows, the virgin’s nuptial bond cannot be dissolved or dispensed.  Historically, this is why St. Margaret of Hungary became a sacred virgin.  Her father, the king, wanted to marry her off and had even gotten a dispensation for her vows as a cloistered Dominican nun dispensed by the Pope.  She did not agree to the dispensation and to ward off any more marriage match attempts by her father, she asked for the consecration of virgins because it is an indissoluble marriage with Christ that even the Pope can’t dispense and she received it.  She and her relatives are the only Dominican nuns who have received this special anointing of the Holy Spirit as Brides of Christ because it is not the Dominican tradition for the nuns to receive the consecration of virgins.

Is the consecration as good as being a nun?  Our Lady received this consecration.  She did not make religious vows.  So did many other women throughout the centuries who were not nuns and are canonized saints.  Do you recognize the names of Saints Agnes, Lucy, Cecilia, Agatha from the Mass?  They were all consecrated virgins living in the world.  They received the same blessing from the Holy Spirit as Miss Hayes.  If it was enough for nuns to be known as brides of Christ, then Doctor of the Church St. Hildegaard wouldn’t have received the Consecration of Virgins over and above her Religious profession of vows in the Benedictine Order.  Ditto for countless women who were religious and received the Consecration of Virgins over the centuries including St. Gertrude the Great, St. Mechtilde, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Rosaline, etc.  Those nuns who don’t receive this consecration are missing out on a great blessing of the Church.

Is this consecration the same as making private vows?  No.  According to the Popes, this is a new grace that only happens through the ministry of the bishop.  It has always happened “in the face of the Church” or in other words, publicly.  Why?  Because the sacred virgin is the perfect image of the Church in her own virginal bridehood, virginal motherhood.  Private vows do not make an indissoluble nuptial bond with Christ- in fact not even religious profession does that with public vows.  Private vows do not make someone a sacred person.  Private vows do not call down a special spiritual anointing from God on the soul, an ontological change.  Private vows do not place someone in the Order of Virgins.  Private vows do not cause the graces the Church gives to the virgin in order to equip her to be a spiritual mother of all souls.

This was THE form of consecrated life for women from the very start of the Church beginning with Our Lady.  Religious life didn’t even begin until a few centuries after the Order of Virgins began with the Annunciation.  Like the diocesan priesthood, it is a vocation complete in itself.  Like the priest, a sacred virgin is free to join a religious community and make vows, but making vows is not an integral part of sacred virginity, any more than making religious vows is an integral part of being a priest (diocesan priests do not make vows; they promise obedience to their bishop and celibacy but they do not vow poverty like religious).

Jessica Hayes has chosen to receive this august sacramental.  May she persevere in virginity and be numbered amongst the virgin saints in Heaven!

(c) 2015 by Therese Ivers, JCL

All Rights Reserved.

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