The Personalist Project

Because some of our discussions of questions of sexual morality were becoming rather too detailed and explicit for so open a forum, we have closed them temporarily while we figure out how to continue them without crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

Just what those lines are is open for discussion.  On the one hand, the Christian personalists of this forum recognize and wish to defend and cultivate in ourselves and others a sense of the essential mysteriousness and intimacy of the sexual sphere.  On the other hand, there is a growing feeling, at least in many of us, that much more and much more open discussion is called for as part of the ethical task of Christian philosophers in our day. 

It may be seen as a valuable and necessary service to those who have honest questions, to those who are burdened by false or inadequate teachings, to those who are infected (perhaps without realizing it) by an inhibiting prudishness, to those who are in vocations (like priesthood, medicine, psychology) where sound and detailed ethical information is urgently needed…

The internet, while it has the “problem” (in this case) of being highly public, also has at least three distinct advantages for our situation.
1) It allows like-minded thinkers and questioners who are geographically far apart to “meet” each other in one place.
2) It allows for genuine dialogue, which is an especially fruitful way of approaching difficult ethical questions.  Thinkers can offer tentative opinions, raise questions, and challenge each other’s reasoning without having to dedicate months or years to research toward a fully-developed idea.  Ideas are worked out in communion with other minds.  “Onlookers” naturally imbibe a sense of how philosophy works and of how not open-and-shut many questions are.  Everyone learns.
3) The “virtuality” factor can be seen as a kind of protection.  Readers can enter the discussion and bring their experience to the table anonymously.  I know if I had a “sex issue” in my marriage, I certainly would rather go online for information from Christian ethicists whose basic vision and moral seriousness I trust than go to my parish priest and discuss it with him!

I’d love to know what others think.

Comments (21)

Michael Healy

#1, Jun 13, 2009 6:50am

The opening statement makes good points.

My problem with the “censorship” is that it doesn’t seem to have to do with the explicitness per se.  Dr. Seifert described Max Scheler’s rather graphic comparisons of animal sex vs. human sexual relations.  Dr. Fedoryka used very powerful descriptions in discussing what he called the sneak attack from the rear.  As long as aesthetic disgust and moral condemnation were the sole atmosphere of such discussion, all was well.  Dr. Seifert even professed how proud he was to have Dr. Fedoryka for a friend.

Then Janet Smith asked for some attempt to understand why the moral theologians writing for seminarians in the 50’s took the position they did: that certain acts should be regarded as morally dangerous and cautioned against but without universal condemnation due to differences in individual human beings, circumstances, and motivations.  I tried to answer that request by asking three questions that didn’t seem to fit under Scheler’s or Damian’s descriptions and which seemed to illustrate perhaps why the old manuals took the position they did.  In other words, my three questions, regardless of personal belief, did not follow the paradigm for absolute disgust and condemnation.

Then suddenly the site had to be closed down.  Is this the way philosophical discussion and give-and-take in trying to understand reality—and trying to understand why eminent orthodox moral theologians writing for seminarians took the positions they did—are supposed to take place?

Are these discussions not supposed to take place at all?  Are the answers to be predetermined, otherwise no discussion?  Are these discussions to be limited to only advanced theology for seminarians?  Are the married couples and lay people who have to make these decisions not supposed be educated truthfully in this area?

I am disappointed in the shut-down.

Jules van Schaijik

#2, Jun 13, 2009 9:28am

Would you also be disappointed if the discussion threads that deal with the nitty gritty details of sexual morality are somehow separated from the others, or have a warning attached to them?

That way people who prefer not to read such things can still visit the Linde.

Or do you think of that as a compromise of the Linde’s first principles?  (Not that we have published those anywhere.)

Michael Healy

#3, Jun 13, 2009 11:06am

No, I wouldn’t be disappointed at all in some sort of separation and warning for certain topics.  That would simply seem to be prudent.


#4, Jun 13, 2009 2:35pm

Katie, I agree with you that we need to have such a forum.  It may be possible to have it on your site by distinguishing them so that people may choose to participate in the forum that most fully meets their needs and expectations.

I am coming here very much as an outsider having never been in the academic world and certainly not in the august sphere of Catholic intellectuals.  However, I would like to give a perspective from the “blue collar” world in hopes that it may give others some insight into a real need that is in that world.

I have been reading for some time now about those who are offended by the way in which TOB and Church teaching about marriage and sexuality are being discussed and the language that is used in these discussions.  It seems to me that if one uses language that is too refined when speaking with people in this “blue collar” world whose common expression for the marital embrace would be either the F word, or screw around if they were really restrained, you would lose them almost immediately.  If an individual is used to using a very coarse language and is confronted with an excessively refined way of expressing things, I believe one of two things may happen.  Either they will not understand what is being said to them or they may experience deep shame at seeing how far they are from this sublime truth which could lead to feelings of guilt and then attempts to justify themselves by finding fault with some aspect of the teaching.  Whereas if a person were to meet these people halfway by using a term such as sex or possibly intercourse, they would be understood and much less likely to be rejected.

Our sexuality and the marital embrace are very holy, sacred things for sure.  However, they are physical things and sometimes the physical nature of them needs to be discussed.  Just as a priest needs to understand the sacred and holy nature of what he is participating in when celebrating Mass, he also needs to learn the “physical”, mundane aspects of his task such as purifying the vessels to avoid bacterial contamination.  We should not, I don’t think put any of this on such a high pedestal that we cannot comfortably talk with others at whatever level they are at.  Most of the world is not in the ivory tower of intellectual academia—particularly that rarefied atmosphere found in philosophy and theology!

I have very grave concerns about the very public interchange that has taken place concerning Christopher West and his methods.  My husband and I have been promoting TOB using Christopher’s materials for about eight years primarily for marriage preparation but also at the local parish level.  The results we saw, particularly in the secular people who were getting married, was phenomenal.  We had the pilot program using a more intensive marriage preparation for our whole diocese.  Other parishes were calling us because they were hearing such great things from those who had received the preparation from our trained couples.  And our couples weren’t trained that well—my husband and I were the only ones who had spent several years studying the material before presenting it.

We were using, I believe, Christopher’s first series for marriage prep that he developed in the 90’s—as you know he has refined things somewhat since then.  I would like to share with you some of the things that we heard from couples.  One man was in his 50’s and a history teacher at a high school.  He told us that he had learned more about his Catholic faith from listening to and discussing Christopher’s tapes than he had learned in 16 years of Catholic education.  That was in an eight week course.  Another older couple who had had previous marriages annulled, said that if they had heard this teaching when they were entering into their first marriages, they would probably have not failed.  Other couples went from contracepting and talking about never having children to inviting us to their baby’s Baptism a year after their wedding.  Another young woman who was from a very dysfunctional family setting wanted to get the tapes to give to her brother who was having marital problems. Christopher’s methods resonated with these people and they understood and tried to apply what he was saying to them in their relationships with very positive results.

Now this great program that was producing such good fruit is being undermined by those who are saying that they have been hearing that Christopher’s teaching is not sound and that it shouldn’t be used.  These are “orthodox” people who are saying this.

We have recently moved to a new area and were looking forward to beginning to present this teaching to the many university students who live in this area but are concerned that because of all of this negative public comment, we will be shut down before we can even begin.  We would use something else, but what else is there?  Most of the books that are written are much too academic to use with average people and I am not aware of anyone else who has recorded their teaching in the way that Christopher has.

We need people who can take these very deep philosophical, theological truths and bring them down to the level of the average person in such a way that they can use them in their everyday lives.  I believe that Christopher has done that in a way that no one else has.

Some of the people who are upset over the methods Christopher uses are those who think that it is an occasion of sin to talk about sexual issues as much as Christopher does.  Or they are those who say that Scripture and the Church teach that a woman must submit to their husband’s advances, no matter what.  To me these, modest, refined people have problems!  They are using, I believe, modesty and restrained speech as excuses to not look at their own disordered way of understanding sexuality.  Christopher mentioned that he gave a talk to men at a university well-respected for its Catholic identity and had almost all of the men admitted to having problems with pornography, masturbation, impure thoughts about women, etc.
They will not get better by hiding behind modesty and restrained language.  They need to understand that they need to bring these disorders into the light, the light of Christ, and deal with them humbly but without shame and guilt.

Some were not happy with Christopher being on public television.  I thought, to the contrary, that it was wonderful even with the distortions from the network.  Imagine the fact that the secular world actually heard that the Catholic Church has something positive to say about sexuality that doesn’t involve merely procreating and filling the world with Catholics!  So what if it was somewhat distorted, it may actually lead someone to look into it and hear truth.

If you think I have said anything of value, I hope that you will share it with those who are publicly criticizing and undermining the work that Christopher is doing.  I don’t know if they really understand the far-reaching effect their debate is having in the Church.

Michael Healy

#5, Jun 13, 2009 3:22pm

This is a tremendous witness to the need for straight talk about these matters and the real challenge of meeting people where they are, if we are ever to get them interested at all and ready to look deeper.  This is where Christopher West is a real master whom we can learn from, even if others may be more careful and refined.  Thanks for sharing.

Scott Johnston

#6, Jun 13, 2009 3:31pm

Katie, is there a way that you could arrange through the blog controls for people to “opt in” for certain discussion threads? Perhaps just an intervening pop-up box, or a comment that remains at the top of certain threads, that states that this discussion may contain explicit subjects of a sexual nature that, while not pornographic, may be offensive to some people.

If you could simply put in place a simple opt-in feature for certain threads, you could still leave the comments open to anyone, being satisfied that anyone who remains has been fairly notified of the sort of discussion that follows.

As far as original posts that contain material that could be problematic for some people, you could simply lay out such posts so that nothing sexually explicit appears before the break (on the main page). Include a standard warning at the end of the home page entry (before the “read on” link), that this post contains explicit sexual matter. This way, as well, nothing appears on the main blog page that is explicit, and, people are alerted that they will read explicit content if they click the “read on” of a particular post.

Again, this way, nothing is kept back from the public discussion; you would simply be incorporating a way of giving fair notice to those who would appreciate this.

Jules van Schaijik

#7, Jun 13, 2009 4:03pm

I like this suggestion Scott.

The other idea we have been thinking of (thanks to a suggestion by J. Seifert) is a sub-section of the Linde on sexual morality.

Your idea has the advantage of keeping all entries on one page.

Katie van Schaijik

#8, Jun 13, 2009 4:19pm

There’s a disadvantage to this idea, too (I mean the idea of laying out posts carefully).  Namely, that some of our most explicit discussions might come in the comments box rather than the original post.  And if that’s the case, readers could end up reading them without due warning.  Or have I misunderstood something?  I lend as little mental attention to technical things as I can manage to get away with.

Scott Johnston

#9, Jun 13, 2009 4:58pm

Katie, I’m thinking that perhaps there could be two sorts of warnings. One would be in association with original post, if warranted. The second sort would be associated with the comments box, as needed. There might be original posts that do not warrant a warning but generate comments that would call for a fair warning.

Perhaps a way of distinguishing two sorts of warnings—for posts vs. comments—and attaching them respectively with posts or comments, would be helpful.

Katie van Schaijik

#10, Jun 13, 2009 5:15pm

I think I’d start to find all those warnings rather irritating.  Much better, it seems to me, to have a sort of separate room where these things can be discussed without repeated warnings.  Those who enter will be clearly advised of what they can expect to encounter.

Jules van Schaijik

#11, Jun 13, 2009 5:18pm

I am thinking it could work with tags.  Something like “caution,” which could be added later, if some comments make it necessary.  Also, one could just show the title of these entries, in which case there one hardly needs to adjust the entry (only the title).

But the separate section might be better.

Katie van Schaijik

#12, Jun 13, 2009 5:29pm

Same as what I said above.  Who wants to hang-out in an internet tavern with “caution!” signs all over the place?

Scott Johnston

#13, Jun 15, 2009 3:04pm

Perhaps, another way to denote comment threads of an explicit nature, would be to append a remark after the title of the original post which is repeated in the heading at the top of the comment thread, after, “Re:” (eg. the top of this thread is labeled, “Re: Closed posts, open discussion”).

Right after this—in a different color?—all caps?—different font?—you might append, “caution, explicit content” or some such remark.

Is this possible to do? Perhaps not.

Scott Johnston

#14, Jun 15, 2009 3:09pm

Here’s another idea.

On the frame around original posts that have received any comments, the link at the bottom states, “x comments” with x being the number of comments in the comment thread thus far. Clicking on this is the actual event that enables one to read the comments.

Perhaps, when explicit discussions of sensitive matters are present in a comment thread, the label “x comments” could be appended to read, “x comments; caution, sensitive material,” or “explicit material,” or something similar. Can this be done? It seems to me this would perhaps be the best solution—for comments—if it were possible.

Katie van Schaijik

#15, Jun 15, 2009 3:39pm

Some good points from a friend by email:

A few points on this discussion:
1.      Language and approach.  To me, while prudishness may be an issue with a narrow segment of the population, for most of the culture it is a total non-issue.  As I indicated in my earlier emails, I think that language and subject matter are closely connected here.  In the dominant culture, sex is understood as recreational sport.  Self-fulfillment is the highest value.  Modesty is forgotten.  Men and women speak openly about the darnedest things—I know this from personal experience in the corporate workplace and from popular culture.  The language of sexuality has become debased—in our music, in our movies, in our books etc.
This culture desperately needs to understand marriage and marital love, through the lens of the Church.  It needs to understand the place of marital sexuality in the context of marital love.  It needs to encounter mystery and sacredness.  It needs to recover modesty (which is not prudishness).  To me, much of this is lost, and sometimes undermined, in casual and cavalier discussions about practices and fulfillment etc.  I’m not saying that those discussions are not to be had, but they should not be the focus.  Otherwise, the message that gets heard can be “Catholic + great sex”, instead of a truly personalist understanding of marital love.
To be clear, the above is not a critique of West.  I haven’t read enough of him to offer such a critique, and I know people who have liked his work.  But I’ve seen a tendency in this arena to lead with the sensational in ways that cause me concern.  We need to be vigilant in such an important and sensitive area of work.  Jules’ reference to the renewal is interesting because the same thought occurred to me, with a different conclusion.  While West fends off issues regarding language and approach by references to the questioner’s own sexual “acceptance”, many leaders in the renewal fended off issues by asking whether the questioners were “open to the spirit.”  The renewal did great good, but I believe that it would have avoided much harm and had a much richer legacy if it were open to an engaging critique.  The same may be true of West.  It is not enough to say that “West is on the front line, changing lives, and who are we to critique him.”  That is the task of the philosopher.  To hold things up to a searching analysis.  Not to view popular acceptance as a sign of validity or truth.
2.      How to discuss explicit matters.  My first email to you included a strong reaction to the notion that concern about explicit language could often be driven by the questioner’s failure to accept his/her own sexuality.  I explained why I thought this was a dangerous and unfair response, particularly in a public setting.  There’s no adequate public response that the questioner can make (other than, “I really, really don’t have those issues.”).  It tends to silence the questioner (who wants to go there).  It practically begs for a response to West about whether his own positions have any relationship to an unhealthy sexual past (what’s good for the goose . . .). This would not be fair but neither is West’s response.  And it ignores the fact that this question can be discussed without any public reference to the questioner’s own struggles.
To the extent there is validity to West’s response, the matter only becomes more complicated.  You can argue that debating sexual matters is not like debating the doctrine of the trinity and that personal experience may color each person’s perceptions.  If these “background” questions indeed are relevant, how can a group of men and women engage them?  How do you peel away objections without delving into intensely personal issues?  My belief is that these matters can be debated, carefully, without “getting personal” but context is important.
Context is essential when considering language, as I argued in my earlier email. That what is appropriate in a confessional, with a counselor, in a small group, at a seminar, in an academic setting, among spouses, at an open public presentation and on a blog, may be vastly different.  I thought that some of the detailed discussions on the blog were strange discussions to have in an open internet forum.  They are not discussions that I had a desire to participate in, particularly with the opposite sex.  As I stated above, public discussions on practices (especially marginal practices) tend to obscure the more important issues addressing today’s culture and cultivate an attitude of “what can be justified.”  But I also believe that certain subject matters should only be discussed in the most careful of ways.  As a friend put it to me: would you be comfortable having your wife have an explicit academic discussion with two men, around the coffee table, about the extent to which certain sexual practices may be morally licit?  My answer was no, I would not.  Would such discussion be categorically wrong?  No.  But there is much that we know about sexuality, human nature, and the Church’s teachings, that should cause us to exercise the utmost of care.  Some of the discussion on the blog seemed lacking in due care.
The last question I have is: who benefits from an open forum on these marginal issues?  This is not meant to be a rhetorical challenge.  I’m not sure of the answer.  And I guess, included in the question, is whether such discussions would be detrimental to some.
I’m out of time and wish I could complete some very incomplete thoughts.  Maybe later.  Thanks for your earlier responses and your efforts to tackle these difficult questions.

Katie van Schaijik

#16, Jun 15, 2009 3:48pm

Lots of thoughts generated by this great post, which I’m sure represents the view of many.  Thanks, friend!

Let me take a stab at reply.

You write: “To me, while prudishness may be an issue with a narrow segment of the population, for most of the culture it is a total non-issue.”

I answer: If we’re speaking about “most of the culture” I would agree.  If we’re speaking of the religiously-minded, though, I’m not so sure.  And, among them (us), if it interferes with our marriages and/or our ability to influence the culture as we should without our realizing it, then it’s a serious problem.

You write: “The language of sexuality has become debased—in our music, in our movies, in our books etc.”

I answer: I totally agree.  It agonizes me.  I had to quit “Group Power” at the local Y because of moral pain over the hideousness of the music and lyrics involved.  But I wonder whether we can adequately counter that tendency if we decline to speak of it at all, or if we speak of it in terms so vague and veiled that they cannot be understood by a coarsened generation.  My fear is that we are so dramatically absenting ourselves from normal experience that we will become more like aliens than “salt and light”.

You write: “many leaders in the renewal fended off issues by asking whether the questioners were “open to the spirit.””

I answer: This was my experience too.  Criticism of a particular idea or program met with: “What I’m trying to understand is why you would resist the Holy Spirit?”  Maddening.  And self-defeating.  To the extent that CW may be guilty of a similar line of approach, I agree with you entirely. (See my post “The Problem of Projection”.)

To the first part of your point 2, again I agree in principle.  On the other hand, since this whole thing has sort of exploded on the Linde, and since I met him in person, I’ve begun to sympathize with CW’s apparent impression—which I think should be thought of as more like a prophetic sense than a legal argument—that there is actually a lot more prudishness in Catholic circles than we realize.  Perhaps it could be compared to the (we now see) excessive piety with which the laity treated priests prior to Vatican II.  Then we might have thought that there was no such thing as “excessive piety” toward priests.  Now we see the harm the supineness of the laity has permitted.

About “being comfortable” having your wife “sitting around the table” talking explicit sex with other men…

I would HATE it!  I could not and would not participate in such conversations, never mind relax about my husband having them with other women.  But, on this point, I think the “virtuality” of internet discussion is significant.  We don’t see faces; we’re not bodily present to the people we’re speaking with; others may join in anonymously, or listen in unseen…It’s a protection I think.

As to who benefits:
- Any married couple with honest questions who desires to be chaste.
- Anyone whose previous sense of sexual morality had been along the lines of “once you’re married, anything goes.”
- Anyone who teaches sexual morality
- Priests who hear confessions
- People who are falsely burdened with prudishness.
- People who deal in rough corners of our culture and need sound information…

That’s all that comes to mind at the moment.  I hope others will weigh in.

Michael Healy

#17, Jun 15, 2009 8:37pm

I think this was a very well thought out response.  I would add one thing.  I still think prudishness is a much wider problem in two respects in the modern world, not just for the religiously minded.
1) I think many people living profligate sexual life-styles are nonetheless afflicted with a false understanding of sex going back to prudish, puritan, or Manichean misunderstandings.  They feel there is something wrong with the latter but don’t know how to overcome the “wrongness” or negativity about sex and the body without a materialistic, naturalistic, or hedonistic response.  They may also not be satisfied with their “answers” but they know nothing else, so for a Catholic or Christian speaker on sex to attack prudish misunderstandings is an indispensable first step to get “moderns” to listen.
2) Secondly, I think many people today live in an excessive fear of being called a prude or a puritan—with the implication that they are nothing but immature, repressed, moralistic, goody-two-shoes “sissies” if they can’t be “naturalists” about sex.  Here again it is important as a necessary first step in order to begin a serious discussion (which will eventually get around to the nature of the human person, happiness, love, and morality) to convince people you are not advocating a return to prudishness and repression about sexuality. 

Thus the problem of prudishness is not limited to the religiously committed; it involves the masses who desperately need to be led back to wisdom, happiness, and faith.  And when you consider that the great apostasy from the Church (dissent from Humanae VItae) was really over free sex and the great evil of our time (free abortion) is really over free sex, well then it really is a challenge to meet people where they are and begin to get them to turn around.  So many have become so mindlessly convinced (in a “pseudo-obvious” way) that the Church is just wrong and prudish, that you have to start by showing you are not or they will not listen to one word you have to say—and they certainly will not discuss anything with you.

Katie van Schaijik

#18, Jun 15, 2009 10:14pm

Great point, Michael.  I will be mulling it over as I weed my garden today.

Scott Johnston

#19, Jun 16, 2009 3:38am

The correspondent wrote:

If these “background” questions indeed are relevant, how can a group of men and women engage them?  How do you peel away objections without delving into intensely personal issues?  My belief is that these matters can be debated, carefully, without “getting personal” but context is important.

I agree that if some explicit details are truly necessary they can be discussed without getting personal. It seems to me the only situation where getting personal would truly be necessary would be in spiritual direction or confession. And that is not the context here. If you are not talking to a confessor or spiritual director, a counselor, your spouse, or a close personal friend, why would much personal detail be needed?

I would like to remark as well that we should be aware of the danger of becoming overly legalistic about minute details of sexual behavior. This—while not at all backing away from the important and enduring fact that some acts are inherently disordered (no matter the purpose)—is in part a serious problem that had crept into pre-conciliar pastoral practice. We should not inadvertently bring back something that had gotten out of hand before the council (i.e. an excessively legalistic approach to morals, especially in the sexual sphere).

Moral theologians like the late Servais Pinckaers, OP, have reminded us that we cannot and should not seek to draw an inordinate number of hard and fast rules covering all possible permutations of human action within a given realm of activity (though some hard rules certainly are good and necessary). Casuistry has its limits. Rather, what we always need is to grow in virtue and holiness as much as we possibly can. Then, the prudent, chaste, and holy soul does not need a detailed manual hammered out ahead of time as to what acts, down to the last minutiae, are or are not acceptable. Rather, the prudent, chaste, and holy soul will simply know in the context of the lived moment, what is within the legitimate purview of a child of God and what is not. He will know.

St. Thomas somewhere wrote that the best rule for what is the most virtuous act in a given situation is to see what the Saint would do. Though this is not very satisfying, on some level this is the most accurate answer. As an individual soul grows in virtue and grows closer to Jesus Christ, his instincts about right and wrong are refined. His conscience is more in tune with the heart of Christ. His ability to exercise prudence in the midst of difficult situations becomes more and more honed.

So, while we should forge ahead with philosophical explorations of these mysteries of the human heart, I just want to interject that there is indeed a point at which we cannot specify with exactitude how things should be. At some point, we have to step back reverently and ask the Lord to make us holy. Only then will our moral sense truly give us a clear, Godly personal answer to some of these difficult things.

So, please don’t think I am being dismissive of the high value of philosophical interchange. But, please let us always keep in mind that sometimes what we truly need most in order to see some things with the greatest clarity possible in this life, is to become a Saint! As Catholics we eagerly embrace the reality that sanctity restores and prefects the intellect as much as our other human faculties. In order to think and act as best we can, we need to humanly do all we can to develop our mind, will, and heart. But, we will not experience the plenitude of the potential of our mind, will, and heart, without also becoming holy. Some questions at the edge of where reason can take us can only be confidently answered by holy philosophers, whose minds and hearts see a little farther and a little more clearly than the rest of us. St. Anselm, pray for us!

Katie van Schaijik

#20, Jun 16, 2009 3:42am

Scott, your point about the danger of legalism is well taken.  On the other hand, I am thinking of two cases where the model of “the holy soul implicitly knowing what is in accord with love” doesn’t quite serve.  One is the case where a married couple is engaging in acts that are objectively immoral without knowing they are immoral.  This couple cannot rely on the light of their own consciences, because that’s been dimmed by bad habits.  They need instruction as to the what and why of conjugal morality.  The other is a case of prudishness, where one spouse (usually the wife) mistakenly believes that her distaste for certain acts of love from her husband is the drawing back of a virtuous person from something unholy.  She is impeding the free expression of their love for one another, and would be greatly helped (so would her husband!) by instruction that makes clear that such acts ARE true acts of love and not impure.

About St. Thomas’s advice.  I have a reaction against it.  I have seen it misapplied too often.  I think it’s because a not-yet-holy person’s idea of what the saints would do in his situation is often wide of the mark.

Scott Johnston

#21, Jun 16, 2009 8:12am

Katie, yes, I mentioned this from St. Thomas not as a prescription for how to make decisions by imagining the reaction of others (as in, “what would a Saint do? I’ll do that.”), but, as an encouragement for us all to become more holy. (Indeed I think this was Thomas’ meaning also). It is sanctity in one’s own soul that provides the benefit of clearer moral discernment. This is what I meant to recommend.

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