The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 23, 2020 - 10:50:49

Great anti-Jansenist quote

Katie van Schaijik, Jul 10, 2009

Touching our discussion about prudishness, I came across just now in a book by Greg Popcak, this remark by the great English convert to Catholicism, Fr. Ronald Knox:

Jansenism never learned to smile. Its adherents forget, after all, to believe in grace, so hag-ridden are they by their sense of the need for it.

I can recognize this clearly in the Irish Catholic milieu I come from. And it occurs to me as I type that this same dynamic is at work in the anti-NFP providentialists I have clashed with over the years. So full of mistrust of themselves are they—so concerned about the possibility of illegitimate motives in the practice of NFP—that they believe and teach that married couples are best off, morally, leaving the size of their family up to God.

I see it, too, in the courtship movement. Since sexual sin is such a near and present danger, the best thing, i.e. the safest thing to do (its proponents argue) is avoid all physical contact until the wedding day. Here is convert from Calvinism, Steve Wood, in his The ABC’s of Choosing a Good Husband:

Postponing all physical affection until marriage is insurance for a relationship that you really care about. The wisest answer to the “Just how far can we go?” is: “Zero,” “Nada,” “Zip.” Save all the fire for your marriage, and your relationship won’t get burned.

The more I think about it, the more sympathetic I become with Christopher West’s sense that prudishness, or Jansenism, is a much more serious and widespread problem in the Church than we commonly realize.