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Posts Tagged ‘Pope John Paul II’

For part one, click here

Quick recap: A study covered on “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly” revealed that six-year-old girls tend by an overwhelming margin to think their own gender of inferior intelligence compared to their male counterparts.

I suggested that the ubiquitous image of the “sexy female” in popular culture goes far to undermine girls’ sense of female dignity and, therefore, intelligence.

Okay — I also said we’d look at possible secular responses to this phenomenon, along with the thoughtful Catholic response I intend to share.

But I’ve changed my mind.  It is a little presumptuous of me to assume I can predict how the culture will respond, and such responses are hardly relevant until they are actually manifest.

So I’ll just share the Catholic response.  If anyone has a more secular viewpoint they’d like to share, please feel free to do so.

Meanwhile, here goes: (more…)

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Vintage John Paul II — from his visit to Washington, DC in 1979.  Give it a watch, if you have a moment.  It’s just a little over 8 minutes, and its message rings true today.

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For parts one through three, click here John_Paul_II_1980_cropped Although we have covered some important aspects of Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” one might wonder precisely how the sexual roles of men and women differ according to God’s original plan.

Essentially, the man is the “active” partner who makes a gift of himself from without, bringing with him the “seed of life”; the woman, meanwhile, is the “receptive” partner who welcomes the man into her “inner sanctuary,” from whence life can emerge.  But lest you think this diminishes the role of the woman, be aware that there is an active and passive component in the roles of both partners.  Each affirms and reinforces the other.

Unfortunately, as discussed in part two, human sexuality is affected by Original Sin.  In the man, the gift can easily become an intrusion; in the woman, the welcoming embrace can become a seductive form of entrapment. Daenerys_Targaryen_with_Dragon-Emilia_ClarkeDaenerys “Dany” Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), arguably the strongest and most iconic female character in Game of Thrones, becomes a victim of that first impulse early in the first season. khal drogoShe is given in an arranged marriage to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the ruthless leader of the nomadic Dothraki people.  At first, he treats Dany as another one of his conquests.  Their marriage is consummated not in lovemaking, but in rape.

Eventually, this changes.  Dany and Drogo actually fall in love.  Drogo, for his part, learns tenderness, and becomes something of a gentler person.  He learns to treat Dany as someone to be treasured rather than something to be possessed.

How does this happen? Dany faceThe change begins in season 1, episode 2.  Drogo and Dany are in their private tent, and Drogo is about to proceed as per usual.  Dany turns to face him, looking him directly in the eye, and says:

“Tonight I would look upon your face.”

This is very important.  Of all the human body’s various members, the face is generally recognized as the one least affected by the Fall.  When we look at a human face, we see the person revealed — the unique, unrepeatable, and inestimably precious subject made in the image and likeness of Almighty God.  In being brought face-to-face with Dany, Drogo, along with all others who would perpetrate acts of violence and injustice upon their victims and “conquests,” is confronted with a kind of judgment.

Here it would be helpful to return to the thought of Pope John Paul II; referencing the great Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and his “philosophy of the face,” he comments thus:

It is through his face that man speaks, and in particular, every man who has suffered a wrong speaks and says the words “Do not kill me!”  The human face and the commandment “Do not kill” are ingeniously enjoined in Levinas, and thus become a testimony for our age… (from the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ed. Vittorio Messori; italics included)

We can say the same for the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, which cover sexual conduct.

Okay — so the face reveals the person.  But the personal is never abstract.  What the face reveals is the human self in its masculinity or femininity, depending on whether the subject is a man or a woman.  Dany’s effect on Drogo shows the power of a peculiarly feminine way of responding mercifully to aggressors, and calls to mind such wonderful women in Church history as St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.

That’s not to say that Dany is a saint.  One could spend a considerable length of time on her character and its evolution over the course of the series (one of these days I hope to return to the “Kingship and Power” series that I began, and abandoned, a couple years ago; that would be a good place to take a closer look at Dany).  But in this case, she does well.  Whether author George R.R. Martin knows it or not, her response to Drogo is pregnant with potential for spiritual significance.

So there are my thoughts on different aspects of how sex is used in Game of Thrones.  I am a firm believer that one cannot fairly criticize the vices of a TV show or movie without at the same time being prepared to acknowledge its virtues.  Charity, after all, rejoices in goodness wherever it can be found.

That said, I want to restate my belief that the sex in Game of Thrones is gratuitous and unnecessary.  It caters to a human preoccupation, for sure — not with sexuality, but with pornography.  Perhaps if they were aware of the statistics and studies on the real effects of pornographic material on the psychological and social well-being of individuals and families, they would showcase human skin and coitus with at least a little less ease. And now I’m done.  Thanks for reading 🙂 *********************************************************************************************************************

Acknowledgements

1. “John Paul II 1980 cropped” by Fels_Papst.JPG: Nikolaus von Nathusiusderivative work: JJ Georges – This file was derived from: Fels Papst.JPG:. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Paul_II_1980_cropped.JPG#/media/File:John_Paul_II_1980_cropped.JPG

2. “Daenerys Targaryen with Dragon-Emilia Clarke” by Uploaded by TAnthony. Via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Daenerys_Targaryen_with_Dragon-Emilia_Clarke.jpg#/media/File:Daenerys_Targaryen_with_Dragon-Emilia_Clarke.jpg

Remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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Jaime-Cersei-jaime-lannister-23339624-1226-816

Just for the heck of it, I’ll be both unoriginal and narcissistic and start by quoting myself (the following is from part one of this series):

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, (. . .) has nothing like [Game of Thrones‘] candid material.  But leaving that aside for the moment, let us note another key difference between the two: Tolkien drew his inspiration primarily from myth; George R.R. Martin, author of the novel series on which Game of Thrones is based, draws his inspiration primarily from history.

You may be thinking, “There you go.  Martin’s work is realistic; Tolkien — along with all you other religious crackpots — have your heads stuck in an airy-fairy world where everything is just the way you think it should be.”

As you may have guessed, I look at the distinction a little bit differently.  In order for this discussion to be fruitful, we must broaden our understanding of the term “myth”:

M. Eliade discovers in myth the structure of the reality that is inaccessible to rational and empirical investigation. Myth transforms the event into a category, and makes us capable of perceiving the transcendental reality

(. . .)

According to P. Tillich myth is a symbol, constituted by the elements of reality to present the absolute and the transcendence of being, to which the religious act tends.

H. Schlier emphasizes that the myth does not know historical facts and has no need of them, inasmuch as it describes man’s cosmic destiny, which is always identical.

(Pope John Paul II, from the notes on his address titled “The Second Account of Creation: The Subjective Definition of Man”)

So what does this have to do with sex?  Quite simply, it tells us that there is meaning in sex.  And this meaning is older than and prior to history.

Bundespräsident empfängt Papst Johannes Paul II.

It is primarily in light of Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” that I want to treat this matter.  The late Holy Father contributed to the treasury of the Catholic Church’s teaching much wisdom and insight into the nature of human sexuality, noting that sex is not only something people do, but is in fact fundamental to the definition of the human person…

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2

…which brings us right back to the beginning, to the story of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 2) — which, as John Paul II said, tells us about man’s “theological pre-history.”  We should not get too caught up in the details of this story; what we are meant to gather from it is humankind in its original perfection, made in the image and likeness of the God who is love.  Man and woman, in their physical, psychological, and spiritual complementarity, image the Trinitarian God in total self-gift, expressed in a special way through their bodies.

And there we have the original, primordial, and always valid meaning of sex and sexuality.

Original Sin

But then comes the Fall.  Adam and Eve defy the Divine command and lose Eden.  With that, they cross the threshold into history — into the drama of sin and salvation.  “History” envelops all aspects of human life, and sexuality is so fundamental that it is impossible for it not to be included.

Game-Of-Thrones-Couples-image-game-of-thrones-couples-36783350-599-400The problem with Game of Thrones is not that it is honest about the place of sex in human life.  The problem is that it confines it to the vicissitudes of history — which, in this area as in many others, does not change all that much.  With regard to sex as well as other matters, the series seems to espouse a “that’s-just-the-way-it-is” philosophy, without any reference to transcendent standards or to the inherent dignity of the human person.

The Lord of the Rings, meanwhile, has almost no reference either to sex or to romance (except for a treatment of the Aragorn-Arwen romance in one of the appendices).  And no, this is not because sex and romance are evil or unimportant.  But sexuality itself, fundamental as it is, points beyond itself to a Higher Love, to which people’s hearts may be drawn by a wide variety of experiences (see my first post on the movie Frozen for more on this).  For that, myth tends to do the job better than history.

In order to flesh this out, I’d like to apply the Theology of the Body to two of Game of Thrones‘ most beloved characters: Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen.  Stay tuned.

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Acknowledgements

Game of Thrones images obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia — full citations: 

  1. By Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F059404-0019 / Schaack, Lothar / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38478464

2. “Albrecht Dürer – Adam and Eve (Prado) 2″ by Albrecht Dürer – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2.jpg#/media/File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2.jpg

3. “Michelangelo Sündenfall” by Michelangelo Buonarroti – http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/Fotos/Eva2.jpgTransferred from de.wikipedia to Commons by Roberta F. using CommonsHelper., 9 September 2007 (original upload date), Original uploader was Nitramtrebla at de.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg#/media/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

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Pope_John_Paul_II_memeImage courtesy of http://www.memegenerator.net

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John_Paul_II_1980_croppedHere I am, nearly a week later, to talk about the second of our two recently canonized popes.  Why did it take me so long?  I suppose it was a combination of occupation with other matters, fatigue, and a bit of routine procrastination.

In any case, here’s what I have to say about Saint John Paul II:

First, I’ll try to address the controversy.  Some people have protested John Paul II’s canonization on the grounds that his response to the priestly sexual abuse crisis was inadequate, and perhaps even negligent.

Fr._Marcial_Maciel_LCMuch of the controversy surrounds the sexual improprieties of Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, under his pontificate.

I’ll state my defense very briefly.  May God have mercy on Fr. Maciel; but without a doubt, he behaved disgracefully and, to make matters worse, fooled a lot of people…and the pope was no exception.  Remember, sainthood does not mean that a person was gifted with perfect insight or circumspection in every situation.

Hammer_and_Sickle_Red_Star_with_GlowFurthermore, it may be useful to keep in mind that the sainted pope — born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland — spent his later youth, early priesthood, and most of his episcopacy under Communist rule.  The governing Communist Party regarded the Catholic Church as a major enemy, and it was not uncommon for them to level false accusations against priests and put out propaganda against them.

That being the case, and knowing the great pressure his fellow priests were under by virtue of their sublime duties and societal misunderstanding, he most likely discerned that accusations against priests like Fr. Maciel needed to be taken with a grain of salt.  And unfortunately, this led to the matter not being looked into as it should have.

Pope John Paul I

Cardinal Wojtyla pictured with his predecessor, Pope John Paul I

But I beg of you, please let’s not allow this to shatter this man’s reputation.  It would be a shame to blind ourselves to all of the good Pope John Paul II did on account of what was undoubtedly a painfully tragic, yet understandable mistake.  What good did he do?  Let’s just run through a few brief examples:

1. Youth Outreach

World Youth DayOne of the late pontiff’s most memorable achievements was the inauguration of World Youth Day, which is but one expression of his constant and passionate outreach to the youth and young adults of the world.  In a time of uncertainty and pessimism, he appealed in a kind, fatherly fashion to the hopes and dreams of young hearts, thereby inspiring a whole new generation of faithful people to live their lives on fire for the Gospel.

2. Catholic-Jewish Relations

Yad VashemRelations between the Catholic Church and the Jews had undoubtedly been improving prior to Saint John Paul II’s papacy.  However, the strides he made in the improvement of said relations are truly legendary.  Having grown up with Jewish people as best friends and having experienced something of the horrors of the Holocaust, he saw it as part of his mission to make peace with the Jewish people, famously begging forgiveness at Yad Vashem for the sins of Christians against Jews over the centuries.  He also exhorted Catholics to look upon the Jews not as enemies or “Christ-killers,” but as our elder brethren in faith.

3. Ecumenical Dialogue

Pope John Paul II worked harder than any previous pope toward the cause of Christian unity.  He reached out in friendship to leaders and members of various Christian denominations, and even went so far as to ask for input into what, from their perspective, the papal office could do to aid the aforementioned cause.  He even signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, a document produced by the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation.

4. Teachings on Human Sexuality

Theology of the BodyThis deserves a whole separate post, but I’ll say a few words here.  About two-thirds of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality come from Pope John Paul II (not that he just pulled it out of thin air, but it needed to be “unpacked,” clarified, and developed).  Through his world-famous Theology of the Body, he helped people in a hyper-sexualized and sexually wounded world to understand the true nature of human sexuality…in opposition to two extremes: 1) A puritanical attitude that sees sex as evil or taboo; and 2) A vehicle for selfish pleasure.  In truth, sexuality goes right to the heart of what it means to be a human being — and, specifically, of what it means to be a man or a woman.  Indeed, when a man and a woman united in holy matrimony are lovingly engaged in the act of sex, they are imaging the God in Whose image they are made…the God who is self-giving love.

There are a number of other things I could mention (his pivotal role in the collapse of totalitarian regimes, f0r example); but to give you a sense of the great saint’s deep humanity, I want to leave you with a link to a clip.  I know it can be a pain to jump from one Web page to another — but please, just take a moment to have a look at this; it’s less than two minutes long (stop at 24:58): Interview with a former Swiss Guard member.

May we all learn to be more like this in our daily lives.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Image of “Man and Woman He Created Them” from http://www.amazon.com; remaining images from Wikipedia

 

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First of all, Happy President’s Day!

Now, to business…

Part 1 was more in-depth than this post is going to be — this time I just want to look at some basic elements of leadership that distinguish good leaders from bad, as exemplified by Ned Stark and Joffrey Baratheon.

Again, please be aware that there are some spoilers here.

JoffreyWe covered bad kingship in our look at Joffrey’s father (though not his biological father, as we soon learn), Robert.  But unlike Robert, whose bad kingship is characterized more by a sort of laziness, Joffrey is a full-on tyrant whose mode of government is cold, deliberate, calculated force.

He, too, is a figure of the entrenched ego, but carried farther in the direction of its extreme.

Ned-Stark-Sean-Bean-Traitor

Ned Stark stands out as a good leader.  He is not perfect, by any means, but the way he exercises authority is exemplary and praiseworthy.  That he is not dominated by his own ego is suggested to me by the dungeon scene, which occurs after Ned is arrested on a false accusation of treason.

Rather than betray his honor, Ned is ready to die a warrior’s death.  True, he does end up acknowledging Joffrey’s kingship in order to save his family; whether or not this was the right decision can be debated, but his interest is clearly other-oriented, not self-oriented.

In any case, Ned has no interest in betraying his conscience to save his life.  He explains to Varys the eunuch that a soldier “knows how to die.”

Christians are called to die daily to selfishness by imitating this kind of detachment:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it (Luke 17:33).

That’s precisely why Joffrey’s rule is one of terror and force: It’s all about him.  From his perspective, his ascent to the throne is not about service to the Seven Kingdoms, the protection of his subjects, or any transcendent principle.  It’s about his own exaltation, his own glory.

Eddard_1x01

Concern for the greater good on Ned’s part is further evidenced by the quality of mercy.  Ned is just, but he is no stranger to clemency.  In this he shows the depth of his magnanimity.  A true leader will be concerned about the common good, not his own aggrandizement.

And sometimes, the best way to serve the common good and to restore order is to reach out to perpetrators with the opportunity for redemption.

JohannesPaul2-portrait

In his great book “Go in Peace,” Pope John Paul II had this to say about the relationship between mercy and societal well-being:

Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for the reparation that justice requires, but seeks to reintegrate individuals and groups into society, and countries into the community of nations.  No punishment should suppress the inalienable dignity of those who have committed evil.  The door to repentance and rehabilitation must always remain open.

Joffrey

The ego, however, cannot take such chances.  As far as it’s concerned, the only good enemy is a dead enemy.

Meanwhile, the good leader will give his neck to his enemy rather than betray his innate sense of what is right.  So we can say that even in death, Ned Stark triumphs over Joffrey Baratheon.

Image of Pope John Paul II from Wikipedia; others obtained through a Google image search.

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