3 December 2009

Masturbation and all that.

During the happy three decades during which I taught Greek and Latin and Theology at Lancing College in Sussex, and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each morning in those most exquisite of surroundings, I did quite a lot of work in the Archives. Our Founder, Nathaniel Woodard, had a most satisfactory habit, not only of keeping every letter he received, but also of preserving the drafts of his replies - so that one could actually follow the workings of his mind as he drafted, added, scratched out, and rethought.

Woodard was one of the most unpopular religious figures of Victorian England. His unpopularity came not, as in the case of the Ritualists, from cultic exoticism. In fact, the College still retains the black stole which represented the limit of his advance in matters of liturgical vesture. No; his problem was that he thought that everybody needed to go to Confession, and he was constantly attacked for the structures by which he attempted to ensure that every pupil did so. And it is clear from the Archives what his reason was: that the sexual urge is immensely strong and can only be controlled by the means of Grace offered in the Catholic Sacramental system. Without it, he clearly believed, pretty well every male, at least if unmarried, was likely to be a habitual masturbater.

In one of his writings, the metaphorical comes perilously close to the physical; he wrote of Victorian culture as drenched in a sea of uncleanness. And herein lay the reason for the loathing he inspired. He called the bluff of the Victorian Gentleman's comfortable (and Pelagian?) self-construction. Victorian culture regarded Masturbation as a very disgusting and sinful thing to do; believed that only the weakest and most contemptible would fall so low. I, of course, so everyone implied, would never sink so far. But as a Victorian gentleman looked into Nathaniel Woodard's eyes, he knew ... that Woodard knew ...

How times change. Woodard knew that the sexual temptation was very strong and that self-abuse was humanly inevitable. They hated him for it, persisting in the delusional cultural conspiracy of the assumption that nice people with clean collars ... like oneself ... did not do it. Now, our culture knows that sexuality is powerful and itself now proclaims that masturbation is very common - and it hates the Christian Tradition for suggesting that there is anything disordered about it.

The one constant is that the children of the Zeitgeist loath Catholic Truth. If we say "X is common but sinful", one century will spit its hatred at us for the first half of the statement, and the next will turn on us in fury for suggesting the second part.

7 comments:

Rubricarius said...

It reminds me of the prisoner in the dock who was standing awaiting judgement chewing on a piece of gum with his hands in his trouser pockets.

The judge said "Before I pronounce sentence would the prisoner stop masticating."

The prisoner promptly took his hands out of his pockets.

rev'd up said...

I can't think of the last time I heard a good homily condemning masturbation! Excellent!

What's needed is perhaps a little naked tip-toe through the bracken reminiscent of S Benedict.

rev'd up said...

It's a Morse Code of sorts.

Father, by combining your last several post titles I see a pattern emerging (my inferences are in []):

Masturbation and all that. It's none of my business but... Bishop Margot. December goodies. Damp squibs all round. Ordinariate of S Andrew? [Are you listening, Holy Father? Please, help! Get me the heck out of the CoE and quick!]

I can sympathize.

Joshua said...

The comment above reminds me of the joke about the Soviet-era bookseller who was arrested and taken away even though all the books he had on display were approved - because he had arranged them in this order: "We Want to Live", "Far from Moscow", "Under a Foreign Flag", "In the Shadow of the Skyscrapers".

Oh, and I suspect Woodard was right.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"he clearly believed, pretty well every male, at least if unmarried, was likely to be a habitual masturbater"

1) I didn't know it was spelt with an "e"

2) It is a reasonable assumption

3) Compulsive confession CAN become an enabler to compulsive sin

servusmariaen said...

Father now you must offer practical advice as to overcoming this disorder. Frequent confession? fasting?

Fr William said...

Cold showers. Worked well enough at public school (well, it didn't really, but …)