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Life is all about sex

Birth, copulation and death – I can see why we Catholics get accused of being obsessed

By on Friday, 4 January 2013

Alexander VI

I was rather amused to read the comment of “Alexander VI”, following my blog about Sister Wendy Beckett and her interview with Kirsty Young on Desert island Discs before Christmas. He (or is it a she?) posted: “Francis, do you ever think about anything else other than sex?” Well – coming from someone who has taken the pseudonym “Alexander VI”, I think that’s a bit rich. After all, isn’t Alexander Borgia regarded as the worst of the early Renaissance popes? Did he not father the violent Cesare and the promiscuous Lucrezia among his other misdeeds? Whenever atheists of the ignorant kind want to attack us Catholics they always start with the Borgias – a byword for lust, greed, nepotism and murder.

As it happens, I’m prepared to stick up for Pope Alexander VI. I think all the above was simply clever propaganda put about by a cabal of nasty Italian cardinals who were jealous of the preferment of this upstart (and very able) Spaniard. But that’s another story, and it isn’t about sex, so I’d better stick to my remit. I’ll just check out some of my recent blogs to see if “Alexander VI” is correct in his/her jibe.

Before Christmas I blogged about Vladimir Putin’s call to Russian families “to have 3 children”; OK, this might seem to be about demography, but really it is all about sex. How can you have 3 children without it? Before that I blogged about the Holy Father blessing the unborn child of an Italian woman Olympian fencer; that’s ostensibly pro-life – but as you can’t separate sex and it’s life-giving properties, you could argue that blog was about sex too. Earlier in December I quoted a blogger called “Chalcedon451” who actually wrote, “If you want comfort, watch the TV, eat chocolate, take to sex, drugs and rock and roll… but don’t go near Christianity.” I take exception to the inclusion of chocolate in this list (I am eating a chocolate orange as I type this), but Chalcedon points out an incontrovertible fact: that people outside the Church are also interested in – er – sex.

Still earlier in December I blogged about the death of a fine priest, Fr John Edwards SJ. How can “Alexander VI” find sex in that? It’s easy, actually. As TS Eliot wisely wrote, life is all about “birth, copulation and death”, so if you write about one of this triad you are automatically dragging in the other two as well, even if subliminally.

Then I blogged about David Cameron’s determination to overthrow the common and ancient understanding of marriage; I hardly need to point out the link with sex here. Before that I blogged about a new anthology of essays written by Irish people and entitled “Catholicism and Me.” Everybody knows that the Irish are (or were) a very Catholic nation, so they must have been sexually repressed or sublimated or something – so again, you could argue, I was trying to slip in an allusion to “sex” here too. It would be tedious to mention yet more blogs, so let me just concede that “Alexander VI” (Borgia) is right: sex does come into everything.

Mind you, the BBC is as bad as me. I decided to watch a BBC2 programme earlier this week about Queen Victoria’s children. Having a very amateur interest in the subject I hoped to enlightened about, for instance, the Prince Consort’s punishing educational regime for Bertie ( a lively and intelligent boy, if not as academic as his older sister, Vickie.) I thought we might learn about the personality of Lady Lyttelton, the royal governess, a highly educated woman and mother to a classical scholar, the 4th Lord Lyttelton; or that we might hear about the childhood ailments of Prince Leopold, intellectually gifted like his father, but afflicted with haemophilia. Actually the programme was very disappointing: cohorts of eminent historians and royal biographers were wheeled in to emphasise one thing only: Queen Victoria’s interest in – er – sex. We were treated to repeated and prurient references to her and the Prince Consort’s intimate life, as if that was all the audience wanted to hear about and as if that was the only item of interest. Well – that’s BBC 2 for you. I think there might be more variety on the Catholic Herald blog site.

  • Kevin

    This is a good put down but it was not necessary. As you pointed out in your article, a representative of the state broadcaster brought up the subject of condoms in conversation with a nun. What decent person would do that?

  • Rick Childress

    Yes, Kevin, and as implied in your comment: it was the interviewer – and, in a roundabout sense, the ‘interviewers’ – who are always bringing up the matters that have to do with sex. For the last fifty years sex has been a rally cry for various causes, and now that bishops and priests are addressing these issues (in many cases after having been silent for decades), it is the Church that is obsessed with sex. My home parish is very ‘conservative’ and I’ve heard two homilies in the last year that touched on the beauty/integrity of traditional marriage, under threat; I hear multiple daily homilies on Facebook about sex from non-Catholics, whether in mundane mentions or in some bugling of one cause or another. Since becoming a seminarian, the #1 question I get from non-Catholic acquaintances is in regard to not having sex. Remind me: who’s obsessed?

  • Alexander VI

    Dearie me, Francis, I must have hit a rather raw nerve…..but please keep on talking about sex. Your comments are, from time to time, mildly amusing and I can’t think of any better way in which you can  discredit your brand of fundamentalist Catholicism.
    p.s. I hope you will be able to attend the gay masses in their new location….
     

  • OldMeena

    Many atheists who comment on the Borgias are aware of the theory that you quote. I can all too  easily believe that wicked cardinals might have been involved in smearing Alex. 6th in their jealous rage. The Church denies that it has a competitive career structure, but many know that it’s still a fairly cut-throat operation. It’s so bound-up with secrecy, whispering and shady dealings that nobody will probably ever know the truth about this – or the truth about so many matters in which the Vatican has its fingers.  Recently even the Italian state bank couldn’t work out what it was doing with its electronic money transfer system, and closed it down - understandably fearing the worst.
    And yes, on the sex infatuation issue, the BBC and the rest of the junk media are as bad as the Church and its apologists. So what?

  • Andyc

    I want some of your chocolate orange!

  • athelstane

    “Fundamentalist Catholicism.” Come on. Come up with something original, can’t you?

  • Billy Pips

    You don’t sound like a very nice person.

  • JabbaPapa

    I doubt that he can …

  • karlf

    “the basic and underlying questions about the animal nature of mankind have formed a basic underpinning of philosophy since the Dawn of History ?” Where in pre Darwin philosophy is it suggested that human nature is the product of evolution by the process now known as natural selection?

  • IssacClarke

    To be fair we are all too concerned about sex. The modern attitude is to take advantage of that fact, rather than use it to repress us. 

    The difference is that religious people seem to be obsessed about controlling other people’s sex lives. Modern culture in the west might be about self-gratification, but religious culture is equally about denying all gratification that is not given in a latter existence, at the whim of God. 

  • Parasum

    “Birth, copulation and death – I can see why we Catholics get accused of being obsessed”

    ## And it is *very*, very, boring. Some Christianity would be a nice change from all the rubbish about B, C and D. The Gospel according to Peter “sex-in-heaven” Kreeft, & the Christianised sex-worship of Christopher West, are a bit much. A symptom of the superficiality & lovelessness in the teaching Church’s outlook is its confusion of clerical celibacy with clerical continence, and its failure (inability ?) to talk about friendship. Perhaps because friendship & love do not presuppose procreation, or ordination.  For an understanding of friendship, one must read Cicero or Plato, not the teaching Church.

    For a celibate & continent Pope to go on about the theology “of the body” (whatever that may be) in marriage, is gross is well as grotesque. One might as well have a theology of cookery, or of footie, or of the haggis, or of rugger, or of teddy bears. A haggisic POV would be a very interesting approach to the theology of the Church. For those who do not love them or their composition, the odour of the haggis is like “an odour of death”. The haggis is a reminder not to make a god of the belly, a challenge to self-control, an exercise in hearing that for some reason there are those who dislike it. But I doubt a HT would win a Ratzinger Prize (it would be better for the bearer of a name to forbid such honours during his lifetime; when a man dies, not earlier, it can be seen whether he deserves such things. His admirers clearly have not read Solon’s words to (the then-prosperous) Croesus about happiness & luck.)

  • Parasum

    “As it happens, I’m prepared to stick up for Pope Alexander VI. I think
    all the above was simply clever propaganda put about by a cabal of nasty
    Italian cardinals who were jealous of the preferment of this upstart
    (and very able) Spaniard. But that’s another story, and it isn’t about
    sex, so I’d better stick to my remit.”

    ## At least one effort to rehabilitate Alexander VI has been made, but without much success. Even if he has been much maligned (by cardinals, as suggested), that poses a new problem: what kind of men must the cardinals who maligned him have been ? His name is saved at the expence of theirs. Fr. Philip Hughes, in his “History of the Church”, like H. Daniel-Rops after him, do not try to rehabilitate him – they stick to the sources, available; just as von Pastor had. All were Catholics. Rodrigo Borja (as he was) appears to have paid cash for the votes of the electors – if so, his election was simoniacal, and therefore, invalid. Buying the Papacy was wrong in 1046, and wrong in 1492. 

    Here is Hughes, for those who want to see what he says – all three volumes, from the beginning to 1517, can be read on-line:

     http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/hu/1-hc4.htm

    Von Pastor, vol. 5.375-418: http://archive.org/stream/historyofpopesf05past#page/374/mode/2up

    There is a lot more than Alexander VI to cause problems – the Cadaver Synod of 897 for instance. With all the (metaphorical) back-stabbing, it would make a good, if lurid, mini-series.

  • JabbaPapa

    You really are a broken record, aren’t you…

    And you have repeatedly demonstrated your unwillingness to pay any attention to any answers that you are provided with.

  • Parasum

    “As TS Eliot wisely wrote, life is all about “birth, copulation and
    death”, so if you write about one of this triad you are automatically
    dragging in the other two as well, even if subliminally.”

    ## Only for those with nothing better to think about.

  • karlf

    Jabba, you have ignored the above question for the second time. Whenever I ask you a challenging question you either dodge answering it and/or get confused and aggressive in tone. Other Catholics do engage with my questions and I do indeed listen to their answers – I have recently had a very lengthy discussion with “The Raven”, and as you probably saw, J-hof made quite an effort to answer the ‘in God’s image’ question, which again, you chose not to answer.
    Incidentally, when I pointed out to J-hof that her explanation of ‘in God’s image’ conflicted with the meaning given in the materials she referred me to, she accused me of being rude and blocked my further comments.

  • JabbaPapa

    In what way is a question that you have had answered extensively and in detail in the original thread where you asked it “difficult” ?

    The only difficulty seems to lie in your willful inability to accept the answers provided.

    she accused me of being rude and blocked my further comments

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one with enough common sense to realise that you are not actually interested in engaging in any actual discussions as such.

  • W Oddie

    Lucrezia Borgia wasn’t promiscuous, nor was she murderous; she was actually something of a good egg.

  • karlf

    You are truly delusional. You can see that I engaged in actual discussion with J-hof on her blog, and she only blocked my comments after I pointed out that her explanation of ‘in God’s image’ conflicted with the explanation in the materials she referred me to – which you can see for yourself to be the case.
    And as you appear confused yet again, let me point it more clearly: Telling me that the Church has always recognised a similarity between humans and animals is not an answer to the question “Where in pre Darwin philosophy is it suggested that human nature is the product of evolution by the process now known as natural selection?”