Monday, September 13, 2010

Fr: Thomas Loya: The take on TOB Christopher and myself have requires no evidence for belief

Okay, so I'm slightly spinning, but I'm really not that far off the mark.  Before I go too far into this, a little story.

I'm a big fan of the movie Gladiator.  The movie obviously is not historical (though ironically enough, an ex girlfriend of mine was furious at me for daring to suggest that the movie was a classic example of "never let the truth get in the way of a darn good story.")  There's one line where a leading commander of Rome's army says about the barbarians:  "People should know when they're conquered."  If this is really the best Fr. Loya can do, I would like to offer the good priest some advice:  people should realize when they've lost an argument.

After stating that it is clear that the Eastern Church looks at the paschal candle in a phallic sexual way (that the descent of the Paschal Candle into holy water 3 times is analogous to a husband penetrating his wife in coitus), we hear this gem, and trust me, boy is it ever a gem (bold is my emphasis):

"Acknowledging the Paschal candle’s phallic imagery does not require a quote from a particular Father of the Church.  It is only one example of the spousal character of the church’s entire liturgical life, from Bernini’s canopy over the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, designed to resemble a nuptial bed, to St. John Chrysostom reminding married couples that on the cross Christ united Himself with his Church in “spiritual intercourse,” to the liturgical texts of the Eastern churches that proclaim on Easter: “Christ emerges from the tomb like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber and fills the women with joy!” What Roman Catholics call “Holy Week,” Eastern churches call “The Week of the Bridegroom.”

I'll be honest, I saw that remark, and laughed for about 5 minutes straight.  That Catholic Exchange would actually allow this to be ran on their website is even more astounding.  When someone asserts that it is plainly obvious and that is challenged, you cannot respond by saying "it is plainly obvious!"  Fr. Loya states that the Easter candle is a phallic symbol because......  Fr. Loya says so.  Pay, pray, obey indeed.

He isn't done.  He talks about the Resurrection itself as apparently a sexual act.  For Christ leaves the empty tomb and "fills the women with joy."  I'm going to come up with a really wild idea.  Please, bear with me.  The "filling with joy" is not sexual, but rather they are ecstatic that they learn Him who was dead has risen.  That they are women and Christ is a man, in this narrow instance, is a pure coincidence.  This isn't referencing a sexual act.  While I hate to speak ill of a man of the cloth (and those who have followed my readings for years know that I have always been very measured in public statements about a priest), the good father is rapidly approaching blasphemy territory here.

Later he says that perhaps we should replace "phallic" with "spousal" if we feel uncomfortable.  that would be akin to stating I should replace "burger" with "pizza."  Phallic implies sexuality.  There's a lot more to spousal than sex.  Yet since words have meaning, if Fr. Loya is going to insist that this is still sexual, even if "spousal", yes, I will still feel uncomfortable when the Easter Vigil is compared to sex.  Why do I feel uncomfortable?  Because it's just plain wrong.

At the end, Fr. Loya states Christopher West, the fathers and mystics of the Church, and John Paul II are right, and their critics are wrong.  He has yet to show:

1.)  One Church Father who says the immersion of the candle in the waters is akin to sexual intercourse

2.)  He has yet to name one mystic who believes this.

3.)  He hasn't even tried to show where Pope John Paul II said this.

Simply stating it to be so, in praying that it will all go away, that won't work.  Note to Catholic Exchange, and to Christopher West:  find a better spokesman.  This is just getting to the point of parody. 

And Catholic Exchange, shame on you for running such shoddy work as evidence of something profound.


  1. Bravo!
    Very nicely done!

    Of course, my compliments to you must mean that you're an evil, nasty, brutish, foul piece of self-promoting skankiness, but as long as you don't mind that...

  2. Great post! Here's the comment I left over at CE (basically cut-and-pasted my comments at Steve Kellmeyer's blog):

    It would be helpful if Fr. Loya could give a citation of his quote of Pope John Paul II: “The language of liturgy is, in a sense, conjugal, and conjugal relations are in a sense liturgical.” A Google search reveals that the late Pope did make a connection between the conjugal life and the liturgical. However, he does not say that we see the liturgy become “spousal,” or “sexual,” but rather that the conjugal life becomes “in a sense liturgical.” So the sacred liturgy does not mirror the conjugal life *but the other way around* and this is precisely because Our Lord has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.

    I believe Fr. Loya is actually paraphrasing Christopher West in his “Theology of the Body Explained”:

    “Hence, not only is conjugal life liturgical. When we read the spousal analogy in the other direction, we realize that the Church’s liturgical life is in some sense conjugal.” (p. 410)

    It would also be helpful if Fr. Loya could supply the context of Abp. Sheen’s citation of St. Augustine:

    “The heavenly bridegroom left the heavenly chambers, with the presage of the nuptials before him. He came to the marriage bed of the cross, a bed not of pleasure, but of pain, united himself with the woman, and consummated the union forever. As it were, the blood and water that came from the side of Christ was the spiritual seminal fluid.”

    One can see that the analogy only goes so far.

  3. In the end that's really my problem. They claim "we know it can only go so far" but in practice, they constantly go a thousand yards beyond the line of right reason.

    When West says "conjugal life becomes liturgical, ergo liturgical becomes conjugal" he makes a classic confusing of the issue.

    For example

    God is love
    Does that mean love is God?

    More often than not, analogies do not work both ways.

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  6. I decided last night to refer back to "The Bible and the Liturgy" by Fr. Jean Danielou, which has a lengthy treatment on the meaning of the liturgical rites of baptism according to the Church Fathers. I could find no references to phallic symbolism. Yes, the baptismal font was referred to as a "womb", and yes, there are connections made between the Song of Songs and the liturgical rites, but as you have argued, Kevin, these are always "spousal" and never "sexual" per se.


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