Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There are moral truths grounded in moral realities that, in the poet Milton's words,

The American film director Nick Cassavetes discussed his new movie, "Yellow," which explores an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister.  "Who gives a damn," Cassavetes said, "love who you want." 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Movies

Keywords: incest, Cassavetes, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq., morality, perversion, Hollywood


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - There is an underlying grammar to human sexuality, and the Catholic Church might be said to be the repository of the King's English--the standard--when it comes to it.  In the modern world--indeed in all ages and all cultures--she is the only one who speaks about sex well.  Her sexual grammar is true, it protects authentic conjugal love, and it ultimately is the recipe for authentic happiness, both here on earth and in eternity.

The sexual grammar of the Church's teaching on human sexuality is based upon what Pope Benedict XVI calls the "gift" of nature and its "inbuilt order," an order which displays a "design of love and truth," and which is witness to a God of order, truth, and love.

This "inbuilt order" is a gift that is given to us by a loving God: it just is.

It is this "inbuilt order" in nature--again, a gift which just is--that allows our reason, if used rightly, to distill out a "grammar" in creation of which the "grammar" of sexuality is part.  Caritatis in veritate, No. 48.

The "grammar" of sexuality has rules based upon the reason underlying the nature of things, of what is.  But it also relies upon just plain right usage or syntax, a usage or syntax based not so much upon conceptual reason, but upon a sort of reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual "feel" which informs us what is seeming or fitting.

Moral theologians call this reality connaturality.  There are moral truths grounded in moral realities that, in the poet Milton's words, "mix with our connatural dust." 

A connatural end or good is an end or good toward which we tend or incline as part of our nature.  This is called an inclination to the extent that this connatural end is, relative to our nature, an objective good.  An example would be the natural desire for progeny, or learning, or knowing the truth, or having friends.

As Jacques Maritain put it in his book The Range of Reason: "It is through connaturality that moral consciousness attains a kind of knowing--inexpressible in words and notions--of the deepest dispositions--longings, fears, hopes or despairs, primeval loves and options--involved in the night of the subjectivity."

But connaturality has its opposite.  There are such ends we perceive as evils to avoid.  There are some things that are simply unnatural.  We might call such reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual "feelings" that seek to avoid these unnatural actions or things disinclinations

As a result of these disinclinations, there are some actions which, by common consent, are simply seen as moral enormities, actions to which any physically and morally healthy human being are disinclined.  We have a reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual aversion to these things and recognize them at once as evils.

Incest is such a thing.  We connaturally perceive incest to be a great evil, something altogether more vicious than other sexual sins.  It is an offense of huge proportions against familial relations
Any healthy human is naturally disinclined to commit incest, and it is reasonable to be disinclined, though it is difficult to articulate fully the reasons why.  We find incest morally "sick," "creepy," or enormously "perverse" even if we cannot fully say why.  This is true for virtually all cultures.

In his Summa Theologiae (IIaIIae, q. 154, art. 9), St. Thomas Aquinas addressed the sin of incest.  He finds incest to be a species of lust that is particularly "unbecoming" or "unseemly" because it infringes upon the respect that a person should give his or her parents, and this respect "trickles down" as it were to include his or her "other blood relations, who are descended in near degree from the same parents."  It is for this reason, St. Thomas says, that we should experience a certain shame with respect to this act.

The second reason that St. Thomas gives against incest is that blood relations are in close proximity with each other, and if sexual union were not prohibited the "opportunities of venereal intercourse would be very frequent, and thus men's minds would be enervated by lust." 

The third reason that St. Thomas gives is that incest hinders friendship in that, by taking a wife that is not related by consanguinity or affinity, a man expands his circle of relationships.  Incest is closed to this value because friendship is not expanded in an incestuous marriage, but closes in on itself. 

Finally, St. Thomas mentions a fourth reason, one given by Aristotle, and that is that the friendship that naturally occurs among the family ought not to be burdened by venereal love, since the result would be a sort of unbalanced attraction, a "too ardent" love that "would become a very great incentive to lust."

While these are articulated reasons, they are not what we probably even think about, and they do not seem fully to explain, that reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable disclination, even horror, toward incest normal people have. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church certainly forbids incest as gravely immoral  The Catechism defines as the "intimate relations between relatives or in-laws within a degree that prohibits marriage between them."  It cites to St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:1, 4-5), and observes that the apostle "stigmatizes this especially grave offense."  The reason behind the prohibition to incest given in the Catechism that it "corrupts family relationships and marks a regression toward animality."  [CCC §2388]

Any normal, healthy society will structure itself on the "inbuilt order" in nature, will connaturally accept the "grammar" of creation of which the "grammar" of sexuality is part. 

It follows that, in a normal, healthy political society, the positive law would promote as good those things to which we are rightly inclined, and would forbid and punish those things to which we are naturally disinclined, even if reasons are not fully articulable. 

Similarly, the cultural norms or mores of a healthy and normal civil society would support and encourage those things to which we are rightly inclined, and frown upon, and even find abhorrent and outrageous, those things to which we are rightly disinclined, again, even if reasons are not fully articulable.

Unfortunately, society can get sick, corrupt, and develop morally unhealthy frames of reference.  In some situations we can deform ourselves to the point where what is unnatural begins to feel connatural, and what should be connatural begins to feel unnatural.  The moral philosopher J. Budziszewski calls this the "problem of unnatural connaturality."

All this is a prelude to understanding a recent comment by the American film director Nick Cassavetes's comment regarding his new movie, "Yellow."  "Yellow" is a movie that revolves around a character named Mary who visits her brother in prison, and they become involved in an incestuous love affair.

In some comments to "The Wrap," Cassavetes stated the following:

"I have no experience with incest.  We started thinking about that.  We had heard a few stories where brothers and sisters were completely, absolutely in love with one another.  You know what? This whole movie is about judgment, and lack of it, and doing what you want."

"Who gives a shit if people judge you?" Cassavetes continued.  "I'm not saying this is an absolute but in a way, if you're not having kids--who gives a damn?  Love who you want. Isn't that what we say?  Gay marriage--love who you want?  If it's your brother or sister it's super-weird, but if you look at it, you're not hurting anybody except every single person who freaks out because you're in love with one another."

Someone who thinks like Cassavetes or who supports or tolerates him--and we may assume that there are plenty since in a normal society he would be considered a moral pariah to be shunned--has pretty much reached the nadir of moral perversion.  For one such as he, it is highly unlikely that the reasons given by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, or the Catholic Catechism would persuade him of anything.  He has desensitized himself to right inclinations and disinclinations. 

The perversion in Cassavetes is complete: he has reached the point of unnatural connaturality.  He has lost his sense of shame.  He has reached the point where the only thing left that may be said against him--since he has effectively killed his conscience and blinded himself to the "inbuilt order" and "grammar" of sexuality and "grammar" of creation--are woes.  He is subject to woes because we can no longer reason with him.

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!"  (Isaiah 5:20)

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Movies

Faith-based film 'War Room' out grosses secular films such as 'No Escape' and 'We Are Your friends' Watch

Image of It pays to be frugal when producing films, as

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A quiet domestic drama about a family who turns to prayer -- "War Room" opened at theaters nationwide this past weekend. "War Room" spoke to an unspoken need among moviegoers, as its box office receipts far overtook the debuting action drama "No Escape" and the ... continue reading


Horror film director Wes Craven, of 'Nightmare on Elm Street' series dies at 76 Watch

Image of A kindly man with a sly smile perpetually planted on his scholarly face, horror film director Wes Craven knew what he was doing.

By Greg Goodsell (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As a director of horror films, Wes Craven definitely had his vicissitudes. He had some disappointments, and not all of his films spun gold at the box office. He would remain world-famous had he only directed three of his films, "Last House on the Left" in 1972, ... continue reading


Movie star Tom Cruise builds sinister studios to boost Scientology Watch

Image of Rabid Scientology adherent and movie star Tom Cruise is building a $50 million dollar state-of-the art studio on five acres in Hollywood. Word is out that the station will broadcast news with a Scientological slant -

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rabid Scientology adherent and movie star Tom Cruise is building a $50 million dollar state-of-the art studio on five acres in Hollywood. Word is out that the station will broadcast news with a Scientological slant -  "A Scientology CNN," and spread the ... continue reading


God's Not Dead sequel expected to become biggest Christian film of 2016 Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During a recent Church Boys podcast, David A.R. White shared some details about the upcoming sequel to the 2014 Christian movie hit "God's Not Dead." The actor-producer and co-founder of the production company, Pure Flix Entertainment explained that the follow-up movie ... continue reading


Action star Sylvester Stallone says his Rambo character will take on ISIS next Watch

Image of The 68-year-old Sylvester Stallone shared all at the San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a sign of the times... Fabled action star Sylvester Stallone will take his Rambo character in an all-out assault against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the final film in the series, "Last Blood." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The fifth installment in the ... continue reading


Duck Dynasty actor gets serious sharing inspiring religious message to fans Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Uncle Si Robertson, popularly known as comical and fun on Duck Dynasty has recently shown a more serious side as he talked about the importance in giving honor to veterans. He admitted that he was struck in awe by a statement from someone attending the red carpet ... continue reading


Apple quivers over scandalous new biopic movie on the life of Steve Jobs Watch

Image of Apple feels the new film will only focus on the negative parts of Jobs.

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Although the late Steve Jobs was not known to be perfect and flawless, he was certainly not the most villainous employer the world had ever known. However, the latest trailer for the new film about Job's life showcased him as a jerk, arrogant throwing tantrums, ... continue reading


The top 5 Pixar movies from the last 20 years Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Over the years, Pixar has created fourteen amazing animated films that people love and relate to. This year, they released the anticipated film, "Inside Out," featuring fictional characters from inside the human body and mind. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


'The Peanuts Movie' trailer is out! Can Charlie Brown become a winner and get the girl? Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the epic comic strip, a 3D movie of The Peanuts will enter theaters by November this year. The trailer shows the iconic characters Charlie Brown and his ever loyal dog, Snoopy, in a quest for the kid's winning identity, as ... continue reading


4 MUST-SEE classic films to enhance the faith in your teenager Watch

Image of Saving Private Ryan (1998) offers one of the most important messages on courage and sacrifice.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A lot of movies have been released over time and with the advance technology we enjoy today, a variety of formats are easily created. However, although most movies are done with exemplary greatness utilizing animations and other effects to produce a more realistic ... continue reading


All Movies News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:1-8
1 From Paul, by the will of God an apostle of Christ ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:38-44
38 Leaving the synagogue he went to Simon's house. ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Ingrid of Sweden
September 2: Born in Sknninge, Sweden, in the 13th century, St. Ingrid lived ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter