Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I see that Matthew Bellisario has done a post on "Self-abuse."

What's ironic about this is that it got started when I did a post on John-Paul II whipping himself as a spiritual exercise. Armstrong then did a post not only defending self-flagellation, but he even went so far as to spooftext self-mutilation (cutting oneself).

So, according to Armstrong, Bellesario, et al. if an adolescent touches himself in the "wrong" place, that is "self-abuse," but if he whips himself bloody or crawls on his bare knees up a flight of stony steps, that's an act of supererogatory merit.

Autoeroticism is intrinsically evil and disordered, but physical self-harm is commendatory as long as this is a "spiritual" exercise.

I guy named Cory also raised some objections. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer any arguments to respond to. Just assertions.

I already dealt with the "lust" objection, both practically and exegetically. Of course, I could always be wrong, but no counterargument is forthcoming from his end.

He also lodges a last-ditch appeal to tradition. But tradition, at best, has an advisory role, not an executive role. Indeed, he's obviously quite selective in his own appropriation of tradition on various issue.

Everything is traditional. Gnosticism is traditional. Docetism is traditional. Arianism is traditional.

There's also his assumption that, in this context, sexual fantasies always involve a strange woman. Well, that's a very revealing assumption.

What about a married serviceman on a 6-month tour of duty overseas? Is it wrong for him to fantasize about his own wife?

We can debate that, but my immediate point is that a scenario like this doesn't even occur to Cory.

Likewise, does he think single men should read the Song of Solomon? What about single Christians–male or female. Should the Song of Solomon be part of their canon?

If they read it, won't that appeal to their imagination? Indeed, isn't the imagery designed to have that effect?


  1. I see that Matthew Bellisario has done a post on "Self-abuse."


    Phil Johnson of TeamPyro fame twittered this link titled:

    "Chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth says Devil is in the Vatican".

  2. Hm, well, maybe Bellisario et al are just dutifully following the Inquisition's footsteps when it denounced Luis de León for translating the Song of Solomon, for example? After all, to paraphrase a couple of wise guys, nobody suspects the Spanish Inquisition! :-)

  3. "I see that Matthew Bellisario has done a post on "Self-abuse.""

    Seriously, I have heard that the phrase "self-abuse" is code for masturbation.

    Have you heard that before too?

  4. I am sure we can come with many names for it.

  5. I saw "self-abuse" and the first that occurred to me was cutting or eating disorders since I have had some personal ministry to people who do this. "Oh," I thought as I scanned the post, "It's just another in the series on Roman Catholic self-flagellation." :)

    But what occurred to me next was this question: If it is possible for us to commit spiritual murder or adultery, is it possible to commit spiritual self-abuse that is perhaps some distortion of humility or humbleness, which are otherwise good things? And how would you minister to someone who does this without fueling it? Would this imply some spiritual kinship between cutting and RCC self-flagellation? I have to think on these things.

    With regard to Song of Solomon, I've also wondered when it is appropriate to read this with my kids. For I vie to teach the whole of the Bible to them section-by-section before they leave my house. Could you say of a second-grader who is professing faith in Christ that he has some knowledge of these aspects of the scriptures? I've had to teach some passages to my kids with some tact as young and old sit together to study with me. "Daddy, it says Rahab was a prostitute. What's that?"

  6. Dear Jim Pemberton,

    I have two friends who have teen-age daughters who are cutting themselves.

    What do you do? Are there any resources on the internet that you recommend?

  7. TUAD,

    You can study up on cutting in general just to be informed. There is some good general information on the internet. Here's one for example:

    If the cutting involves clinical depression which I've seen, then studying up on depression is important too. There are some good books by Christian counselors that can help.

    These links are just examples. There's a lot more information available. Most of it is good info.

    But the fact that the parents already know that the daughters are doing this is an important first step. Getting them into professional Christian counseling and medical support where applicable is another. The hurdle is often the parents.

    Too many parents are reluctant to do what is necessary for these types of problems where they face the implication of some lack of familial stability for which they may be culpable. Parental support in this matter is vital. If you are in a position to help them repent of any spiritual problem they may need to change in their contributions to the home and build them up as fellow Christians, then by all means help this family. It can be difficult but rewarding. If the family aren't Christians, I don't see much hope for them. How can a Christian contribute to whatever delusion may provide some false sense of familial security for the unbeliever?

    Whether they are Christian or not, once the daughters are in therapeutic and possibly chemical treatment, the family will likely be required to have some very practical outside accountability for the daughters: "safe" adults they can report any cutting to within a specified time frame after cutting. You can't do that because you're male, but if your wife (assuming you're married) is similarly involved with this family, then she may be able to help in this capacity.

    God bless you for your concern and may God bless those girls with his peace and joy.

  8. Thanks much, Jim.

    One friend is a buddhist. Divorced several years ago (his wife had an affair). The eldest daughter is cutting herself.

    The other is my wife's colleague at work. The daughter never knew her biological father. Mom got pregnant in college. Bio dad never saw the baby. The teen-ager has only known the man her mother later married. I don't know whether they are Christians or not. If they are, I suspect that it's nominal.

    Thanks again for your help.

  9. Cory Tucholski:

    “Oh, whoops! He is responding to me. I’d better start paying attention. Let’s see. He’s already dealt with the lust objection. Unless I’m missing something, he did not deal with the issue at length.”

    Yes, he’s missing something all right: my exegesis of Mt 5:32, which is the locus classicus of these debates. It would behoove him do research my arguments before he presumes to comment.

    “It relies on the false assumption that you can’t deny yourself sexual pleasure.”

    I see that Cory can’t follow his own argument. He objected to masturbation on the grounds that it incites lustful feelings. However, the lack of a sexual outlet also incites lustful feelings. Therefore, I was answering him on his own terms. His reply is a non sequitur.

    “Jesus probably has many things in view here, and lust is probably one of those things. After all, he condemns lust during the Sermon on the Mount.”

    As if I haven’t already death with that text. And as if the lack of a sexual outlet is an antidote to lust.

    “Paul tells us that to avoid burning with lust, we should marry (1 Cor 7:9)–and that only if we cannot exercise self-control.”

    Does Cory think a boy or girl should marry the moment they hit puberty?

    “I don’t recall him telling us to masturbate to avoid burning with lust.”

    I don’t recall Paul telling us that identity theft is wrong. Therefore, is identity theft permissible?

    “Note that a Christian who is truly in Christ will be granted a measure of self-control by God; it is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Perhaps our natural, fallen selves would be incapable of keeping it in our pants.”

    Cory must be a monk. Indeed, by Cory’s logic, we should all have the self-control to be monks. After all, a good monk can always “keep it in his pants,” right?

    “But if there isn’t anything in Scripture to overturn a tradition, such as in this case, why not align with it?”

    Tradition is just human opinion. One opinion doesn’t automatically trump another.

    “This is why I reject doctrines like the rapture, because it has no foundation in Christian tradition.”

    A lousy reason.

    “Here, Hays just seems to have an underlying assumption that if the Catholic Church teaches it, it must be wrong.”

    Straw man argument.

    “Indeed, they may be right in many (if not most) cases. Let’s use the discernment that God gave us to figure that out.”

    Cory has no monopoly on discernment. Indeed, his powers of discernment leave much to be desired.

    “Tradition also rejects those as heresies.”

    Tradition doesn’t reject traditional heresies. Heresies are just as traditional as orthodoxies.

    “Scripture, properly understood, clearly teaches against them.”

    Notice the bait-and-switch–as though Scripture and traditional are interchangeable.

    “Red herring, anyone?”

    Once again, I was answering him on his own grounds. The poor guy can’t keep track of his own argument.

    “I’m guessing that most of the time a guy’s wife isn’t flashing across his mind.”

    Is Cory speaking from personal experience? What happened to all that spiritual fruit?

    “Masturbation may or may not be wrong in that case.”

    Now he’s having to back down and hustle in key qualification which he didn’t mention beforehand.

    “I’m not sure what the purpose of this tangent on the Song was.”

    That’s not hard to follow. How does Cory define “lust.” Does reading the Song of Solomon incite lustful feelings according to his definition? If not, then where does he draw the line?

  10. Matthew Bellisario has a moderated blog. Anyways, I submitted the following questions to Matthew per TurretinFan's suggestion:

    "Hi Matthew Bellisario,

    I've been directed here by TurretinFan to earnestly ask you the following questions. I hope you'll answer these straightforward questions.

    I was participating on this thread at Beggars All and Rhology suggested that you are the person to ask these questions.

    (Context: I ask these questions because another commenter said that the RC system makes non-celibate Christians second-class citizens.)

    So with all due respect, here they are:

    Is it a sin for celibate Catholic clergy to masturbate? Or is it okay?

    If it's a sin, do they have to go in the confessional booth and confess their sin of masturbation to another priest?

    Have you, Matthew B., ever committed the sin of masturbation? And if so, did you confess this sin in the confessional booth?

    On a more general scale, is the teaching that masturbation is a sin formally taught in the Roman Catholic Catechism? If not, then it might be understandable that there may be a large number of Catholics who don't believe masturbation is a sin."