Do we try to do what is moral because it is useful? Because it is the rule? Or because it is the kind of person we want to be?
With all the threads that seem to me obsessed with the “mortality” of masterbation it also seemed to me that a point is being missed. Wisdom traditions East and West talk about that close relationship between wisdom and virtue. They each grow the other and are expressions of the other. It seems much better to me to base our actions and decisions on virtuous habits rather than rules or even practical usefulness though they will often be in harmony.
Augustine said, “Love, and do as you please.” That instruction, of course, needs to be tempered by a knowledge of what (or who!) love truly is. But I think that an obsession with “whether X is wrong” – for oneself or others – is a sign that we want to do the least possible to get to heaven.
A desire to be virtuous, for its own sake, is an antidote to this sort of nonsense.
I have been studying Chinese wisdom lately. It all comes down to virtues just as in Greek philosophy and Biblical books of Wisdom. I like this idea that in order to make wise decisions it is not so much about knowing all the rules (though that is invovled) or doing what is most useful (that helps also) but develping a virtuous character that will lean the right direction when the rules are not at all clear and the utility not very obvious.
We find ourselves in these situations quite often. Many times they are not dramatic but with family, at work, even in our parish community we are confronted with moments that put us on the spot.
I believe that this is what Pope Francis was addressing when he said…
“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology, …and ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.
“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”
“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,… But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”
He said Christian ideology was the result of a lack of true prayer.