The Death of Love


From the new website of Dystopia 

There is no doubt, and few could question the assertion, that love is an incredible thing. Placed in its true and proper context, love is a beautiful thing, if, indeed, it can be described as a ‘thing’.

Of course, love is not actually a thing. If it were a thing, we should possess it. If love is not a thing and we cannot own it, then exactly what is it? What is love? It is important that we ask ourselves the question today because we are entering into a new age in which the very word ‘love’ is claimed by different parties and groups only to mean very different things.

The word, partly due to the emotive power behind the word, is being altered beyond recognition, given new constructions which previous generations have not considered. There are a couple of areas in which the word ‘love’ is being employed to advance a particular set of ideas or an agenda. Two areas in which it is being employed to advance an agenda are the areas in which naturally we as human beings have a great interest: namely these are sex and death.

For instance, it is said by some that the case for assisted suicide can be made because to allow the killing of a suffering individual is or could be, in certain circumstances, a loving act – an act of mercy or of charity.

Few other generations would have countenanced such an idea. Nor would these previous generations have countenanced ‘gay marriage’. There are some important factors as to why this should have been the case.  Let us examine some of them.

Until now, Christian societies respected that how we understand love should be guided by the Church and the teachings of Christ. The Church once had a formidable role in defining the Divine and so, naturally, had authority in defining those qualities that find their source and origin in the Divine rather than, say, the media, Nick Clegg, popular opinion, or the State.

Traditionally, 'love' or how we define 'love' – because it had been deemed to be a spiritual ‘thing’, was believed to be the remit of the Church.  In fact, outside of the Church, there was little other interpretation of love than the qualities attributed to it by St Paul.

We thought of love as patient, kind, humble, selfless and hopeful. We thought that love was not self-seeking or vain, that love did not seek its own happiness but that of others. Of course, love found expression through human interaction, but we had an understanding that our relationship with love was a struggle because while we may or may not have been men of cheerful or charitable dispositions, it was deemed that to love required an element of both virtue and personal heroism.  In terms of human sexuality, love was spousal, bound up with the fusion of man and woman. It was fruitful - it generated new life. It was kind and forgiving. 

The commandment, that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, strength and understanding gave us a vision of love which was both concrete and spiritual. The commandment to ‘love our neighbour’ gave us a vision of love which was practical. A man could love his country, but the cost to him might be that he loses limbs or life in defending it in time of war.  The greatest model held up to society of 'love' was presented by the Church to the nation. That model, of course, was Jesus Christ who, in His love, gave up His life so that we might live – that we might have life 'in all its fullness'.

There existed also an understanding that love did not come for free. Love wasn’t cheap or easy. There was a particular appreciation that love involved a measure of self-sacrifice – that love involved us in some measure or manner going beyond ourselves and our own self-interest. This was, in fact, the love that kept marriages together, that held families together like glue through good times and bad, through prosperous times and times of poverty, through sickness and health.

Coupled with this was a curious British reserve. We did not really talk about sex much openly and, in fact, we were rather embarrassed by the whole thing and we resented the Italians, French and Spanish for being comfortable with it. This British reserve, however, also led to us Brits not using the word ‘love’ glibly or liberally. We heard that the French were great 'lovers', but we were right to think that in part that meant they slept around too much. To speak of love was to speak of something very serious, solemn and important. We didn’t bandy the word 'love' around willy-nilly because actually, we were uncomfortable all round with expressing our feelings - even feelings that had nothing to do with sex. Feelings and emotions, if they ran high, ran high behind a newspaper and a pipe.

There was, too, a natural mistrust of our own selves. We believed in Original Sin and so a man could not necessarily believe that just because he was committing adultery that what felt like love was actually 'love' since love was also bound up with duty to one’s own spouse and the spouse of your ‘lover’ and if ever a politician were found to be sleeping with someone other than his wife, he resigned because confidence in his public reputation was lost. Even racy English novels that contained homosexual liaisons had these relationships to be fraught with guilt and sadness.

Now, the word ‘love’ is banded around in a way that is distinctly un-English.  What does, for instance, the Queen make of the idea that homosexuals share a ‘love’ that is ‘equal’ to that of a man and a woman who desire to start a family?  What we are witnessing is that in an atheistic, more secular age, groups and individuals have set out to rob words of their true meaning – or – certainly, their previous meanings, because in an age of uncertainty, of moral relativism, everything, even love itself, is ‘up for grabs’.

And so, when Nick Clegg says that ‘gay marriage’ will go ahead in order to recognise the ‘love’ of gay couples, few in society will pay his choice of word a second thought. We are now so used to public individuals, politicians and celebrities describing every relationship as being one of ‘love’ (even after the fifth marriage) that few would raise an eyebrow to Mr Clegg’s assurance to the British public that when the State changes the meaning of marriage, it is because of the ‘love’ that homosexuals share.  It follows therefore that this love simply must be raised to the official state of marriage (marriage must be redefined), for if it is not, then how can we call ourselves a free, equal, fair and tolerant society?

As I say, few will pour over Clegg’s words, but we really must, as citizens and as Catholics dig a little deeper underneath the soundbites of the Liberal Democrat politician, if we are to discern whether what he is actually saying is true. 

For nevermind that the institution of marriage precedes both the Church and the State, it is surely not up to the State now to define the very meaning of the word, ‘love’, for, as I said, if a State does that, it runs the danger of robbing the word of its meaning or of emptying it of its original content to suit its own ends. 

For, ironically, what Clegg seeks to change in meaning - love - no State can actually do. No, the State cannot love and it rarely shows clemency.  Meditating upon and proclaiming love is, in fact, the Church’s territory and the State is treading on holy ground. If love, too, is to be redefined to mean active homosexual relationships then the State is, in fact, attempting to take possession of that which none can in fact possess, since the very idea of love is rooted in God Himself.

Our understanding of love, in fact, comes from natural law and Christianity. The love of spouses who marry and whose love brings forth children is natural and Christian. The loving of and the education of these children is natural but hitherto also Christian. To love our parents and to look after our elderly relatives is natural but, hitherto, also Christian. To love the poor and feed them is Christian. To love ones country and die for it is heroic and, in principle, Christian and to love God and the Church and to die for both is Christian.

Nick Clegg’s comments deserve some heavy comment and analysis because frankly, if the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is going to speak of love, indeed to preach, then he should grant his people right to reply. For if ‘love’ is what Mr Clegg says it is – namely, two men living a life together and giving each other sexual pleasure – then the very word ‘love’ has been demeaned or at least changed. If that is ‘love’ then we must find a new word for what it means for a man to sacrifice his life and limbs for his country. If that is love, then we need to find a new word to express a man and a woman bringing forth new life into the world through their union and raising those children well.  If that is love, then we need to find a new word for what Blessed Teresa of Caluctta did in the slums. If that is love, then we need to find a new word to describe that bond which exists between father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, Bishop and priest and, indeed, Queen and country.

To speak of the love that dare not speak its name as ‘love’ that in some way is equal to natural marriage or Christian marriage is to, at best, give a very superficial construction to the word itself, and, at worst, to rob it entirely of its profound and rich spiritual meaning.  And, furthermore, when Government begins robbing words of their actual meaning to the point that even the word ‘love’ is no longer a) holy or b) sacred, or associated with either of the two then people should be concerned that the Government is entering into a realm in which it has absolutely no business or right whatsoever.

What theologians and mystics, poets and artists, philosophers and saints have dedicated their whole lives to penetrating – the mystery of love – has been solved by a Liberal Democrat called Nick Clegg.  Or has it?  Certainly, others, like St Paul, would perhaps disagree with Mr Clegg on his definition. Perhaps the most important of St Paul’s words on love is describing its purity.

 ‘Love is pure’ said St Paul.  If love is pure, as St Paul says, it suggests that it is not, in fact, a human construction at all – since few would maintain that we humans are ‘all pure’.  St Paul looks at love and sees in it its Divine origin. He sees the Lover Himself, Christ Crucified shedding His Blood for mankind. When Nick Clegg looks at love, he sees two men sharing a life together and living out a sexual relationship which is, at best, restrictive and linear. 

St John says, ‘Let us love one another since God is love’. Nick Clegg says, ‘Let’s have gay marriage because all loves are equal.’ What he has not done is tell us exactly why active homosexual relationships constitute ‘love’ in the first place. It is also noteworthy that the British people are not being given a choice about same-sex marriage despite that an aspect of love is about allowing people choice. Still, we have established already that the State cannot love. God loves us and because God loves us, God allows us, unlike the State, to choose Him, or, indeed not.

See, what concerns me is that in the Church’s understanding, the very word 'love' is rich with profound meaning. Love can drive men to a million different ways of giving themselves to God and their neighbour. Love has driven men to write incredible works for the love of souls. Love has driven people to live in the desert to pray to God without worldly distraction. Love has driven men and women to give up their sexuality as gift for God in religious life. Love has driven men to become missionaries and others to risk their lives in areas of the World in which the Church is openly persecuted. Love has driven couples to be open to children and to raise them in the love of God. Love has driven nuns to care for the sick and dying in Calcutta.

What concerns me most is that through the media the British population are being taught not to think. We are being taught not to probe beneath the surface level of what politicians and other public figures say. We are encouraged to accept it all at face value. Mr Clegg just expects the nation, and seemingly the Royal Family, to accept his pontifications on love and for us not even to think about what he is actually saying. There is, of course, a word for such shallow and superficial comments on matters profound and wonderous by politicians. It is called ‘propaganda’.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the German parliamentrecalled how the State can become a ‘band of robbers’. Today, we are talking about the spiritual robbery that is taking place in the 21st century – the robbery of meaning from words to advance an explict agenda. Orwell called it newspeak. Goebells said that as long as a lie is repeated often enough, it will eventually become believable.

Curiously, few in Britain even dare to question the new definition of love as being something that is guided by our groins, rather than by hearts that seek the good and the edification of others. 

Perhaps we are so steeped in our own sins, so lost in self-interest that we allow the lie to persist that sex = love and that everything we do, good or ill, is somehow begotten of love. For what is love to 21st century man, woman and child today bares little resemblance to what love was to a man even of the previous two centuries. Stripped of its spiritual meaning, its other-centredness, 'love' is merely pleasure, merely a rollercoaster ride through life which has no focus other than our personal contentment. If it is that then we have destroyed it. We have killed it and we allow others in power to continue to destroy it and to kill it on our behalf.

To 21st century man, love is seemingly what we can extract out of others. It appears to be almost totally self-centred, concerned with satisfying self. When we have extracted all we can, like a bee gathering nectar from a flower, we move onto the next one. The best illustration of it is modern attitude to marriage and the family.  We can take it as read that the biggest reason for divorce in this country is that married couples 'fall out of love' with each other or discover that they ‘no longer love one another’. In a previous age, if a man said to a woman, ‘I’m sorry, dear, but I no longer love you,’ the woman would likely say, ‘Well, I struggle to see then in what way you ever loved me.’ Another response could be, ‘What do you mean? Love is a choice.’

'Love' has been so divorced from purity, constancy, loyalty, kindness, patience, long-suffering, selflessness, humility and chastity for so long that we are only lovers so long as we feel like it.  Few have paid it much attention, but before our eyes the love which was affixed, anchored to the seabed of Christianity has been cut loose from its moorings and now floats aimlessly out to a sea, amid a veritable ocean of moral relativism. Each man makes claims of the very tip of love, floating past him, saying: ‘That is mine’, clasping at it as if it were his possession, while love itself is no longer what it was because its mooring was in the sea bed, attached to a rock of Faith. Its very being, its very substance was in God. Love belongs to God. Yet the State is now laying claim to an arena which belongs to God, so that love means something different to what it meant to previous generations. This is robbery. Nothing more, nothing less, for, in the Christian understanding, the 'old understanding', love and lust are two entirely separate things. They are not to be conflated or mistaken for each other and it is certainly not up to the State to declare that lust is love. Still, we have, perhaps, only ourselves to blame.

‘God is dead,’ said Nietzche. ‘We have killed Him.’  It is no surprise that an age that delights in rejecting God, too strips the garments from love, strips it bare indeed. No surprise that an age that rejoices when God is banished from the public sphere, too crowns love with thorns, rather than a garland of beautiful flowers. No surprise that an age that abandons God, too abandons all previous understanding of love for something fashionable and easy. No surprise that an age that has no interest in the pierced Victim that loves all men and women, turns away, only to crucify ‘love’ itself.

We understand that, as Christians, we may not always excel at loving. We all fall short of the Glory of God. At the heart of Christianity, however, is a definition of love which is beautiful, which is excellent and which transcends and even forgets self entirely.  It is holy. It floods the whole World with the Blood and the Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Christ upon the Cross. It is God. God is Love. If we can say anything of God, we can say that God is Love.

Nick Clegg would be wise, if he cannot appreciate this, not to lecture the public upon it, for he is a politician, not a preacher and his definition not only lacks substance. It lacks beauty and it lacks depth.  It is so restrictive that it it is almost hollow. Nick can use whatever rhetorical flourishes he likes to justify that which can never be justified. That’s what politicians do. He should, however, be aware that we are not stupid. He should leave expounding upon love to the Church because while love is not the possession of the Church, the Church's Founder, Father and Sanctifier is Love Itself.

Atheists may say, 'Well who is the Church to say it has the monopoly on love,' to which I would reply, 'Then you tell me, what, then, is love and who are you and more importantly who is the State to define it for all of us? It is, afterall, not your possession. Let's stick with Johnny Cash's eloquent exegesis...


Fr Dickson said…
Thanks for a most useful and intersting post.
Fr A S (London) said…
I find it difficult to reconcile your thoughts with those of the great Cardinal Basil Hume's teaching document on this topic:

“Love between two persons, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected… When two persons love, they experience in a limited manner in this world what will be their unending delight when one with God in the next… To love another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the arena of the richest human experience…” (Cardinal Basil Hume, Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexual People, 1995).
The Bones said…
Surely, Fr A S, that is brotherly love, already named and commended by the Church.
Tonia Marshall said…
I can't help thinking of the gay men I know who have nursed their partners with Aids and watched them die. They loved deeply. The act of sodomy is an unholy disordered expression of that love, but they still loved.
The Bones said…
I did not say homosexuals were incapable of loving.

I said that love does not mean homosexual sexual relationships, which Nick Clegg clearly believes it does.
Fr A S said…
But you spew a torrent of abuse and lack of respect toward homosexual persons Lawrence which is not comatible with church teachings.
The Bones said…
I don't consider that I have done that, but you are entitled to your opinion.

Every homosexual relationship and encounter I have experienced has been one revolving around the satisfaction of my lust.

To those homosexuals who live out a relationship of mutual love and affection and who strive to live according to the Church's teaching of chastity, all I have to say is that I take my hat off to you.

My concern is that homosexuality is presented as 'equal love' and that is what is being used to advance an agenda by the gay lobby. I tried to assess this in the light of what St Paul described as the attributes of love and that it seems that he did not reckon lust came into it.

Johnathon and David in the Old Testament loved each other intensely, but that doesn't mean they engaged in sexual intercourse or would have wanted to marry.

St Francis was a great lover of men - again - it wasn't about sexual union - it was about loving people for God's sake.

If it appears that I am 'spewing' anything then I apologise, but appreciate that we are fighting a battle against the redefinition of marriage and that 'love' is a word that is being banded around cheaply in order to endorse it.
Fr A S said…
''Every homosexual relationship and encounter I have experienced has been one revolving around the satisfaction of my lust.''

Perhaps this is where you're going wrong. Judging other people by your own limited experience and disappointments is a dangerous presumption. You can truly know someone elses intentions or motivation or circumstances. There are many cohabiting same sex couples in my urban parish and I never presume the nature of there relationship is sexual and in fact I know for many of them that it is not. I have just buried the partner of one of my staunchest parishoners. He nursed and cared for his every need while he died a long agonising death from cancer. A true exemplar of being christ like to another.

I think you if examine your conscience and read through many of your old postings and comments, you will not truly be able to say that you do not 'spew' filth, hate and dis-respect to gay peoples generally based on your simplistic sterotyped understanding of the complexities of their lives. The fact that you do so hiding behind a distortion of authentic church teachings makes it a more heinious sin in my book. Please desist these rantings and moderate your tone in future.
The Bones said…
Please, Father,

What has someone caring for another person in their terminal cancer got to do with their homosexuality?

I don't get it. I have absolutely no problem with agreeing with you that homosexuals can share loving relationships.

I am a homosexual. I have loving relationships. These are called friendships.

Perhaps you can enlighten me, because it seems you are suggesting that for a homosexual man to truly love another man it really helps if he has slept with him first.
The Bones said…
I would also be grateful if you could point out to me in what way I have distorted Church teachings.
jadis said…
"Perhaps this is where you're going wrong. Judging other people by your own limited experience and disappointments is a dangerous presumption."

Indeed, Fr A S. Put with authority and feeling. Of course, as a Catholic priest, I must make the dangerous presumption that you
either have an even more limited personal experience of "hands on" sodomite activity, or alternatively, that you lied your way through the discernment process, and through your interviews at the seminary, and are thus in no position to lecture anyone about their adherence to Catholic principles.
Fr A S said…
My point is that same sex couples love each other in a way which is not qualiatively different to opposite sex couples - to deny that they do and can love is intellectually and theologically dishonest. Whether the nature of their love is also romantic or finds expression sexually is not primarilly your concern and you should avoid making judgements based on such assumptions. Charity towards others always, my friend.

My parishoner truly loved and cared for his life-long partner, and that should be respected. It does not matter if it was equal to, or better or worse than married love. It was love... and all love comes from God, period.

You often state your own dismal experience of homosexual relations as justification for your opinions. Perhaps that limited and very personal experience does not necessarilly reflect the fundamental nature of same sex relationships as much as your own difficulty forming meaningful loving and intimate relationships with others. Rather than make you an authoritative source in this arena, it is the poisoned thorn in your eye which prevents you taking a more balanced perspective.

You have chosen your own way in life and only in time will we see the fruits of those choices and whether they genuinely were the right path for you. Until that time, perhaps, it is better for you to hold your tongue because just maybe you won't be so absolutely certain about it all on the final judgement day.
The Bones said…
'Whether the nature of their love is also romantic or finds expression sexually is not primarilly your concern...'

In other words:


As a sinner who God loves, it may not primarily be MY concern, but that is the one and only aspect of homosexual relationships which I dared not to call 'love'.

I called it lust, as did St Paul, and because I dared to speak the truth about it you are most offended.
The Bones said…

You have no evidence for that.
The Bones said…
I shall allow Fr to reply then delete your comment.
Pétrus said…
Clegg sends his children to the Oratory School in London. This school has a huge number of applicants each year and as such has to select on a points basis. Points are allocated based on how Catholic an upbringing the child has received to date.

Surely Clegg's children are in fact denying places to children more deserving on the basis of their adherence to the faith?
Fr A S said…
Jadis - I am not homsexually inclined as you put it. Prior to entering the experience I had romantic relationships with a small number of female partners. I have never had a homosexual experience. I did not lie to get into, or during, seminary. Yet more disparaging assumptions made about someone without any shred of evidence. This is just the kind of sinful behaviour of detraction which I directed my comments at.

I said that perhaps Lawrence's views on the nature of homosexual relationships always being lustful is based on his own limited experience. He says as much himself and I believe he over-generalises that experience to all other same sex couples. I know of several gay parishoners whose relationships are not sexual but they are romantic and committed. I gave these examples to demonstrate and my comments and illustrate that not all homosexual relationships are sexual or sinful.

I will address the other comments seperately under the new posting in response to my earlier comments.
Fr A S said…
In the last post I should have said before I entered the experience. My apologies, I did not have my reading glasses on.
Fr A S said…
soory again, before i entered the seminary
epsilon said…
I have a question for Fr A S: Are you the sort of priest who will agree that "noone can know what is in other people's minds and we shouldn't make assumptions, and after all who are we to judge", etc. etc. ? Because if you are, then you may be leading souls into the arms of he who cannot be mentioned in our oh so politically correct world.

What about the case of people who love each other so much that it is too much of a temptation to live in such close quarters? Are you the sort of priest who would tell a hetrosexual couple who are in love that it's OK to live together, and thereby encourage them to put themselves in the way of the cause of sin? I don't know how old you are, but there seems to be a certain naivety to how you see things. May I remind you that you are (I presume) a Catholic priest and therefore it is your duty to uphold the tenets of the Catholic Church on matters of Faith and morals, whatever your personal ideas may be. Lawrence England, it seems to me, is trying to let people like you see how difficult you are making it for people of any sexual attraction to live faithfully according to their Catholic Christian religious beliefs. None of us, whether hetero or homo sexual, are helped by priests who turn a blind eye to our sins!