The Catholic Thing
How “Living Together” Harms Marriage Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 21 September 2014

The phrase “living together” is misleading in many ways. But in a culture that goes so far as to label the crushing of a baby’s skull as a “medical procedure,” the phrase sounds neutral or even beneficial. Unfortunately, as with most language in our culture, the phrase is disingenuous. It is deliberately meant to conceal some spiritually devastating practice.

“Life” not only comes from God, it unfolds according to the order of his will. This is not an imposition on us, but rather the optimum way for things to unfold. Belonging to God’s community, though Baptism, people are not isolated independent operators – as if they ever could be. Everyone participates in a spiritual and temporal community where men and women uncover the teleology of their lives. The culture cannot help us very much with this because of all of the false ways of thinking that it contains.

In natural law and divine revelation, men and women are infinite spirits expressing themselves in and through their bodies. The world of the spirit is involved in everything because everything originates there – our longings, our loves, our fears, our ignorance. Our spirits are marked by what we do, even when we would like things such as sexual intercourse to be merely physical.

Now we need some spiritual psychology, something that has been known for over 2000 years – ignored but known. In the Book of Isaiah, God says: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”(6:10)

God transcends us, and so can make valid judgments about what we do. He is describing the way that we are. We fool ourselves all too easily. We oppose God’s efforts because we think that we know better and because we want to sin.

Living together is one occasion for this to happen. Strangely enough people don’t set out wanting to be drug addicts, for example, but they make all the right moves for this to happen and the people around them let them. Similarly, people don’t start out wanting to be gross and closed off from God but in living together they make all of the right moves for this happen.

             This is not togetherness

Our rationalizations don’t mean a thing, e.g., living together is cheaper; we are mature enough; we don’t want to get married; we love each other. Just to answer one rationalization, love is working for the good of the other person. That person’s good is not served by my being their occasion of sin. Each rationalization denies the nature that we have been given and the goals for which we have been given it. These are what give living its meaningfulness and fullness.

Now the bit about living “together”: We live in union with God, with each other, and within ourselves (the integrity of the mature psyche). But true togetherness involves moving from the selfish erratic life of adolescence to being a grown-up who can work for the good of another person day in and day out.

Besides our union with God, union with one other person for life, totally committed to another’s good means that: “By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense or spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by Gods decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises.” (Pius XI)

That’s togetherness! This man and this woman are not just making a life “together.” That would be a horrible materialist parody of the spiritual union for which this man and this woman were created, which is the source of real togetherness.

Settling for a very diminished attachment – impermanent, lacking spiritual depth, and lacking genuine love – is a sorry instance of trying to simulate something that God has already made and blessed, namely Marriage. Living together may seem like the answer to what has become a chaotic world of “married” couples who fail. But one does not choose a mediocre form of life because some married couples make Marriage itself appear mediocre.

There is a kind of vanity is saying: “My parents failed at Marriage so therefore I am not going to get married.” The hurt – and there are mountains of hurt – should be dealt with long before one seeks a permanent loving relationship. Owning up to one’s present circumstances and dealing with them will be a healing maturing experience in itself.

The vanity lies in trying to manage human nature and using one’s own precious life as the laboratory to see whether an experiment will work – or not. Human nature requires dealing with one’s pain until one has come to terms with the past and only then is a person free to contemplate following God’s way of unfolding human nature in Marriage.

Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are: Laity: Beautiful, Good and True; The World of the Sacraments; and, most recentlyCatholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Putin, Peter, and the Wolf Print E-mail
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker   
Saturday, 20 September 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote a column entitled, “Prepare for the Rise of the Right,” in which I observed that in the face of radical Islam, aggressive homosexualism, rampant violence, promiscuity, breakdown of the family and economic disaster, there were an awful lot of ordinary folks in the United States and across Europe who were fuming, frightened, and fed up.

All that is needed, I suggested, is for a strong, righteous leader to emerge who will offer to clean things up in God’s name. All that is needed is for a sober, seemingly Christian man to call for a crusade and the ordinary folks would rise up and elect such a man as their national, if not their international leader. Furthermore, they would welcome a strong military power abroad and tolerate a strong police presence at home.

I received this email in response:

Father there is such a man you describe. . . . His name is Vladimir Validimirivoch Putin and although I am not Russian he has my loyalty because for exactly the reasons you describe. 
I WANT him to overrun Europe, I welcome Russian rising as Our Lady says at Fatima that Russia will save us. Putin knows that you have to fight dirty with the Islamists. Twelve years ago a Russian flagged vessel was seized off Somalia. The Russians didn't bother with negotiations, they sent a Spetznaz squad, who after taking the ship back, overflew the local town and sprayed it with fire from a helicopter gunship. The pirates now know that seizing a Russian flagged vessel is a one-way ticket to explaining their misdeeds to St. Peter and keep away from Russian Vessels. 
Viva Russia! May the Third Rome save the Seat of St Peter and may God keep and convert President Putin, make his name blessed on the face of the Earth and deliver him not into the will of his enemies.
My response was this: Psalm 143:6. For those readers who did not memorize their Bible verses in Sunday School: “Do not put your trust in princes, who have no power to save.”

What might Vladimir Putin put his mind to in the face of weak leadership in NATO and the United States? The conquest of Ukraine is a clear ambition, but have you looked at the map recently? 

       Putin can frolic in water; he cannot walk on it.

It’s only a short march through the tiny countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey – and Russian forces would be in Northern Iraq. Putin is already chums with Syria’s Assad regime to the West. And if he cozies up to the Shia Muslims in Iran and Baghdad he could easily dominate the area, and with it the largest oilfields in the world. The Chechen terrorists are Sunni Muslims, so Putin already has no love for the Sunni.

In the face of a now absent and non-interventionist United States, why wouldn’t Putin decide to sort out ISIS, and while he is at it dominate Iraq?

Any American who sees Vladimir Putin as the savior of the world and the savior of the papacy should think again and read history. The powers of this world care nothing for the pope unless the pope is a pawn. Catholics should not imagine that a savior will come from Russia. Neither should they expect a savior from their own land. Totalitarianism can arise just as easily from the right wing as from the revolutionaries, and no country is immune. The American eagle could just as easily be the standard of the conquering armies as it was the standard for the armies of Rome.

Instead Catholics should remember Psalm 146:3. The believer invests in the kingdom of God, not in the kingdom of this world. We are not to put our trust in princes, presidents or prime ministers. We look for another country whose make and builder is God. Catholics should be involved in politics and power if that is their calling, and sometimes when a clear and present evil arises in the world, Catholics should engage in the military efforts to defeat it, but they should not imagine that the powers that step in after the victory will be much better nor should they ever imagine that they will bring about a Catholic utopia.

This world is not our home. We’re just passing through this vale of tears. While here we are called to be in the world, but not of the world. The Catholic sees the bigger picture, always gleaning what is true and good from any political or economic system and always criticizing what is venal, criminal, vain and corrupt.

All men of power are corrupt and vain because those who are honest and humble are not ambitious. We therefore accept our leaders as flawed and broken men with flawed and twisted ambitions. We are watchful and alert for wolves are everywhere. We are vigilant towards all the political players and men of power. Always hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

Sheep should be wary of wolves, and the rulers of this world are invariably wolves. As for Peter, he should never play with the wolf or hope to be rescued by him. History shows that when the papacy plays with political power it nearly always ends in tears, and often ends in blood.

Fr Dwight Longenecker’s latest book is The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.