Monday, July 27, 2015

The Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
—C. S. Lewis from The Abolition of Man.

St. Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance.  It is from the Latin mollities, which literally means “softness.”  Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy.  It involves being inordinately passive or receptive.  What St. Thomas means by persevering is when “a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance or difficulties and toils.”  An “effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrows caused by lack of pleasures, yielding as it were to a weak motion.”  Thomas states that this effeminacy is caused in two ways.  First, by custom, where a man is accustomed to enjoy pleasures and it is, therefore, more difficult for him to endure the lack of them.  Second, by natural disposition, less persevering through frailty of temperament, and this is where Thomas compares men with women, and also mentions the homosexual act of sodomy, and the receiver in this act as being effeminate or like a woman.  The vice of delicacy for Thomas considers those who cannot endure toils, or anything that diminishes pleasure, and thus delicacy is a kind of effeminacy.  Thomas quotes from Deuteronomy 28:56, “The tender and delicate woman, that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for softness.”  It may be true that some cultural prejudices are being revealed here with this comparison because a vice is a vice, whether it is found in a man or a woman, but it is also true that some vices are more perverse or disordered when found specifically in men or women.  Effeminacy is more pronounced in a man than a woman because women are more susceptible to this vice.  Just as the vice of drunkenness is more pronounced or perverse when found in a woman than a man.  (more...)

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