playing it safe

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 04, 2005

Loyola University (CHICAGO's JESUIT UNIVERSITY, the promotional slicks remind us) has an on-line Student Self-Care page titled Playing It Safe. It begins with a curtsey dropped in the general direction of Mediterranean value-systems and within the space of a paragraph ends up flat on the floor:

Catholic faith maintains that sexual intercourse is to be simultaneously an act of the deepest intimacy and an act open to the conception of new life. Because of this twofold purpose, intercourse is to be engaged in only by marriage partners. Muslims and Jews share similar moral positions. The following information should be used within the context of one's own religious, moral, and ethical values about human sexuality. If you choose to be sexually active, consider your health and peace of mind by playing it safe.

How's that for a specimen of bracing moral guidance for a hormone-soaked 19-year-old? "Playing it safe" means picking up Loyola's unsubtle if-you-can't-be-good-be-careful hint so as to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. In addition to "low risk" practices -- among which wholesome acts of courtship and mortal sins are listed indiscriminately -- we get a roster of miscellaneous lab supplies conducive to "peace of mind," including jellies, creams, foams, and dental dams.

And dental dams. Here, at long last, we find the unsurpassably perfect emblem of the liberal Catholic project in general and contemporary Jesuit pedagogy in particular. Note that we're speaking of symbolism. I'd wager that never in the history of human endeavor has a man tempted to the act for which a dental dam is protective ever paused to protect himself thereby. Perhaps I'm deluded -- perhaps Chicago pharmacists will write to boast of their dam sales, insisting that "Jesuits are our best customers"; perhaps the campus ministry chaplains never leave home without a dam in their wallets ("just in case"). But I doubt it. The importance of the dental dam is its symbolic value as a white flag, a concession of moral surrender.

The point of any education is that you come to know something at the end of it that you didn't know at the beginning, and university education is intended to pass on wisdom: a comprehensive view of human nobility together with the knowledge that attends it. Loyola obviously despairs of the possibility of knowing that sodomy is bad -- i.e, of knowing it with the same confidence that it knows latex barriers lower the risk of disease. The latter it presents as evident truth, the former as an arbitrary option. We don't even find a link to a site in which the Catholic teaching is defended.

So what invitation does Chicago's Jesuit University extend to the world? What human good does it offer? "Don't fall off into the mindless labor pool. Come to us. Work weekends and summer jobs and dent your parents' savings. Sit at our feet, and study and write and argue for four years, six years, eight years. Throw yourself into history, logic, theology, ethics, metaphysics. Make the Spiritual Exercises. Earn a doctorate in theology or philosophy so as to learn how to order the human life, and at the conclusion of this ascent to the acme of earthly wisdom we can offer you ... a dental dam."

I spoke of the dam as a token of defeat, and it is. But it's no accident that Loyola's masters put it on the same page as what they call "dry kissing." The game is to level all amorous activities to a single plane of moral neutrality, thereby soiling innocent acts by making them blank counters in the same exercise of moral defeatism ("just another form of safe sex"). The dental dam is a white flag of surrender -- but in a war they want to lose. I don't believe that a doctor, seeing his son on the way out the door of an evening, ever tossed him a dental dam, with an injunction to "play it safe." Were he to do so, it would not be a gesture of fatherly concern but an act of hostility. For the same reason, I believe the Loyola latex lovers -- like those folks begging the Church to give condoms to Africans -- are moral nihilists moved by hatred of moral integrity. Having given in to sexual anarchy, they detest those who haven't. The vandal attacks the unbroken window, the un-splattered wall.

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  • Posted by: - May. 05, 2005 2:33 PM ET USA

    Unc. Di-that last paragraph hit the truth dead on. Following this and Doorman's comment-I would like to say that at least here in America, that's the way society has been moving. Things that are immoral turn moral, and vice-versa. Apocalypse might have said something about this-I'm not quite sure. Another example would be many liberal's view of war. Now there is nothing more wrong than war, even though God Himself commanded men and women to war before and after Christ. Therefore God is now evil.

  • Posted by: - May. 05, 2005 9:49 AM ET USA

    Our last Pope was long on teaching and short on governance. This Pope needs to actually do some governance. Firing a few Bishops, about 40 or so in the US would be a minimal start. And he could do all the faithful and the hapless Jesuits a favor by forbidding then to accept or ordain any more candidates for the forseeable future. He wouold at least get their attention.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - May. 05, 2005 7:32 AM ET USA

    I think that Diogenes' report should shame the jesuits to do something about their university in Chicago, but I doubt that many read the Catholic World News. But even if shamed it is doubtful that they could do much to control it. In the name of lay empowerment and academic freedom the Jesuits have lost control of their institutions. "In the Jesuit Tradition" is a weasel word that means "not really Jesuit". I too hope for a reform of the Society of Jesus.

  • Posted by: - May. 05, 2005 1:22 AM ET USA

    Doorman, Perhaps it was a typo and they meant that you should only smoke while using a Dental Dam.

  • Posted by: - May. 05, 2005 12:42 AM ET USA

    When I was in high school in the 60s, the Sisters told us to take a piece of screen with us on dates "in case the boys want to kiss you." I wonder if the Jesuits just have an updated version?

  • Posted by: Fr. William - May. 05, 2005 12:20 AM ET USA

    My prayer & hope is that Pope Benedict RE-FORMS & RE-NEWS the Jesuits by appointing the orthodox Jesuits to lead, clean up the SJ (e.g. Fr. Fessio & Fr. Pacwa were on EWTN Tuesday night, expressing their unquestioned love & obedience to the Holy Father, & their great joy in his election!); & there are other orthodox Jesuits (faithful to the Holy Father, Magisterium) Saint Ignatius followed the Holy Father's orders, founding the SJ to help the Holy Father. Pope Benedict XVI can give new orders.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 11:27 PM ET USA

    I've been a physician for 18 years and I've worked in ER's for 11 ... including San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Denver and Dallas ... and I never heard of a "dental dam" before tonight. How disgusting. St. Benedict was right to flee Rome the way he did. I wish I could flee with him.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 9:42 PM ET USA

    I was kinda hoping that the new pope would take the name Clement XV. Clement XIV was famous for suppressing the Jesuits. Perhaps Benedict will surprise us & do the same.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 8:37 PM ET USA

    The most astounding aspect of this comes from the fact that on a seperate article on the same section of Self-care guide, they discuss emphatically about not smoking! Smoking is not immoral (though personally I think it's a gross habit), especially if it's not done to the extent that it causes excess bodily harm, such as infrequent pipe smokers, occassional cigar smokers etc... So, just say NO to unhealthy smoking, but "play it safe" with immoral and risky sexual relations.... Astounding!!!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 5:57 PM ET USA

    I'm sad but not surprised. Dam it all!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 5:05 PM ET USA

    What an embarrassing travesty for those loyal Jesuits who are still part of the order. Is it uncharitable to pray for the suppression of the Order, with individual Jesuits able to still navigate the educational waters, by special application? It seems to me to be the only way to stem the tide of water that is clearly overflowing this dam. Drain the flood at its source.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 4:08 PM ET USA

    Wow...I didn't think that I was naive, but I had no clue what a 'dental dam' was. On a larger note, is there any office or anything like that where one can report this sort of trash? Somehow, I doubt that this is really a strong step in the re-evangelization of the West...

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 2:20 PM ET USA

    I think it's up to Catholic parents to inform themselves about how corrupt many of our "catholic" schools are---jesuit in particular. How many parents know about mandatum schools? How about alternatives to college? In my case, my oldest, who is being educated in the Catholic school system, has decided to forego college for learning a trade---a job area that is wide-open due to lack of interest and societal brainwashing that success equals a college education. Evil can't lead if we don't follow!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 1:03 PM ET USA

    This is a new low even for the Jesuits.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 12:30 PM ET USA

    I need an "ear dam" when hearing stuff about the Jesuits. Stefan

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 11:53 AM ET USA

    Another great piece of news in the "Jesuit Tradition" of education. Like Abraham in his post, I had to actually look up "dental dam". For non-Chicagoans, there has been a long rivalry between Loyola U. and DePaul U, which is run in the "Vincentian Tradition". I dare not look at DePaul's website to see if they are competing with Loyola, as they do in basketball, on posting such illustrious Catholic information as dental dams. I am afraid of what I might find.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2005 11:39 AM ET USA

    I never heard of a dental dam so I looked it up on the www and made an interesting discovery. If you live in a college town or somewhere near Loyola and your grocer is all out of Saran Wrap it's because in a pinch Saran Wrap can be used as a dental dam. There are even instructions on crafting your own DD. If this does not draw the wrath of someone senior to the Jesuit Vicar General who forcefully tells the Loyola president to delete this "on-line resource" I may despair.