Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Intrinsically disordered

When we pray "We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us." [BCP], or discover that we are very like St Paul in Romans when he confesses "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate," we are confessing ourselves "intrinsically disordered" [i.e. sinners "prone to wander"]. Elizabeth Scalia had read an exchange about the Catholic designation of homosexual acts as "intrinsically disordered" and discovered some comfort in the identification of her own status:
...[A] cleric said, “I think that any of us would struggle with being told that some aspect of our humanity—as creatures of God—was intrinsically disordered,” and a layman shot back, “My desire to overeat, my desire to drink to excess, my desire [for] fornication, my desire to swindle people out of money for my own gain are also intrinsically disordered.”

And there it was—the intrinsic disorder that is part and parcel of desire when it so profoundly permeates our lives as to separate us from God; desire that stands between us and God until it becomes the idol in God’s place. Suddenly, in the course of a minor internet thread, I was face to face with my own intrinsic disorder. [....]

I am “intrinsically disordered” when it comes to food, and it doesn’t really matter how I became so. Whether it is due to a genetic pre-disposition, or a habit of psychological buffering—or some combination of nature and nurture—the fact remains that I am disordered, and I must deal with it. Every day. Sometimes hour by hour, sometimes minute by tempted minute.

Up to now I have done a very poor job of dealing with it, largely because until that moment of clarity, I had not recognized the disorder. Like most same-sex attracted persons, I had thought of my battles and defeats in terms of weakness, shame; discipline, programming, and willpower; there was no connection to the transcendent, so how could I ever transcend myself?

We are told that the phrase “intrinsically disordered” is hurtful or hateful, and yet I find the words ironically healing; they give me precisely the hook into that transcendent understanding (and into notions of original sin and even idolatry) that I have been missing. Far from taking any offense at the idea that I am “intrinsically disordered,” I am actually consoled.

In identifying my disorder as “intrinsic”—that it resides within me as naturally as the marrow in my bones—I understand that there is no point in attempting to further fool myself or run away from myself; I am released from self-hate, shame, or defensiveness. At the same time, I am now and forever obliged to acknowledge—with every temptation—that I am disordered, and within that acknowledgement to then choose whether I will serve the disorder, at the cost of Heaven, or serve God.

In choosing God, I will have to both rely on God and actively work toward obedience to what is natural in his law, rather than what is natural to me. This is no small thing. It is a daily tension between my love of God and my love of an idol intrinsic to me—original to me. ....