The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
There are moral truths grounded in moral realities that, in the poet Milton's words,
The American film director Nick Cassavetes discussed his new movie, "Yellow," which explores an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. "Who gives a damn," Cassavetes said, "love who you want."
The sexual grammar of the Church's teaching on human sexuality is based upon what Pope Benedict XVI calls the "gift" of nature and its "inbuilt order," an order which displays a "design of love and truth," and which is witness to a God of order, truth, and love.
This "inbuilt order" is a gift that is given to us by a loving God: it just is.
It is this "inbuilt order" in nature--again, a gift which just is--that allows our reason, if used rightly, to distill out a "grammar" in creation of which the "grammar" of sexuality is part. Caritatis in veritate, No. 48.
The "grammar" of sexuality has rules based upon the reason underlying the nature of things, of what is. But it also relies upon just plain right usage or syntax, a usage or syntax based not so much upon conceptual reason, but upon a sort of reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual "feel" which informs us what is seeming or fitting.
Moral theologians call this reality connaturality. There are moral truths grounded in moral realities that, in the poet Milton's words, "mix with our connatural dust."
A connatural end or good is an end or good toward which we tend or incline as part of our nature. This is called an inclination to the extent that this connatural end is, relative to our nature, an objective good. An example would be the natural desire for progeny, or learning, or knowing the truth, or having friends.
As Jacques Maritain put it in his book The Range of Reason: "It is through connaturality that moral consciousness attains a kind of knowing--inexpressible in words and notions--of the deepest dispositions--longings, fears, hopes or despairs, primeval loves and options--involved in the night of the subjectivity."
But connaturality has its opposite. There are such ends we perceive as evils to avoid. There are some things that are simply unnatural. We might call such reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual "feelings" that seek to avoid these unnatural actions or things disinclinations.
As a result of these disinclinations, there are some actions which, by common consent, are simply seen as moral enormities, actions to which any physically and morally healthy human being are disinclined. We have a reasonable-but-not-fully-articulable intellectual aversion to these things and recognize them at once as evils.
Incest is such a thing. We connaturally perceive incest to be a great evil, something altogether more vicious than other sexual sins. It is an offense of huge proportions against familial relations.
Any healthy human is naturally disinclined to commit incest, and it is reasonable to be disinclined, though it is difficult to articulate fully the reasons why. We find incest morally "sick," "creepy," or enormously "perverse" even if we cannot fully say why. This is true for virtually all cultures.
In his Summa Theologiae (IIaIIae, q. 154, art. 9), St. Thomas Aquinas addressed the sin of incest. He finds incest to be a species of lust that is particularly "unbecoming" or "unseemly" because it infringes upon the respect that a person should give his or her parents, and this respect "trickles down" as it were to include his or her "other blood relations, who are descended in near degree from the same parents." It is for this reason, St. Thomas says, that we should experience a certain shame with respect to this act.
The second reason that St. Thomas gives against incest is that blood relations are in close proximity with each other, and if sexual union were not prohibited the "opportunities of venereal intercourse would be very frequent, and thus men's minds would be enervated by lust."
The third reason that St. Thomas gives is that incest hinders friendship in that, by taking a wife that is not related by consanguinity or affinity, a man expands his circle of relationships. Incest is closed to this value because friendship is not expanded in an incestuous marriage, but closes in on itself.
Finally, St. Thomas mentions a fourth reason, one given by Aristotle, and that ...
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