Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae (2)

Here is the second of these letters, originaly published in Catholic Family, and re-published here with the permission of the author. (For the first, see Feb postings)

My dear Hogwort

Your last letter displayed in many ways a lamentable ignorance of some of the basic principles of tempting. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has already completed two terms at the College - under the excellent tutorship of Slubgob himself - could write such drivel.

There is no sense in which we ever want the human vermin to enjoy themselves. Wherever there is pleasure, our job is firstly to persuade the humans to use it in ways that draw them away from the Enemy, and then to reduce the pleasure to the lowest level we can.

An obvious example is alcohol: we exploit the enjoyment of alcohol either to make a man dependent on it (an alcoholic gains no pleasure from either his craving or its fulfilment) or to cultivate a puritanical hatred of alcohol: and of those who drink it. Again, there is no enjoyment in that. The things we want to avoid are the moderate enjoyment of drinking, combined with the discipline of stopping after a few drinks, and the virtuous mortification of unhating abstinence (temporary or permanent).

I particularly enjoy corrupting through wine, given the astonishing value placed on it by the Enemy in choosing it as a sacramental element.

You should by now have realised the parallel with sex. We can encourage licentiousness to great advantage. In reaction to that we can stimulate a puritanical hatred of sex. And we can reduce the element of pleasure to a bare minimum in both cases. What we want to avoid is simply what the Enemy demands: absolute fidelity within monogamous life-long marriages that are open to his creative power on the one hand, or virtuous celibacy on the other.

However, the sex aspect of our campaign against Humanae Vitae was not the issue I wanted to focus on in this letter. I simply felt that I had to respond to some of the crass things you wrote in your letter to me.

What I do want you to think about is the overall strategy and its success. One of the greatest triumphs has been simply the spreading of so much confusion and muddled thinking within the Church.

One of the strongest arguments we use against Humanae Vitae is that people simply do not obey it. Believe it or not, that argument carries a great deal of weight, even among otherwise orthodox believers.

That triumph is due to some excellent spadework done by senior strategists over the last fifty years. The fact is that it never occurs to trained theologians that since Our Father Below's first great victory, men have been liars, adulterers, murderers, hypocrites... and that none of these facts causes anyone seriously to question the prohibitions. Our job is to make sure that they never ask themselves why what people do is suddenly the source from which the Divine Law may be deduced.

The amazing fact is that - incredible though it may seem - they rarely come anywhere near asking such a question.

There is more to it than this, but this is sufficient for one letter.

In the meantime. remember to send me the outline of your first assignment, for my comments: if I'm to help you I must have access to all your work.

Your affectionate mentor


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