Saint Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sin of Onan: Another Reason To Avoid The Theology of Mark Shea

We have the "Magisterium of One" Mark Shea, at it again making bold proclamations which remain outside his realm of expertise. Mr. Shea has now formally proclaimed that it is "wrong-headed" to refer to the "Sin of Onan" in Genesis 38, as being a support against contraception. I have written an article on this subject awhile back, which you can read here. In the linked article I fully explain in detail why the "Sin of Onan" is correctly identified with the contraceptive act, and I provide sources to back this proposal up. I want to make just one reference here in this post to make a point. Be very careful who you read for your information concerning your Catholic faith. I would also add, that this goes for me as well. I do always try and provide my readers with sources when I put forth an argument, so you can check the facts for yourself. Unfortunately, many don't provide their sources when they make bold proclamations on the internet. Anyways, always double check your facts. Now back to Mark Shea. In his article, 'What Does it Mean to Say Jesus has Fulfilled the Old Covenant?' he writes the following,

 "In the case of Onan, you are right that the common Catholic reliance on this passage as a proof text against contraception or masturbation is a weak one and wrong-headed.  The point of the story is that Onan dishonored the natural law by failing to provide an heir for his brother and his widow (recall that children were the sole “social safety net” that widows had, so the main sin in view in the text of Genesis is Onan’s betrayal of his family by refusing to give his brother’s wife children after his brother had died)."     (Mark Shea)
It is easy here to see that Mr. Shea falls into the error of "modern" Biblical scholarship. There is no question as to what the heinous act which Onan was killed for in Genesis 38. The "detestable" act was the intentional act of spilling his seed outside of intercourse. Does Mr. Shea ever wonder why the "Sin of Onan" has always throughout history been identified with the contraceptive act? Furthermore, just so that Mr. Shea will not come along and call me a flat-footed fundamentalist, like he often does with people who disagree with him, let's see where else this interpretation of the "Sin of Onan" has also been identified with the contraceptive act. If you guessed that it is the Catholic Magisterium, you would be correct. For Mr. Shea however, I am sure that Pope Pius XI and the great Saint Augustine would make his flat-footed fundamentalist list today.

"Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."(Pope Pius XI- Casti Connubii- para 54-55)


So here we have the Church in a formal document, concerning marriage and procreation, which clearly references Genesis 38 and the "Sin of Onan" with the contraceptive act. If you want to know more about this you can reference my other article to which I linked above, or check out this article by John F. Kippley which was published in 'Homiletic & Pastoral Review', in May 2007. His conclusion likewise states, "In summary, the Onan account is an important part of the Christian Tradition against contraceptive behaviors. Claims that Onan was slain by God simply for his violation of the law of the Levirate are not sustained by the text itself and are further disproved by the text of Deuteronomy 25: 5-10. The anti-contraception interpretation of the text was reflected by St. Augustine and confirmed by Pius XI in Casti Connubii."

9 comments:

thepalmhq said...

I agree with your analysis. Thanks for laying it out with clarity and charity.

Adrienne said...

Pity the person who gets their theological teaching from Mark Shea. He actually gets paid to go into parishes and speak. It's a wonder beyond my comprehension.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Since Onan prevented life from being conceived, does that make him a 'death penalty maximist'? Just thought I'd ask!

Unknown said...

Adrienne, I hear you on that, though of course reasonable people can disagree about matters theological without being heretical, and nobody should take their cues from "celebrity" Catholics who come around to his parish. I have had too many sobering experiences with that to simply take anybody's word for these matters, simply because turns up in some Lenten speaker series.

What is a wonder beyond my comprehension is why anybody would promote someone whose personal example is so bad--uncharitable nastiness, downright deranged twisting of people's words, spiritual pride that towers above the stars--that guys like Jmmy Akin and Francis Beckwith have found him practically intolerable. There is literally no one so mild mannered that he cannot find himself on the business end of Shea's gratuitous insults and personal remarks about his character for daring to disagree with him on an issue of substance. Moreover, it is not possible to be meek enough for him when pointing out that you have been misrepresented, and that his accusatory language is not helpful--in such cases he will normally just double down on the insult and say things to the effect of, "Well, I've noticed that people so defective as yourself are usually vewy, vewy sensitive about their precious little feelings. Screw you."

The guy is seriously imbalanced, and I've tried to warn everybody to steer clear of him, because it is simply not possible to have a productive disagreement with him.

Stacy said...

I live in the Seattle diocese and Mark Shea has given talks at our Parish and is frequently on our local Catholic radio station.
Thanks for pointing out Shea's protestant errors. This sort of thing is symptomatic of the EWTN-Catholic Answers "fullness of faith" philosophy where many protestants think that converting to Catholicism means entering into The Church... and bringing their favorite forms of protestant heresy with them! Lord have mercy on us all.
It doesn't help that the Shea cult feeds into his ego. I was reading something on his blog a while back and some Catholics were upset by some of his modernist tendencies and voicing it and his fans of course, came to his defense. One reader said he (Shea) was like a reincarnation of GK Chesterton!!

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

"A reincarnation of G.K. Chesterson". I've only read a couple of Chesterson's books and I find this statement by an unknown Shea groupie to be a flaming hoot! Shea tries to imitate GKC, but based on the articles I've read by Shea on the internet, he doesn't even come close to approaching the man's writing style. The only way Shea resembles GKC is in the waistline.
Stacy, I'm sorry to hear you live in the same diocese as Marky. Well everybody has a cross to bear! BTW, has anyone you know in Seattle ever been mistreated by him face-to-face the same way he does it on the internet? Has anyone ever complained to his priest or your bishop about his boorish conduct or his heresies? I (and probably everyone who has had a run-in with him) would like to know!
Another thought about this Onan thing just crossed my mind. The Church is now fighting against the HHS mandate. Shea just posted this article about Onan's sin not being contraception, going against 2000 yeats of Catholic tradition. Is Mr Know-It-All even aware of his bad timing, let alone his heresy?

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Matt, have you read the discussion of this post over at Beggars yet? Are you going to comment on it here?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Why bother? Swan is so delusional that aside from the miracle of Our Lord showing up in physical form to tell him he is off the deep end, he has little hope. In fact, even if a miracle like that were to occur, he would probably just tell Jesus that he was wrong anyways. I find it amazing that he mocks me for challenging positions of other Catholics, as if that somehow demonstrates his point concerning the Protestant mindset, which is foolish. I have pointed out this fallacy that he and his buddies keep peddling many times before including the last post I put out addressing him. As you may have noticed, Swan did not respond to it did he? No, he just looked for an opportunity to fire off another one liner cheap shot. It is because he has no real rational argument that hold up to any scrutiny. He cannot defend his position and he knows it.

The difference us and Mr. Swan, is that Swan cannot face the truth and accept it. He has to constantly move his arguments around like a game of three-card monte. The critical error that he holds is that the Catholic Church can't be Christ's Church, and he works from that flawed position using anything he can wrap his feeble, crippled arms around to justify it. He doesn't look for truth, he invents his own truth to match his preconceived fantasies. When it comes down to it, Swan simply does not have the grace to see the truth, which is sad, because it is leading him to the deeper chambers of hell every day he persists in his malice towards Christ and His Church.

I find it rather interesting that after not allowing me to comment over at his blog (deleting my comments, etc, while his midget minded pals went off on their ad-hominem tirades), that he spends so much time linking over to me. He hasn't figured out that every time he does so he continues to make an ass out of himself. Yet, try and get him to debate! He will run for the hills every time. Swan is like a half-assed wannabe Sergeant York taking a cheap pot shot from behind the hill with a horse close by for the quick getaway. He knows he can't hit anything, yet that rifle makes such a big boom echoing through the valley. He knows that anytime he would like to debate the topic of authority concerning Protestantism and Catholicism that I am willing to do it. I have offered to debate him before in a formal written format and he ran for the hills. So here is my proposal again. Anytime Mr. Swan that would like to actually engage in a formal written debate concerning the Church, Scripture and authority, I am offering to do so. ....crickets....I am sure...

Tancred said...

Just when I thought Shea couldn't be any worse.