Pondering Punishment as an Act of Love

From Monsignor Pope:

Pondering Punishment as an Act of Love
By: Msgr. Charles Pope

In the first reading from today’s Mass (Wednesday of the fourth week of the year) came this admonition:[html]
Quote:My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.
[/html]In our times, we have tended to set love and punishment in opposition; we also set mercy and punishment in opposition. But this is wrong. It is possible, at least with human beings, that a certain punishment can be excessive. But of itself, punishment (often called chastisement in the Bible) is a work of love and mercy.

St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of “fraternal correction” under his treatise on Charity. It is a great work of mercy to preserve someone from the greater consequences of sin through the lesser consequences of a controlled punishment. And the greatest work of mercy is to help people stay out of Hell.

So we need to recapture a proper understanding of punishment and its purpose. Too many people today think that punishment is the same as vengeance. Hence, the one who punishes is thought to be merely exacting revenge or getting back at someone for what he has done. Perhaps, too, many think of punishment as merely a way for the more powerful to vent their anger on the less powerful. It is true that sometimes parents may punish with mixed motives. Perhaps they are at times venting their anger as they punish their child. But this is because they are imperfect parents. God, however, is a perfect Father. And when He punishes it is not mixed with these sinful qualities.

Since distorted notions of punishment as synonymous with revenge or venting of anger are common today, a proper notion of punishment must be recovered.

What, then, is the proper understanding and purpose of punishment? In effect, the purpose of punishment is to allow the one punished to experience the negative effects of bad behavior in a small way, so that he does not experience the bad effects in a far worse way.

Consider a child who has been commanded by his parents not to cross the busy street without an older person to escort him. This warning is issued in love. The parents are not trying to take away his fun or limit his freedom for no reason. They are trying to protect him from grave harm. But what if the child does cross the street unescorted and the parents find out about it? Likely they will, or should, punish him. Perhaps his father will have him stay in his room alone for three hours as punishment.

Now notice what is happening here. A smaller injury is inflicted to avoid a much more serious one. After all, which is worse, a three hour “time out” in a boring room, or being struck by a car and possibly paralyzed or killed? It is clear that the purpose of punishment is to allow a small amount of pain in order to avoid a much worse situation in the future.

When God punishes, He is often acting in the same manner. He will allow or inflict pain so that we avoid the pain caused by our bad behavior spiraling downward into far more serious matters, and the far worse pain of eternal Hell. Punishment, when properly applied (and it always is so, when applied by God), is salutary. It helps bring an end to bad and ultimately hurtful behavior, and usually results in good and constructive behavior.

Hence punishment is integral to love. But love here must be understood as the strong and vigorous love that speaks the truth and insists upon it as the only basis for real and lasting fulfillment.

The Letter to the Hebrews has a remarkable passage that spells out the true contours of punishment and discipline rooted in God the Father’s true and vigorous love for us:[html]
Quote:“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards. Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not (then) submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed (Heb 12:5-13).
[/html]Note that those who are without discipline are provocatively called “bastards.” It is interesting that this word, which originally referred simply to a child without a father in his life, has come to mean someone who is obnoxious, self-centered, or incorrigible. When a child grows up without the discipline of a father, he often becomes a “bastard” in both the ancient and modern senses of the word. In our use of this rather impolite word, we are connecting what happens to a person who does not know discipline.

Many children today have not known proper discipline. This leads to any number of ills: bad and self-destructive behavior, arrogance, disrespectful attitudes, incorrigibility, hostility, selfishness, greed, insensitivity, lack of self-control, and many other sociopathic  tendencies.

Sirach 30 says,[html]
Quote:Whoever loves a son will chastise him often,
that he may be his joy when he grows up.
Whoever disciplines a son will benefit from him,
and boast of him among acquaintances…
Whoever spoils a son will have wounds to bandage,
and will suffer heartache at every cry.
An untamed horse turns out stubborn;
and a son left to himself grows up unruly.
Pamper a child and he will be a terror for you,
indulge him, and he will bring you grief….
Do not give him his own way in his youth,
and do not ignore his follies.
Bow down his head in his youth,
beat his sides while he is still young,
Lest he become stubborn and disobey you,
and leave you disconsolate.
[/html]We need to rediscover the fact that punishment is part of love. It is not love to leave a child undisciplined. We are not helping the child in any way when we fail to discipline him. Surely discipline must be rooted in love, and when it is, it leads to many positive effects. God, too, shows us His love in disciplining and punishing us. I mentioned these words of St. Thomas before, and I think it is good to finish with them: [F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well (II, IIae, 33.1).

Vox Wrote:Consistent, quick, sane, and merciful punishment coupled with massive amounts of love, positive attention, and emotional affirmation -- KEY. I wish I'd had my butt kicked as a kid once in a while...

I feel like being provocative, so I'll ask this, but it is a genuine question: to what extent does a man have the right and duty to punish his wife in this sense of correction?
(02-08-2015, 02:37 AM)Dirigible Wrote: I feel like being provocative, so I'll ask this, but it is a genuine question: to what extent does a man have the right and duty to punish his wife in this sense of correction?

It is a provocative question for sure.  Husbands are -- or should be -- the heads of the homes, but without any real power backing that up, it all seems kind of moot. But men, like women, are imperfect and prone to sin, etc., liable to abuse their authority. So where are the lines? And what does it "look like" just to that one side of the line before it crosses over into evil, into domestic violence that anyone could see is abuse?

I know this:  I know of a man whose wife neglected their kids to the point of there being almost zero discipline in the house while he was at work (and he worked long, long hours -- very long hours, the just coming home to eat and sleep kind of hours). The kids, with the oldest at age 11, didn't know how to properly brush their teeth. That oldest one actually did not know how to wash his face ("How do you get the soap off?" he asked. Very seriously!). This woman killed three dogs through neglect, allowing them to starve to death. She later did the same thing to a cat. She didn't wash dishes, allowing them to pile up until fruit flies swarmed the place. (I'm talking about a stay-at-home mother, not a mother with an outside career here!). She was the laziest person I've ever heard of. She did nothing to benefit the family aside from providing basic "babysitting services" while the husband worked, said "babysitting" consisting only of the sort of thing that amounted to preventing the kids from running into traffic. She did not work inside the house. She did not teach her children anything. She did not discipline them. And on top of that, she spent tons of money, all on pure crap -- plastic Chinese stuff. The house was piled floor to ceiling with this sort of thing, and with garbage. If the kids lost the pieces to a game -- which they would after one use since they weren't expected to replace the pieces -- she'd just go buy another game.

The only thing -- and I mean the ONLY thing -- that man could've done aside from divorcing her and finding a wife who'd be a wife -- would've been to use corporal punishment. And I wouldn't have blamed him one bit, to be frank about it.

There are, though, so many men these days who, in response to radical feminism, have a definite backlash attitude. I've seen a LOT of that in the trad world. In the early days of this forum when I had a much more lenient approach to moderating the place, there were plenty of men (and women!) with seriously ridiculous attitudes toward women. "Ideas aren't for girls," "women shouldn't be educated past 8th grade," "female orgasm isn't important" -- you name a truly piggish attitude toward women, and I've heard it. On this very forum, in the name of "traditional Catholicism" -- an approach that is simply not true, not consistent with Church teaching. I'd hate to feed into that...

... but Truth is Truth, and, as I said, authority has to have something to back it up.

My take, though, is that women would happily comply (for the most part, speaking generally, as always) and be submissive if their men understood female psychology, which is why I encourage Catholic men to study "game" -- while most definitely sorting through it all and keeping the wheat while tossing the chaff (of which there is a LOT!).  Genesis 3:16 talks about how things came about after the Fall: [html]
...and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee.

Yourdesire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

New American Standard Bible
Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.

King James
... and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
[/html]I wonder about the different translations, and about what the original text says, what God truly means to convey, especially with some translations talking about female "desire."  My understanding of things through observation, from being a woman, from having read about "game," etc., is that most women want to be "in thrall" to men who love them. If that's the case, the question becomes "how to make a woman 'in thrall' to a man?" The answers to that lead me to believe that sex -- that is, the marital act and the "stuff" that goes into wanting it -- is totally underestimated, in terms of its power, by too many "trads."

It is key for men to have the "upper hand" in things. But how to have the upper hand without being a jerk -- which women do not want, in spite of what too many websites promoting "game" say -- is a very subtle thing to understand. And because it's so subtle, it scares me to get into it a whole lot lest I feed into the "he-boy rad trad" types I mentioned earlier. Women don't want jerks, but they do want men they can't lead about by the nose. They want men who are powerful, who will use their power to protect them, whom they can't boss around. But they also want men who respect their intellects and personhood. In the same apparently, on the surface, "contradictory" way that men want a cook in the kitchen, a lady in the parlour, and a whore in the bedroom, women want a success at the office, a gentleman in the parlour, and a powerful animal in the bedroom. (it's funny how most game sites talk about women's desires as being the results of some "hamsters" doing crazy things on the wheels of their minds, while men's apparently (but not really) "contradictory" desires as being OK-fine).

Anyway, another problem with this topic is how the law is structured nowadays. If the husband I talked about above were to have used corporal punishment to get his wife to get off her butt and do SOMETHING, he'd have ended up in jail. We live in a true matriarchy, with husbands and fathers being made pretty much second-class citizens in the West (something that really worries me with regard to the attraction of Islam to Western men. I think I can understand why some Western men would be attracted to a worldview that grants them power in their own homes, something that the current Western -- not Christian -- worldview doesn't).

I was thinking about this sort of thing earlier tonight, when I read something-or-other about "marital rape." Back in the day, a man couldn't "rape" his own wife. The marital debt -- that is owed to both the husband and the wife -- made the concept of marital "rape" ridiculous in the eyes of the law. I tend to agree, though I also think that a man can abuse his wife by, for ex., having unwanted sex with her if she were sick, in pain, etc. (IOW, a man can't "rape" his wife, but he can commit egregious and sinful acts against her by having sex with her when she doesn't want it because it would do her harm. And vice-versa!)

But that goes, again, to the idea of subtlety of thought. And I'm afraid that most people aren't capable of it. I hate to say something like that 'cause it sounds so -- well, you know what it sounds like. But it's true. And it's evident in how some "trads" talk about male headship with a totally vile, disgusting opinion of women. So how to talk about this without fueling their fires? And, on the other hand, how to talk about all of this without having it all mischaracterized by the leftist types, who want to see Christianity as "backwards" and "woman-hating"? When the topic of male headship comes up even on allegedly "Catholic" fora like Catholic Answers, things get crazy fast, with most people throwing the idea out the window, or watering it down to the point that it means nothing at all.  Things always go solely to the verses that follow those pertaining to headship -- i.e., Ephesians 5:25-30: [html]
Quote: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church: Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
[/html] -- and those verses are EXCEEDINGLY important, NOT to be overlooked. But those tend to become the only verses some folks focus on in order to not think about, or even truly acknowledge, the verse that says, "Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church."

One'd think that those verses, all take together, as they were meant to be understood, would be enough. But they don't really talk about HOW to BE the head of the home without being abusive, and how to submit without being a miserable doormat. They don't really get into what all of that would "look like" in a truly Godly home. And they don't answer the questions: "What can a husband do to make his wife want to submit in a healthy, Godly way?", "When is a husband being authoritative rather than an authoritarian asshole?",  "Where should a wife draw the line between seeing her husband as the head of the home and seeing him as an abusive tyrant?"

I mean, in one sense they DO answer the questions "...ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it." But human psychology is so complex! There are people who hate themselves, for ex. So the husband who was abused as a kid, who's an alcoholic:  how is he to love his wife as he loves himself if he doesn't love himself?  Where do psychological masochists fit into all this, such as the women who'd agree with the thought that "ideas aren't for girls"?

I guess here we could get into the matter of the definition of "love," which by the Catechism means "willing the good of another." That'd settle things once and for all, assuming "the definition of the Good" is agreed upon, which it should be, among Catholics.

Eh, I'm thinking too much for 4:30 in the morning and after having imbibed a pretty strong screwdriver (a vodka + orange juice mix, for people who don't know the term LOL)  I go now.

Excellent thoughts, Vox. I entirely agree with you. My own fallen instinct is to see women as Muslims do. That was corrected by taking very seriously what St Paul has to say about the matter. I find the irony of this hilarious; the feminists like to say we shouldn't listen to St Paul because he promotes misogyny, but I'd be a genuine misogynist if not for listening to him! I think the trick to establishing the right view of marriage in people's minds is to remind them that marriage is an icon of Christ's relationship with the Church. The sheer profundity of this truth ought to make an impact on any serious Christian. Each serves and sacrifices for the other, but in very different ways, and one is in authority and the other is not.
Unfortunately in the modern mindset of many women, the idea of submitting to a man is unthinkable and an idea of them being inferior to them.

As Christ said, the greatest will be the least and the least the greatest. If the man is to be the greatest, he is to be the least. His actions should be of the nature of the Suffering Servant always putting his beloved Bride before himself. In such a way all of his actions are drawn of love... the love of which God pours forth for us. A man who is the authority and treats his wife in such a manor will have a wife who is willing to accept this submission as her husband puts her dignity on par with his own. In such a way, she returns this love in a the way in which her husband has shown by his example.  Thus would be perfection in marriage. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to achieve. God achieves this. We see it with the Holy Spirit and Mary, the most holy and perfect of Creatures, who is the Holy Spirit's holy Bride. Christ and his holy Bride, the Church.

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