Criticism generates little public response from the cardinal. In the age of Oprah, when public personalities are expected to offer up their anguish and struggles for public scrutiny, George remains largely reticent. He has, for example, referred only obliquely to his battle with polio. Afflicted with a disease eradicated from the American scene generations ago, he is part of an unlucky cohort—he was born in 1937—that faced years of terror from the crippling infection. It is an experience largely forgotten, except for those in a quiet generation who faced the fear of public swimming pools and other phobias inspired by the mysterious disease.
As it happens, both George’s strong opponent, Huck, and one of his steadfast supporters, Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, also had polio. The two provide different explanations for the cardinal’s reticence. For Huck, who had the disease as a child, it explains George’s aloofness. For Elshtain, who, like George, continues to struggle daily with the effects of the disease, the cardinal’s demeanor is admirable. She told me he is graced with “a prayerful determination to not focus solely on his own problems and to face the world.”
And then, from John Garvey A piece on the uses of tradition, particularly in relationship to homosexuality and the church
(by the way, Garvey is Orthodox, I believe)
These are especially difficult areas because sex is always fraught, given its connection with reproduction and the family. In point of fact, though, we no longer believe that monks who have nocturnal emissions are victims of demonic succubae, nor are they morally culpable; yet this was a common belief once. We know, as our forefathers did not, that this is simple physiology. The most ardent defenders of John Paul II’s conservative but appreciative approach to the body have moved far beyond the idea—once quite common, even among some authoritative church fathers—that to take pleasure in sex is wrong, and that marriage is, to use Jacques Maritain’s ironic phrase, a form of “holy imperfection.”