The Declaration on the Pastoral Care of Left-Handed Persons
THE RIGHT HAND of the Lord has adorned his spotless bride, the Church, with many wondrous gifts, not the least of which is the supreme ministry of defending the arsenal of Christian truth. Through the wisdom of a provident God, this congregation, the watchdog of the household of faith, exercises diligent custody over the sacred deposit of doctrine, guarding it like a talent buried in the sand (Matt. 25:25). To this richly satisfying task it brings the feral instincts of a lioness protecting her cubs and the dispassionate zeal of a raptor pursuing its prey, so that the pearl of great price may be safely gathered up with the wheat and deposited in the nets of Peter's bark (Matt. 13:46; 13:30; John 21:6). Wherefore it seeks to infiltrate the entire Catholic world, like leaven mixed into a lump of dough (Matt. 13:33), and so, like yeast, to ferment the pilgrim Church with its viscid and fungal spores so that the entire mass may swell into a frothy, pulsating, gelatinous ooze of faith. Thus, like a prudent householder, it may bring forth from its storeroom both the true and the old (Matt. 13:52).
Having already disposed of other perversions, it becomes necessary to speak out with the profound disgust regarding yet another aberration which, like the pulling of a polyester fiber, threatens to unravel the seamless garment of faith.
This particular menace has been propagated by those who, basing their opinions on spurious sophisms of the psychological and behavioral pseudo-sciences, claim that it is acceptable, or even normal, to use the left hand when engaging in manual activities. In the face of tradition and right reason, they point to a small but vocal minority of individuals who primarily use their left hands or purport to be bimanual. With callous disregard for the natural order they judge indulgently, and even excuse completely, sinistral behavior, that is, the indiscriminate use of the left hand in the place of the right. Such an insidious abuse is defended as though there were no difference between right or left, Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free (Gal. 3:28).
For while it is neither possible nor desirable at present to decide whether this disorder is genetic in origin or merely the result of repeated nasty thoughts, in either case one may never argue that left-handedness is compulsive and therefore excusable. It is, of course, necessary to take note of the distinction between the sinistral condition and the individual left-handed actions, which are intrinsically disordered and utterly wrong.
And although the particular inclination of the left-handed person is not necessarily a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore, both the condition and all acts flowing from it are to be condemned, as are all those who suffer from it or engage in it, and everyone who thinks like them or defends them or befriends them, into everlasting torments in the lowest pit of hell where the lake of fire is never quenched and the worm dies not (Mark 9:48).
I. General Principles
INDEED, CATHOLIC TRADITION has constantly taught that only the right hand
may properly engage in manual activities. The left hand must remain curbed and passive or, at most, ancillary and subservient to the right hand, analogous to the function of a pallet in respect to an artist, or the operation of a dustpan to a broom, or the role of a wife in relation to her husband. Hence, the use of the left hand, either principally or indiscriminately along with the right, has always been held to be an abuse, a sin against nature, and intrinsically disordered as an unnatural vice.
Right reason itself argues for this arrangement. For reason is properly called right reason inasmuch as it emanates from or tends toward the right. Hence, in all things reasonable, the right is right and is to preferred, with the sole exception of the wearing of earrings of men, wherein, left is right and right is wrong.
The very use of language, even in pagan times, confirms that what is on the left side in unfavorable and perverse. It is no linguistic accident, but rather a natural manifestation of the divine will, that the Latin word for "left" (sinister) has come to connote evil, malevolence and villainy, while in common speech a left-handed compliment is no compliment at all.
The aesthetic argument, to be sure further reveals the uselessness of left-handed activity. For who can gaze upon the handwriting attempted with the left hand without sensing that it is tilted the wrong way, that is, as if blown off course by a malign east wind (Exod. 10:13; John 4:8). In the nearly unanimous estimation of humanity such scrawling is a cause of wonderment and no little aesthetic scandal.
Moreover, the Scriptures themselves amply attest to the preeminence of the right hand and the depravity of the left. Thus the right hand confers blessing and signifies strength, while the left hand is treacherous and deadly (Gen. 48:13-20; Exod. 15:6; Eze. 21:22; Rev. 1:16-17; Judg. 3:15, 20:16; 2 Sam. 20:9-10). A place at one's right hand is the seat of honor and dignity (1 Kings 2:19; Ps. 45:9, 110:1). Sagely does Qoheleth teach that "a wise man's heart inclines him toward the right, but a fool's heart toward the left" (Eccles. 10:2). In like manner, both the passivity and the inferiority of the left hand are apparent in the solemn injunction forbidding us to let our left hands know what our right hands are doing (Luke 22:50). And it is by no accident that the elect are to stand like innocent sheep at the right hand of the Eternal Judge, while the reprobates cower and whimper like noisome and tick-infested goats on His left, awaiting their dizzying descent into sulfurous fumes and unfathomable miseries in the mind-bending agonies of eternal damnation (Matt 25:31-46).
In a similar vein, the Fathers of the Church eloquently denounce sinistral behaviour in many and varied texts. Thus, Origen writes that "the perverse, because of their sinister deeds, tend toward the left," while Augustine unambiguously teaches that "the Lord strongly forbids the left hand alone to work in us" (Origen, In Matth. 23,70; Augustine, Serm in Mont. ii,2,9). A multitude of other Fathers and Doctors would have written in like manner had the thought occurred to them.
But by far the strongest and most persuasive argument for the Church's position is drawn from the so-called "teleological proof," wherein it is demonstrated that the purpose of having hands is twofold. The lesser and secondary use of hands is to handle things, or, within limits, people. The greater, or primary, end is to reflect the divine activity itself. Thus manual endeavor is said to be "procreative" in that it mirrors the creative work of God. And God, as is obvious, uses only His right hand, as Scripture clearly teaches (Exod. 16:6-12; Deut. 33:2; Ps 17:7, 18:34, 74:11, 110:1, 139:10; Is. 48:13, 62:8, Lam. 2:3; et al.) In fact, this congregation, privy as it is to the intimacies of the Godhead, is presently studying this very matter and intends to issue a definitive determination regarding the exact number of fingers on the Deity's right hand and how they are adorned.
Therefore, it is obvious that left-handed activity, or sinistrality, lacks an essential and indispensable finality. Such a deficiency marks each and every sinistral act, rendering it defective and incomplete. In short, sinistral behavior, like contraceptive sex and theological dissent, is about as useful as mammary glands on a male bovine [Tr. note: the typica is somewhat more graphic].
Let it not be said, moreover, that left-handed activity is fundamentally private or harmless to society. In a world where the common cold is spread principally by manual contact, such arguments are patently groundless and futile. Manual activity is always social in nature, that is, oriented toward and affecting the lives of others. In view of this, the following practical applications are presented for the religious submission of the minds and hearts of the faithful.
II. Pastoral Norms
SINISTRALS, THAT IS left-handed people, should always be made to feel the depth of compassion that the Church wishes to extend to all contemptible deviates.
It is deplorable that sinistral persons have been the object of malice, prejudice and bigotry in the past; the dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
Having amply touched upon this point, however, it is necessary to add that at times good Christians can and ought to regard such persons with aversion and abhorrence as cheap, vulgar, degenerate, perverse, errant, depraved, vile, warped and base, and totally undeserving of opportunities belonging to right-handed people. Some, of course, may erroneously object that the Church's position could tend to encourage feelings of animosity and intolerance against such maggots. Special care must thus be taken to point out the finely nuanced distinctions operative in this situation. It is, for example, quite possible to love people while simultaneously hating everything about them, including the fact of their existence, just as it is possible to uphold and defend the dignity of an ant while in the very act of crushing it underfoot. History is replete with many sterling examples of this Christian principle in action (See, for example, the decrees of Gregory IX and Sixtus IV establishing, respectively, the Roman and Spanish Inquisitions.) On a practical level, the faithful may legitimately deem it necessary, and even laudable, to discriminate against sinistrals in the following areas, among others:
- the adoption of children and the employment of teachers and coaches, lest, by work and example, the impressionable young be exposed to shockingly offensive manual options;
- housing, since it would offend Christian piety that innocent people, who rightfully protect their homes against vermin and pests, should have to live next door to such human debris;
- the military, for in conformity with the intention of our warrior God, who trains for battle (Exod. 15:3; Ps. 18:34) morally correct guns and weapons of war are fittingly designed only for the right-handed lifestyle;
- the workplace, given sinistrals' well-known tendencies to proselytize, overtly or covertly, and to warp the unwary into a left-handed lifestyle;
- life in general, since the sufferance of sinistral behavior, like a contagious disease, is both a menace to the right ordering of the cosmos and a deterrent to universally accepted natural activities like handshakes and manual transmission driving.
WHEREFORE, BISHOPS ARE to be especially concerned to defend and champion authentic morality, not only in family life and in the prompt transmittance of the Peter's Pence, but also in the regulation of manual activity. While promoting the joy of virtue for its own sake, let them not disdain other effective means to coerce proper manual behaviors among the faithful. Such might well include the occasional homiletic reflections upon an afterlife in company with grotesque fiends, as well as richly detailed accounts of unimaginable torment, excruciating heat and unrelenting pain and putrefaction amid rock-rending shrieks of anguished despair in the bottomless chasm of Gehenna. Above all, they are to remind sinistrals that manual activity may be undertaken only by right-handed people within the context of a lifelong commitment to right-handedness.
Therefore, let sinistral and bimanual individuals be instructed to disguise their sinistrality by keeping it repressed, although under no circumstances are they to keep their left hands in their pockets. For a vice that is truly repressed is no vice at all. To this end, hypnosis and mind-altering pharmaceuticals may be licitly administered so as to render their left hands useless.
If such individuals are indeed incapable of being cured of this disorder so as to properly use the left hand only in a secondary role, if at all, they must refrain from all manual activity with either hand. For God, who is bountiful to his loved ones in sleep, has blessed inactivity for the sake of the kingdom (Ps. 127:2; Matt. 19:12).
Additionally, insofar as these sinistrals still lack the capacity for, or obdurately resist a lifelong commitment to right-handedness, they are to take more urgent measures to be cured. In this connection, it is altogether licit and harmonious with the principle of double effect to resort to the therapeutic use of amputation in accord with Scripture: "If your [left] hand causes you to sin, cut it off, for it is better to enter the kingdom maimed" (Matt. 18:9), etc.
Finally, all sinistrals, to whom bishops and pastors of souls offer the solace of holy religion, should be assured that despite their best efforts they will probably go to hell anyway for thinking left-handed thoughts. Let them thus be encouraged to know that, after a life in which they have basically considered themselves worthless, they will at last find themselves entirely worthy of something; to wit, eternal damnation in the slime-infested miseries of the abyss, where horribly disfigured imps and little red demons with pitchforks and tridents will perform unremitting acupuncture upon their most sensitive bodily parts as they roast in the searing embers of hell. About which, most assuredly, this Congregation will happily have more to say in the future.