This Means Everybody

For seventeen years I have been writing for the natural and God-ordained family, with mother and father promised to one another until death shall part them, and the children they may beget from their union.

For seventeen years I have been insisting upon the great goodness and beauty of sexual differentiation, male and female.  I have championed Saint John Paul II’s insight that man and woman are two fundamentally different ways of being human, with man for woman and woman for man.  Neither sex makes any biological or anthropological sense without the other: each is what it is because the other is what it is.  I have said that to deny the obvious is an ungrateful affront to the Creator.

For seventeen years I have said that the Church’s teaching regarding sex, marriage, and the raising of children is the seamless garment that we have ripped to pieces.  Nor is this teaching merely tangential to the heart of the Christian faith.  It bears upon what we believe about the Creator and his creation – whether there is any discernible order to it at all.

It bears upon the doctrine of the Incarnation, and in what way the eternal Word is made flesh, and dwells as man among men.  It bears upon the doctrine of the Church as the bride of Christ.  It bears upon the Trinity itself, because, as Pope Benedict XVI has said, being as being-for is the essence of the inner life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is inscribed in what makes for marriage, both natural and supernatural.

Since economies are for human purposes, I have said that the health and the flourishing and the culture-making power of families and of the natural communities they form are not only foundational, they are the ends for which we have economies and governments in the first place.

All societies presuppose the societas domestica, as Pope Leo XIII called the life of the family.  If that society is deprived of its just realm of authority, which Leo said is anterior to all governments and is bestowed by the Father himself, it is a grievous injustice, and grave harm to the common good must follow.

The Great Moral Apostasy, the collapse of the Christian sexual ethic, is now enshrined in constitutional law, and to express any doubt about its goodness is to expose yourself to denunciation and calumny, even among those who say they are Christians.

For seventeen years I have been saying that the Apostasy has left incalculable human misery in its wake, especially among the poor.  I have said that it is not enough to counter the Apostasy by narrowly economic means.  Its principles must be repudiated.

We must repudiate the notion that consent alone, perhaps with strong feelings of affection attached, makes a sexual action permissible.  We must repudiate the claim that people are defined by their erogenous inclinations.  We must repudiate the radical and self-destructive individualism of laissez-faire in the sexual realm; repudiate it not only for its being incompatible with Scripture, the words of Jesus, and the teachings of the Church, but for its all-corrosive action upon human culture.


For no culture has ever held such a thing.  Culture depends upon the patient and loyal binding of the generations, and if that does not happen in families, it will not happen at all.  We see the unraveling in our time.

The moral emergency in our time, we are told, is systemic racism.  I do not believe it.  I make no claim here about racial relations in America.  I note only that to believe that is the emergency is to absolve almost everybody of blame, because you need only agree that it is so, point the finger at others who hedge, and skate away.

What great upheaval in your life does this belief require?  Be specific.  Will you have to change your place of residence?  Will you have to give up, immediately, some source of powerful pleasure, perhaps the closest human relationship you have known? What big and difficult sacrifice does it require, today, with uncomfortable particularity?

What is the price?

Children by the tens of millions grow up without a married mother and father.  Boys fall farther and farther into listlessness; the most spirited among them, in our poorer neighborhoods, fall into crime.

Obscenity is as common as dirt, though not as clean or healthy.  Marriage is in free-fall.  The Apostasy has been a revolution in loneliness, the loneliness of the masses in a collective leviathan, and of the radical individual in a world of Hobbesian atomism.  Mass entertainment is unrelievedly surly, licentious, and bleak.

For seventeen years I have been urging upon fellow Christians the sheer beauty of what we believe, and of what our Christian cultures have bestowed upon the world.  I have tried to bring Christian love poetry before their eyes.

I will not say it has all been in vain.  I don’t know.  But I will say this.

If you care about the poor, you are now served notice.  The bucket into which you are pouring the water is punched full of holes.  The family has been devastated.  You must throw that bucket away.  You must become an apostate from the Apostasy.  It is not sufficient for you to do so.  More than that must be done.  It is necessary: unless it is done, nothing will avail.

This Means Everybody.  Go to the Catechism and read about sins against the sixth commandment. Keep in mind that they are all sins against the created order of the family.  All sexual sins harm the family, even those supposedly minor sins that shunt erotic desire away from consummation within marriage and towards self-relief.  Make the sacrifice, now.

It will hurt, and you won’t get any credit.  Expect to be called an enemy of mankind, as the first Christians were, who in these matters were so sharply different from the more sophisticated of the pagans around them.  But do it.  It is your duty.


*Image: Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me by Jacob Jordaens, 1615-16 [St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri]

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. Among his books are Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and most recently The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is Distinguished Professor at Thales College. Be sure to visit his new website, Word and Song.