One of the effects of evil, as all the great Christian teachers and poets have told us for two thousand years, is that it makes you stupid. You miss things right in your line of sight. You determine that you are going to kill your brother (or, far more likely in our time, your child), and you do it. And before long you cannot even see that he was your brother and that you owed him a brother’s love. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” says Cain, the first murderer, in the first flippant and stupid comment in Scripture.
We should not be surprised that, in Scripture, stupidity comes arm in arm with hardness of heart, a moral dullness that we wish would be merely idle, but is often restlessly active and willfully destructive. Our Lord brings to our attention these two qualities, bound together, when he says that Satan was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, indeed the father of lies. (Jn. 8:44)
Now, I know of no more destructive lie in our time than the lie that is at the dead heart of the sexual revolution. Revolution? Rather the utter collapse of the Christian and Jewish moral vision that used to guide relations between boys and girls, and men and women, and the formation of families and the raising of children.
No moral vision has taken its place. We are a city built upon a crater. Every year the earth beneath us groans and falls in again, so that, compared with what we are now supposed to believe in 2022, 2012 seems sane and healthy. In 2012, we were not yet mutilating little boys and girls, giving frissons of delight to their parents as they show off the amputees. Who knows what 2032 will bring?
Every sin is a lie, suppressing, distorting, denying, or mocking the truth. Sexual sins are no exception. The unmarried man and woman in bed together must say with their bodies, “I am yours forever, and this act is proof, because it is the act that brings new life into being.”
But they cannot intend that meaning without sensing that they should be married – they should have uttered the sacred vow explicitly before they uttered it implicitly with the child-making act. And in our time, fornication is not usually an overflow of youthful spirits and infatuation. That romantic lie no longer fools even the liars. It is instead a sluggish backwash, a poor stay against loneliness and boredom.
And the lie, accepted and submitted to, has rendered the landscape of young love an inhospitable desert. Do I need to cite the statistics here, that show how marriage itself has fallen into the crater – especially harming the working classes and the poor? Do I need to show how many children are born out of wedlock, or how many, if they are not born into chaos, are pitched into it by divorce?
I will hear that people who are attracted to members of their own sex must live as they truly are. That too is a lie. We do not know who we truly are; it is one of the effects of sin. What I am, in any case, does not lie in my determination, and is not, in its most basic sense, private to me. I am a man, a male human being; I am not an angel with some specific individual essence.
All human beings are bound by the same moral laws. All male human beings are to treat the maleness of their bodies as a gift whose meaning is already inherent in itself, a meaning they must not violate or traduce. All female human beings, likewise. If a Christian denies this, he denies creation itself and its God-given order. He no longer says with Saint Paul that the invisible things of God can be perceived through the visible things he has made. (Rom. 1:20)
He thus tries to shoulder God from his throne, and the stupidity of the attempt causes him to fall farther into stupidity. So, Paul says, men ended up worshipping four-footed beasts, and God gave them up to shameful and unnatural passions – passions that violate the created order (1:26-27).
And thus, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the Relator General of the Synod on Synodality, is waving a bituminous banner.
Cardinal Hollerich has, by his own inadvertent admission, been living a lie. He has said that the Church’s teaching regarding the immorality of homosexual actions is wrong and must be abandoned. Of course, the entirety of Christian sexual morality is included in that abandonment. There is no way to tell John and Mary that they must keep themselves chaste or at least continent before marriage, no way to show them the holiness and the wonder of the marital and child-making act, no way to warn against fornication, let alone against the bitter coarseness of most popular entertainment now, while you are on your way to the gay bar.
And we are not at the beginning of the collapse, when dull-witted or semi-honest prelates might plead that they could never have foreseen what would happen. We have been watching the collapse for at least sixty years. It has accompanied – no surprise – a collapse in Church life. It has – no surprise – produced a world in which people are expected to tell disastrous lies with their bodies, and then they end up believing that that is all there is to tell.
Cardinal Hollerich is without excuse. I do not accuse him merely of failing to believe what the Church teaches. I accuse him of a shocking hardness of heart. Who can take an honest look at the Western world and conclude that we did the right thing in our wholesale denial of Scripture and of Catholic moral teaching? Has he not turned on a television lately? Does he own stock in makers of antidepressants? Or demolition companies?
Lux in burgo non lucet, quia tenebrae eam comprehenderunt.
*Image: Satan viewing the ascent to heaven (Paradise Lost, book 3, line 501) by John Martin, 1825 [The Clark Museum, Williamstown, MA]
You may also enjoy:
Mary Eberstadt’s Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part I
and . . . . . . . . . . . Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part II