Of Trojan Horses and Sexual Compassion

Note: A new podcast from Rome: Cardinal Pell—The Synodal Dream as Toxic Nightmare. Fr. Robert Sirico and Robert Royal discuss a new book of essays by and about the late great Australian Cardinal Pell Contra Mundum, and his view of the synodal process as a “toxic nightmare” from which the Church must awake. Watch at The Vatican Thing. And, also, we launch today a new series by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, Symptoms of the Synod, that you’ll also find in The Vatican Thing.

In the discussion among its citizens just outside the walls of Troy, there were various opinions as to what to do with the strange “gift” that had been left by the departing Greeks.  “I don’t trust Greeks,” said some, “even when bearing gifts.”  But others, and they proved to be the majority, said, “What harm can it do?  After all, it’s only a wooden horse.  Let’s bring it into the city.  It’ll serve as a trophy of our great victory.”

And when the little Dutch boy had his finger in the dike, some passing adults, amused by his efforts, said to him, “Son, there’s no need to do that.  It’s only a small leak.  It will do no harm.  Go home and clean your father’s wooden shoes.”

And when, more than a half-century ago, college boys and girls started going to bed with one another, many Americans, especially younger ones, said, “So what?  It’s only a minor sin.  It’s not as if it will lead to truly dreadful things like abortion and same-sex marriage.”

And today, when the question arises as to whether Catholic priests should give a blessing to homosexual unions, many Catholics, including some Catholic bishops, say, “Why not?  It’s only a small thing.  What harm can it do?  It’s not as if we are endorsing same-sex marriage.  We’d never do that.”

People who say this are badly mistaken.  Blessing gay unions will ruin the Church.  Maybe not overnight, as Troy was ruined in a single night by the wooden horse.  But in the long run it is sure to follow.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; nor was it destroyed in a day.  But it was destroyed eventually.  And so may the Roman Church, the Church that has been the ghostly/spiritual descendant of the Empire.

I will be told that this is impossible since we have the promise of Jesus that the Church will endure permanently: “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

Now let’s assume that we have not misinterpreted this promise.  Even so, it is not a promise that the Church will always flourish or that it will never lose ground that it once had gained.  Over many centuries, the Catholic Church has often lost ground.  It lost the Mideast; it lost northern Africa; it once lost Spain; only a few centuries ago it lost most of Germany plus Holland, England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and a few other places.  And today it is in process of losing the rich countries of Europe and North America.

Some time ago I wrote a book titled The Rise and Fall of Liberal Protestantism in America.  In it, I first traced the emergence and apparent triumph of liberal (or modernistic) Protestantism.  This was the result of two factors: (1) a desire to reconcile Christianity with certain modern intellectual fashions: e.g., Darwinism, agnosticism, and Biblical “higher criticism.”  (2) A desire to defeat Protestant Fundamentalism, which, the liberals argued, was giving us a form of Christianity that no educated modern person could accept.


To achieve these goals, some slight modifications would have to be made to traditional Christian orthodoxy.  For instance, we could not expect that college-educated, modern Protestants could believe in the Virgin Birth.  We moderns, unlike our ignorant forebears, know that virgins don’t become pregnant.  And we also know that dead men don’t come back to life.

The greatest and most influential of these modernizing Protestants was Harry Emerson Fosdick, for decades the pastor of the Riverside Church in Manhattan, which John D. Rockefeller Jr. built for him.  Fosdick wanted to modify only that much of traditional doctrine as was strictly necessary.  He wanted to retain as much as possible.

But once you begin modifying Christian doctrine, you cannot stop.  Or even if you personally happen to stop, the people you inspired – for instance, your children and grandchildren – won’t be able to stop.  Step by step, the doctrinal content of Christianity will shrink.  Eventually it will wither away.

A crucial turning point is modernistic Protestantism arrived with the sexual revolution.  In keeping with its custom of accommodating the latest of secular intellectual fashions, liberal Protestantism, after no more than a brief delay, embraced the sexual revolution.  That embrace has driven tens of millions of old-fashioned Protestants out of the mainline denominations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist).  These denominations are in a state of collapse, growing smaller in size and less socially influential every day.

Barring divine intervention, there’s little reason to believe that the same thing won’t happen to Catholicism if we decide to accommodate the anti-Christianity spirit of today’s secular world.

The Catholic collapse will proceed along a path something like this:

(a) Bless same-sex unions.

(b) This will lead to the reasonable inference that Catholicism has no objection to homosexual sodomy.

(c) If homosexual sex, which from time out of mind has been viewed by Catholicism with horror, is now okay, then lesser sexual sins (like fornication and adultery) must also be okay.

(d) More exotic sins like polygamy and polyandry must also be okay.

(e) If such radical changes in moral doctrine can be made, it must mean that the rules of morality are purely man-made things, not God-made things.

(f) If we can change the rules regarding sex morality, it follows that we can change the rules regarding lying, theft, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, etc.

(g) If we are free to change moral doctrines, it follows that we are free to change other doctrines, doctrines found in the Nicene Creed regarding the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Divinity of Christ, the Trinity.  In other words, we are free to reject the entirety of that decidedly un-modern and un-progressive thing, Catholic dogma. Progressive theologians and scripture scholars have already been hard at work along that line.

Citizens of Troy: beware of that wooden horse.  Dutch boy: keep your finger in the dike.  Catholics: shun the temptation to be “compassionate” when it comes to sexual sin.


*Image: The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, c. 1760 [National Gallery, London]

You may also enjoy:

Mary Eberstadt’s Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part I

and Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution: Part II 

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America, Three Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.