We live in a hypereroticised culture. And it’s getting worse. Examples abound, but from the last fortnight or so of news, we can cite the controversy of a ten-year-old model posing provocatively in Vogue magazine, just like a “grown up,” with poofy lips and all. Another hint of the growing cult of Eros, this one of the homo- variety, would be the effort to pressure the producers of “Sesame Street” to have Bert and Ernie get married on that children’s show. Worst of all is the case of Bishop Raymond Lahey, whose crimes I’ll not mention because they are so disgusting. (They are the worst, not merely because of their nature — which would be enough — but also because of the exalted office of their perpetrator.)
In all three of these instances, children are being exploited. In one, a pre-pubescent girl is showcased in a lurid tabloid meat market; in another the goal is to desensitize children to the perversity “same-sex marriage”; in the last, a guilty bishop has made a fetish out of little ones.
It appears that the producers of Sesame Street are withstanding the pressure to marry off the muppets (thank God for small favors), but the effort to press the issue bears a strange resemblance to certain interested parties’ claims about Cardinal Newman a few years ago. Some homosexuals cannot bear the thought that two normal men can love each other as friends. Either chaste, masculine love is intolerable to them, or an obsessive interest in advancing their own agenda leads them to slander normal men’s friendships, or both. I suspect both.
What our three cases have in common is not only that they victimize children, but that they are all abnormal. Sins against Christian chastity and modesty are one thing, but sins against nature are quite another. I am not an advocate of either, but there is a relative gravity among sins. The important hedge of moral outrage ought to grow in proportion to the severity of the crime. (It is this moral outrage that Bert and Ernie’s nuptials, and similar acts of political correctness, are intended to neutralize.) To draw a moral equal sign between a couple engaging in heterosexual pre-marital relations and what Bishop Lahey did would be monstrous moral theology. I choose the word abnormal for good reason. I mean it as synonymous with unnatural or disordered. The word is not to be confused with common. Nine out of ten men in a room might have a sixth finger on their right hand (perhaps it’s at the meeting of a club of such people). That does not make the condition “normal”; it only makes it “common” in that particular crowd. The five-finger hand still remains the norm. So, too, homosexual relations and viewing children as objects of venereal pleasure are both abnormal, even pathological.
Are we getting to a point at which normalcy will begin to stand out? By that, I mean normal friendships, normal marriages, normal families, and normal gender roles. Maybe. It could well be that much of this is manufactured. Most people are not homosexual. Most people still probably find prurient interest in ten-year-olds to be depraved. Witness the outrage over Vogue’s stunt. But “most people” are not the movers and shakers that determine the content of the drool we call popular culture. There are people with an agenda, who push the performance envelope in every medium they fund. Then there are the oligarchs, the ones who know how easily led an erotically distracted people are. Distinguishing the conspirators from the mere useful idiots is not something I’ll try. I know who the ultimate Conspirator is: that preternatural Revolutionary, compared to whom the most cunning human conspirator is but a useful idiot.
Supposing we are getting to the point of normalcy becoming uncommon. I propose a silver lining to that menacingly dark cloud. It is this: When normalcy stands out, if the normal ones are normal because of their Faith, they will be a powerful force for conversion. This scenario may seem naive in the midst of the universal depravity it assumes. But it is not so. The reason is that no matter how depraved things are, human nature has not changed. Neither has the natural law written on men’s hearts. Neither has the drive for a man and a woman to come together as man and wife to raise a family for the preservation of the species. In spite of all the diabolical assaults against it, the family is ingrained into human nature. When the Church stands alone defending it, as she has stood virtually alone defending the marital act against the unnatural sin of onanism, then souls of good will may more easily see Her as what She is, a refuge of sanity.
Why should we doubt this? Holy Mother Church knows more about human nature and human happiness than any other persons or institutions. She is the recipient and teacher of God’s revelations. Therefore, nobody need fear that following her moral doctrine is going to alienate them from themselves or from each other. The Church, in short, has the tried and true formula for human felicity.
Those who are not living — or at least attempting to live — a life of virtue and love of God, that is, a life of holiness, will be inclined to view the strictures and customs of Catholicism as arbitrary and oppressive. This is the case in many areas, but nowhere is it more evident than in moral matters concerning the sixth and ninth commandments.
Holy Scripture and the entire tradition of the Church assure us that consecrated virginity or celibate chastity for the kingdom of Heaven are the highest good for man in this matter of sexuality. This does not mean that marriage is evil. Rather, it means that the good of marriage is a lesser good than the good of absolute chastity.
The value that the Church puts on absolute chastity (that is, celibate chastity or total continence) can help us to think about the relative chastity that must be practiced within Christian matrimony. If absolute restraint of the generative appetite is possible, then, by an even stronger argument, so is the relative restraint of this powerful faculty. This relative restraint is none other than limiting carnal relations to the confines of what is lawful in marriage. Chastity in the married state would also include the practice of continence at times for reasons of devotion. This same continence is at times necessary out of charitable consideration for an ill or indisposed spouse.
One thing that is often not mentioned in considerations on chastity is the “positive side of chastity,” that which links it to the perfection of charity, selflessness, self-possession, and the capacity for heroic sacrifice. Certain saints were said to “radiate” chastity, like a crystal radiates light.
These fundamental truths we Catholics cherish are also evangelical tools.
We must never forget the power of good example. Jesus tells the Faithful that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:13,15). St. Paul commands us “Let your modesty be known to all men” (Phil. 4:5). Why on earth would we assume that those looking for the light of goodness, the savor of virtue, and the beauty of modesty will not find it in us, if we actually possess these things? Which is defective, our Faith, or our courage to live a life of virtue?
Here in America, when the North American Martyrs and their Jesuit brethren came to these shores to save the Red Man, they came to a people generally caught up in the filth of unchaste immorality. The Jesuits themselves testified to this. St. John de Brefeuf wrote back to France that the Company should send only men of tried virtue to this mission because of the pandemic impurity they would witness. And yes, many of the tribes viewed children the same way Vogue portrayed that little girl, as objects of venereal pleasure. Child rape was commonplace among the Hurons.
Yet, for all this darkness, it was precisely the angelic virtue of these Jesuit missioners, their heroic chastity, that moved the Amerindians. At a later time, many of them resisted enticements to defect from their Faith, as when the U.S. government malevolently sent Protestant missioners to Catholic tribes. (Ulysses S. Grant was responsible for a policy that institutionalized this injustice.) Why? Because these men had wives, and were not the eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven that the Catholic Church had sent them. The sanctity of the true Religion was seen in the spiritually fruitful chastity of her consecrated religious and sacred ministers. Even by “savages.”
We are now savages of a worse kind, savages (as Gary Potter remarks) with technology. But we cannot be denatured, not completely, not in the deepest part of our souls, where God calls us, and conscience rebukes us.
But when abnormalcy is common, even institutionalized, then the Faithful have the right to shout to the world: “We are normal because we are Catholic, because our God has given us a law that sanctifies normalcy and condemns abnormalcy. Join us!” The message will be despised by many, but heeded by at least some. Don’t laugh. Saint Charles Lwanga (c. 1863-1886) and his companions were burned to death by a Bantu king in Uganda precisely because they refused to be his catamites. But their death was not in vain: “Rather than deter the growth of Christianity, the martyrdom of these early believers seems to have sparked its growth instead. As has been observed in many other instances, the blood of the martyrs proved to be the seed of faith. Christianity (in its various flavours) is now the dominant faith in Buganda and Uganda as a whole” (source).
At the end of the day, the Religion that enshrines the truth about human nature will show itself to be the only one that saves.