There were many interesting reactions to my piece, “The Yuck Factor.” Some accused me of Manicheanism, Islamic voluntarism, “rantings and ravings against gay and lesbian people,” insanity, “innate, inbred bigotry,” and being simultaneously a “closet gay” and a “homophobe.” Others thought the piece had merit, like the editors of LifeSiteNews.com, and that intrepid Scotsman, Tony Fraser (son of Hamish Fraser), of Apropros Magazine. Both these seasoned culture warriors saw fit to reprint my offering.
The main force of my argument was that the Yuck! reaction is simply not enough. Being essentially emotional (which is good as far as it goes), it does not go far enough. We should not dissuade the natural negative reaction people have to unnatural impurity, but we ought to give it a stronger foundation.
Let me come to the reason I wrote the piece: In our apostolate, we deal with a lot of families — large, counter-cultural families — and I have witnessed first hand the truth that there are serious problems where the intellect and will are insufficiently developed beyond emotional reactions to evil.
Some Catholic readers thought I was saying that the Yuck! reaction should be dissuaded or downplayed. I did not say that at all. I said that this reaction alone is not sufficient to sustain a sound Catholic moral sense through adolescence and into adulthood. The proof is all around us. Years ago, people considered the topic I treated of too revolting even to discuss, much less parade in public. When I was about eight years old, an evil TV program introduced a homosexual character (played by Billy Crystal) into America’s living rooms. He was sympathetic, funny, etc. Eventually, the superficial abhorrence that Americans had for homosexual acts was overcome. Sure, it took more that one stupid sitcom to do it, but “Soap” stands as an example of the homosexualist modus operandi.
The bottom line is that our insufficiently rooted moral sense was overcome by emotional manipulation. We need to preserve our youth from such manipulation.
How do we do that? By forming them through proper Catholic childrearing and education. That’s a tall order today, but it’s an order we must strive to fill. We must also discipline our own minds by Catholic reading and study if we are to have anything to offer the young as alternatives to the lies of this world.
Let us also be aware of our surroundings.
Anglo-America is primarily Protestant religiously. Protestantism is, by nature, revolutionary and evolutionary. Further, Protestants do not have a place for philosophy in their belief system, as the Jewish intellectual, Mortimer Adler asserted, accusing Luther and his progeny of “violent anti-intellectualism.” Protestants tend to fill that vacuum with heavy emotion, at the expense of reason. I think this has something to do with America’s cultural decline and the turning upside-down of public morality. Emotions are a poor substitute for reason; they can easily swing to contrary extremes. Our nation has birthed some pretty weird religions thanks to this (and yes, thanks to other factors as well).
Ironically, at the same time, Protestants lack beautiful Catholic liturgy and sacramentality, and therefore have insufficient aesthetic and emotional outlets for what they call religion. This, combined with their faith-reason divide, might serve to explain whatever truth lies behind that acerbic quip of certain European intellectuals: “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without knowing civilization.” I do not say that the remark is just, but lacking authentic Christian roots has had its cultural effects on our nation.
Protestantism tends to separate what God has joined together: ruler and believer (per Luther), faith and good works, Scripture and Tradition, grace and merit, divine assistance and the sacramental economy, belief and reason, etc.
For the well-formed Catholic, all these things are integrated — as is the man himself (intellect, will, passions, body), under grace.
Our hatred for sin ought to penetrate all our faculties. This is true of all sins, not only those that are most palpably evil. What goes for the “sin of Sodom” goes also for the other three sins that cry to heaven for vengeance, all of which, by the way, are enshrined in our national politics and economics — with many supposed “conservatives” not caring one whit about the victims of abortion, unjust wages, or usury. Yes, usury — greedy, rotten usury — which robs men’s souls, is how many respectable white-collar workers earn their livings so that they might become affluent, spoil their 2.2 children, and have the latest model Lexus parked in the garage. Ditto for unjust wages, unjust prices, and other “anachronistic” bits of Catholic social teaching. Many who do so call themselves “conservative,” and that, because they conserve a revolutionary order of things that puts money over men and men over God (to paraphrase Father Fahey). Some people need to learn the truth that the political left does not have a monopoly on sin.
In the Litany of the Holy Ghost, we pray that the Paraclete will “Inspire us with horror of sin.” Why should we pray that? Because such horror must be the fruit of grace. The senses and emotions of fallen man are not sufficient of themselves to give us an adequate horror of sin.
The Yuck factor is indeed not enough. If we rely upon it, it could be overcome by the “Yum Factor.”
And what, pray tell, is that?
It’s the allure of sin. Saint James (1:13-15) tells us of it in soberingly evocative language:
“Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured. Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.”
Concupiscence is portrayed as an evil seductress, conceiving sin and giving birth to death.
Concupiscence, as we know, is the collective name of our disordered passions, (also called appetites and emotions). They are disordered because of the Fall, so much so that Saint Alphonsus can refer to “all my wicked passions which have caused me to despise thy friendship,” in his Stations of the Cross. Grace heals these disorders so that we can imitate Jesus, true God and true Man, who had the passions perfectly subject to His human intellect and will, which were full of grace. “And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).
Many wicked things do not appear to our senses to be revolting; neither do they repulse our emotions. Consider the Original Sin: ‘And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat.” (Genesis 3:6)
A wicked act, and most horrific, but that fruit looked “good, fair, and delightful.”
It is a Christian commonplace that God hates sin. But we ought to impress upon our minds the stark truth of this statement, which sounds so trite to our pseudo-sophisticated ears. God hates sin, so we ought to hate sin, too. This is why we are encouraged to pray, in the act of contrition, “I detest all my sins…”. We can each ask ourselves, “Do I really detest all my sins? Even my favorite ones — in which I actually rejoice because they give me so much pleasure? Or do I detest only the sins of others which I find particularly galling?”
Lent is coming. It’s time to deal ascetically with the Yum Factor in our lives.