Friday, May 18, 2012

Sexual Revolution and the Marriage Crisis

Here Michael Cook of MercatorNet excerpts and comments on the republication by Sandro Magister of the blog Chiesa, of a 1995 introduction by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to a Vatican document about homosexuality.  
Mary Eberstadt, in Adam and Eve After the Pill, defines the sexual revolution of the 1960s-1970s "as the ongoing destigmatization of all varieties of non marital sexual activity, accompanied by a sharp rise in such sexual activity, in diverse societies around the world (most notably in the most advanced)." Her book's main focus is on the rise of the pill, along with universal legal access to abortion, which enabled the sexual revolution with all its consequences for marriage and families, children and women that she chronicles.
The HHS mandate that requires employers to pay for contraceptive and abortion drugs as if they were part of health care and regardless of the employer's religious or conscientious objections, points to two distinct but related issues, as I argued below.  One has to do with the ever-expanding power of the state and its suppression of religious freedom as it defines what is morally acceptable and what is not, what counts as a religious organization or employee, and so on.  The other is the substantive issue of contraception (not to mention abortion) itself, both in terms of its social consequences and its relation to human sexuality and the nature of the human person.
A similar distinction arises in the case of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  The latter fundamentally transforms the nature of marriage itself, as understood universally for millennia since the earliest surviving legal codes.  Like contraception and the sexual revolution in general, it separates sex from conjugal marriage (which depends on the only kind of sexual activity capable of generating new life) and both from children. So the question, "What is marriage?" is fundamental to any serious discussion of "same-sex marriage" where the sexual relations involve directly and necessarily contradict the nature of marriage as understood until a few years.  If marriage is separated in principle (per se as opposed to per accidens) from the bearing and raising of children that result from the sexual activity of the two parents who made them, it becomes something else entirely, something in which the desires of adults - never before a criterion for inclusion in or exclusion from marriage - replace the needs and interests of children as primary matters for concern by society and state.
As we have seen in a growing number of court decisions, government regulations and legislation in Canada, the UK, California and Massachusetts, once marriage is redefined in this way, the state becomes involved in redefining sexual morality and in telling schools, parents, and even churches what they may teach to children about at least some of the sexual practices and relationships newly destigmatized by the sexual revolution.
Since this new intrusiveness of the state and its promulgation of a new orthodoxy in matters of sexual morality contradicts the millennia-old religious teaching of the world's major religions, there is inevitably a Clash of Orthodoxies in which the state's secularist orthodoxy is imposed ever more coercively in every area of life.  Douglas Farrow has explored this phenomenon - the dependence of the sexual revolution, and particularly same-sex marriage, on a Leviathan state - in relation to Canada, where the Church's traditional teachings on sexual morality have effectively been criminalized.  As he shows, the redefinition of marriage spells the end of marriage as a social institution - our most child-friendly institution - and this in turn requires the hypertrophy of the state and the suppression of religious liberty and the rights of parents.  As another Canadian writer, Michael Coren, put it, Canadian legislators may pass a law declaring that 2+2=5 and criminalize the teaching of anything to the contrary, but such a measure can only be imposed by strong and pervasive state power that intrudes into every area of civil society, destroying religious freedom in the process and setting up a state secularist religion as the new and exclusive orthodoxy.
As in the case of the contraceptive mandate, there is another aspect of the argument.  The traditional understanding of homosexuality (and other "disordered" sexual desires and activities) does not rest on biblical revelation alone - as an unfathomable command of God that requires our obedient but unreasoning assent - but on an understanding of the nature of the human person and of human sexuality.  It rests on a metaphysical, not simply a physical understanding of nature, on reason informed but not replaced by revelation.  As in the case of contraception, the substantive argument cannot be ducked indefinitely.  No amount of emphasis on the Church's oft-repeated and demonstrated love and compassion for homosexuals, her opposition to violence and unjust discrimination against them, will in any case placate those activists who insist on building a "wall of hate" to stigmatize those who argue on any grounds whatever for traditional marriage.  In their view, to avoid being called a hate-filled bigot and worse, you must assent to the end of marriage as it has been understood across time and cultures throughout the world until they launched their campaign.

The philosophical origins of the marriage crisis, according to Joseph Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger has one of the clearest and most insightful minds on the planet. Nowadays his day job is being Pope, which involves numerous duties apart from writing academic treatises. However, back in 1995, he penned an introduction to a Vatican document about homosexuality which seems prophetic, although perhaps it's just logical. The paragraphs below have been reprinted from the blog Chiesa, written by the "Vaticanologist" of the Italian newspaper L'espresso, Sandro Magister.

It is no coincidence that the spread and growing social acceptance of homosexuality should be accompanied by a serious crisis in the area of marriage and the family, by a widespread mentality hostile toward life as also by a frightening sexual freedom.

Without wanting to contest the plurality of causes of this phenomenon, it can be said that at its root is a "new" and completely transformed understanding of human sexuality.

The "sexual revolution" unleashed in the 1960s was intended to "free" human sexuality from the straightjacket of traditional morality. It began to sing the praises of sexuality as a simple consumer good and means for obtaining pleasure. The satisfaction of the sexual impulse was propagandized as the way to happiness and to the true development of the personality. Values like self-control and chastity were accepted less and less. Many maintained that sexual continence was unnatural and unlivable. Others in turn sought to transfer human sexuality completely into the realm of the "private" and the "subjective": if two persons love each other and want to express this in the language of love, why should they be prevented from doing so?

Subsequently the exercise of sexuality was detached more and more from marriage, and above all with the global spread of contraception, from procreation. It was asserted that the "old" understanding of sexuality corresponded to another culture, which in the meantime had been transformed.

Even the biblical affirmations had to be considered in the context of the time and situation back then, and could not be understood as "atemporal" moral truths. This applied in particular to the passages in which the Bible speaks of homosexual practices.

The traditional argument, according to which sexual behavior is immoral if it contradicts the "nature" of man, was abandoned. What is "natural" or "unnatural" would also always depend on the respective culture and subjective sensibility of a people. And moreover, homosexuality could also be found in nature. Many designated the different abnormal forms of sexuality, including homosexuality, as simple "variations" of nature, which should be accepted and approved: just as there are persons with black, white, or red skin, just as some use their right hands and others their left, so also many would have a disposition to heterosexual love, others to homosexual love.

Behind these and similar ideas is concealed a central problem of morality: what is the nature of human sexuality? Or more in general: what is the nature of man? And when does an act correspond to this nature?

If the concept of nature, as in the approaches mentioned above, is understood only in a physical-empirical way, in fact it is not possible to reach a univocal judgment on the moral value of an act that would transcend the different cultures.

The concept of nature, which underlies the whole of tradition and also the magisterial pronouncements of the [Catholic] Church (cf. "Veritatis Splendor," nos. 46-53), is nevertheless not of a physical character, but metaphysical: an act has been and is considered as natural when it is in harmony with the essence of man, with his being as intended by God. On the basis of this being, which shines in the order of creation – and is reinforced by revelation – reason can deduce the imperative of duty, above all if it is illuminated by faith. In nature, or rather in creation, man can recognize a "logos," a meaning and purpose, which leads him to true self-realization and to his happiness, and which ultimately is founded in the will of God.

In the loss of this metaphysical conception of nature, which is accompanied by an almost total abandonment of the theology of creation, is to be sought one of the main causes of the moral crisis of our days.

If human duty, in fact, is no longer seen as anchored in the being and therefore in the wisdom of the creator, there remains only the alternative that is derived from human wisdom. But then it is the work of man, subjected to the change of time, able to be reshaped and manipulated. Good and evil, then, would ultimately be decided by the majority. Then "pressure groups," which are able to guide mass opinion, have great prospects of success...

In the years after the publication of this letter [in 1986], the influence of the currents mentioned above has not diminished. In public opinion, homosexual behavior seems to be substantially accepted already. The pressure of some groups, which are asking for legal equivalence for the forms of homosexual life with the traditional form of marriage, is becoming ever larger in various states, above all in the United States of America and in Europe. Such attempts demonstrate the relevance of the letter.

(Excerpted from the introduction to: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ""Lettera sulla cura pastorale delle persone omosessuali, 1 ottobre 1986. Testo e commenti," Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1995/2012)

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