By Carole Brown
Director of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship
Not quite 40 years ago, a small Vatican document was published that, for a time, sent the world into gales of laughter and mockery of the Church. Published in 1968, “Humanae Vitae” counseled her children and the world with a prescient description of the danger that would be unleashed by the wide scale adoption of contraceptive practices.
To be precise, there were five dangers outlined in the document. The document predicted that the widespread use of contraception would lead to an increase in marital infidelity; the general lowering of moral standards; men would forget the reverence due to a woman, and “reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” Finally, and most dangerously, governments and public authorities would see fit to impose their use on everyone as a problem-solving measure.
In retrospect, one could wonder if the Church was looking into a crystal ball. As Dr. Phil might say: “How’s that working for ya?”
In the past few weeks, the ugly fruit of the sexual revolution has ripened past rotting. Only a few weeks after the famous playboy Hugh Hefner died, we began to see the #metoo hashtags appearing in our social media platforms. Hundreds and thousands of our sisters and friends who had been victims of sexual exploitation in one form or another joined in this global virtual solidarity movement.
And, since then, a daily diet of one celebrity after another, one politician after another, one journalist after another, being “outed” as a sexual predator. This week, a massage therapy franchise is in the news with nearly 200 customers claiming they were assaulted. The morning anchor of the most watched morning program in the country allegedly had a lock-button on his desk that allowed him to trap women in his office while he exposed himself.
And, men are not the only ones who have become predatory. Over the past few weeks, three teachers, including one in Yukon, were arrested for their romps with teenage boys.
How did it get this bad? After all the revelry in recent decades about “throwing off the yoke” of sexual repression, how did we end up here?
Remember when we told the Church to “stay out of our bedrooms?” Now, enter the lawyers and television cameras. So much for the sexual revolution. It’s time to admit, we were sold a bill of goods.
Like every other revolution, the sexual revolution leaves behind the corpses and casualties of war. Contraception, which made this revolution possible, was supposed to solve most of the problems that made sex outside of marriage prohibitive. But, it turns out that it’s all a bit more complicated than that. Sex – one of life’s greatest pleasures – has the power to hurt like nothing else.
As we stand in the carnage of divorce, sexual harassment, abortion, sex trafficking, infidelity and the #metoo, perhaps it’s time to admit that the Church has been right all along when it comes to sex. Perhaps sex outside the bonds of holy matrimony really doesn’t work – not for the person and not for society. I wonder if our secular society is weary enough yet of the real consequences to surrender to the truth. Sexual permissiveness does not advance the dignity of the human person. In fact, quite the opposite.
Peggy Noonan wrote a poignant article in the Wall Street Journal (The Sexual-Harassment Racket Is Over, Nov. 23) in which the Church’s wisdom on matters sexual appears in bold relief.
An aging Catholic priest suggested to a friend that all this was inevitable. “Contraception degenerates men,” he said, as does abortion. Once you separate sex from its seriousness, once you separate it from its life-changing, life-giving potential, men will come to see it as just another want, a desire like any other. Once they think that, then they’ll see sexual violations as less serious, less charged, less full of weight. They’ll be more able to rationalize. It’s only petty theft, a pack of chewing gum on the counter, and I took it.
How do we recover true sexual freedom and happiness?
Now that the house has burnt down, through the haze and smoke, we can see the outline of a fireplace. It’s called marriage. It still stands, and it still works. In the sexual counter-revolution, we can start rebuilding the house around that. In the aftermath of every revolution, the Church has a role to play in initiating the recovery effort.
As we pick through the rubble of the sexual revolution, the Church’s chief work of mercy to re-propose the truth about human sexuality. All of it.
And, for the rest of us to accept it and to live by it, and to encourage others to live by it – not just “because the Church says so” – but to acknowledge that the reason the Church teaches it is because it’s true. Mercifully, marvelously, magnificently true.