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Time for bishops to stop pussyfooting on permissiveness

This writer argues that, as promiscuity becomes more and more commonplace, bishops must now make a firm stand against it.

  • Anthony Esolen
  • International
  • August 16, 2012
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Recently I caught ten minutes of a ghastly television show called House.  It’s a medical drama whose scripts, filming, direction, and acting cover the spectrum from dour to grim.  The doctors were attempting to determine why an eighteen-year-old girl was suffering life-threatening convulsions.

One guess was that they were severe reactions to an allergen.  “But she shows no signs upon her skin,” said one of the doctors.  “Maybe,” came the reply, “the allergen is inside her.”

So the doctors approach her boyfriend, a tall mop-headed youth, standing beside his father.  The boy is worried that his girlfriend may die.

They explain that she may be allergic to the boy’s seminal fluid.  “When was the last time you had unprotected sex?”

The father glances from the doctor to his son, but says nothing.  “I always use a condom,” says the boy.  Message: I am responsible.  The father seems satisfied.  Nobody, of course, will acknowledge that condoms tear and slip, so that the reply is meaningless.  No, the holy rubber must be honored.  Thus must we fulfill all righteousness.

But the doctor presses.  “For everything?”  He is referring to what used to be called sodomy.

“Not for everything,” says the boy.

The scene shifts to the hospital bed.  The girl says to her mother, “You aren’t upset with me, are you?  After all, we’ve been going together for three years.”  No, the mother isn’t upset about that.  Three years, you know.

I turn the thing off.

Meanwhile, a Canadian Catholic weekly, Interim, reports on governmental bullying: that is, the government of Canada, and Ontario in particular, forbidding Catholic schools to be Catholic.  One judge reads the section in the Catechism on homosexual acts.  “You can’t do that anymore!” he shouts to a bishop in attendance.  He means, “You can’t teach that that is wrong.”  The deeds themselves are all right.

Morally and intellectually, the Canadian bishops are holding the full truth, a royal flush.  The government is holding a pair of threes—and a gun.  The bishops fold.  What do we expect from them, martyrdom?  Or do they secretly wish to lose?

Return to the hospital.  No one asks the boy, “What are you doing having sexual intercourse with a woman to whom you are not married?”  No one asks, “Why are you doing the child-making thing, when you are utterly unprepared, morally, to bring a child into the world?”  No one asks, “Why are you saying with your body, ‘I am yours, all of me, forever,’ when if it were true you would have made that commitment before God and man?”  Even the mother doesn’t demand an answer.  Three years.  That’s the answer.

What kind of answer is that?  What does it imply?  I see only two possibilities.  One: after a certain respectable amount of time has elapsed, fornication is no big deal.  How long?  Nobody can say.  Three years, sure.  Three months?  Three dates?  The Georgetown law student who demanded that other people finance her fornication was upset when a talk show host (no Sir Galahad himself) said that she was calling herself a slut.  What’s that?  Nobody knows.  The boundary shifts according to the individual’s opinion or mood.  It is always set so that the individual remains safe, a few inches on the “good” side.  “Sure,” says the fornicator, “I am going to bed with this girl, but it’s not as if I’m jumping from one to another.”

People still make judgments against the sexual habits of others.  But now their judgments are based on no objective standard.  It is a simple function of their egotism.  “Yes, I do this—but I would never do that.”  Pharisees, who have dispensed with the Law.

The other possibility is compatible with the first.  Three years; three long, weary years.  Three years of doing everything but.  The girl’s self-justification can be translated thus: “We were bored with abstinence, not that we were chaste, anyhow.  What did you expect?”  The bodies are still young and fresh, but the souls sag, and are printed with wrinkles.  It isn’t enough merely to be in the presence of the person you wish (soon?) to marry; to dance, to sing together, to hold hands, to kiss, to enjoy together the company of brothers and sisters and cousins.

The beauty of the person, the longing to be with and be for that person forever?  Not enough.  Been there, done that.  The Sistine ceiling?  A lot of paintings.  Mozart?  Too many notes.  Eros in its fullest glory?  Too demanding.

A pair of threes: that is what the World, the Flesh, and the Devil are holding.  What do you do, if you know damned well that your opponent is holding a pair of threes?  You call his bluff.  You raise the stakes.  It requires a spine somewhat firmer than overdone linguini, and, in the bishops, other accoutrements rather larger than peas.  But it must be done.

Full Story: Raising the Stakes

Source: Crisis Magazine
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