Sin blinds as it kills. The more depraved a culture is, the less it can see its depravity. That is why a culture like ours can reach a state where a professor entrusted with passing on the riches of the Western philosophical tradition can instead be hired by a major university in order to persuade students of the glories of bestiality.

In the past two columns, we have traced a bit of the logic behind our culture’s ongoing descent into grave evil, a descent accompanied every step of the way by a strange conviction that our growing slavery to sin is “liberation.”

The slavery is self-evident for those with eyes to see.

In our previous discussion, it consists of the fact that a culture that makes itself a slave to one form of sexual perversion on the grounds that consent is the sole criterion of the good must perforce welcome and labor to protect the next perversion on the same grounds.

The supporter of fornication must support homosexual activity, since both sins are justified by the fact that whatever consenting adults want is automatically good. The supporter of homosexual activity must likewise support some fresher perversion (which likewise appeals to consent as the sole criterion of the good) or risk challenging the dogma that consent justifies all.

Each darkening phase of perversion relies on the last.

But as this happens, something else takes place. “Consent” comes to mean, more and more, merely “will.” We come to mean, more and more, that a thing is so (or not so) merely because we choose it to be.

And so, depending on the vagaries of human whim, an unborn baby is a baby if a mother chooses it to be so, or else mere “fetal material” if it pleases her to declare it so. Similarly, by sheer act of will, some imagine that they can create same-sex “marriage” simply by declaring it to exist.

Still others tell us that gender is simply and solely a “social construct” and that a person can change his or her gender with a little cosmetic surgery and a definitive act of the will. This assumption of the godlike power to create and uncreate by ex nihilo (out of nothing) fiat seems like the final step of liberation.

But, in reality, it is the final step of enslavement.

Why? Because the moment you give fallen people the godlike power to claim that they entirely determine reality, they will use it selfishly. And the first thing to go will be consent itself, when the stronger desires to dominate the weaker.

When there is no God, everything is permissible, says Dostoyevsky. And “everything” includes contempt for the sanctity of consent itself. Indeed, respect for “consent” rests squarely on the purely mystical Judeo-Christian idea that human beings have intrinsic dignity, so that their free choice is sacred! Pre-Christian paganism (which was universally founded on slavery) had no particular reverence for consent when it was a matter of the weaker against the stronger. Nor shall we, if we jettison the Christian tradition.

On the contrary, as we cut our mooring with Christian culture completely, our reverence for consent will collide with the culture of death, and some bright philosopher somewhere (probably in the employ of a powerful corporation or government during a period of extreme societal and economic crisis such as, oh, now, for instance) will ask, “What’s so sacrosanct about consent? We need to rid ourselves of this taboo about ‘losing our freedom’ if we are to create a society that can survive in the world of diminishing resources, terrorism, ecological catastrophe and all the rest! After all, ‘human dignity’ is as much a mystical conception as marriage or the real presence in the Eucharist.

“It may have been a consoling myth in times past, when abundant resources allowed us to emphasize the ‘rights’ of the selfish individual over the needs of the community. But let’s get real. I don’t see anything particularly dignified about trailer trash who spend their wasted lives watching Jerry Springer.’ So why should I care if such human debris is free? I think, like the great visionary Margaret Sanger, that human coupling should be subject to government regulation and the issuance of breeding licenses for the fit — and the denial of the same for the unfit.”

When push comes to shove and the stakes are perceived threats to national survival vs. freedom, history points to the truth that human beings will nearly always sell their liberty to the first tyrant who offers them bread at the cost of chains.

And there are always philosophers around to explain why it’s the right thing to do.

That’s why it is imperative we start to learn again the Church’s teaching — which alone can help us live in ordered liberty. Our culture can’t coast much further on its nearly exhausted Christian capital.

Mark Shea is the content editor
for CatholicExchange.com.