National Catholic Register

Commentary

Right, Wrong and Clueless

BY Mark Shea

May 31-June 6, 2009 Issue | Posted 5/22/09 at 5:54 PM

 

The Catholic faith has always taught that sexual relations between two consenting married heterosexual adult human beings not related already by blood are not just good but, among the baptized, sacramental.

The West got rid of the Catholic faith and assumed that its moral norms would just continue by inertia. The trouble is: In this world, inertia always encounters friction.

For instance, in Protestant America a century or two ago, racism in the service of slavery intruded into the Church's teaching of marriage when nutty racists developed a nutty theory about "miscegenation" or "race mixing" that was completely alien to Christian revelation. In the New Testament, you find concern about only one thing: religious intermarriage. And even that, while discouraged, is not forbidden. Indeed, Paul tells the Corinthians that a believing wife can sanctify her spouse and vice versa. He doesn't tell the believer to dump the unbeliever. And he has no theory at all that believers of different ethnicities (a commonplace in the ancient Mediterranean world) must not swap chromosomes lest they sully some pure breed. It took the 19th century to come up with the claptrap of "scientific racism."

Out of that 19th-century claptrap came some screwy laws against interracial marriage that owe everything to racism and nothing to Christian revelation — though, of course, enterprising Southern Baptists and others were able to comb through the Old Testament to find verses that appeared to justify American chattel slavery. That's the great thing about the Bible apart from the magisterium: You can use it to support any crazy idea you like!

Those laws were rightly struck down since, as is abundantly clear, all men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. But (mark this) they were not struck down on the basis of Christian revelation. They were instead struck down on the basis of a growing cultural consensus that consent between individuals is the sole criterion of what is good, which is a wildly dangerous and insane idea. What that idea presumes is that societal norms would always be more or less Christian, except in this one little matter of racism.

And so we arrived at the point roughly 40 years ago where the prevailing American custom was that sexual relations should be between two consenting married heterosexual adult human beings — and we assumed that this custom would simply continue apart from a basis in revelation.

It didn't, because powerful forces were determined that it should be destroyed. The first thing these forces attacked (via the Sexual Revolution) was the notion that marriage was needed to have sex. That's a mere "taboo," we were told. Sex between two consenting heterosexual adult human beings who are not related already by blood was always, we were assured, good and beautiful, whether the partners were married or not. Moreover, no-fault divorce put a bullet to the brain of marriage by stripping it (and therefore the family) of huge protections under the law. The rationale: Consent is the sole criterion of the good. If marriage isn't "working for me" because I feel stifled or want to run off and get my shakras aligned or any conceivable other excuse, then the Common Good simply counts for nothing. Generation Narcissus was handed a powerful license upon which to build the Kingdom of the Imperial Autonomous Self.

Of course, when we start talking about fornication, divorce and remarriage, we begin to move on to turf that Christianity does say something about. But this answer made less and less sense to many millions of our countrymen, because they could only understand "consent" as the sole criterion of the good.

Therefore, once begun, the logic can only proceed to the demolition of the next "societal taboo." So it should not surprise us that we are now being assured that sex is always just as good and beautiful when it is between two consenting homosexual adult human beings who are not related already by blood. When consent is the sole criterion of the good, then why not? Our culture has no answer.

But homosexual advocates do. If they can enshrine same-sex "marriage" in law, they gain the power to persecute and silence those who regard homosexual acts as sinful. In other words, same-sex "marriage" is about power, not love. Once you gain the cultural victory, you make sure that you consolidate the victory with the might of Caesar.

And this too has consequences, since the whole argument in our culture turns on treating the old Christian view of marriage as "irrational religious taboo" that is exercising control over the laws of our great secular nation and breaching the great constitutional wall of separation (you know, the one the Constitution never mentions) between church and state.

Where will that, almost inevitably, lead? We will discuss that next.

Mark Shea is the content editor
for CatholicExchange.com.