Contraception, Abortion, Homosexuality — How the ‘Law of Moral Compromise’ is Eroding Our Foundation
What yesterday was considered immoral, and today is treated as moral under limited circumstances, will tomorrow be accepted in all circumstances.
The Law of Moral Compromise is not an abstract theoretical notion, but derived from what has actually happened in the West as we have become slowly secularized (aided significantly by Christian compromise on moral issues).
The Law is as follows: “What yesterday was considered barbaric, immoral, and unimaginable, and is now considered morally acceptable as an act of charity under limited circumstances, will tomorrow be accepted in all circumstances as a fundamental human right, considered part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.”
I will illustrate this Law by what has actually happened historically in regard to other moral issues, and then show what will inevitably happen in regard to the Church’s official teaching in regard to homosexuality if compromise is allowed.
This isn’t an academic exercise. Whatever Pope Francis’s original intentions, his statements about civil homosexual unions as presented in the Vatican-approved documentary, Francesco, and the clarification offered in regard to their alleged misinterpretation, caused significant moral confusion in a time already plagued by it.
This is no small thing. It is the pope’s solemn duty as the leader of the Catholic Church to state the Church’s teaching clearly, personally and publicly, especially in times of confusion (and especially if he himself is in any way the cause of that confusion). To do anything less is to compromise the moral teaching of the Church.
And that gets us back to the Law of Moral Compromise.
To understand the Law we must first realize the great tension that was (and is) caused by the Church’s evangelization of pagan culture. Contraception, abortion and infanticide were all accepted in pagan Rome, as were pedophilia, homosexuality and even homosexual marriage. Christianity morally rejected what the Romans accepted. The Church’s multi-century evangelical efforts morally and legally transformed a pagan culture of death into a Christianized culture of life.
But that set up a great tension between the upward pull of the Church’s high moral standards and the ever-present downward pull of sin. Simply put, it is easier to slide back into a kind of paganism than engage in the struggle of maintaining high moral ground, and compromise is usual way that such sliding occurs. Secularization, in de-Christianizing society, leads to a kind of moral repaganization. Keep this in mind as we go forward.
We might think of the Law of Moral Compromise as kind of tool that can be moved along a timeline to illuminate the real moral situation at any particular time, simply by putting the now at a different spot.
So, let’s put the now back in 1850, and look at how contraception, abortion and infanticide were viewed. The early Christians understood that the prohibitions against all three stand or fall together: each was a way in which sexuality was diverted from its proper goal of procreation within marriage, and a compromise on one would lead to the spread of all three.
In 1850, because of the common Christianized background, there was agreement in both Britain and American that contraception, abortion and infanticide were all morally wrong, and therefore “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable.”
But tomorrow what was unimaginable to people in 1850 would change. The secular push for contraception within the “limited circumstances” of marriage would begin in Britain about 1870, and in the United States about 1900. These secular advocates still considered abortion and infanticide to be “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable.”
Let’s slide the now forward a bit to 1930, the year that the Anglican Lambeth Conference became the first Christian body to affirm contraception, but only within marriage, “in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, … provided that this is done in the light of … Christian principles.”
The Anglican Church, in 1930, thereby affirmed contraception to be “morally acceptable as an act of charity under limited circumstances,” but was careful to state that “sexual intercourse between persons who are not legally married” was “a grievous sin.” However, the secular-minded had by that time — that now — argued that contraception should be deemed acceptable “in all circumstances as a fundamental human right, considered part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.”
In that same now of 1930 the Anglican Church also expressed its “abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion,” but the secular push for abortion in Britain had already begun yesterday, around 1920. The secular-minded argued that abortion was not “barbaric, immoral, and unimaginable,” but should now be “morally acceptable as an act of charity under limited circumstances” such as the extreme distress of the mother.
I imagine readers can see the Law of Moral Compromise at work, playing out first among those diligently secularizing (i.e., de-Christianizing) the culture, and then among Christians who believe that changing times demand moral compromise. In accord with the Law, the nows keep turning into yesterdays, and the tomorrows into nows. Lines that no one would think of crossing are soon blurred, and then erased.
The secular push for abortion succeeded in Britain in 1968, and the U.S. in 1973, first under restricted and soon enough unrestricted circumstances, with partial-birth abortion and full-scale infanticide following in a few years. As the Law of Moral Compromise predicts, what was once considered “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable” even by the secular-minded, inevitably becomes “accepted in all circumstances as a fundamental human right, considered part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.”
What about Christians? They are not exempt from the Law of Moral Compromise. Today, now, the variety of Christians present a spectrum of compromise. Almost every Christian body and nearly all Catholic now believe contraception to be “part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.”
Abortion? While the Catholic Church, Missouri Synod Lutherans and Southern Baptists all hold to the original Christian prohibition of abortion on one end of the spectrum, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the American Baptist Churches (USA), and the United Church of Christ on the other end heartily affirm abortion as “a fundamental human right, considered part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.” The other Christian denominations in between sort themselves according the compromises they believe should allow for abortion.
But keep in mind: that’s now. In accord with the Law, that now will look much different tomorrow. Perhaps my ranking is already obsolete.
What about infanticide? There’s been a clear secular push for infanticide for some time. But surely no Christian denomination would ever officially allow infanticide! That would be “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable”!
Really? So it might seem now, but moral compromise will soon enough, for some Christians, make it “morally acceptable as an act of charity under limited circumstances,” and then, as yet another tomorrow turns into now, a few Christian denominations will follow the secular-minded in declaring infanticide “a fundamental human right, considered part of the general advance of civilized society, and unimaginable to live without.”
That would never happen, you declare!
That’s what we thought yesterday about abortion.
How does the Law of Moral Compromise relate to homosexuality and homosexual marriage? We will examine that question in Part II.
- moral compromise