The Only Way to Resist the ‘Law of Moral Compromise’ is Not to Compromise

The Pope’s legal compromise on same-sex marriage is a line drawn in our culture’s shifting sand

People demonstrate against same-sex marriage in Quito, Ecuador, on June 29, 2019. Ecuador's highest court approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling last June 12 in the traditionally Catholic nation.
People demonstrate against same-sex marriage in Quito, Ecuador, on June 29, 2019. Ecuador's highest court approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling last June 12 in the traditionally Catholic nation. RODRIGO BUENDIA (photo: RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP via Getty Images)

In the previous article (“Contraception, Abortion, Homosexuality — How the ‘Law of Moral Compromise’ is Eroding Our Foundation”) we saw how the Law of Moral Compromise works in regard to the issues of contraception, abortion and infanticide. In this continuation, we need to see how it applies to homosexuality and homosexual marriage.

To state the Law again: “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.” 

There are several lessons we’ve learned from the Law of Moral Compromise as illustrated in the first article.

First, it is historically clear that over the last 200 years the secular-minded have continually striven to turn things that Christians once understood to be “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable,” such as contraception, abortion, and infanticide, into “fundamental human rights.” 

Second, when Christians compromise and allow what they once considered immoral to be done under limited circumstances, secularists (who previously argued that it should be accepted only under limited circumstances) will then assert that it must be considered a fundamental right under any and all circumstances.

Third, what Christians happen to think “barbaric, immoral and unimaginable” at any one time is no indication of what might actually happen in the future, as nows turn into yesterdays, and tomorrows turn into nows. Whatever is unimaginable to Christians at any particular now, is already on the way to becoming a right for the secular-minded tomorrow.

That brings us to the great cloud of moral confusion stirred up by Pope Francis’s statement affirming civil unions for same-sex couples “as an act of charity under limited circumstances”: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they [homosexuals] are legally covered.” But this statement goes directly against one issued in 2003 under St. John Paul II (via Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith): “Respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.” 

The assumption of this latter statement by the CDF was that “legal recognition” is inevitably a kind of “approval of homosexual behavior.” This shows a great respect for the Law of Moral Compromise. Whatever Pope Francis’s intention, his attempt to allow legal recognition of homosexual unions, and at the same time withhold approval of homosexual behavior, does not.

That is most unfortunate, because it makes the future easy to predict. Where yesterday there was clarity in conformity with the Church’s teaching about homosexuality, now there is confusion, and confusion is itself a kind of compromise that prepares the way for the complete overturning of the Church’s teaching tomorrow. The Law of Moral Compromise will ensure that the Church’s teaching about marriage will soon enough be reduced to the same cultural, legal and even ecclesial irrelevance tomorrow as its teaching against contraception suffers now. The legal exception will soon become the alleged right that overturns all the limits even among Christians. 

This bleak future is easy to predict because Pope Francis’ suggested legal compromise is set forth in a secularized society that has already legalized homosexual unions as actual marriages (not mere civil unions), and is on its way to what (we assume) is unimaginable even to the most liberal Catholics. The Pope’s legal compromise is a line drawn in the sand, and the sand was already shifting before he drew it.

The secular affirmation of homosexual marriages as monogamous is now leading directly to the push for legalization of polygamy, in America and in Europe (the former because of Mormons, the latter because of polygamous immigrants). Next up, the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages, with indiscriminate mixtures of males and females. The unimaginable now, will be considered a right tomorrow.

Shall we discuss the push for legalization of pedophilia? Unimaginable you say. Well, it was perfectly legal and considered moral in pagan Greece and Rome, as was homosexual marriage in Rome and elsewhere. It was Christianity that changed that, precisely by not compromising its doctrines of sexuality and marriage, no matter what pagan society considered moral or lawful.

But once a little compromise is allowed, then the Law of Moral Compromise never rests. It certainly won’t rest with Pope Francis’s limited affirmation of two-person, same-sex civil unions. Why should it? Fairly soon, either he or his successor will be faced with a secular society that has moved beyond homosexual marriages to the legal recognition of polygamy and polyamory. 

And precisely what legal compromise should be allowed for transgender couples?

The very simple truth is this: the only way to resist the Law of Moral Compromise is not to compromise, even and especially when it appears to be an act of charity. That is the most difficult task for any pope, but it is the very task that defines the papacy and the magisterium.